Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Rampant Child Trafficking: Children Used to Game Border Entry

Disclaimer: I wish I didn’t find it necessary to post this and similar stories on this blog.  I know some may find it off-topic. But Anglicans are among those being taken in by and often furthering sentimental weaponized compassion about illegal entry and are being used to undermine our borders and our country. Reality checks are necessary.
There is a lot of sentimental talk in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and other churches and Christian organizations about keeping families at the border together.  (Strange that deporting them together is rarely suggested as a solution.)  This and other weaponized compassion about “refugees” and “immigrants” is enabling rampant child trafficking.  A lot of those families are fake: 
Homeland Security Investigations, a division of ICE, sent 400 agents to El Paso and Rio Grande Valley, Texas, in mid-April to interview families that Border Patrol suspected were fake. In the last eight weeks, HSI special agents have identified 5,500 fraudulent families—about 15 percent of all cases referred.
McAleenan said agents have uncovered 921 fake documents and 615 individuals have been prosecuted for trafficking or smuggling a child.
“That tells me that we might be scratching the surface of this problem and the number of children being put at risk might be even higher,” he said.
“Everybody knows that if they bring a child, they’ll be allowed to stay in the United States—they call it a ‘passport for migration.’ I heard that directly from a gentleman from Huehuetenango, the western-most province of Guatemala.”
Yes.  Smuggling children in order to gain entry into the U. S.

Do we want people who would do this in our country at all?
But you get more of what you reward. And we are rewarding child trafficking at the border.  If you have a child with you and get across the border, you are probably in. For that we can thank . . .
The legal loophole that is fueling the sharp increase in family units was opened in 2015 by a California judge, [of course] who amended the Flores Settlement Agreement to prohibit the detention of families for more than 20 days. Previously, the 20-day rule was applied to unaccompanied minors only.
An immigration case cannot be adjudicated within 20 days, so families who cross the border illegally are now released by Border Patrol within days, with a future court date that most fail to honor.  [87% fail to show up by one study. – ed.]
One of the most telling statistics is that of men crossing the border with a child. In 2014, fewer than 1 percent of all men apprehended by Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley Sector had a child with them. That number now sits at 50 percent, according to Rodolfo Karisch, chief Border Patrol agent for that sector.
Wow! It’s so nice to see male illegals suddenly become so family-oriented!
Now at least some of those men are smuggling their own children, taking them through a dangerous journey, which is bad enough. Who knows how many of those men are smuggling other people’s children.
As for unaccompanied minors, most of them are smuggled as well in part to, yes, game the system.
McAleenan said it’s often a parent, who is already in the United States illegally, who pays a smuggler to deliver their child up to the border.
“I don’t think most people realize that most of these unaccompanied children are being released to parents or relatives in the United States who are also here unlawfully, who may not have permission to work in the United States,” McAleenan said.
New restrictions, placed by Congress in the latest round of appropriations, include a provision that illegal aliens in a household with an unaccompanied minor are now exempt from deportation.
Again, rewarding child trafficking and the violation of our borders.
As I’ve said before, I do not pretend to know the balance between compassion on the one hand and self-defense and not enabling criminal behavior on the other.  But we as churches and as a nation need to be realistic about who is entering the U. S. and how they are gaining entry, even if being realistic is smeared as racist or whatever.
And, for the sake of children and the God who loves them, we must stop enabling and rewarding child trafficking.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Balance of the Tractarians – Learned Yet Not Over-trusting Learning

I’ve recently discovered a jewel of a book in my personal library – The Vision Glorious by the late, great Geoffrey Rowell.
Oh I have been aware of that prominent book on the Oxford Movement.  But I was unaware I already possessed a copy.  You see, about a third to half of my library was purchased from an Anglican priest a few years ago who was moving to England and realized moving his library was not practical.  And now and then, I discover things both new and old.
Anyway, I am reading The Vision Glorious now and have noticed an interesting paradox of the Tractarian leaders, particularly Pusey and Keble.   They were profoundly learned and had prestigious positions at Oxford that acknowledged and reflected that.  And, of course, their voluminous writings and lectures very well reflect that.  Yet at the same time they profoundly distrusted modes of thinking that placed too much trust in human reason, logic, and even learning itself as ways to comprehend the things of God.
Not that they did not value learning. Their production, including The Library of the Fathers and much more, showed they did greatly.  But they had the humility to realize learning and the human intellect had its limits.  And they were not shy in pointing out the errors that come from trying to dissect and explain the mysteries of God too much.
Keble felt that both prominent errant views of the Eucharist, transubstantiation and denial of the Real Presence, came from such over-trust in human reason and logic:
Transubstantiation on the one hand . . . the denial of Christ’s real presence on the other. . . .  The two errors in the original are perhaps but rationalism in two different forms: endeavors to explain away, and bring nearer to the human intellect, that which had been left thoroughly mysterious both by Scripture and tradition.
And he urged to avoid “slighting divine mysteries because we cannot comprehend and explain them.”
As for Pusey, Rowell finds he also admonishes, particularly in the unpublished Lectures on Types and Prophecies, that overreliance on human comprehension and reason impoverishes faith.  Pusey:
By striving over-much at clearness, and practically admitting only what they could make, as they thought, intelligible to themselves, men have narrowed [the Creed]far below that of the ancient Church, or of our own in former days.
For it is “not the things which we know clearly, but the things which we know unclearly [which] are our highest birth-right.”
Many of us from different churchmanships would do well to take these admonitions to heart.  I’ve seen a kind of very Reformed Bible Church mindset which rightly exalts study of scripture, but then falls into a pitfall of an inflated sense of one’s knowledge and a weakened respect of mystery. Thereby conceit oft gets inflated and faith constricted.  And, of course, those from liberal theological backgrounds tend to put human intellect as a judge over the things of God.  Such pretentious presumption becomes putrid.
Better is the approach of Pusey and Keble, to strive for the learning God allows to us while having respect and awe for the mysteries He has revealed yet veiled. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

In Praise of Molly at Oxford

With Molly Gibson-Mee having recently gotten excellent examination grades in Classics at Oxford – and Classics there is notoriously demanding – I think this a good time to congratulate her and to recommend her videos to anyone interested in Oxford.
Emeritus Pusey House Fellow Barry Orford once humorously complained in my hearing about Oxford, “They don’t tell you anything that’s going on around here!” And I have noticed it is sometimes difficult to tell what’s what at that university.  Molly has done yeoman work in unveiling Oxford mysteries, particularly for prospective students.
Personally, my favorite part of her YouTube channel is her college tours.  Although aimed mainly at potential students, I enjoy seeing things mere visitors like myself usually do not get to see.
So if you are the least bit interested in Oxford, I commend her channel to you.  And, since she intends to continue as a Masters student at Oxford, we can look forward to future contributions. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Boris Johnson Off to a Roaring Start

Contra his many detractors, some of whom I greatly respect, I think Boris Johnson will prove to be a great Prime Minister. Both on politics and policy, he is brilliant. And I am pleased beyond even my expectations with his start. 
He has cleaned out most of the Wet/Damp/Remainer Tories from his cabinet and significantly upgraded.  Don’t take my word for it.  Scottish MP Pete Wishart has given a glowing endorsement:
Boris Johnson’s nightmare Tory government is shaping up to be the worst since Thatcher – packed full of extreme Brexiteers and rabid rightwingers who want to drag us back to a bygone era….
This is a Tory cabinet from hell, which Donald Trump or Nigel Farage would be proud of…

Sounds good to me! Labour Lefty John McDonnell also gives it a heartfelt endorsement, calling it “the most right-wing cabinet in my lifetime.” I am particularly pleased that Jacob Rees-Mogg is now on the front bench.  Watching him is already proving to be as fun as watching Boris.
If he is “Victorian values,” then we are amused!
Teresa May and her failure theatre has been a drag on the UK and has come precariously close to giving the world Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn.  Boris Johnson is the remedy to pull the UK and the Tories out of the May morass. Granted, his margin in Parliament is so narrow thanks to May and treacherous Remoaner Tories, he may have to call an election.  But if he can’t pull off Brexit and a UK revival, I don’t know who can.
And, as a bonus, it will be great fun to watch.

How significant is Johnson’s transformation of the Parliament [It's too late to edit it now, but I meant Cabinet, not Parliament.]?

The clear-out of 17 ministers easily eclipsed Harold Macmillan's 'Night of the long knives' in 1962, when he sacked seven members of the Cabinet.
Tory MP Nigel Evans, who is a supporter of Mr Johnson, said it was 'not so much a reshuffle as a summer's day massacre'.
Although certainly called for, this clear-out does raise the question of how will Johnson keep enough Tories on board to pull off Brexit and avoid losing a no-confidence vote.  For Tory Remainers are surely even less happy with him now.  Again, a general election may soon be necessary.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Evangelical Church of What’s Happening Now IV: Worship Imperialism

In this series, I am giving American evangelicalism a hard time.  And it will not surprise that I am adverse to typical American evangelical worship.
But I will admit something.
As much as I love traditional worship and have very limited patience with anything else, I freely admit there is an important place for modern, free form, and even loud worship.  I’ve gone through phases of my life where such was good for me, and I see how such forms are needed to reach and edify many.
I hope I did not just cause any readers to faint or go into shock.
Would it be a small thing to ask exponents of the Church of What’s Happening Now to have the same respect for traditional worship?  Could they admit that traditional worship is needed in the church?  Yet even in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), I see “Anglicans” who pressure those in the denomination to dispense with or modernize traditional worship (There’s a contradiction.) for the sake of outreach and to make congregations more diverse.
I tell you what’s not diverse – homogenizing all the congregations into the Church of What’s Happening Now.   ACNA as a whole is almost already there.  Oh, yes there are sizable traditionalist enclaves.  But at the recent Provincial Assembly (unless there was a side meeting I am unaware of), there was not one genuinely traditional service of worship.  The opening Eucharist came closest, but it had “praise” song after praise song, and instead of a Gospel procession, the Gospeler paced around the stage like a motivational speaker.  Couldn’t they at least had a Gospel procession?
But some of the Evangelical Church of What’s Happening Now (TECoWHaN) crowd in ACNA are not content with that overweaning influence.  They would shove tradition aside to be “missional.” Yes, watch out for those who use that word a lot.
Do such not realize that traditional worship attracts a wide variety of people, including young people?  Do they not realize that many, young and old, worship better in traditional structure?  Do they not realize that what is hip and with it now – or tries too hard to be so – will likely seem passé or even silly in a few years if not less? (See post-Vatican II Roman Catholic worship.)
That is a big problem with TECoWHaN worship – to be effective, it has to be constantly changed to what attracts people.  Ask those in fashion industries how precarious that game can be.  
Yes, sometimes innovations in worship have been a long term good.  The music of Keith Green, John Michael Talbot (at least his early music, which is all I am familiar with), and Rich Mullins come to mind.  But more often it becomes a bad joke in a short time.  All you have to do is say “guitar masses,” “liturgical dance,” or “U2-urcharists” to get an idea of that.
To drive out traditional worship to go for innovations is like tearing down a gothic cathedral in order to build a brutalist edifice.  You can too easily find yourself losing something beautiful that has attracted people for centuries to replace it with something that already repels.  
That applies double to Anglicans.  It is traditional Anglican worship that has attracted many to that tradition, including me.  What happens if our worship ends up looking too much like The Evangelical Church of What’s Happening Now?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

30 Pieces of Cereal

Rumors that in this past Sunday’s sermon I said “thirty pieces of cereal” instead of “thirty pieces of silver” are salacious and impertinent.

I will not even dignify such calumny with a denial.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Gospel According to Isaiah, a sermon for Trinity 5

The Gospel According to Isaiah
Trinity 5, July 21st, 2019
Psalm 42
Joshua 24:1-5, 13-25
Acts 8:26-end
My sermon title this morning may be causing some raised eyebrows.  If I were really naughty, I would ask you to turn to the Gospel According to Isaiah.  You may find it between the Book of Hezekiah and 3rd Philipians. But, of course, there is no book in the Bible called The Gospel According to Isaiah.  But is there a Gospel according to Isaiah?  Yes, there is.
Isaiah, perhaps more than any other Old Testament prophet, set forth the good news of what God was doing to do through Jesus Christ, and that over 600 years before Jesus walked the Earth.  This is why when we get into the Advent and Christmas seasons, so many of our readings are from Isaiah.  And Handel’s great work The Messiahquotes Isaiah several times. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was very much proclaimed centuries before by the prophet Isaiah.
So it was God’s providence that when St. Philip came to the chariot of that Ethiopian court official, as told in Acts 8, he found him to be reading from Isaiah, from the Greek Septuagint translation of Isaiah 53 to be exact.
And when the Ethiopian asked about whom Isaiah was writing, Philip began with Isaiah 53 and told him the good news about Jesus Christ.
We do not have much detail in Acts 8 of exactly what Philip said, but the Ethiopian official was convinced.  So much so that when he saw some water – and being in the desert it might have been a very small body of water – he asked, “What prevents me from being baptized?” Apparently, nothing.  For St. Philip baptized him right then and there.
Now I said that we don’t have much detail of what Philip told the official.  But we do know that he taught from Isaiah 53.  So let’s look back at that chapter and see part of what so convinced the Ethiopian.
We’ll start with verse 3:
       He was despised and rejected by men,
              a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
        and as one from whom men hide their faces
              he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Jesus was certainly despised and rejected.  The religious leaders despised and rejected him.  His teaching sometimes drove away more people than it attracted. In his hometown, his teaching nearly got him thrown off a cliff!
Reading on:

       Surely he has borne our griefs
              and carried our sorrows;
        yet we esteemed him stricken,
              smitten by God, and afflicted.
       But he was pierced for our transgressions;
              he was crushed for our iniquities;
        upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
              and with his wounds we are healed.
       All we like sheep have gone astray;
              we have turned—every one—to his own way;
        and the LORD has laid on him
              the iniquity of us all.
Years ago, I read this passage to a group of bright Junior High kids.  But I was tricky.  I did not tell them from what book I was reading.  So I read and then asked them, Is this from the Old Testament or the New Testament?

The kids rightly perceived that this is the Gospel; here is taught that One would die for our sins, taking the penalty for our sins upon Himself.  So most answered that this passage is from the New Testament.

Of course, they were incorrect. Isaiah is in the Old Testament. I had managed to trick even those clever teenagers.  But in a very significant way, their thinking was right on target.  For here we see Jesus dying for our sins . . . over six hundred years before he did so. 
Even the significant detail of Jesus being “pierced for our transgressions” is here in Isaiah. On the cross, Jesus was pierced at his hands and feet.  And after he died, while still on the cross, a soldier pierced him on the side with a spear to see if we were dead.  Out of that wound came blood and water.  A whole sermon could be preached about that wound alone. But a prevalent ancient interpretation has the blood and water signifying the benefits of Christ’s passion being poured on us through the sacraments of baptism and the Holy Communion. But we will have to leave that subject for another day.
Isaiah also wrote, “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.”
We can have peace with God only because Jesus became our peace by going through the Hell of that crucifixion for us.  
St. Paul frequently referred to the peace with God that we have through Christ.  For example, in Romans 5:1, he wrote that “since we have been justified by faith, we have peacewith God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Ephesians 2:14, he wrote that “He Himself is our peace.”
Being an excellent Jewish scholar, St. Paul no doubt was greatly influenced by Isaiah.  And Isaiah frequently used the word “peace,” the Hebrew word “shalom”,in his prophecies. The familiar title for Jesus, Prince of Peace, comes from Isaiah, earlier in chapter 9.
Reading on in chapter 53:

       All we like sheep have gone astray;
              we have turned—every one—to his own way;
        and the LORD has laid on him
              the iniquity of us all.
Again, that is the Gospel right there.  And both the bad news and the good news is presented.  We have all gone astray by choosing our sinful ways over God’s ways.  But Jesus took the penalty for our sin.  The scripture here and elsewhere even describes it as Jesus taking on our sin upon himself.  St. Paul did this in a particularly radical way in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The Father so “laid on him the iniquity of us all” that Jesus became “sin on our behalf.” To go too much deeper into that would be to go into great mysteries that have not been revealed.  But what great torment and anguish Jesus must have experienced on the cross as he bore all our sin.
Look at how much of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we have seen in Isaiah already!  And we’ve only looked at a very few verses.  Time will not permit us to look at all the rest of this 53rdchapter.  But lets look at some highlights.
Verse 9 is remarkable:
       And they made his grave with the wicked
              and with a rich man in his death,
        although he had done no violence,
              and there was no deceit in his mouth.
That is a strange prophesy: “They made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death.” Yet this was fulfilled with remarkable detail in the death and burial of Christ.

Those who were crucified were those the Roman authorities considered the lowest of the low among criminals.  So when the crucified finally died on their crosses, they usually were not given honorable burials, but were disposed of in an area set apart for executed criminals.  Their graves would have been with the wicked.  And that’s where Jesus’ body was going if a few of his friends and followers did not intervene.
And one of those who intervened was Joseph of Arimathea.  He was a wealthy man with a new, unused tomb; and after getting Pontius Pilate’s permission, he had Jesus buried in his new tomb.  Thus the body of Jesus was “with a rich man in his death.”
So we see a strange prophecy fulfilled in detail by the burial of Christ.  Moving on from the burial, verse 10 is also a perplexing prophesy:

       Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
              he has put him to grief;
        when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
              he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
        the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
So “it was the will of the Lord to crush him.”  Yet “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;” and “the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”  That is perplexing.  And when this prophesy was fulfilled it perplexed many yet again.  For this is a prophesy of the death andresurrection of Christ condensed in one verse.  For he suffered a crushing death – in fact, one of the awful tortures of crucifixion is that it was difficult to breathe. But then he lives to see his offspring, which includes us children of God saved by his grace.
And Christ’s work of saving us is wonderfully summarized in verse 12, the last verse of Isaiah 53:

       Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
              and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
        because he poured out his soul to death
              and was numbered with the transgressors;
        and he bore the sin of many,
              and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Christ was victorious, is victorious, and will be victorious at his second coming. But first, on the cross, “he poured out his soul to death” for us; he “was numbered with the transgressors” for us; “and he bore the sin of many” including us.  And now, having paid the price for our sins, and having defeated death for us by rising from the dead and then ascending into heaven, he now “makes intercession for the transgressors,” including us.
All this in just one chapter of Isaiah.  No wonder God arranged it so that the Ethiopian official was reading from this 53rdchapter of Isaiah when St. Philip came along.  For the Gospel is right here.

And we haven’t gone through the rest of Isaiah, much less the rest of the Old Testament.  
Such detailed prophesies of Isaiah and of the rest of the Old Testament raise a bold question – why did God do this?  Why did God practically proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus Christ?  God wasn’t just showing off, you know.  Why did God do this?
Now we should be careful and reverent about asking such questions.  For who knows the mind of God?  But with some careful confidence, I think we can see part of what God was doing.
In Isaiah’s day, one important purpose of God was to give hope during a dark time.  Yes, God’s people were being ravaged by their own apostasy and by invasions and exile.  But God was not finished with them yet, and through them would come the Messiah who would be the hope of the world.  So God foretold his purposes to give them hope.
When Jesus did die and rise from the dead, Jesus sought to enable his followers to grasp fully what he had done, and that he was for real, that he really did rise from the dead. And he used the Old Testament in doing so.

Now we might think that would not be necessary.  After all, between the Resurrection and the Ascension, Jesus was right there with his disciples a number of times.  Yet what Jesus had done in dying for sins and then rising from the dead was so outside the expectations of the disciples that they needed help to see that the risen Christ and all he had done was for real.  This sometimes happens to us, that some event can be so awful or so wonderful that it can take a while to sink in that it’s for real.
That was the case with the disciples.  We see this in the Gospel of Luke, beginning in 24:36:
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.
So you see that even with him standing before them, they needed some help to comprehend that it really was Jesus, and that he had bodily risen from the dead.  Let’s see how Jesus helped them to comprehend. 
And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.
So we see that he gave them a very physical demonstration, letting them touch him, showing them his wounded hands and feet and even having snack before them.  Now look what Jesus did.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance forthe forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem….”
Jesus taught them the Gospel from the Old Testament.  He used the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms to verify that what they were seeing and experiencing was for real.  Even while the risen Christ was with them, the Old Testament served as verification of the Gospel and indeed taught the Gospel. 
And so it is with us today.  As we’ve seen this morning in Isaiah 53, the Old Testament proclaims the Gospel.  And we impoverish ourselves, as some Christians do, if we neglect the Old Testament.
Today, the Old Testament still serves as verification of the Gospel.  God proclaimed centuries ahead of time what he was going to do through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.  And not in vague terms but in detail, such as Jesus being pierced, such as Jesus being buried in a rich man’s tomb although executed as a criminal. And we haven’t even mentioned other details prophesied in the Old Testament, such as the virgin birth, such as he being born in Bethlehem, such as his betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, such as the soldiers casting lots for his clothing at the cross, and more. God proclaimed the Gospel in marvelous detail centuries beforehand.  And then he did it.
The Old Testament thereby serves as a great weight of evidence and assurance that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the invention of man.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not even the invention of the church. Instead, as St. Paul wrote, “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” For in it the righteousness and love and grace of God Almighty is revealed.  As Rich Mullins sang in his great song “Creed”:
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God
And not the invention of any man.
Thanks be to God that he has so wonderfully confirmed the truth of Gospel, not only through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ – although that is more than wonderful enough – but also through proclaiming the mighty and humble acts of Christ hundreds of years before he walked the Earth.
Thank God for the proclamation of the Gospel in the Old Testament.  And, yes, thank God for the Gospel according to Isaiah. Amen.
Let us pray.

BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.  

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.