Author Archive

Anguish and Amnesia: The Episcopal Church and Communion

Written by:
Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

The sense of sorrow and sometimes indignation expressed by many TEC bishops over the Primates’ meeting and its decisions is understandable. The sentiment of grief comes in many forms. For some (e.g. Connecticut), “sadness” is marked by a warning against primatial overreach. For others (e.g. New Hampshire), TEC is experiencing pain because she is being persecuted like Jesus. For some (e.g. Western New York), the Primates gathering “fails” as an ecclesial council and is but a “clanging cymbal” in its understanding of communion. Some (e.g. California) went so far as to accuse the Primates, on this “sad day”, of acting in a manner “antithetical to the way of Christ”, and of being “dishonest”, “devious”, and “scapegoating”.

Despite these strong notes of distress, TEC’s episcopal responses are generally gracious. They also almost all assert the fact that nothing has changed, nothing will change, and that TEC’s decisions regarding same-sex marriage are immovable. In this way, sadness is bound to a sense that the Primates’ common counsel is mostly irrelevant.

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March 08 2016 | Articles

Questions Facing the Episcopal Church Over Redefining Marriage

Written by:
Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Men, women and children are distinct and united in their living forms. As a man and a woman unite in sexual intercourse, a child is conceived and then given birth. The physical elements involved in this are obvious and particular. The bond between a mother and her child is among the deepest that is experienced, and goes beyond (but includes) hormones and breast-feeding. It is shaped through a range of physical elements still not well understood. The relationship of a father to this bonded unity has been socially prescribed and encouraged in a variety of ways over time, mainly to uphold the father’s protection and support of the lives of the mother and their child. There is a raft of historical, and much contemporary social evidence, that the weakening of a father’s general, but very concrete role, has harmful effects on mothers and children both, as well as (less well understood) on fathers’ own well-being.

Marriage, understood as between a man and woman, has primarily engaged these realities, and, in various cultural forms, has been defined by them intimately and definitively. Every society within the history of the world that we know of has not only understood marriage as the profound locus of human coming-to-be in this way, but has also been committed to finding ways to guard and strengthen this reality. Not all male-female couplings give rise to the conception of children; but every such coupling derives from a previous procreative marriage, by definition. Hence, marriage has almost always been sacralised in some way as standing at the basis of human life.

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June 18 2015 | Articles

Infant Baptism For A Modern Age

Written by:
Sunday, May 10th, 2015

From the end of the Roman Empire into early modern times the Christian Church has, here and there, practiced forced conversions. The most frequent objects of this practice were Jews; and among them were most especially children, “converted” in the form of forced baptism.

The official teachings of the church since the 5th century at least, forbade such forced baptisms, but the practice continued nonetheless. One problem that the church had to face was how to deal with the children thus baptized. Forced baptism of Jewish children judged to be of the age of “reason” was assumed to be valid, without question: by the age of 7 or 8, a child was capable of making his or her own decision for the faith, and Jewish children baptized at that age, even if against the wishes (and pleas) of their parents, were no longer permitted to be classed as Jewish or to live in Jewish settings. But what about younger children and infants? Was their forced baptism, although illicit, still valid – that is, were the children truly baptized? Assuming the form and bare intent of the baptism were followed, the Church judged the baptisms to be “real”: the children were indeed now “baptized Christians”. But then what? If truly baptized Christians, the church concluded, the children needed to be raised as such. Hence, the common practice of the church was to remove from their families Jewish children forcibly baptized, however illicitly, and place them in Christian families or institutions.

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May 10 2015 | Articles

The Marriage Taskforce and the Balkan Solution

Written by:
Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

In what follows I do not intend to respond to the Taskforce on Marriage’s theological papers. The papers deserve such a response, but not here. Rather, I wish to respond to the Taskforce Report on basis of its canonical proposal and its implied approach to the Church’s decision-making, both of which I believe are seriously deficient and potentially harmful to our church’s common life and future witness. I will argue that the Taskforce not only avoids the deep disagreement within the church over the matter of marriage, but stokes that disagreement. And I will conclude that General Convention should reject the Taskforce’s proposal, and do so on the basis of seeking a more generalized and negotiated “peace” within the church.

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February 11 2015 | Articles

After Quincy: Rethinking The Purpose Of Our Common Life

Written by:
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

The recent decision in Illinois upholding the property rights of dioceses who withdraw from General Convention may not stand up on appeal. But the opinion’s reasoning, by Judge Thomas Ortbal, was perhaps the most careful and thorough on record in such cases, and will likely have to be taken into account in all future judgments. In any case, the decision offers a chance for sober consideration of our church’s mission and its relation to ecclesiastical structure.

I am someone who once assumed that TEC was a single entity, and that dioceses were an integral part of this entity, gears in a larger machine. The notion of a diocese “leaving” TEC never crossed my mind, and in fact seemed simply antithetical to the meaning of “Church”. I still think this, deep down, and much of my academic writing on the Church has been devoted to trying to understand how Christian unity properly founds the very nature of our Christian faithfulness, as it is engaged by God’s gracious gift of Himself to our rebellious hearts and hands: God for the godless.

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October 23 2013 | Articles

Same-Sex Marriage Is Still Wrong; And It’s Getting Wronger Every Day

Written by:
Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The unexpectedly rapid civil acceptance of same-sex marriage in the West may lead one to imagine that the issue is somehow already settled. Whatever doubts one may have had, they have been swept away by the overwhelming flood of changed public opinion. Fait accompli. Traditional Christians must simply step aside now.

Such a judgment would be a mistake. Indeed, far from the matter being settled, at least form a Christian perspective it has hardly been engaged, despite claims to the contrary by proponents of same-sex marriage. What we have had instead is a bait-and-switch set of tactics, first seeking civil and religious recognition and affirmation somehow of same-sex attractions, then pressing for ordinations, then blessings of unions. What comes next? The question of a “slippery slope” is hardly a fallacy here, for in this case we have a historical track-record of legal advocacy and movement that stands as quite rational “evidence” for the slope’s existence.

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July 17 2013 | Articles

After the Fall

Written by:
Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Who are the predominantly younger theologians and priests clustering around The Living Church’s Covenant blog? Or “A Tribe Called Anglican”? Or those who read more individual blogs like “Creedal Christian” or “The Conciliar Anglican”? Or those who have contributed to the recent book Pro Communione? Or who attend seminaries like Wycliffe College or Duke Divinity School? They are the future of Anglicanism in North America, that is who; and they are the reason why I am not so much worried about The Episcopal Church as eager simply to see the inevitable fruit of faithfulness whose seed is well-sown. The “times they are a-changin’”. “The first one now, will later be last.”

Many of us, of course, are wondering about what our future is or should be in The Episcopal Church. For my part, I believe I have one, and plan to pursue it. It is just here that I wish to teach and write, pray and witness, God willing. And I believe that others have a future here too, a good future and a fruitful and faithful one. But I would be dishonest if I did not admit to a deep sense of sorrow, mixed with some anger, at how the church I have served as a priest for over 30 years could go so wrong. So certain has been the leadership of our church that its redefinition of the human person and its social form is of God, despite its complete incongruence with Christian Scriptural reading and tradition, that they have seemed to sleepwalk over a precipice of ecclesial self-destruction without regard for their membership and their Christian family. I will be the first to agree that what has happened at this General Convention (and several preceding it) deserves God’s judgment and condemnation, and will indeed receive it.

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July 19 2012 | Articles

How To Kill a Christian Church in Four Easy Steps

Written by:
Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Hello, General Convention! Here’s the answer I would give; and it doesn’t appear to be that hard:

1. Define the Gospel of Christ in terms of the smallest social unit and interest possible (e.g. homosexuals and their right to sexual affirmation)
2. Define the episcopacy according to the smallest unit possible (e.g. New Hampshire and its gay bishop)
3. Drive out anybody who has a larger vision – traditional Christians, evangelicals, Bible-readers, people who study Christian lives and thought earlier than 1968 and farther afield than NY and LA.
4. Spend as much money as you can doing this instead of anything else and say this is “mission”.

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July 02 2012 | Articles

The Hope and Joy of Peace: Life Ahead in the Episcopal Church

Written by:
Thursday, April 5th, 2012

The announced resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England’s rejection of the Covenant promises a new free-for-all period among Anglican churches. Meetings are promised in London, Toronto, and elsewhere. Who knows where all this will lead.

The moment, however, does provide a good opportunity to rethink and restate what conservative Anglicans like myself, who have remained in The Episcopal Church, are really after. It’s worth reminding ourselves of our goals. I speak only for myself here, of course; although I imagine my views are shared by many. And what it comes down to is this: what we want is to be left alone, canonically and legally, to witness to the Gospel in worship, teaching, and deed in hope of God’s truth in Christ triumphing over our divisions and disobedience.

This is not a complicated desire really. But it seems to be deeply misunderstood. Some traditional Anglicans who have left TEC seem to think that our staying is a form of treason with regards to the truth (and their own needs). I have little to say on this front, other than that I consider the witness of our Lord with respect to his own people and his own troubled apostles sufficient justification for our choice to stay. God gave himself to the godless – and we must include ourselves and our churches in this latter category as much as anybody.

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April 05 2012 | Articles

A Response to the reported Title IVdisciplinary process begun against Bishop Mark Lawrence

Written by:
Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

The recently announced disciplinary process against Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina is deeply disturbing on at least two fronts. First, it sullies the Gospel and the Lord of the Gospel; second, it promises to do serious damage to The Episcopal Church (TEC).

In the first place, the allegations against Bishop Lawrence, and the claim that they may amount to “abandonment” of TEC are so absurd as to cross the line into deceit and malice. The fact that these allegations are being made and taken seriously by the leadership of TEC in itself constitutes an affront to the commitments for which a Christian church stands – honesty, charity, care for the witness of the Church’s unity.

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October 05 2011 | Articles

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