Friday, July 12, 2019

Texas TEC Bishops Parrot Lies About “Refugees” and the Border

Bishops from all six Texas dioceses of The Episcopal Church (TEC) have written an open letter of the usual lies about the border “to state and national leaders.”  Yes, even the TEC Bishop of Dallas signed this bovine excrement. Some excerpts:
We write to decry the conditions in detention centers at our border because we are Christians, and Jesus is unequivocal. We are to pray without ceasing for everyone involved-refugees, elected officials, and law enforcement-while also advocating for the humane treatment of the human beings crowding our border [They are being treated as humanely as possible given that your Democrat Party has made their jobs as difficult as possible and given that LibChurchers like you, the Democrat Party, and other Leftists have joined the drug cartels in enabling and encouraging the storming of our borders.] as they flee the terror and violence [LIE: Most are country-shopping economic migrants.  Some are predatory criminals. And Guatemala, for example, islessviolent than years ago.]of their home countries.
We call on our state and national leaders to reject fear-based policy-making that targets people who are simply seeking safety, [Telling that LIE again.] and a chance to live and work in peace. The situation at the border is, by all accounts, a crisis. [Oh. Where were you bishops when Trump was calling it a crisis, and Democrats were calling it a made-up crisis and refusing to provide needed funding and beds?]…
We are to care for the children, cherish them, protect them and keep them safe. [So why are you advocating for the continued enabling of rampant child smuggling?  And where is the concern about keeping American children safe from MS13 and other criminals coming across the border?]…

This is not a call for open borders. [Yeah.  Riiight.] This is not saying that immigration isn’t complicated. This is a call for a humane and fair system for moving asylum seekers and refugees through the system as required by law. Seeking asylum is not illegal.[Immigration fraud, including false asylum claims, not showing up for one’s hearing, and fake families, is illegal.] Indeed, the people at our border are following the law when they present themselves to border authorities. [Half truth: Presenting themselves to border authorities when caught crossing illegally does not make the illegal crossing legal.] 
Asylum is “a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the international law definition of a ‘refugee,’ which is ‘a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’” 

And economic country-shopping is not on the list.  Nor is the very common practice of ditching one’s asylum hearing allowed either.
By the way, if The Episcopal Church cares oh-so much about “refugees,” why don’t they stop suing real Christians of the Anglican Church in North America and use the funds to assist refugees instead of paying their predatory lawyers?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Noll on Moral Equivalence and False Teaching in the Church of England

Stephen Noll has written a good and succinct piece on how Biblical and anti-Biblical views of sexual morality and marriage are treated as morally equivalent under the guise of “good disagreement” in the Church of England.
“Good disagreement” along with “mutual flourishing” of course means LibChurchers can teach and practice whatever apostasies they please while traditional orthodox have to put up with it and get little in return, especially little when it comes to bishoprics and deaneries.
The Archbishop of York along with the Archbishop of Canterbury is endorsing this sham.

But, as Noll points out, there are matters in which truly good disagreement means the likes of, say, Martyn Percy are called out as St. Jude did, utterly rejecting the notion that false teaching is morally equivalent, and then (although Noll does not spell this out) exercising church discipline against the false teachers.

Yes, the Church of England is too far gone for any hope of church discipline against apostate clerics.  It serves as a negative example illustrating that false teachers must not be treated as morally equivalent – which Noll considers “moral equivocation” – but must be confronted, suspended, and, when necessary, defrocked with all diligence.  Otherwise false teaching will spread like gangrene eventually maiming or killing a church if said church discipline is too long delayed and too infrequently applied.

As I’ve oft said, a church that does not care enough about truth to discipline does not care enough about truth. Treating false teaching as “good disagreement” is deadly disagreement against God’s word.

Monday, July 08, 2019

The Nicene Creed in the New ACNA BCP: Too 1979 (UPDATED)

There has been a robust but irenic debate over at North American Anglican about whether the new ACNA Book of Common Prayer is more in line with the 1662 BCP tradition or with the 1979 BCP. You can check that out here, here and here, and I will defer to those articles.
But there is at least one instance in which the new BCP is too 1979 for me – the beginning of the Nicene Creed, the first word to be exact: “We.”
The 1662 and the 1928 Creed begins, “I believe….” The 1979 begins, “We believe….” And we all know the history of those many Episcopal Church clerics who dissemble every time they say the Creed. That “We” gave them something of an out.  For they are not asserting that “I” – they themselves individually – believe, but that “we believe” – this is the belief of the church.
Although such Jesuitical deception is surely rare to non-existent in the Anglican Church in North America, and the Liturgy Task Force surely had no intent to enable such, most of ACNA came out of The Episcopal Church.  So why bring that sordid history into the new Book of Common Prayer?  And if the new ACNA BCP is oh-so in the 1662 tradition, then why does the Creed begin with “We” instead of the more traditional “I”?
Now I am well aware there is a school that has the original Creed beginning with the plural.  Further, a case can be made that “We” better reflects that this is the confession of the whole faithful church.  But the Latin from time immemorial began with Credo – singular.  The 1662 and the 1928 stuck with that.  Given that “I” is more committal and has less loopholes and less bad recent history than “We”, the ACNA 2019 BCP should also have stuck with that good Anglican tradition.
NOTE: For those thinking I am carping after the fact without having expressed my views during the trial phase, among the recommendations I made to the Liturgy Task Force was the following:
…It may be wise to go over . . . parts of the proposed ACNA BCP that have their origin in the 1979, to examine those parts and ask, “Is this really an improvement over the traditional 1662/1928 Book of Common Prayer?” Probably, you have already done this.  It might be good to do it again anyway.

Elsewhere a member of the Liturgy Task Force has commented on my post:

No question there was a good deal of feedback on this subject. For the record, of everything in the new BCP, the Nicene Creed is the one that the Liturgy Task Force had the *least* say in. The College of Bishops made a de novo translation from the Greek text of Constantinople in 381 (pisteuomen - “we believe”). The later Latin and even the Greek liturgical usage does have the singular, but not the original. Of course, the Latin also added the filioque, the treatment of which in the bishops’ translation alone should point to the fact that it’s a new translation. Still, the LTF was not given discretion to address the subject.

Like it or hate it, there are two errors of assumption in this article - 1) that it was the choice of the LTF, and 2) that it was a decision based on the 1979 (or the ecumenical ICET from which the 79 came).

That is helpful information. I confess I was not aware that the College of Bishops so intervened and would have written my post differently if I was.  
Although I respect the bishops’ decision and effort to get as close to the original as possible, I think they took too much upon themselves.  It would have been simpler, better and more respectful of Anglican tradition to return to the 1662 version of the Creed.

And the LTF had very prominent bishops as its chair and vice-chair, so the LTF does not completely get off the hook. And did the other members protest? I do not know.  
And whether and how much the 1979 BCP nonetheless influenced the College of Bishops or perhaps even made some hesitant to return to “We”, I am not a mind reader nor a fly on the wall of their meetings. I still do think the bad recent history of “We” perhaps should have been given more weight.
Oh well.  My diocese will stick to “I”, thank you.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A Sermon for Trinity 3 - The Scandalous Grace of God

Psalm 32
Ezekiel 34:20-24
Luke 15:1-10
Two weeks ago, Our Rector briefly mentioned the episode in our second lesson. Tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear Jesus.  “And the Pharisees and scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”
Whereupon Jesus began to tell a series of parables.  But before we get to those, let’s not rush past Jesus receiving sinners and the Pharisees’ negative response to that.  For these verses reveal a lot about God’s grace and how we sometimes respond to that grace.
The Pharisees grumbled not only because Jesus allowed sinners to hear him, but that he received them and even ate with them.  And dining with someone was a sign of genuine acceptance in that culture. It was not taken lightly.  A good Jew was selective in whom he dined with.  Eating with Gentiles was right out, for example.
So when Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, the Pharisees were scandalized.
In the Gospel of Luke, we have other episodes in which Jesus scandalized religious leaders and others by his grace toward sinners.  One of these from chapter 19 is a bit fun.  Remember Zacchaeus? He was the undersized tax collector with the oversized bank account who got up into a tree so he could see Jesus when he passed by in Jericho.
When Jesus came by, he looked up and said, probably with a smile, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
Well, not just the Pharisees but just about everyone who heard of this were scandalized. For Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector in Jericho and therefore probably not very popular.  As the scripture says, “When they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’”
Jesus apparently had no problem scandalizing people with his grace.
Now before we proceed further, it’s important to correct a habit of mind that many have – I know I am this way – when reading these passages from the Gospels.  We tend to point fingers and think, “Oh those Pharisees.” And we might miss that it wasn’t only the Pharisees that were scandalized by the grace of Jesus.  In fact, in preparing this sermon, I noticed that I had forgotten that pretty much the whole crowd was offended when Jesus became the guest of Zacchaeus.
Really we should take the negative responses of the Pharisees and others as a picture, a mirror, of how all of us tend to respond to the grace of God in its fullness. We are scandalized by it.  
Oh we think the grace of God towards us is wonderful and maybe toward loved ones, too.  Some might even think they at least partly deserve the grace of God. Of course, that’s a misnomer. Grace is unmerited favor; it is God loving us when we don’t deserve it.  And -- guess what? – we don’t deserve it!  None of us deserve the grace of God. 
Yet it is easy to fall into thinking that others are even more undeserving of God’s grace than we are.  I can think of some others . . . especially while driving.
And to honest if I were in Jericho that day when Jesus became the guest of Zacchaeus, I would have been taken aback, too: “Jesus invited himself into the home of the chief IRS agent in town?  What?!? All the people Jesus could have stayed with, and he chose the IRS agent.” That’s probably what I would have thought.  (By the way, if any IRS agents read or hear this later, I apologize, I love ya, and I do pay my taxes.)
Even the most kind-hearted of us can consider some people as surely beyond the grace of God. We have an example of that in Acts 9.  God told Ananias to go lay hands on Saul so he may receive the Holy Spirit, and Ananias’ first response was to say, “Okay, I’m going! How wonderful is your grace, oh Lord!” . . .

No, that was not his first response. Instead he informed the Lord that Saul was a notorious persecutor of Christians.  Now he didn’t tell the Lord that He was wrong, but he did raise some issues that he had with God’s grace here.  
The Lord understood just how strange his instruction must have seemed, so he was gracious again and told Ananias to go anyway and that he would take care of Saul, whom we know as St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.
God’s grace is so much bigger than we can imagine . . . and sometimes we can find that annoying! And, by the way, there is a whole book in the Old Testament on that, the Book of Jonah.
Back to Luke 15, how did Jesus respond to the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes? He told them some parables.  The first one went like this:
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?
Jesus is doubling down here.  He is saying, “Not only will I receive lost sinners, but I seekthem.” And he said that even more clearly on the day when he became the guest of Zacchaeus, when he said, “…the Son of Man came to seekand to save the lost.” Jesus seeks sinners. Jesus seeks to save sinners. Continuing with the parable:
And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Now when we hear this, it sounds wonderful – and it is wonderful.  But I wonder if the Pharisees and company caught the full impact of what he was saying.  He said not only does God seek sinners, but when they repent and turn to the Lord, he rejoices over them far more than over ninety-nine supposedly righteous people who think they don’t need to repent.  
And we know who were self-righteous and thought they didn’t need to repent – the Pharisees.
In case they didn’t get the message the first time, Jesus then told a similar parable of the woman who diligently seeks a lost coin then rejoices when finding it.  Then comes the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
And we hear that familiar parable so many times that we may miss some important details.  For one thing, the Prodigal Son was not a very sympathetic figure.  First, he in effect tells his father, “Hey Dad, I don’t want to wait around for you to die; will you give me my inheritance now?” Lovely.  Then he goes far from the father “into a far country.”  There he spends all the inheritance on “reckless living” – the scripture doesn’t give us details of that “reckless living,” and that’s probably a good thing.  Then when he figures out he needs to actually work, he ends up working with pigs.  And, by the way, that makes him that much more offensive to Jesus’ Jewish listeners.
But note how the father welcomes the wayward son.  He doesn’t reject him.  And he doesn’t just say [in a deadpan voice], “Oh.  You’re back. Oh, joy. You smell like pigs, by the way.” No, first, he sees the son coming from a long ways off.
I bet for the first few weeks after the son left, that father would glance longingly down the road to see if his son might be coming back.  And that may have become a habit.  That may seem far-fetched but I know there are people I’ve prayed for, not just for years, but for decades.  It became a habit that I didn’t have the heart to break.  I think that father was seeking the return of his son.
So one day, as he once again looks down that road, he sees the son a long ways off, and he runs for him and welcomes him lavishly. And he even has a feast.

And the other son is scandalized. The other son won’t even go into the feast.
The grace of God is scandalous.  That God seeks and welcomes even the worst of sinners can really offend us.  But he seeks sinners; he seeks us anyway.  Thank God!

Now it’s important to remember that it is a dangerous thing to presume on the grace of God.  Scripture gives no assurance to those who persist in a sinful lifestyle, who refuse to repent and return, who stubbornly remain in a far country far away from the Father. Remember the Prodigal Son did repent and he did return.  And he approached the father not based on his own merit.  Instead he confessed his sin and his unworthiness saying, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” And he relied only on the mercy and kindness of his father. 
Nor are we to presume on the grace of God by being passive, thinking that God’s grace calls for no response from us.  The Prodigal Son did not just stay in the pig sty.

Instead, we are to seek God.  As Jesus exhorted in the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek and ye shall find.”
But there’s a funny thing about seeking God.  Seek God and keep on seeking him, and you might just find out that he has been seeking you.
Like the Prodigal Son, we may run far, far from God; we may get stupid – and the Prodigal Son was rather stupid – we may get stupid and live recklessly and sinfully.  But if we come to our senses and repent and seek God, we find out that he’s been seeking us all along.
So let’s be very hesitant to ever consider anyone beyond the grace of God.  God’s grace can reach into hearts and places we cannot imagine . . . and don’t want to imagine sometimes.  The grace of God really can be scandalous in its reach.

The grace of God can even reach into Death Row.  Now if there is a portal to Hell on Earth, it’s Death Row.  Yet at the recent ACNA Provincial Assembly, a speaker told of visiting a Death Row and hearing a strong ringing voice begin singing, “Amazing grace . . .”  And he visited the cell of the man who was singing.  And this condemned man – no telling what awful crime he had committed – this condemned man had found Jesus.  Or, to be more accurate, Jesus had sought and found him. And the inmate’s hobby was making crosses.  And the speaker carries one as a treasured possession to this day.
Is there anyone living who is beyond the grace of God?  If the grace of God can turn Saul, the murderous persecutor of Christians, into Paul the Apostle of Christ to the Gentiles, if the grace of God can turn a criminal on Death Row into a joyous Christian, then I doubt anyone is beyond the grace of God.
And that includes . . . you and me.  We all have times when we feel distant from God.  It may be because we are going through depression or other emotionally difficult times.  Or it may be because we became stupid and sinful like the Prodigal Son.
If and when that happens, if we then repent and return, trusting not on our own merits but on the merits and grace of Jesus – if we seek God, I am confident that we shall find out that all along, He has been seeking us.  
And instead of being scandalized by the grace of God, we will find the grace of God, the grace of Jesus who seeks us, to be amazing grace indeed.
Let us pray.
Father, we have sinned against heaven and before you. We are not worthy to be called your sons and daughters.  Yet your love and your grace towards us is great. Help us to repent and return and to seek you. And may we indeed find out that you have been seeking us all along. Thank you for seeking us.  Thank you for your grace towards us through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Is a Democrat Congresswoman and the Roman Catholic Church Engaged in Immigration Fraud?

It is one thing for the Democrat Party and the Roman Catholic Church to oppose and undermine almost every reasonable attempt to secure our borders, although that is bad enough.  But it quite another to solicit immigration fraud. Yet it appears the staff of Democrat Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of El Paso and the local Roman Catholic Diocese are doing just that.
Under the bilateral Migration Protection Protocols, or “Remain in Mexico” policy, anyone returned must be fluent in Spanish because they may have to reside in Mexico up to five years until a U.S. federal judge decides their asylum claim. A Democratic politician's aides reescorting people back to the port are telling officers the Central American individual with them cannot speak Spanish despite their having communicated in it days earlier, CBP officials said.
“What we’re hearing from management is that they’re attempting to return people, and the story was changed in Mexico, where a person who understood Spanish before now doesn’t understand — where a person who didn’t have any health issues before now has health issues," the union representative said.
I’m not a (spit) immigration lawyer, but that sounds like fraud to me.

Most of the attention so far – which is not much yet – is on the actions of Rep. Escobar and her staff.  But the Roman Catholic Church may be involved in border immigration fraud as well.  One case is interesting:

In one incident, an Escobar aide and diocese official walked a male migrant over the bridge in June and asked for him to be admitted into the U.S. because they had found he had "cognitive disabilities." Officers took the boy and turned the case over to the Border Patrol, where an agent found a Constituent Information and Privacy Release Form with the U.S. House of Representatives seal on it inside the 17-year-old's file. Two officials said the paper would have to have been put in his file while he was interviewed in Mexico and was not supposed to have been left there because it would reveal to the Border Patrol that a member of Congress or their staff was meeting with migrants in Mexico.
The boy has since returned to Mexico because the medical condition was not diagnosed by a medical professional but by an aide of the congresswoman, one official said Friday. 
“Management saw that form and was like, ‘What is this?’ and reached out to our International Liaison Unit. And ILU said, ‘Yes, Veronica Escobar and several other politicians are in Mexico trying to defeat the MPP program,'" the union said.
I suspect this is not the last we’ve heard of this matter.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

3 and Other Numbers in the York Minster East Window

With this being the first week in Trinity season, I thought this a good time to point out something medieval, fun, and slightly nerdy at York Minster.
The main theme of the Great East Window of York Minster is the beginning and the end as indicated by the very tip top where God the Father holds a book with “I am the alpha and the omega” in abbreviated Latin.  At the same time, there is also a strong Trinitarian undercurrent to the window particularly in how it is organized using – you guessed it – the number 3.

The tracery as a whole is, as is common, in a dome shape – one dome.  At the bottom of the tracery is three domes.  Hmmm.  Under that is the bulk of the window, and there are lots of threes and multiples of three.  First, it is organized in three vertical rows dividing each horizontal row of panels in three. Each of these divisions in turn contains three panels.  So 3 x 3 is 9, of course, which is the number of panels in each horizontal row.
At the bottom is one row of worthy bishops and kings – nine panels. Multiply that by 3 and you get 27, which happens to the number of panels dedicated to Creation and the Old Testament. These are the top three rows of the rectangular bulk of the window.  Now multiply by 3 again, and you get 81.  And there are 81 panels dedicated to the Apocalypse of St. John (i. e. the Book of Revelation).
Now here’s where it really gets weird. Multiply 9 x 27 x 81.  You get 19,683.  That points back to the main theme of the window, the beginning and the end, as it is the number of years that some medieval calculations had between Creation and The End.
That is a bit of Trinitarian end-of-the-world fun, is it not?

By the way, if you find the East Window of York Minster the least bit interesting, then I highly recommend The Great East Window of York Minsterby Sarah Brown.  This book is scholarly yet pleasant reading and very well illustrated.  Most of the recently restored window may be viewed in the catalogue which takes up about two-thirds of the book.  Amazingly, it is very affordable as well.
If your church or group would enjoy a presentation of the East Window and its history, taking about an hour, my presentation has been well received, and I may be available.  Feel free to message me in the comments.  (You will need a Google identity.  I do moderate all comments, so I can keep your communication private if you express that wish.) Or you may message my twitter account.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Russell Moore’s Address to the ACNA Provincial Assembly

I have to apologize if I seem a bit disoriented.  I just listened carefully as Russell Moore gave his address to the Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), and – you may need to sit down right now – I loved it.
It was edifying, challenging, engaging, digging very relevant truth out of Luke 4:14-30.  Not only did I enjoy it, I will have to watch again for my own edification.  And, no, there wasn’t any of the past annoying stuff, not even any straw men that I can recall. Yes I know, shocking.
I could speculate on what happened. Perhaps, as I recently suggested might be the case, he is toning down the social justice angle.  Perhaps he simply felt there were more important things for ACNA to hear.  I don’t know.  I do have to give credit where credit was due – Moore’s address was excellent.
His main theme was that there are two errant Christian responses to the secularization of culture: 1. Not taking secularism and its effects seriously enough,  2. Or taking secularization as inevitable, which in turn leads to accommodation or outrage.
He advocated a better way – embracing the challenge of proclaiming what has always been a counter-cultural Gospel and of being willing to be distinctive, to “bear our strangeness . . . knowing that the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ is enough.”
I urge not just Anglicans and Baptists, but all Christians to watch for yourselves.  It begins at about 53 minutes.

Yes, I just made a strong recommendation for something from Russell Moore. . . .  I may have to be very Anglican and drink strong ale this evening.