Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bishop’s Note: June 22, 2017 – The Harvest is Plentiful

Bishop Eric Menees

This past Sunday we entered into “Ordinary” time but, of course, there is absolutely nothing ordinary about Christ or his Church. Sunday’s gospel is a wonderful example: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt. 9:37-38)

What struck me as so extra-ordinary is the context in which Jesus makes this outlandish claim. If we go back just 8 verses, we see that Jesus restores sight to two blind men, and he casts out a demon from a demon-possessed man. These three men would have been seen by the upstanding people of the First Century as sinners of the first magnitude; clearly God would not strike them blind or allow a demon possession if they were not being punished for their sin. (We, of course, no longer understand God’s reaction to sin in the same way. While there are, indeed, consequences for our sin, God does not strike us blind or allow demon possession as punishment for our sin.)

How amazing then that Jesus says that the harvest is plentiful. The plentiful harvest is those who are lost, broken, looked down upon. The plentiful harvest is made up of sinners in need of a savior! In other words the harvest is ALL OF US!

How wonderfully extra-ordinary that Jesus calls for laborers to go into this harvest. We can no longer say: “Well, he’s talking about others as the laborers… surely he’s not speaking of me.” But he is speaking of you, and he’s speaking of me and everyone of us who are baptized and confirmed, anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit! It is when we step up and step out into the fields of God’s harvest that we are most fully the church, and when we are most fully blessed.

My prayer for this diocese is that we will, all of us, recognize that we are all called to be the laborers in the harvest, and that we will trust God the Holy Spirit enough to step out in faith and trust that He’ll use us.

I pray you all a very blessed week!

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion
XXXIV. Of the Traditions of the Church
It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.
 Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ambiguity Used As A Strategy For Innovation


Fr. Dale Matson
“It became clear that we did not have the means to educate the bishops on this matter; so the alternative was to make the Confirmation rite as ambiguous as possible in the hope that eventually greater theological clarity would emerge and the rite would be an appropriate expression of that new clarity and a source - not a resource - for understanding the meaning of the sacrament." Dean Urban T. Holmes in Worship Points The Way (1981) The members of the Standing Liturgical Commission of The Episcopal Church (TEC) knew that the way we worship/pray determines how we believe (lex orandi, lex credendi). The SLC members also knew that the 1979 BCP was a radical departure from the 1928 BCP but were not honest about it even when challenged about the extent of that departure. They were changing theology by changing liturgy.
I believe less than honest leaders knowingly and intentionally employ ambiguity when they intend to innovate. Ambiguity is the preparatory step. An example of this is a phrase used at TEC General Convention in adopting resolution 2009-CO-56.  “…and be it further resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide a generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church…” One might ask, “What is a generous pastoral response?” I think it is simply a green light to innovate.
Another ambiguous phrase used by innovators is “Radical inclusion”. What does this mean? For some it means allowing non-baptized individuals to receive communion. It is commonly practiced in TEC and once again, what is practiced becomes what is believed. A behavioral psychologist would not argue with that. For others it meant, “In 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church declared “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church" (1976-A069). Since then, faithful Episcopalians have been working toward a greater understanding and radical inclusion of all of God’s children.” I will return to radical inclusion in a moment.
Human flourishing is a more contemporary ambiguous phrase. What does it mean? What all does it incorporate? Does it include environmental sustainability? Does is allow for genetic manipulation? It is more than feeding the poor but does it also involve social justice activism? Important leaders are using this phrase today including +Katharine Jefferts Schori and ++Justin Welby. Is this a new gospel? The problem is that it is human focused and not God focused.
It is the very imprecision somewhat like a projective test that allows leaders to change things as they “clarify” themselves and their thinking “evolves”.
Radical inclusion is now a part of the dialogue of the World Wide Anglican Communion (WWAC). It is ++Justin Welby’s turn to throw it out for speculation. “To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church.”
Behaviorists have learned that changing a behavior (training) is best accomplished incrementally via approximations. In this case change is first introduced/proposed in an ambiguous way. People begin to act based on what they want the ambiguity to mean and the next step is ‘locally adapted’ facts on the ground. Precedents are set. This is then followed by more clarifications that change doctrine an inch at a time.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Chairman's June 2017 letter Archbishop Nicholas Okoh Chairman GAFCON Primates Council

To the Faithful of the GAFCON movement and friends from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council.

My dear people of God,

“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18)

As I write, we are preparing for Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is vital. Without it, we cannot speak truly of God in a way that is faithful to the bible. However, in the fourth century the Church was nearly overwhelmed by the Arians. They were the followers of Arius, who claimed that the Son was a created being, not really God.

If the Church had continued to follow Arius, the Christian faith would have been lost. To deny the full divinity of Jesus strikes at the heart of the Christian message that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.  St Athanasius is still remembered as the man who was willing to make a costly stand against this heresy.

I am reminded of Athanasius because we are facing a similar struggle for the integrity of the gospel in our time. On Thursday 8th June, the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) changed its teaching to allow men to be married to men and women to women.  It followed the path already taken by the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada.

This attempt to redefine marriage is not a secondary issue about which we can agree to disagree and continue to walk together. It means that Jesus was mistaken when he taught that marriage was between a man and a woman and that sex outside of such a marriage is a sin. It is a radical rejection of the authority of Scripture. The Church claims that it can consecrate behaviour that God’s Word clearly teaches to be sinful. According to the Bible, this behaviour, without repentance, separates those who practice it from his kingdom.

Athanasius consecrated orthodox bishops in dioceses led by Arians because he knew that the apostolic faith itself was at stake. This was the principle guiding the interventions which led to the formation of the Anglican Church in North America in 2009 and it was affirmed by over three hundred bishops in assembly at Gafcon 2013 in Nairobi. It was therefore very appropriate that on the same day that the Scottish Episcopal Church formally turned aside from the historic Christian faith, Gafcon announced that Canon Andy Lines, already an internationally recognised missionary statesman, will be consecrated later this month as a Gafcon missionary bishop for Europe.

This is not a step we have taken lightly, but from the beginning Gafcon has been committed to standing with the marginalised. Requests for help from Scottish orthodox leaders to the Archbishop of Canterbury were turned down. Indeed, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church told his General Synod last year that the Archbishop of Canterbury, had assured him that he would welcome the Scottish Church to the 2020 Lambeth Conference even if it chose to change its marriage canon to include same sex unions.

So now Gafcon stands ready to recognise and support orthodox Anglicans in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe as the drift away from apostolic faith and order continues. For reasons of mission and conscience, we can expect to find a growing number of orthodox Anglican congregations needing oversight outside traditional structures, as is already the case with the Anglican Mission in England.

The creation of a missionary bishop for Europe is an historic moment. It is a recognition that the era of European Christendom has passed and that in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, a new start is being made by building global partnerships for mission.

So let us be strong. Let us stand with the marginalised and work tirelessly for the continuing reformation of our beloved Communion. I thank God for our fellowship and pray that he will uphold us by his unfailing presence.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh

Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday And The Athanasian Creed

Athanasian Creed

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Substance [Essence] of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance [Essence] of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Substance [Essence]; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.