Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stump The Priest: Question #12- What is the difference between Episcopalians and Anglicans?

The question is about the difference between “The Episcopal Church” and “The Anglican Church in North America,” both churches in the Anglican Tradition in North America.  Let me start by explaining a bit about Anglicanism.

Anglicanism has its roots in the 1900 year history of Christianity in the British Isles.  Today there are approximately 80 million Anglicans worldwide.  Anglicans see themselves as one expression of God’s One, Holy, Catholic (meaning"universal") and Apostolic Church and is characterized by an emphasis on liturgical and sacramental worship, Protestant beliefs and a love of the great traditions of the Church.  Anglicans are bound together by a “common worship,” which is expressed and propagated in the “Book of Common Prayer” first drafted in 1549 during the Protestant Reformation in England.  Anglican churches are also largely bound together ecclesiastically (organizationally) in what is known as the worldwide "Anglican Communion." 

The Episcopal Church was formed after the American Revolution as an ongoing expression of Anglicanism in the United States.  In recent decades, however, the Episcopal Church has progressively taken on a revised view of Anglicanism and of the Apostolic Faith, what is known as Modernism and Modernist Theology.  The Episcopal Church today, particularly among its clergy, understands the Faith in some ways inconsistently with the Faith of the Apostles as recorded in Scripture and the Faith of much of the rest of the Anglican Communion throughout the world.

Two salient issues differentiating Apostolic Christianity (classic Anglicanism) from Modernism (The Episcopal Church) are understandings of the authority of Scripture and the uniqueness Christ.  This is far too limited a venue to fully explain, but in modernist thought the revelation of God in Scripture in many of its facets is seen as outdated and overridden by modern experience and human intellect.  Similarly, the uniqueness of what God has done in Christ has given way to an openness and inclusivity that trumps the apostolic understanding and eyeswitness experience of the uniqueness of the person and work of Jesus. 

This theological drift in the Episcopal Church and all its ramifications has caused a fragmentation in the Anglican Communion.  Presently the Episcopal Church finds itself in what has been termed “impaired communion” with much of the Anglican Communion.  North American Anglicans who could not go where the Episcopal Church is theologically headed and who wanted to stay with the broader Anglican Communion appealed to other provinces of the Anglican Communion to take them under their wing, at least in some interim fashion.  This congregation, The Church of the Holy Trinity, is a good example.  Holy Trinity was a church plant under the authority of the archbishop of Nigeria.  The foreign archbishops subsequently have encouraged the formation of a new Anglican province under which orthodox Anglicanism could re-gather in North America.  The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) thus came into being.  An Archbishop of this new province was consecrated, and dioceses have formed.  

We thus have two expressions of Anglicanism in North America, one modernist, the other traditionally orthodox.  We should note that there are many orthodox believers still in the Episcopal Church, particularly among the laity.  There are also whole dioceses still in The Episcopal Church that are orthodox, such as the Diocese of SC (lower part of the state).  But the Episcopal Church leadership and clergy have a strategy to redefine Episcopalianism.  This process is essentially complete.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stump the Priest: Question 5- Why do we pray for the dead?

First, let us note that this question is about praying for the dead, not praying to the dead or praying through the dead, both of which are totally un-Anglican and un-scriptural.  The question is asking if it is efficacious and right that we should continue to commend our loved-ones in prayer to God after their death.

This question has a history going back to the earliest Christians. It was a huge point of contention during the Protestant Reformation over reaction to the doctrines of Purgatory, Indulgences and Masses for the dead.  Prayers for the dead logically require belief in an intermediate state between death and judgment at the Last Day, which sounds too much like purgatory to many Protestants.  Most Protestants today therefore believe prayers for the dead are a waste of time- It is either of no use to those destined for hell; or completely unnecessary for those destined for heaven. 

One problem is that we Anglicans have been all over the board on this question.   Article 22 of the thirty-Nine Articles of Religion formulated during the Reformation condemns prayers for the dead as “vainly conceived.”  But it was in the 1549 Prayer Book, removed in the 1552 book, absent in the 1662 Book, and reintroduced in Prayer Books of the later part of the 19th C.  In the most recent American Prayer Book the issue comes up in two places, the prayers at funerals, and the Prayers of the People in the Eucharist.

But what is really needed to explore this question is a clear theology (understanding) of death, heaven, hell and something called “The Communion of Saints.”  (The Communion of Saints refers to Christians throughout time gathered in Heaven as the Church Triumphant).  One of the problems the Church has had over the centuries (Anglicanism being chief among them, as demonstrated in the paragraph above) is a muddled and inconsistent belief on these matters.  This has happened because we have such limited scriptural details about what lies beyond the veil of death.  We can, however, start by looking at what scripture does tell us.  Here are scriptures related to what lies beyond death.

Luke 16:22-23     The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.

Luke 23:43           Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

2 Cor. 5:10            For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

1 Peter 3:19           19By which also he (Jesus) went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Rev. 6:9-11          When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; 10they cried out with a loud voice, ‘Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?’ 11They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow-servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.

From some of these passages can we conclude that there is an intermittent period after death and before judgment during which sanctification (growth toward God) can possibly continue, and therefore prayers for the departed would be effective.  The Luke passages suggest not; I Peter and Revelation suggest yes.  The Luke passages suggest people who die are immediately judged; the 1 Peter and Revelation passages suggest there is an intermediate place, what Scripture calls Sheol.  The 1 Peter passage says Jesus actually went to such a place to preach to the souls departed. 

How do we decide?  How do we know?  Paul is definitely right in 1 Cor 13:12…For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
But what is perfectly clear in Scripture is that those who are “in Christ” will be raised up with Christ at the Last Day to new life in which all creation will be made new and at which time we will be eternally present with God, enjoying Him forever.  Otherwise, it may be necessary for us Anglicans to tolerate a bit of un-knowing and mystery in this matter.  CS Lewis never steers us wrongly; so, perhaps while we are still only “seeing through a glass dimly,” we can go where he has gone on this question:
 “Of course I pray for the dead.  The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me.  And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden… At our age the majority of those we love best are dead.  What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best is unmentionable to Him?  Even in Heaven some perpetual increase of beatitude (sanctification), reached by a continually more ecstatic self-surrender, without the possibility of failure but not perhaps without its own ardors and exertions…might be supposed.” (CS Lewis, Letters to Malcom,  pp. 107-109 ).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stump the Priest: Question 4- Why would God object to two people having sex if they love and care for one another?

1.    As Christians we understand that marriage is the only appropriate context for human sexuality, but why has God willed this to be so, and why has He so consistently articulated it in Scripture? 

We can start by acknowledging that God who created human sexuality should certainly have something to say about how it is to function among His people.   If we understand the mind of God on this, then we will have the answer to the question posed as to why from God’s perspective simple emotional and physical attraction, or a sense of being “in love,” is not enough for sexual intimacy. 

This question is particularly appropriate in our time.  Our post-Christian American culture has almost entirely moved away the God-given boundaries around human sexuality.  What has developed in its place is “companionate sexual relationships,” even "companionate marriages," in which open relationships exist for which there are no real expectations of life-long intimacy or expectation of sacrificial, unconditional love.   All that is required is mutual consent at the moment… no commitment, no binding mutual responsibility, always a back door to the relationship.  Whether we like it of not, it is not what God willed for human sexuality and the family charged with procreationand and nurture of children.

God has in mind something much more grand than this for the marvel of human sexuality.  Matrimony and the Marriage Bed offer a possibility for the most fulfilling of all human-to-human relationships.  It offers the possibility for two people becoming “One Flesh,” blending their lives together and being more complete, healthy and whole than either of their lives separately could be.  The union of a man and a woman is also intended by God for the procreation and nurture of children, and it is this stable family environment of unconditional, sacrificial love that is the God-intended setting for the raising of children.  This in a nutshell was God’s intent in Creation (Genesis 2:4‑9, 15‑24)The marriage liturgy puts it this way: “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.” 

Humans are made in the image of God and are therefore both physical and spiritual beings, and the mating of two people has physical and spiritual consequences.  Human intercourse is a spiritual act.  The spiritual consequence can be what psychologist call bonding or Peter Harobin in his teachings calls Soul Ties.  These soul ties stay with us in life.  Multiple ties have their affect on that one eventual life-long Soul Tie, denigrating it and interfering with it.  God’s boundaries around sexuality, therefore, are there for a reason, a divine reason. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stump the Priest: Question 2: Since Jesus is fully God, why did He submit Himself to the Father?

View ImageThe Incarnation (God becoming man [Jesus] and dwelling among us… “God Emmanuel”) is one of the wonder-filled mysteries of God’s Revelation of Himself to us.   It is a mystery because in our limited human understanding we are not able to fully comprehend it.  The Trinity (One God revealed in three Persons) is another such mystery, and again, in our limited humanness, we cannot comprehend how one person of the Trinity will interact with another person of the Trinity.  It is here that this question leads us.

The answer lies in the fact that Jesus was not only fully God, he was at the same time fully human.  In fact, Jesus was perfectly human, the new model for a new humanity, the New Adam as Paul says, a new humanity perfectly submitted to the Creator Father.  In short, Jesus in his perfect humanity was perfectly submitted to God.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stump The Priest: Question 1: Where in the Bible does it say I can be a policeman or in the military?

1.      The first observation to be made is that we Christians understand Scripture as both prescriptive (God telling us what is in His will) and prohibitive (what is outside His will).  Sometimes, however, Scripture is explicitly neither; that is, it is silent in terms of overtly prescribing or prohibiting something.  Being a policeman or in the military perhaps falls into this category.  But, implicitly, there is plenty Scripture has to say about pacifism and avoiding violence, even in terms of the righteous use of force.   What, then, can we infer from the warp and woof of Scripture concerning this?

This avoidance of violence and force for any reason is known as Christian Pacifism, which has a long history in the life of the Church.  Some of core scriptures for this movement in Christianity are…
 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. (Matt 5:38-41) (Sim… Lk 2:27-29)

‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy”. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ (Matthew 5:43-45).

Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matt 26:52-53)

Bless those who persecute you…. (Rom 12:14)

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;* for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ 20No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:17-21)

The Christian Pacifist movement has over the life of the Church taken these passages seriously, and taken to heart the call to model our lives on Christ and to understand the Church to be under the Lordship of the “Prince of Peace.” The Church it its early centuries was in many quarters therefore in opposition to military service.

But does this mean that we Christians living in this world should not resist evil with all our might when called upon to do so?  One would think resisting evil to be a primary Christian duty.  Scripture says our battle is with “principalities and powers in the spiritual realm.”  This spiritual realm all too often operates through real flesh and blood.  We sometimes have to put on the “whole armor of God,” in very real and worldly ways in our defense against these things.  History has even shown the necessity of killing our enemy while ostensibly loving them at the same time.  And, of course, there are issues of justice, defense of the helpless, maintenance of order, and the preservation of the common good to be considered. 

We should also note that the police and military are extensions of governing authorities, which according to Scripture are ordained by God.  Romans 13:4-5 says, 
For it (the governing authority) is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain!  It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.  5Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.
Here is an interesting paraphrase of this passage from Peterson’s The Message:
The police aren't there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That's why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it's the right way to live.

We live in a real world with a real devil prowling about.  The Christian tradition has generally been very practical about his reality.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"Stump the Priest" questions for the July 10 covered-dish

                                   Go to fullsize image                                          Go to fullsize image
The usual 2nd Sunday covered-dish supper in July (July 10 at 5:30 pm) will be "Stump the Priest' night.  Below are the questions received so far.  They are excellent questions,  Some of them are complex and deep.  We could easily spend many hours on some of these topics.

So, what we are going to do, using this blog, is answer some of the questions in advance of the big night.  This gives you the chance to do two things: First, it allows you to digest the question and answer in advance of our discussion; and secondly, it allows you to provide input in the form of comments or perhaps additional quaestions.  After all, why should your clergy have all the fun?  Answers will be coming in separate blog postings, but here is the list of questions we have been asked to address:

1.      Where in the Bible does it say I can be a policeman or in the military?

2.      Since Jesus is fully God, why did He submit Himself to the Father?

3.      I’m not sure I hear God speaking to me.  How do I listen for God’s voice?

4.      Why would God object to two people having sex if they really love each other?

5.      Why do we pray for the dead in our liturgy?                                                           

6.      Was Abraham a henotheist rather than a monotheist before his encounter with Melchizedek?   (Wouldn’t you like to know who asked this question?)

7.      How about Pilot’s question, “What is Truth?”
8.      If someone commits suicide, are they going to hell?

9.      (These two questions belong together)
o   The Bible says to turn the other cheek and to forgive 70x7; so, if you are in a abusive relationship, how many times do you turn the other cheek before you do something about it?

o   I had a therapist tell me the best thing I could do for myself is stay away from someone who was not a good influence in my life.  I love that person but avoid involving them in my life because I know it would cause problems for me.  How does God feel about this?

10.  Why are some denominations against female priests? Is this backed up scripturally? Is it mans law or Gods law?           

11.   Questions about the End Times:
o   The Bible says the dead will rise at the 2nd coming of Christ. So why do so many people on their death bed see “The other side” or a loved one come to meet them, etc?
o   Are the battles talked about in the End Times real physical battles?

12.  What is the difference between Episcopalians and Anglicans?

13.  Why do we make the sign of the Croos and when?  Additionally, why do we bow to the Cross?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Being Anglican, Wed. night teaching, June 1, 2011

This discussion is on classic, orthodox Anglicanism.  Like some other mainline denominations, Anglicanism in some circles is redefining itself around modernist thought.  Modernist theology sees truth as relative and considers the Apostolic witness to Truth as revealed in Scripture as potentially outmoded, depending on modern experience and knowledge.   The central feature of the modernist faith is “comprehensiveness” and “inclusiveness,” with theological barriers discounted or removed altogether.  This is very different from orthodox Anglicanism and the great majority of worldwide Anglicanism.  This is very different from what is believed and expressed at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Anglicanism is susceptible to a modernist re-interpretation of the faith because of its history of comprehensiveness dating to the Protestant Reformation.  This, however, requires a redefinition of what we know of as Anglican Comprehensiveness.  Dr. J.I. Packer and The Rev. John Stott, Anglicanism’s foremost contemporary theologians, have distinguished between two kinds of comprehensiveness.  Dr. Packer refers to Principled Comprehensiveness and Unprincipled Comprehensiveness.  Classic Anglicanism is based on Principled Comprehensiveness, which insists on agreement and unity in the biblical fundamentals of the faith while allowing liberty on issues of secondary doctrine and practice. This is what Post-Reformation theologian Richard Hooker, in helping forging a “Via Media” between Puritan and Catholic factions in England, described as “Adiaphoa,” (Greek meaning “things indifferent”,) by which he meant those things beyond what is attested to in Scripture and open to choice and preference.

Anglican Calling and Destiny
Our calling and destiny as Anglican Christians is not distinguishable from that of all Apostolic Christians everywhere and throughout time:

·         Our calling is to be formed into the Image of Christ through the Holy Spirit working in us.
o   2 Corinthians 1:2022    For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God. 21But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, 22by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

·         To become a New Creation in union with the God who created us for that purpose
o   Ephesians 1:10-14    In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

·         To know ourselves as a people redeemed by the blood of Christ.
o   Ephesians 2:13    But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

·         Submitted to the Lordship of Christ
o   Philippians 2:10-11    so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

·         We are called to share the Good News of Christ
o   Matthew 28:19    make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

·         To carry out the continuing work of Christ in the world
o   Ephesians 3:10-12   …so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

·         To be in the fellowship of believers and part of the Body of Christ
    • Acts 2:42-47    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  Life among the Believers
    • Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous* hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

·         And finally, to be counted among the eternal Communion of the Saints of God.
o   Ephesians 2:19-20       So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

Anglican Identity
·         We are part of the one, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic Church
o   One:    Ephesians 4:4-6    There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
§  We see ourselves as one tradition among many in the Body of Christ

o   Holy:   2 Peter 2:5,9  …let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people…
§  Sanctified by the presence of the Spirit of Christ… called to be holy in the presence of a holy God.

o   Universal:    Mark 16:15    And Jesus said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.
o   Apostolic:   Acts 2:42    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
§  Committed to receiving and passing on to future generations the Faith once delivered to the Apostles.

·         We are Trinitarian.
o   John 14:16-17    And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth…

·         We are Biblical.
o   Romans 10:8    …The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart…
§  As Anglicans we see Scripture as…
·         Clear
·         Sufficient
·         Supreme
·         Transformative

·         We are Sacramental.
o   Matthew 28:19     Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…
o   Luke 22:19      Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’

·         We are Creedal.
o   Credo, meaning “I believe…The creeds are an ancient summary of our basic biblical beliefs:
§  The Nicene Creed is the creed of the universal Church and is used at the Eucharist.
§  The Apostles’ Creed is the ancient creed of Baptism; it is used in the Church’s daily worship to recall our Baptismal Covenant.

·         We are Liturgical and in the Prayer Book Tradition (The Book of Common Prayer)

·         And finally, Anglicanism is Comprehensive
o   Reformed (Evangelical)
§  Reformation heritage- roots in the English Reformation
§  Look to the authority of Scripture
§  Know the priesthood of all believers.
§  See ourselves as Justified before God (saved) by grace through faith in Christ.

o   Catholic    (Anglo-Catholicism)
§  Continuity with the Ancient Church
§  The efficacy of traditions not contrary to Scripture
§  Sacramental grace
§  An expression the “Patristic” and “Creedal” Faith of the universal Church.
§  Apostolicity expressed in the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and Historic Episcopate.

o   Charismatic
§  The process of sanctification through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
      • Expecting God to act among his people.
      • Emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit
      • Emphasis on God’s immanence