Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Pilling Report: The Continuing Fallout

Fr. Dale Matson

The official title of the Pilling Report is Working Group on human sexuality (November 2013). However, the beginning section of the (18) recommendations, “The foundation [my bolding] of our report states, ‘1. We warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the church of gay and lesbian people both lay and ordained.’” I do not believe the title of the report accurately reflects the body of the research and “Findings and 18 recommendations do not follow from the body of the research. For example, does this report offer a response to the growing number of of unmarried heterosexual couples living together? Is abortion an acceptable means of birth control?
I was struck by this statement “The church has at many points in its history sought to call people to embrace a world view that is deeply at odds with the prevailing culture.” (p. 45) But is the conclusion then, that this is not one of those times-that the church is wrong and contemporary society is right?

Recommendation #2 refers to “the subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views.” Does this mean that the traditional understanding needs to be uprooted? “…would be best addressed by facilitated conversations…” this sounds much like the ‘Indaba’ process conservatives have had to endure for more than a decade. The GAFCON primates have heard enough and will no longer listen. The encouragement of recommendation #4 to carry the dialogue on same sex relationships to the “…wider Anglican Communion” will fall on deaf ears and has already been rebuffed by Archbishop Stanley Ntagali The same is true of Archbishop Eluid Wabukala

I am comforted that recommendation #6 states, “No one should be accused of homophobia simply for articulating traditional Christian teaching on same sex relationships.” My concern is that the Church of England is in the process of redefining traditional Christian teaching based on a missiology intended at adapting to social change and attracting un-churched young people in England.

Recommendation #13 states, in part, “The church needs to find ways of honoring and affirming those Christians who ….in good conscience have entered partnerships with a firm intention of life-long fidelity.” Is this not a change in church doctrine?

The actual foundational reasons for the report are stated below.

“16. We believe that there can be circumstances where a priest,
with the agreement of the relevant PCC, should be free to mark the
formation of a permanent same sex relationship in a public service
but should be under no obligation to do so. Some of us do not
believe that this can be extended to same sex marriage. (Paragraphs
120, 380–3)”

“17. While the Church abides by its traditional teaching such
public services would be of the nature of a pastoral accommodation
and so the Church of England should not authorize a formal liturgy
for use for this purpose. The House of Bishops should consider
whether guidance should be issued. (Paragraphs 118, 384–8, 391–3)” 
But doesn’t ‘guidance’ become policy and policy lead to doctrine?

Does this sound familiar? “Resolved that bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same gender marriage civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church. “ (Excerpted from Resolution CO 56, TEC 76th General Convention, 2009)

Of course, assurances are given that “The recommendations do not propose any change in the church’s teaching on sexual conduct.” This is stated in the report from Archbishops Welby and Sentamu (28 November 2013). It is restated in the college of Bishops affirmative response to the Pilling Report (27 January 2014). Does this sound familiar also? Both Katharine Schori and Bonnie Anderson (head of house of deputies) said, “Nothing has changed” after the resolution passed in General Convention.

And all of this is repeatedly stated, with “…the guidance of the Holy Spirit”, “…reflecting upon the Scriptures.” and “…attempting to discern the mind of Christ.” So much of all these documents is boilerplate cobbled together to ‘stay on message’.

The Pilling Report should have been research based outcome but it was outcome-based research. Did the person(s) who wrote the “Findings and recommendations” section actually review the preceding research section? The two are disconnected.

Did anyone doubt how things would turn out thus far? Does anyone doubt where this will end? Will there be a formal split between GAFCON and the CoE? It seems inevitable. Kyrie eleison    

Monday, January 27, 2014

10th Annual Walk For Life West Coast - San Francisco

Bishop Eric Menees

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) A massive and diverse crowd … rallied in front
of City Hall before marching down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza for the 10th Annual “Walk for Life West Coast.” … at one point marchers stretched across more than a mile of Market Street.

On January 25th I was blessed to join tens of thousands of fellow Christians along with scores of members from the diocese of San Joaquin at the 10th Annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco.  I was honored to be invited to give the invocation in English and Spanish and I was also honored to present Mrs. Georgette Foreny the president of Anglicans for Life and the co- founder of the Silent No More campaign with the St. Gianna Molla award on behalf of the Walk for Life.  This award is given to a man or woman whose life demonstrates sacrifice and commitment to the sanctity of life and advocacy for women and their unborn children.  It was a great honor for me to participate with the Diocese of San Joaquin in this truly wonderful event.

For you yourself created my inmost parts; *
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.
My body was not hidden from you, *
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
all of them were written in your book; *
they were fashioned day by day,
when as yet there was none of them.

From the Psalm (139) for Epiphany III Year A 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Bishop Eric Menees

"Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Do you remember how you first received the call to ministry? When I say ministry here, I am referring to the ministry of all believers and not just those who are ordained. You'll recall from Sunday School or your Catechism class that all baptized Christians, by virtue of their baptism, are ministers in the church. 

I remember, from my own baptismal preparation, how Miss Marge - one of the saints of the church - taught us that in our baptism we would receive the Holy Spirit, who would empower us for ministry. I remember being very excited and thinking that God would somehow speak to me personally, saying something like, "Eric, I want you to be a professional baseball player - in fact, you'll be the third baseman for the California Angels." (Remember, I was just 14.) Unfortunately, God didn't call me to my childhood dream. Rather, he spoke to me in quiet ways through the brothers and sisters of the church, my friends, and ultimately my own desires and talents.

Fr. David, our curate and youth minister, began to notice that I was particularly drawn to the sacraments of the church. Soon after my baptism, I would get up early on Sunday morning and ride my bike to church in order to attend the 8:00 o'clock service, and then I would stay for the 10:00 o'clock service to see my friends. Before long, he was inviting me to become an acolyte. I loved the liturgy and serving at the altar. I learned that I could work with the adults and the teens, and began to take on leadership in training new acolytes. One thing lead to another, and people began to notice that my interest was in serving at the altar and serving people, so I was invited to assist with our service projects and leadership in the youth group.  The summer before my senior year in High School, Fr. David invited me to shadow him on hospital visits where I learned that I had a natural ability to minister to those who were sick, and before I knew it, I was trained and volunteering as a hospital visitor. That summer, as we would debrief after visits, Fr. David shared with me, "Eric, I suspect you've thought about it, but I believe you are called to be a priest in the church." When Fr. David said that, two things rushed over me: a sense of fear and foreboding that I wasn't worthy to be a priest, and the sure and certain knowledge that he was right - I was called to be a priest.

This week's Collect asks the Lord to give us the Grace to answer Jesus' call. Ultimately, that is the only way we can answer the call of God upon our lives - by submitting to the Holy Spirit and His prompting. Too often, we cut His Spirit off in that call. We tell ourselves: Ministry is for other people; I'm not good enough - ministers are the holy rollers; I'll get around to that after I finish school, get married, get settled in my work, the kids get older, the kids move fill in the blank.

Thankfully, the disciples didn't rationalize or question Jesus' call upon their lives - they simply followed. My prayer is that this week you will pray this Collect in preparation for Sunday's worship, asking the Lord to open your heart and mind to hear and understand what ministry he's placing upon your heart. If you rise to this challenge, I promise that the Lord will speak to you. It may be through the scriptures, the sermon, the priest or deacon, or a friend; but he will surely speak if you listen, pray, and then listen some more!

Note: The "Notes to the church" articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Heart Of Darkness And The Culture Of Death

 Fr. Dale Matson

The Heart of Darkness is a short novel written by Joseph Conrad in 1899. The story takes you as a passenger on a journey down the Congo River in Africa. On the surface, the story is thought of as an exposé of the inhumane treatment of the aboriginal culture by a ‘civilized’ imperialist and colonialist British trading company.

I still remember the story from college, mainly because the story is really about a descent into hell. Conrad states in chapter one [referring to the Congo] “…a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird - a silly little bird." (Page 18)

The Francis Ford Coppola movie “Apocalypse Now” borrowed heavily from the Heart of Darkness. Kurtz in Conrad’s novel and Colonel Kurtz both offer the ending words “The Horror. The horror.” Both stories are a powerful reminder of the ease at which the current of life can carry us inexorably onward toward a destructive descent.

Both stories illustrate the thin veneer that separates society and civilization from savagery. These stories left me cold. They remind me of the end times. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12) There is no compassion and no mercy. It is matter-of-fact, commonplace horror.

Both of these stories leave one with an acute sense of how the civilized world can overcome and take captive, a culture incapable of resisting it. The aboriginal cultures may not become civilized; but the civilized cultures can descend into savagery and madness in the process.

Christians are called to be both salt (a preservative) and light in the world. In the West in general and the United States in particular, we have become the aboriginal culture. Christianity is a culture of and about life. “I am the Way the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) Yes, we are commanded to love our neighbors but this is to be a life giving love. While we know that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, we also know in our hearts and through Scriptural eschatology however, that evil will increase in the end times.

In current fashion is an advancing culture of death. We are downstream and see it approaching. There is a wink and a nod by the rich and powerful. Behind closed doors there are candid comments, referring to small town folks as bitter, gun carrying and religious as if the three things went together. The comments were both condescending and patronizing. Christians are portrayed as xenophobic, homophobic, racist and anti-feminist. We are no longer seen as welcome with our antiquated, pathological ideation.

Here is a comment that would not have been publicly stated only a few years ago. “‘If they are extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York,’ Cuomo said in a radio interview Friday. Cuomo defined ‘extreme conservatism’ as being ‘anti-gay’ by opposing same-sex marriage rights, opposed to abortion rights….’”

Men who govern us made these discouraging and disparaging remarks. How long will it be before this kind of talk will give license for the civilized to descend into savagery and madness? This will all be done in the name of civilizing the simple-minded aboriginal culture. Abortion was only the beginning in the culture of death.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bishop's Note: The Collect for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Bishop Eric Menees

The liturgical season we are in is known as Epiphany (meaning to make manifest), but really it should be called the season of Epiphanies, because each week, through the scriptures, we see how Jesus was made manifest. Last week we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus, and through the scriptures we saw the dove alight upon Jesus and the voice of God come from the heavens, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Imagine if you were present at that baptism, hearing those words from gives me goose bumps just to think about it.

This week, Jesus is similarly called out, as it were, when John the Baptist, in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, cries out to the crowd and the world... "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) People would have either thought him to be a serious nut case, or by the look on his face and the reverential tone in his voice, known that they'd come into the presence of the Holy One of Israel!

Who was it that first pointed you to Jesus as the Lamb of God? For me, it was my grandfather.  I remember the prayers that he prayed before the family sat down to Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter Dinner. He spoke with such an odd combination of reverence and familiarity, that even as a young boy I remember thinking, "I don't know who he's talking to, but he is obviously important in grandpa's life."
My grandfather didn't evangelize exactly, but he did, in a quiet and confident way, point me toward God and ask the questions that would be answered in a few years when my friend Bob La Mar invited me to church.

Who invited you to church? Who pointed you to Jesus as the Lamb of God? This week's Collect implores God to open our hearts and minds to His Son, the eternal light, through His Word (Holy Scripture) and the Sacraments. My prayer for you, and my prayer for me, is that we will be looking for God the Holy Spirit to open us up to new and fresh perspectives on our Lord, which then, indeed, will lead us to share with others the light of Christ and to invite others to worship the Risen Lord!

Let us pray... "Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that thy people, illumined by thy Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever." Amen.

Note: The "Notes to the church" articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Work Ethic And Idleness: An Exhortation

Fr. Dale Matson

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)

There is something holy about work that sets it apart from other forms of activities. Not only did God create us to work. He gave us a job and this job gave us meaning and connectedness. Our bodies are made to work and become stronger in response to the work effort. Our muscles atrophy if we are not active. Humans were created as much ‘homo laborans’ as we were created ‘homo sapiens’. This part of human nature (laborans) was also corrupted in the fall. We were created for work but it has become toil.

According to article 35 of the 39 articles in the Anglican Church, the homilies were to be read by the clergy to their congregations. “…We judge them to be read in churches by the ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may he understanded of the people.” [This Article is received in this Church, so far as it declares the Books of Homilies to be an explication of Christian doctrine, and instructive in piety and morals.]

The following is a brief excerpt from Homily 19 book II ‘Against Idleness’.

“For as much as man, being not born to ease and rest, but to labour and travail, is by corruption of nature through sin so far degenerated and grown out of kind, that he taketh idleness to be no evil at all, but rather a commendable thing, seemly for those that be wealthy; and therefore is greedily embraced of most part of men, as agreeable to their sensual affection, and all labour and travail is diligently avoided, as a thing painful and repugnant to the pleasure of the flesh; it is necessary to be declared unto you, that by the ordinance of God, which he hath set in the nature of man, every one ought, in his lawful vocation and calling, to give himself to labour; and that idleness, being repugnant to the same ordinance, is a grievous sin, and also for the great inconveniences and mischiefs which spring thereof, an intolerable evil [my emphasis] : to the intent that, when ye understand the same, ye may diligently flee from it, and on the other part earnestly apply yourselves, every man in his vocation, to honest labour and business, which as it is enjoined unto man by God's appointment, so it wanteth not his manifold blessings and sundry benefits.”

The preceding excerpt from homily 19 warns against idleness, which is the state of a fallen humanity that prefers idleness to working. Even in subsistence cultures this tendency toward idleness was evident. In 1609, John Smith exhorted the colonists of Jamestown; “You must obey this now for a law, that he that will not work shall not eat (except by sickness he be disabled). For the labors of thirty or forty honest and industrious men shall not be consumed to maintain a hundred and fifty idle loiterers.”,_neither_shall_he_eat

“A record high number of Americans — 91,541,000 — have left the U.S. labor force, making it the lowest worker participation rate since 1978. The participation rate is now at 62.8 percent. If the trend continues, the number of people not participating in the labor force will exceed the number of employed Americans in approximately four years. The Washington Post cites the government shutdown, retiring baby boomers, workers opting for school over jobs, and the number of workers increasingly going on disability insurance as opposed to unemployment as all contributing factors to the shrinking labor force. The smaller labor pool also suggests that the economy may be worse off than the official unemployment rate of 7.2 percent indicates, since unemployed figures do not include people who have left the labor market altogether.” (

The default assumption today is that those who are not working cannot find work but there is also the corrupted part of human nature favoring idleness. The churches were well aware of this and taught about the obligation to work. St. Paul stated, “For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12)

This is not intended just for those able bodied folks not seeking work. There is a huge cohort of retired folks and an additional large group who are about to retire. Retirement does not grant those individuals the right to idleness. It is for their own good and the good of society that they continue to offer service as volunteers and caregivers to others. It is their responsibility to the next generation to model a work ethic.

Work is not just an obligation. Humans need to work and have productive lives. They need to feel that they are contributing to the greater good. For Christians; it is part of their reasonable service to God. “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.” (BCP P.366)