Category Archives: Christianity

When in Rome: Team America shut down

From George Weigel at National Review Online:

… Still, the point is that at their press conferences, the American cardinals leaked precisely nothing. The discussion focused on issues, emotions, states of mind, and conclave process; there was no violation of the confidentiality of the General Congregations whatsoever. What there was, however, was a real exchange, with journalists from all over the world — an exchange that helped develop stories of a positive character. What was happening was the New Evangelization, in an extended sense of that term.

So in order to try to solve a problem caused by the unscrupulousness of the Italian press acting in tandem with unscrupulous leakers who had nothing to do with the American cardinals, the Americans’ press conferences — the most refreshing and media-friendly source of positive information and commentary on a story that has riveted the world’s attention, and an extraordinary opportunity to explain what the Catholic Church is — were shut down….

Read it all.

Pastor Saeed Abedini’s letter from inside Iran’s Evin Prison

Letter from the Global South Primates Steering Committeee to Bishop Mark Lawrence

Support for Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina continues to grow. From Global South Anglican Online:

Dear Bishop Mark Lawrence,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Several of the Global South Primates met recently as we gathered in Singapore for the Installation of Rt. Rev. Rennis Ponniah as the new Bishop of Singapore.

We were saddened, but not surprised, by the news of your inhibition and possible deposition by the TEC. We all want to assure you and the Diocese of South Carolina of our continuing prayers and support. We thank God for your stand for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! We are proud that you are willing to suffer for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Please be assured that we are with you, and that our Lord is also proud of you and our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of South Carolina.

May the Lord bless you!

Yours in Christ,

+ Mouneer Egypt

The Most Revd Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Primate of Jerusalem & the Middle East Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Chairman, Global South Primates Steering Committee

+ Ian Mauritius
The Most Revd Ian Ernest
Primate of the Indian Ocean Bishop of Mauritius
Hon. General Secretary, Global South Primates Steering Committee

CC
The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh (All Nigeria)
The Most Rev. Bolly Lapok (South East Asia)
The Most Rev. Stephen Than (Myanmar)
The Most Rev. Henri Isingoma (Congo)
The Most Rev. Hector Zavala (Southern Cone)
The Most Rev. Dr. Eliud Wabukala (Kenya)
The Most Rev. Daniel Deng (Sudan)

No one expects the (TEC) Inquisition

So how many bishops in TEC currently have some type of charge against them? Every day in every way, it seems to grow and grow, since it is now apparently a hanging offense for some bishops to offer an opinion in court (even though they are not the litigants).

I keep thinking that at some point, those bishops remaining in TEC would be embarrassed by these actions, but I would be wrong. From Anglican Ink:

A Reference Panel has found that a prima facie case of misconduct can be made against nine serving and retired bishops of the Episcopal Church for having endorsed an amicus brief presented to the Texas Supreme Court, or for having given testimony in a trial court proceeding involving the Diocese of Quincy.

The Rt Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, the Rt Rev Maurice M. Benitez, the Rt Rev John W. Howe, the Rt Rev Paul E. Lambert, the Rt Rev William H. Love, the Rt Rev D. Bruce MacPherson, the Rt Rev Daniel H. Martins, the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr, and the Rt Rev James M. Stanton have been informed the Reference Panel had reviewed the charges brought against them by the provisional bishops of Fort Worth and Quincy and by lay and clergy accusers.

In an 19 Oct 2012 email Bishop Matthews wrote:

“The Reference Panel unanimously decided according to IV. 6.sec.8 that the complaint will proceed with option (c), Conciliation pursuant to Canon IV.10.”

Under the Title IV disciplinary canons, if the intake officer finds that if a prima facie case can be made against the accused – if the charges if proven true would constitute an offense – the proceedings are passed on to a Reference Panel for action….

Under the new Title IV disciplinary canons, which were roundly challenged at the 77h General Convention in July as being flawed with over 75 corrections and modifications proposed for its reform, the intake officer must first determine if the offense described in the complaint warrants action. By referring it to the panel, Bishop Matthews has held that having signed a document submitted to a secular court that defends one view of Episcopal Church history and canon law, or in the case of Bishops Beckwith, MacPherson and Salmon, for having testified in the Quincy case, they violated the canons.

Bishop Matthews has “absolutely no business” remaining as intake officer, canon lawyer Allan Haley observed. Bishop Matthews was present at the House of Bishops private conversations on the complaint brought by Bishops C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., and John Buchanan against the nine and it is axiomatic that a judge may not be part of the underlying proceedings.

One of the nine told Anglican Ink he has yet to be told what it was about his actions that violated the canons. Is it the “issue” or “expressing the issue in court” he said.

If it is the issue, the bishop noted the position set forth in their brief was identical to that put forward in 2009 in the Bishops Statement on Polity. If it was stating this belief in court, “what is illegitimate about that,” he asked.

Canon law experts note the prosecution of the nine bishops has all the hallmarks of a political trial, as the actions for which they are accused are not considered “triable” when done by other bishops….

If the nine are being charged with violating this canon, the question need be asked why the Bishops of Texas, Southwest Texas, Northwest Texas and the Rio Grande have not been brought up on charges also, one bishop told AI….

Read it all.

Episcopal Forum members initiate attack on bishop in Diocese of South Carolina

Keep reading to see a response to this press release from the Rev. Canon James Lewis of the Diocese of South Carolina. From the Episcopal News Service, a press release from the 14 people (2 clergy, 12 lay) who brought complaints against Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina:

With much deliberation, Melinda A. Lucka, an attorney in the Charleston, S.C. area and an active communicant in the Diocese of South Carolina, requested that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops review various actions of Bishop Lawrence that have taken place over the past two years. Ms. Lucka asked the Board if it could make a determination as to whether or not the actions were consistent with the mission and polity of The Episcopal Church.

Lucka made the request on behalf of 12 lay communicants and two priests in the diocese. The communicants are: Robert R. Black, Margaret A. Carpenter, Charles G. Carpenter, Frances L. Elmore, Eleanor Horres, John Kwist, Margaret S. Kwist, Barbara G. Mann, David W. Mann, Warren W. Mersereau, Dolores J. Miller, Robert B. Pinkerton, M. Jaquelin Simons, Mrs. Benjamin Bosworth Smith, John L. Wilder, and Virginia C. Wilder. The clergy who were named are longstanding Episcopal priests Colton M. Smith+ and Roger W. Smith+.

Generally, names of individuals who initiate ecclesiastical requests are held in confidence through privacy provisions of the Canons; however, the complainants in this request gave their approval to allow themselves to be made known to the Bishop.

Lucka said that they agreed to be named “as a courtesy to Bishop Lawrence, so as not to be cloaked in a shroud of secrecy.” They hope that this “will prevent any suppositions that may be asserted in the upcoming days or weeks that The Episcopal Church may have initiated or encouraged the filing of this request.”

They also want to clarify that although most individuals are members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, an organization of mainstream Episcopalians in the diocese, this was not an action taken by the Forum or its Board. In addition to the individuals who made this request, there are many, many other loyal Episcopalians in the diocese who felt strongly that Episcopal Church officials should review the Bishop’s actions.”

“There is definitely a place for orthodox and evangelical views within the diocese; that’s the beauty of being under the large tent of The Episcopal Church; however, viewpoints and practices in the diocese began to take large leaps away from the broader Church when various actions took place. Severing the legal connections to the governing laws of the Church and essentially forming a new corporate entity, outside of The Episcopal Church by changing the diocesan corporate purpose statement to no longer accede to the Constitution and Canons of our Church seemed to be going too far out of bounds.”

“The hope of these individuals is that the diocese will continue to be a home for all Episcopalians to worship and live together in God’s love through Jesus Christ. They ask the Church for prayers for the Bishop and all involved.”

And the response from Lewis+:

Episcopal Forum Members Initiate Attack on Bishop

Now that the names of those responsible for bringing accusations against Bishop Lawrence before the Disciplinary Board for Bishops is known, it is instructive to consider what that list reveals.

  1. All of the 14 are presently members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina.
  2. They represent six of a total of 21 current Board Members of the Forum.
  3. They come from five parishes and one unaffiliated congregation, with half the lay members indicating they are parishioners of Grace Church, Charleston.
  4. Of the 12 laity, eight represent four married couples.
  5. The legal representative of the group, who presented their case to the disciplinary board for Bishops, is also a member of the Forum Board and is married to Forum Board member and fellow accuser, Bob Black. That means at least 1/3 of their Board was actively engaged in this project.

The picture painted is exactly the opposite of that portrayed in the press release by which their names were revealed.

Despite their assertions to the contrary, this is clearly a group comprised of the primary leadership of the Forum.  To attempt to claim the Forum is not responsible for these actions is disingenuous at best.

It is also clearly not a group representative of a large portion of the diocese. It is representative of a very narrow slice of what is a small group in a handful of parishes.   They have nothing like the broad, concerned constituency they proclaim.

Most troubling is the assertion that they have released their names voluntarily, as a courtesy, to avoid the scandal of secrecy. That is precisely what these actions represent. The diocese was dragged all the way through this process once already last Fall, before the Bishop was acquitted, without the Bishop ever being able to face his accusers. The likelihood of that being a separate group than the present accusers seems vanishingly small. Yet, only now are they graciously coming forward. The real reason is that the Canons require it. Upon the request of the Diocese, that information HAD to be revealed. There is nothing gracious at all about their actions. It is posturing that never should have even been allowed if the Disciplinary Board for Bishops and its President and Attorney had followed their own canons.  Providing these names should have been proforma and immediate when the charges were certified in September. Instead it has required an entire month before that happened.

This goes to the heart of the essential sickness of The Episcopal Church in these days. It is a place of canonical chaos. Even when it has applicable canons, it does not follow them. At its own discretion it applies them capriciously or not at all. It is for good reason that the Diocese of South Carolina put in place the canonical and constitutional firewalls that now seal it off from such continued abuses.

South Carolina clarifies disassociation from TEC

From the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, a statement written by the Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon, theologian for the diocese [boldface is mine]:

The Episcopal Church (TEC) has made an attack against our Bishop and Diocese, in the midst of efforts for a negotiated settlement, which has fundamentally changed our common life. You may have heard or read about this over the last week but it is vital today that we all understand what has occurred and what it means as clearly as possible.

For many years the diocese of South Carolina has opposed the primary theological direction of the national Episcopal Church (TEC). As TEC leadership has moved away from the claim of Jesus’ uniqueness, the authority of Holy Scripture, the meaning of marriage and the nature of what it means to be human, we have had to be more steadfast in our defense of these truths, and more vocal and strong in our opposition to TEC’s disavowal of them.

In the past few years this conflict has escalated to the point where in 2011 charges were brought against Bishop Lawrence (and later voted down in Committee), and where the 2012 General Convention placed an unbiblical doctrine of humanity into the Canons of the Church. The doctrine, discipline and worship of TEC were all fundamentally changed in a fashion most of our clergy cannot and will not comply with. Bishop Lawrence and a majority of our deputation left the Convention before it concluded as a result.

Ever mindful of protecting the Diocese and its parishes, its leadership had in place resolutions which would become effective upon any action by TEC. As a result of TEC’s attack against our Bishop, the Diocese of South Carolina is disassociated from TEC; that is, its accession to the TEC Constitution and its membership in TEC have been withdrawn.

On Monday of this past week, the Bishop and the Diocese learned that the attack had taken place. The Diocese of South Carolina is no longer part of TEC as a result of TEC’s actions. We will now have a special Diocesan Convention on November 17th to iron out the necessary changes to our Canons and Constitution, and begin to discern the best way forward into a new Anglican future. We are all now in the valley of decision, whether we have desired it or not. That reality was not within our control.

We are still the Diocese of South Carolina, holding the faith of the apostles which was handed down to us. This radical step was taken to protect our parishes and their gospel witness. We believe that though the future has much that is unknown, the God who has faithfully led us by his grace to this point will take us where he wants us to go.

We encourage you to pray for the Bishop, Standing Committee, and diocese in a focused way between now and the special Convention. Please read the diocesan website, and the documents it provides, as carefully as possible. Because the situation is so unusual, we know there will be many questions. Please take them to your parish leaders and, if you wish, to members of the diocesan staff or Standing Committee so that we all may be as clear as we can about what has transpired.

To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or imagine, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be all glory now and forever. Amen.

Check it out.

Bishop Martins of Springfield in support of Bishop Lawrence

Episcopal Diocese of Springfield
From Bishop Dan Martins of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, in response to actions taken against Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina by the national church:

Many of you have heard the sad news that broke yesterday about the Diocese of South Carolina. Bishop Mark Lawrence was informed via telephone call from the Presiding Bishop that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops has certified his “abandonment” of the Episcopal Church by supporting actions his diocese has taken that allegedly undermine a presumed obligation to acknowledge the hierarchical authority of General Convention and the Presiding Bishop. Under the canons, the automatic result of this finding is that Bishop Lawrence is “restricted” from exercising the authority of the ministry to which he has been ordained, and a special meeting of the House of Bishops will be convened to adjudicate the matter and, if a majority agree with the Disciplinary Board, to permanently depose Bishop Lawrence from the ministry of the Episcopal Church, declaring the office of Bishop of South Carolina to be vacant.

As a result of this development, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina has announced its intention to ask a special convention of the diocese to approve its disaffiliation from the Episcopal Church. One can plausibly assume that Bishop Lawrence and the great majority of clergy and laity in the diocese have no intention of honoring the “restricted” status of his ministry. As for how the diocese will attempt to maintain a connection to the Anglican Communion, that can only be a matter of conjecture at this point.

Of course, we know from the experience of recent years roughly how the scenario will play out: the Presiding Bishop will convene an extraordinary “convention” of “loyal Episcopalians” from within the diocese, which will announce that it is the legitimate continuing Diocese of South Carolina, and choose a Provisional Bishop. Then that bishop and diocese, along with attorneys representing the Presiding Bishop, will spend millions of dollars suing in secular courts to recover control of church buildings and financial assets. To this point, the reorganized dioceses and the Presiding Bishop have been generally successful in their legal efforts (though important cases in Texas and California remain undecided). However, there is already a history in South Carolina that heavily favors those who will continue to actually occupy those properties.

This is a very serious, and a very disturbing, turn of events. Bishop Lawrence is a longtime personal friend, and a man whose intellect, love for our Lord, and passion for the gospel is without peer. While I am not fully on board with the some of the positions taken and decisions made by the conventions of the Diocese of South Carolina, and while I could find reasons to criticize the tone of much of the rhetoric coming from their direction, I am in essential theological sympathy with the witness made by that diocese as it has attempted to remain faithful to historic Anglican–which is to say, historic Episcopalian–faith and practice in a time when the majority in our church appear to be turning away from that tradition. More to the point, it strains every notion of common sense to apply the charge of “abandonment” in this case. This is a provision that is in canons to make it expeditious to deal with a priest or bishop who has openly decamped to another ecclesial body, or none; a cleric who stops showing up for meetings, stops worshiping as an Episcopalian, and disavows any association with the Episcopal Church. By contrast, since I became a bishop in March of last year, Mark Lawrence has attended every meeting of the House of Bishops except one, which a great many bishops also missed because it was held in Ecuador. He was present at General Convention. He has continued to lead a diocese that uses the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer in its worship. He has abandoned nothing, and to accuse him of doing so is ludicrous on its face.

There is much more that needs to be said, and many more implications of these events that deserve to be unpacked. I am in consultation with colleague bishops from the fellowship known as Communion Partners. I am not in possession of all the relevant facts, but am working to get them. The situation merits deep reflection and earnest prayer. The greatest tragedy, of course, is the discordant witness this makes to a broken world hungry for good news. We rightly shed tears of sorrow, begging for the grace of repentance and amendment of our common life. Lord, have mercy.

South Carolina fires back. . .

Episcopal Diocese of South CarolinaThe Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina responds to the allegations by the national church against Bishop Mark Lawrence:

Anglicans have been worshiping in South Carolina since its establishment as a British Colony. From the beginning, they have defended and upheld the doctrine, discipline and worship of the faithful generations who came before them. That freedom is now under direct assault.

As a founding Diocese of the Episcopal Church, we have taken steps in recent years to defend our freedom of worship and order of gathering. On Monday of this week (October 15), the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence (14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina) was informed by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church that a disciplinary board had certified that he was guilty of abandonment of the communion of the church – that he had, in effect, by his words and actions, left the church. We believe that these actions of the Episcopal Church are both invalid under the Constitution of the Episcopal Church of this Diocese and violations of rights and freedoms which all Americans hold dear. We emphatically reject them, as well as the attempted restriction upon the ministry of our Bishop.

An Assault on the Bishop

This action is a deplorable assault upon the Bishop of this Diocese. The attack came in the midst of negotiations whose stated intent was to find a peaceful solution to our differences with the Episcopal Church. It involved a process in which there was no prior notice of the proceedings, no notice of the charges against him nor any opportunity to face the local accusers (who remained anonymous until today).

Also deeply concerning is the fact that all of the stated reasons for “abandonment” were known nearly a year ago, when an earlier attempt to remove him failed. This second attempt is double jeopardy of the most egregious sort and is contrary to the very canons they have used. Worst of all, canons that were originally meant for the removal of clergy who had well and truly “left” the church are now being used to purge a Bishop who has diligently sought to keep his Diocese both intact and within the Episcopal Church.

An Assault on the Diocese

These actions, however, are not just an attack upon Bishop Lawrence. They also represent an assault on this Diocese and its congregations. Two of the three actions that the Episcopal Church claims prove his abandonment are in fact actions of the Diocesan Convention. These were actions of the entire Diocese, all its parishes and missions, expressing together in duly elected convention what they needed to remain in the communion of this denomination. In effect, the Episcopal Church has said it does not care what the parishioners of this Diocese, who are its sole supporters, have to say about their own future. The final action for which the Episcopal Church claims Bishop Lawrence was found guilty was for confirming, by the release of quit claim deeds, that our congregations own their own property.

Abandoned

Bishop Lawrence’s actions have been taken to protect the integrity of the Diocese and its parishes. In the exercise of his freedom of speech, he has stated his personal good faith beliefs concerning the theology and polity of this Diocese. The parishes of this Diocese have repeatedly joined him in expressing those same beliefs. The actions taken by the Episcopal Church make it clear that such freedom of expression is intolerable to them. It is this Diocese and its Bishop who have been abandoned; left behind by a denomination that has chosen a radically different path from that of its founders. For that reason, we have disassociated ourselves from the Episcopal Church and will meet again in Convention on November 17th to consider further responses to these actions by the denomination we helped found. By God’s grace, we look forward to many more generations freely exercising the faith first brought to these shores so many generations before us.

South Carolina’s special convention will be held Saturday, November 17, to respond to TEC’s action against +Lawrence and to include any “relevant constitutional and/or canonical changes”  at St. Philip’s Church with registration from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. The Call to Convention will be at 10:00 a.m.

Also, check out AnglicanTV and Anglican Ink for past interviews with Bishop Lawrence (as well as lots of other good stuff).

KJS and TEC: Jumping the shark…together

broken episcopal shieldI hoped they wouldn’t do it, but I should have known better (well, actually, I did, but hope springs eternal). The Disciplinary Board for Bishops of The Episcopal Church (TEC) has certified that Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina has abandoned The Episcopal Church by certain actions.

Of course, this event is just one part of the long and winding unraveling of TEC as the church has, under its presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, gone out of its way to purge itself of any traditional, orthodox Christian voices. (And yes, I do know that a church usually takes the feminine pronoun, reflective of being the Bride of Christ, but in this case that doesn’t apply. Not only has TEC become post-Christian in its outlook, but since they support and advocate for same-sex marriage, completely oblivious to any biblical understanding of the institution, pronouns obviously mean little to them; they’ve neutered marriage so using the pronoun “it” fits right in.)

I’m not going to go through what this means and what happens now. For complete coverage of all of that, check out TitusOneNine and Stand Firm (for good commentary, check out the Midwest Conservative Journal and for the legal perspective, check out the Anglican Curmudgeon).

But I find two events listed on the timeline posted by the Diocese of South Carolina intriguing:

September 18, 2012: Disciplinary Board of Bishops (DBB) apparently certifies abandonment on three charges, two of which were previously dismissed on November 22, 2011. (Attachment B) (Certification received on October 15 is unsigned.)

So why is the DBB considering charges that had already been dismissed? This is like being tried for the same crime twice; it’s double jeopardy all over again. Did the presiding bishop request that the DBB review these charges until they came up with the result she liked? (And I know DBB here stands for the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, but when I first saw it, I thought David Booth Beers—and I think I would be right.)

October 15, 2012: Call is moved up at PB’s request one hour to noon. During the call PB states that she received certification of abandonment from DBB on the 10th, that she will be sending Bishop Lawrence a restriction of ministry, that they are still willing to meet on Monday, that she desires this be kept confidential for the time being. …

Why the request that this be kept confidential? She should be shouting from the rooftops that she’s finally got +Lawrence. She already tried to deny him his election as bishop so this should be what she’s been dreaming of. I can understand her wanting to control the roll-out of this announcement, but why would she think Bishop Lawrence would acquiesce to her schedule?

I know these are small matters in the overall picture, but I think they are reflective of the morass that TEC has become. The charges brought against +Lawrence relate to legalities, and dubious legalities at that, not to anything theological or doctrinal (oh, that’s right, I forgot, ever since Bishop James Pike, TEC has had no doctrine).

It’s all about the power at this point, and the presiding bishop wants more.

I think KJS and, with her, TEC just jumped the shark.

USCCB responds to inaccurate statement of fact on HHS mandate

Whoops, guess the Catholic bishops are not too happy about Vice President Biden’s dissembling during the debate last night (although, strangely, they don’t say who said this–trying to be politically neutral? Hey, a fact’s a fact: Biden said it, he needs to own it):

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

For more details, please see USCCB’s regulatory comments filed on May 15 regarding the proposed “accommodation”: www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/comments-on-advance-notice-of-proposed-rulemaking-on-preventive-services-12-05-15.pdf

Check it out.

Who shares your values?

TEC: When the day of evil comes

Way back in the day (2006 to 2008, to be exact), I had the blog innocent as doves. My purpose there was to cover “traditional Anglican worship in San Diego, Southern California, and around the world, as well as any other subjects that happen to catch my interest.” It was great fun to write and included numerous interviews I did for Anglican TV with various Anglican and Episcopal clergy.

But the end result of my taking my Christian faith seriously was that my family ended up leaving the Episcopal Church. I outlined our journey in six posts:

I mention this as part of a eulogy for The Episcopal Church in the United States. TEC, having now “slipped the surly bonds” of any recognizable biblical comprehension with the actions of its just completed 77th General Convention, is now adrift in cultural relativism and unmoored from biblical understanding. I can see no way in which it can remain part of the “one holy catholic and apostolic” Church after these actions.

Pseudo-theology and political entanglements result in there being no there there. So the number of church members will continue to decline, the empty churches will continue to soak up financial resources, the litigation against those trying to escape the skewed theology will continue to offer a picture of unchristian behavior by church leaders. Only a few dioceses (the Diocese of South Carolina, I hope, being one) will continue to preach and praise the traditional Christian faith, and those dioceses are only safe until they need to call a new bishop–when that happens, all bets are off.

(Yes, I did change the picture here from earlier–this image seems much more appropriate.)

For all of those staying in the Episcopal Church as a witness against the heresy and unbelief found there, St. Paul offers his wisdom on relying on the Lord:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
(Ephesians 6:10-17)

Protecting consciences, or what I found in my church bulletin today

From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

USCCB Nationwide Bulletin Insert June 2012
WHY CONSCIENCE IS IMPORTANT

During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Americans shone the light of the Gospel on a dark history of slavery, segregation, and racial bigotry. The civil rights movement was an essentially religious movement, a call to awaken consciences.

In his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. boldly said, “The goal of America is freedom.” As a Christian pastor, he argued that to call America to the full measure of that freedom was the specific contribution Christians are obliged to make. He rooted his legal and constitutional arguments about justice in the long Christian tradition: “I would agree with Saint Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’… A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”

Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified. Every effort must be made to repeal them. When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need to witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.

The church does not ask for special treatment, simply the rights of religious freedom for all citizens. Rev. King also explained that the church is neither the master nor the servant of the state, but its conscience, guide, and critic.

Catholics and many other Americans have strongly criticized the recent Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring almost all private health plans to cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. For the first time in our history, the federal government will force religious institutions to fund and facilitate coverage of a drug or procedure contrary to their moral teaching, and purport to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit an exemption. This is a matter of whether religious people and institutions may be forced by the government to provide such coverage even when it violates our consciences.

What we ask is nothing more than the right to follow our consciences as we live out our teaching. This right is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day.

What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it.

What can you do to ensure the protection of conscience rights?

  • The U.S. Bishops have called us to get informed, pray and advocate. To send your message to HHS and Congress telling them to uphold religious liberty and conscience rights, go to www.usccb.org/conscience today! Thank you for joining the effort to end this unprecedented government coercion.
  • The Bishops have called for a Fortnight for Freedom – June 21-July 4. Please go to www.fortnight4freedom.org for more information on this important time of prayer and action!

Bishop Burbidge of Raleigh on the N.C. marriage protection amendment

From Catholic Voice NC, Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh on the North Carolina Marriage Protection amendment:

Vote FOR Marriage #4 from Diocese of Charlotte on Vimeo.

Also check out the earlier videos from Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Peter Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte.

Cardinal Burke explains: Catholic employers cannot provide contraceptive coverage because they would be materially and formally cooperating with sin

From Renew America, on Thomas McKenna’s interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke on EWTN’s Catholic Action Insight:

Thomas McKenna: “It is beautiful to see how the faithful have rallied behind the Hierarchy….How does your Eminence comment on the union of solidarity of our bishops?”

Cardinal Burke: “Yes, I have received emails and other communications from lay faithful who say that they are supporting their bishops 100% and they have communicated to their bishops their gratitude and assured them that they want them to continue to be courageous and not to be deceived by any kind of false accommodations which in fact continue this same kind of agenda which sadly we have witnessed for too long in our country which is totally secular and therefore is anti-life and anti-family. I admire very much the courage of the bishops. At the same time I believe they would say it along with me that they are doing no more than their duty. A bishop has to protect his flock and when any individual or government attempts to force the flock to act against conscience in one of its most fundamental precepts then the bishops have to come to defend those who are entrusted to their pastoral care. So I am deeply grateful to all of the bishops who have spoken about this and who are encouraging the members of their flock to also speak up because our government needs to understand that what is being done with this mandate is contrary first of all to the fundamental human right, the right to the free exercise of one’s conscience and at the same time contrary to the very foundation of our nation.”

Thomas McKenna: “So a Catholic employer, really getting down to it, he does not, or she does not provide this because that way they would be, in a sense, cooperating with the sin…the sin of contraception or the sin of providing a contraceptive that would abort a child, is this correct?”

Cardinal Burke: “This is correct. It is not only a matter of what we call “material cooperation” in the sense that the employer by giving this insurance benefit is materially providing for the contraception but it is also “formal cooperation” because he is knowingly and deliberately doing this, making this available to people. There is no way to justify it. It is simply wrong.”…

Read it all, and check out the entire interview here.

USCCB: Our first, most cherished liberty

From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

…As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.

This has been noticed both near and far. Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened. He called it the “most cherished of American freedoms”—and indeed it is. All the more reason to heed the warning of the Holy Father, a friend of America and an ally in the defense of freedom, in his recent address to American bishops…

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat? Sadly, it is. This is not a theological or legal dispute without real world consequences. Consider the following:

  • HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services has received wide attention and has been met with our vigorous and united opposition. In an unprecedented way, the federal government will both force religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching and purport to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty. These features of the “preventive services” mandate amount to an unjust law. As Archbishop-designate William Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, testified to Congress: “This is not a matter of whether contraception may be prohibited by the government. This is not even a matter of whether contraception may be supported by the government. Instead, it is a matter of whether religious people and institutions may be forced by the government to provide coverage for contraception or sterilization, even if that violates their religious beliefs.”…
  • Christian students on campus. In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.
  • Catholic foster care and adoption services. Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.
  • Discrimination against small church congregations. New York City enacted a rule that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and sixty other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for scores of other uses. While this would not frequently affect Catholic parishes, which generally own their own buildings, it would be devastating to many smaller congregations. It is a simple case of discrimination against religious believers.
  • Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services. Notwithstanding years of excellent performance by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require us to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching. Religious institutions should not be disqualified from a government contract based on religious belief, and they do not somehow lose their religious identity or liberty upon entering such contracts. And yet a federal court in Massachusetts, turning religious liberty on its head, has since declared that such a disqualification is required by the First Amendment—that the government somehow violates religious liberty by allowing Catholic organizations to participate in contracts in a manner consistent with their beliefs on contraception and abortion….

What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it….

This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue….

Read it all.

Test of Fire: Election 2012

From Catholics Called to Witness:

Cardinal Dolan: “‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive'”

From James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal:

The president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is careful to show due respect for the president of the United States. “I was deeply honored that he would call me and discuss these things with me,” says the newly elevated Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. But when Archbishop Dolan tells me his account of their discussions of the ObamaCare birth-control mandate, Barack Obama sounds imperious and deceitful to me….

“So you can imagine the chagrin,” Archbishop Dolan continues, “when [the president] called me at the end of January to say that the mandates remain in place and that there would be no substantive change, and that the only thing that he could offer me was that we would have until August. . . . I said, ‘Mr. President, I appreciate the call. Are you saying now that we have until August to introduce to you continual concerns that might trigger a substantive mitigation in these mandates?’ He said, ‘No, the mandates remain. We’re more or less giving you this time to find out how you’re going to be able to comply.’ I said, ‘Well, sir, we don’t need the [extra time]. I can tell you now we’re unable to comply.'”

Archbishop Dolan explains that the “accommodation” solves nothing, since most church-affiliated organizations either are self-insured or purchase coverage from Catholic insurance companies like Christian Brothers Services and Catholic Mutual Group, which also see the mandate as “morally toxic.” He argues that the mandate also infringes on the religious liberty of nonministerial organizations like the Knights of Columbus and Catholic-oriented businesses such as publishing houses, not to mention individuals, Catholic or not, who conscientiously object.

“We’ve grown hoarse saying this is not about contraception, this is about religious freedom,” he says. What rankles him the most is the government’s narrow definition of a religious institution….

“We find it completely unswallowable, both as Catholics and mostly as Americans, that a bureau of the American government would take it upon itself to define ‘ministry,'” Archbishop Dolan says. “We would find that to be—we’ve used the words ‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive.'”

It also amounts to penalizing the church for not discriminating in its good works: “We don’t ask people for their baptismal certificate, nor do we ask people for their U.S. passport, before we can serve them, OK? . . . We don’t serve people because they’re Catholic, we serve them because we are, and it’s a moral imperative for us to do so.”…

The archbishop sees a parallel irony in his dispute with Mr. Obama: “This is a strange turn of the table, that here a Catholic cardinal is defending religious freedom, the great proposition of the American republic, and the president of the United States seems to be saying that this is a less-than-important issue.”…

Read it all.

Vanderbilt Catholic to leave campus after refusing to comply with non-discrimination policy

Background in this post: Vanderbilt University: Christian campus groups can’t require leaders to have specific beliefs.

And now it’s official. I wonder how many groups will exodus from Vanderbilt University. From the Blaze:

The ruckus over Vanderbilt University’s non-discrimination policy and regulations that require campus Christian groups (among others) to allow non-believers to serve in leadership roles continues. This week, Vanderbilt Catholic, one of the largest faith clubs at the school, has announced that it will not comply with the newly-enforced rules.

The Catholic group’s decision will mean that, as of the end of the year, it will no longer be an official university group. Instead, it will serve as an off-campus ministry. The Rev. John Sims Baker, a chaplain at Vanderbilt Catholic, said on Tuesday that the group has been forced to make the rash decision to leave campus. It is the first Vanderbilt group to make such an announcement….

The main argument surrounds an “all-comers” policy, which means that all students should be allowed to be members of campus groups. Additionally, every individual, regardless of belief, should — according to Vanderbilt policy — have the opportunity to run for office.

While faith groups embrace the first portion of the rule, it is this second notion — that anyone can be a leader — that is drawing the ire of student-run organizations like Vanderbilt Catholic.

“The discriminatory non-discrimination policy at Vanderbilt University has forced our hand,” Baker said in a statement. “Our purpose has always been to share the Gospel and proudly to proclaim our Catholic faith. What other reason could there be for a Catholic organization at Vanderbilt?”

According to the statement, student clubs are being forced to re-register in April, as they will be asked to affirm their allegiance to the non-discrimination policy. Rather than complying as an official portion of campus life, the club will “reorganize.”

“We are going to open our doors wider in order to make a greater effort to reach out to all Vanderbilt students and all college students in Nashville,” the proclamation reads….

First and foremost, the regulation would require Christian groups to allow non-Christians to lead Bible studies (pending elections). In turn, it would essentially force gay rights groups to embrace leaders who disagree fervently with gay marriage and other ideals. In the end, the leadership portion of the non-discrimination continues to be the most controversial.

Read it all.

Kennedy: Breaking the habit of entitlement

A good read over at Stand Firm by Fr. Matt Kennedy:

…The entitlement mindset, once developed, ripples outward. Family, friends, agencies, church all become sources either of nourishment and fulfillment for the individual or objects of resentment.

At this point something very interesting happens. The person seeking assistance becomes consumed with a particular kind of greed.

A wealthy person succumbs to greed when, recognizing he’s able to bend the world to his desires, he refuses to see his wealth as a means of glorifying God and serving others and instead uses it to serve and satisfy himself. He becomes the center of his universe. He does not work for anyone. There’s no one he must serve, no one to whom he must bend or give account. His soul shrinks as his wealth increases. He begins to see everyone and everything in orbit around himself.

But, cruelly, the very same thing can and often does happen to those on assistance. What begins as a needed helping hand produces over time a growing sense that all things and people revolve around and exist to serve and satisfy the “impoverished” self. The sense of entitlement that develops is for the most part identical to self-focused greed to which the rich person described above succumbs.

But it’s worse in two ways:

1. Because the person on assistance does not have the financial means to ensure that others bend to his demands, his greed, when fully developed, is exacerbated by frustrated envy which produces a deep-seated resentment the wealthy person may never know.

2. While the rich person has the means at his disposal to reverse the process by sacrifice and selfless giving, the poor person who succumbs to this kind of greed is economically trapped. Even should he repent, there is not much he can actively do to escape the cycle. He cannot give sacrificially because his food, shelter, clothing, and health care depend on receiving and the longer he has been out of work the more difficult it will be for him to find a job.

Well-meaning people sometimes assume that assistance programs help the impoverished and sometimes they do. But they can also lead to the same kind of moral and spiritual impoverishment that is more often associated with the lavishly wealthy.

So how might a Christian congregation deal with this problem?

Let’s look first at three fairly typical Christian responses to poverty….

Read it all, and check out this story from Montgomery, Alabama: Alabama nightclub raises eyebrows with ‘Food Stamp Friday’ party.