Thinking Out Loud

February 10, 2014

U2Charist: Rock’ n Roll Communion

u2charist St Peters

On Saturday we attended our first U2charist: The music of Bono, The Edge and the rest of U2 combined with an Anglican (Episcopalian in the U.S.) communion liturgy. Two very different forces. Do they complement each other, or stand in stark contrast as opposing elements? I’m still not sure. You can read more about it at this Wikipedia page.

I believe part of the concept is to open up the Eucharist to the broader community; perhaps to attract lapsed Anglicans or former C. of E. (Church of England) members. I didn’t see a lot of that, though. Most of the people we saw seemed to be stalwart adherents of the host church. Many were retired. It was actually demographically awkward. My wife reminded me that U2 is a boomer band, but I still clung to the opinion that if only out of curiosity, members of the church’s youth group should have shown up.

We also spoke with a lot of people afterward who said they would have attended had they heard about it, though we did our best to put the word out. The church hired a U2 tribute band, and I must say that for their part, they played their role flawlessly, this being the first U2charist they’ve performed at.

I don’t quite understand why Anglicans can’t worship without the Eucharist. Maybe that’s a bit harsh. What I mean is that it always comes back to the same default. They do have Vespers (Evensong) and something called Compline, but for the most part, the church is very Roman Catholic about re-staging the mass on a rather constant basis. And unless you’ve taken a non-Christian to a high church service lately, the enactment of communion, the drinking of Christ’s blood, which we find rather normal, appears cultic or even pagan to the uninitiated.  Could you offer a broader community a “church” experience without the Eucharist? From an Episcopal perspective, maybe not.

Could you do a “rock” Eucharist with the modern music of a leading Christian worship leader such as Paul Baloche, David Crowder, Brian Doerksen or Chris Tomlin? Again, probably not since Anglicans don’t recognize those names at all, much less the wider populace.  Still, the ‘worship concert’ format — an oxymoron to some, I realize — is the Evangelical outreach format de jour.

Again, I think the band did a great job and the host church had good intentions. Some of the songs seem well-suited to the occasion. It was the demographics of the audience that failed for me; more effort should have been made to tap into and invite various segments of the community, rather than simply make an announcement and figure that the broader community would come to them.

March 22, 2013

Anglicans Install, if you will, Their Pope

“I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.”

~ The Most Rev. Justin Welby
from the ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral
as reported at Religion News Service (RNS)

We have an Archbishop.

It didn’t garner nearly as much television time worldwide as last week’s coverage of the new Roman Catholic Pope. Not even close. But yesterday the worldwide Anglican communion installed their new leader Justin Welby, who has chosen the name Justin Welby. He is the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Christian Post wasted no time delving into what someone recently called “the pelvic issues” raising the g-word within the first paragraph of the story, and no, g in this case does not stand for God. Of course, some argue neither does the Anglican Church or its American Episcopal counterpart.

To many, this issue is the face of Christianity. No wonder the church is dwindling numerically.

Timing is everything, and this event occurred in the shadow of last week’s Papal election and miraculously Pope Francis’ name surfaced in this story. “Pope Francis, the newly elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church, sent his well wishes to Welby, expressing his hopes that they can maintain good relations.”

It’s probably the closest thing to anything “religious” the story had to offer.

Meanwhile, an Associated Press story mentioned the honored guests, what Welby wore and something about the choir that sang, but the story was equally dominated by the homosexual backdrop to the denomination’s continuing journey.

Can anyone provide a balanced look at what happened yesterday?

Yes, Religion News Service (RNS) strikes a balance between the pageantry of yesterday’s installation service, the relationship between the church of England and the government of England, and the gender issues the new leader will face. If you only click one link here, click that one. 


November 26, 2012

No Women Bishops in the C. of E., For Now

There are probably more female clergy in the Church of England and its north American counterparts — The Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the U.S. — than in many other Protestant denominations. But a glass ceiling formally exists preventing women from rising to the rank of bishop (literally ‘overseer’ in scripture).

Superficial media reports suggested that the recent attempt to change the rules failed because the two-thirds majority required for change wasn’t attained, but that’s an oversimplification of how the vote took place.

In fact, what was required was a two-thirds majority in each of the three “houses” that are represented at the annual conference: Bishops, clergy and laity.

The bishops themselves — by definition all male — were actually the least opposed to the idea. If it were just an overall popular vote needed to carry the resolution for change, their overwhelming majority support would have been enough to reach the two-thirds needed.

The clergy weren’t so overwhelming but also supported the need for change.

It was — and this is the under reported part of the story — in the “house” consisting of lay people appointed to the General Synod where the two-thirds majority failed.

The House of Bishops voted 44 in favour, with three against and two recorded abstentions. In the House of Clergy, 148 voted in favour, 45 against and there were no abstentions.

But in the House of Laity, 74 voted against, compared to 132 in favour with no abstentions.      ~

Honestly, I would have expected the three votes to be the other way around; the rank and file pushing for a more progressive situation, and the powers that be wanting to maintain the status quo. But what do I know about Anglicans?

At least one traditionalist, who ought to be happy with the outcome, is still upset that the vote happened.

And the Huffington Post, never wanting to miss out on sensationalism said the church “faces growing pressure to rip up its rulebook to allow the ordination of women bishops.”

The newly appointed archbishop feels it’s just a matter of time, and expects to consecrate a female bishop during his term of office.

July 17, 2012

Why Youth Are Leaving The Episcopal (Anglican) Church

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:50 am

Logical non sequitur department: Rachel Held Evans posted this on the weekend and credits it to Julie Clawson:

“I’m finding amusing all the articles blaming the Episcopal Church’s demise and lack of younger congregants on its being “liberal.” Because accepting women and gays as (mostly) equals is obviously far more unacceptable to today’s youth than antiquated language, liturgy, robes, stained glass, and droning organ music…”

Exactly. The “liberal” issue is very real, but let’s not overlay that on a demographic issue where it doesn’t apply.

February 22, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Church life:

  • Hal West, author of  The Pickled Priest and the Perishing Parish : “No one will argue against the fact that since the beginning of Christian history there has existed a tension between two distinct groups in the church – the clergy and the laity. ”  Read what pastors don’t get and what people don’t get.
  • A. J. Swoboda: “I think not having our children worship with us in worship can be dangerous. Who else is to teach them why and how we sing? How else are children to learn the ways of worship? …I wonder if something was lost when we split the family up in church?”  Read more at A. J.’s blog.
  • Carter Moss: ” I desperately want to hear from God through every avenue possible. That why I love leading at a church that uses movie clips…, TV show clips…, and secular music… every chance we get.” This link has been in my files since August; read Why My Faith (And Yours) Needs Pop Culture.
  • He said, she said:  “…[S]he continues to nominate women for the board of elders, something their denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, allows. [Pastor] Willson has said that only qualified men can be elders at Second Presbyterian.”  A longtime member faces church discipline in Memphis.
  • So if you jump through all the hoops and actually get to sing a solo at Thompson Road Baptist Church, you can’t sing a Contemporary Christian Music song or “a song that was made popular by CCM.” In other words, if Casting Crowns covers “Dwelling in Beulah Land” it’s goes off the approved list. (Click the image to isolate the text, and then a 2nd time to enlarge it.)
  • Yours truly borrows a list of 13 signs of a healthy church, and then adds a description of a very healthy church you may have heard before; all at Christianity 201.

Christian blogosphere:

  • Mrs. Beamish isn’t too happy with the worship style changes in her local C. of E. (Church of England). Especially the ‘friendlier’ passing of the piece and up-tempo music. A hilarious song posted to YouTube back in ’08.
  • Lifeway Christian Bookstores are going to continue selling the revised NIV Bible after all. Yawn.
  • Prodigal Magazine re-launches on March 1st with Allison and Darrell Westerfelt taking the reins.
  • Paul Helm, who teaches at Regent College on the phrase, ‘asking Jesus into your heart : “They are using words and phrases that bear a positive relation to the language in which the faith has been officially as preached and confessed by the church through the centuries, but a rather loose relation..” Pray the prayer, read the post.
  • This is a new product that not even XXX.Church.Com had heard of when I wrote them this week. Check out My Porn Blocker, currently available at a ridiculously low price.
  • Steve McCoy reveals where the treasure is buried: A stash of online articles by Redeemer Presbyterian’s Timothy Keller.   It was derived from a larger list featuring various authors.
  • CNN’s Belief Blog offers an excellent profile of Ed Dobson along with a look at his latest video My Garden.
  • I love the tagline for this blog: Was 1611 the last word for the English Bible? The KJV Only Debate Blog is a blog but it looks like the real action is in the forum. “This blog aims to confront the King James controversy head on, and evaluate the claims of KJV-onlyism from a Biblical perspective.The authors are all former proponents of KJV-onlyism. …[W]e acknowledge that there are multiple varieties of the KJV-only position.”
  • In a first for Canada, a Teen Challenge center in Brandon, Manitoba will launch as a women-only facility.
  • Want to understand the basics of Christianity?  The Australian website YDYC — Your Destiny, Your Choice — has a number of basic videos explaining salvation.
  • Here’s a fun video by The Left filmed in a theater in Western Canada, enjoy Cellophane. At GodTube, they cite various faith influences, though their bio doesn’t.
  • Today is the first day of Lent.  If you have absolutely no idea what that means, you might want to start with this introduction to the church calendar.
  • All good lists must come to an end; if you’re an otter, don’t forget to say your prayers.

January 3, 2012

Why I Wouldn’t Quit The Episcopal Church Over Gay Marriage

In the past several years, there has been much division in the Episcopal Church in the U.S., the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Worldwide Anglican Communion over the issues of ordination of gay clergy and marriage of gay couples. 

I can honestly say that if were a member of such a church, I don’t honestly believe that either of these two issues would surface as a deal-breaker for me, for one simple reason:

I would have been gone long before that.

For me, the “gender issues” and “sexual orientation issues” are really secondary.  They are symptoms, but there is a deeper cause, and that cause is the rejection of the ultimate authority of scripture.  And that in turn stems from a stronger desire to nitpick over Biblical text and engage in the academic sophistication of  “higher criticism” than a desire to respond to God’s offer of genuine relationship and thereby to understand the ways of the Lord.

At least with a title like "Jesus Never Existed" by Kenneth Humphreys, you know where you stand. With other authors, the theological implications can be more insidious.

So a church which reveres Bishop Shelby Spong — or his sometime partner in crime, Marcus Borg — is of much deeper concern to me than a church which is wrestling with the gay issue, which I believe that all churches are wrestling with to different degrees.

Here’s a sample of Spong’s latest proclamation on the CNNBelief page:

…Jesus of Nazareth, according to our best research, lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet all of the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion, and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write.

Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history? If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written – that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then by Luke and ending with John – we can see exactly how the story expanded between the years 70 and 100.

For example, miracles do not get attached to the memory of Jesus story until the eighth decade. The miraculous birth of Jesus is a ninth-decade addition; the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.

In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one, but by the time we come to the last gospel, John, Thomas is invited to feel the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet and the spear wound in his side.

Perhaps the most telling witness against the claim of accurate history for the Bible comes when we read the earliest narrative of the crucifixion found in Mark’s gospel and discover that it is not based on eyewitness testimony at all…

This is Spong’s opinion, and he is entitled to it, and should count himself blessed to live in a country where people can write this sort of drivel and not be burned at the stake as a heretic.  Living elsewhere, or in other times, might not have proved as beneficial.

Mark’s gospel is not based on eyewitness testimony?  That should come as a surprise to those who have looked closely at Mark 14:51-52 and concluded that this sentence is completely superfluous — and even unnecessarily comic — unless Mark’s clear intent is to position himself directly in the middle of the story.

Spong’s obsession with undermining the Biblical text — a rather odd preoccupation for a clergyman, don’t you think? — also makes a liar out of Luke where he attests in Luke 1: 3-4 to the veracity of the Christ story as it has been told to his correspondent Theophilis.

And the concept of the miracles of Jesus being “attached” to the story in the eighth century is simply baffling.  There were many rabbis, many itinerant teachers, and we only have the names of a handful around the time of the gospels.  True, Jesus taught in ways that no one had before; his following went from a dozen young men to crowds in the thousands; but absent the supernatural miracles, there might be no particular reason why he would be remembered.  In fact, scholars tell us that the Pharisees — perhaps Spong denies they existed as well — were looking for very particular and unique miracles as signs of the Messiah:

  1. The casting out of a spirit from someone who was mute.  The customary approach was that the spirits would first name themselves before being cast out.
  2. The healing of an individual who was born blind. 
  3. The healing of leprosy.
  4. The raising from the dead someone who had been dead more than three days.  (Other such resurrections were to be discounted because of a belief that the spirit ‘lingered’ around the body for three days afterward.)

The Pharisees had an interest in knowing if Jesus was indeed the Messiah that goes beyond the adversarial relationship we normally associate them with.  These miracles proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus met all their criteria, though they remained blinded to the possibility of crossing the line of faith themselves. 

Suddenly, in the late 20th Century, the Jesus Seminar experts decide that every phrase and sentence in the gospels is suddenly open to debate.  Spong takes the ball and runs with it, and expresses his twelve main thesis as outlined below; I’ve highlighted certain words from the Wikipedia article:

  1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
  2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
  3. The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
  4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
  5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
  6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
  7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
  8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
  9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
  10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
  11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
  12. All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

Actually, as I said at the outset, the twelfth item is really the least of my concerns with Spong in particular or Anglicans in general.  But the other eleven points represent a complete undermining of the Christian message as the early Church fathers understood it.

So what do we do with all this?

Marcus Borg and Sheldon Spong occupy an inexplicable amount of space in the “religion” section of general bookstores.  Pastors, priests and rectors of liberal denominations encourage the reading their books. For many such parishioners, authors of this ilk represent the only “Christian” books they will purchase in a given year.

I don’t.  Despite a sweetheart relationship with publisher HarperCollins, I have never ordered a book by either author for a customer, in fact, I have been rather outspoken that I do not wish to make it easy or convenient for someone to access their materials.

While I have strong feelings about the gay clergy and gay marriage issues that are found elsewhere on this blog, for me, the major issue is the authority of the Bible. Sola scriptura is not a hardline absolute for me, but as a guideline to understanding the major doctrines and ethics that form Christianity, it is reliable in 99% of all test cases and issues that arise.

The buck has to stop somewhere and for me it stops with the canon of scripture, not with a radical theologian from North Carolina who makes a living undermining the history and centuries-old practices of the faith that today, ironically, pays his salary.

May 16, 2011

James MacDonald on the Royal Wedding

Yes, I know it was ten days ago and it’s now old news, but this intense April 29th post at James MacDonald’s blog is somewhat buried among some unrelated video clips posted the same day…

A Royal Wedding?

I got up early with my wife to watch the Royal Wedding of William and Kate. I did this because such things are important to my wife and I love her dearly. We have fond memories of Charles/Dianna’s wedding and like good Canadians by birth remember where we were back in 1981 for that memorable event. Some reflections:  

1) I pray for the new royal couple and ask that the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ would alter their natural course and that through faith they would come alive in a personal way to the forgiveness of sin, and the word of God and the hope of eternal life; simply that they would be saved.

2) I am thankful for the impact of regenerate Anglicans like John Stott and J.I. Packer whose ministries have impacted my life and faith for 3 decades.

3) I am grieved by the religious pomp, contrived ceremony and minimal passing gospel references in the service we and in the end, two billion others witnessed. The mumbling singing and distant glare of the couple themselves during the minister’s obligatory rambling grieved my heart deeply, knowing that this is the only church experience most watching will have this year. And will it do anything other than remind the masses why they do not church?

4) The Anglican community, deeply divided around the world over the authority of God’s word and an orthodox gospel was on display in this wedding seen by as many as 2 billion people. The service was only marginally different than a catholic mass. Reminding us that Anglicanism traces its history not to the heart cries of the reformation: Soli Fide, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christus, but to the convenience of an earthly King who wanted to remain religious while indulging himself in disobedience and unbelief.

5) I was grieved further by the seeming inability of genuine Christians to be offended at what we witnessed. Is the gospel adorned by an openly fornicating couple, forced into church by obligation, led in prayer by resurrection denying-Green Peace-ministers who care more about carbon footprints and unity at the expense of truth than fidelity to the revealed word of God and the gospel? (if you doubt it, Google Arch Bishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London)

I wish the ‘royal couple’ well and pray that they will find in their impossible task and the fleeting favor of humanity an occasion to search out the One whom to know by faith, is life eternal and who rules over a kingdom that will never end.

Thankful for King Jesus!

November 16, 2009

Planned Parenthood Director Resignation Gets Mixed Reaction at Church

This story deserved more than to be buried in a link list of suggested reading a few days from now.   It’s more significant than that.   And if you think you’re already on top of this one, just hang in there for a few paragraphs, or jump to the asterisk  * below for a rather strange twist updating as of November 15th.

Here’s a sample of how the story begins at The Christian Post:

The director of a Planned Parenthood abortion center in Texas has resigned and embraced the pro-life movement after witnessing an abortion through an ultrasound.

(Photo: Coalition for Life) Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas

Abby Johnson had worked at the clinic in Bryan/College Station, Texas, for eight years before departing from the facility after her change of heart.

“I left on good terms and simply had a change of heart on this issue,” she told 40 Days for Life, which had been holding prayer and fasting initiatives outside her clinic since fall of 2004. “Over the past few months I had seen a change in motivation regarding the financial impact of abortions and really reached my breaking point after witnessing a particular kind of abortion on an ultrasound.”

According to reports, Johnson had never seen an abortion take place on an ultrasound but happened to be present during one procedure, in which she saw a 13-weeks-old fetus trying to move away from the doctor’s probe

“I just thought, ‘What am I doing?'” she told ABC News. “And then I thought, ‘Never again.'”

Here’s another summary at World Magazine:

In late September, the abortionist at Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, needed assistance, so he asked the center’s director Abby Johnson to hold the ultrasound probe during a dilation and evacuation abortion. Johnson watched as the 13-week-old unborn child attempted to avoid the probe. “I saw a full profile of the baby from head to foot,” she told me.

Once the abortion procedure began, Johnson saw the child “crumple” under the pressure of the vacuum and then in an instant the child was gone. The reality of seeing the baby moving struck her as she stood in shock and dropped the ultrasound probe, she recalled: “My heart was racing. I kept thinking about my daughter.”

Blogger Stevan Sheets has an embedded 2-minute news report from local station KBTX.

I thought if any blogger would have commentary on this, it would be pro-life proponent La Shawn Barber, but her blog simply mentions the story in passing in a couple of posts, including a 3-minute embedded report from CBN News.

* End of story, right?   Not quite.  Johnson is finding some of the greatest resistance to her decision coming from her home church; as this story on the website Stand Firm reports:

Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood clinic director whose about-face on abortion prompted her to resign her job, says she’s gotten flack for her decision from an unexpected quarter: her own church.

Her Oct. 6 decision to leave Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas – after viewing an ultrasound-guided abortion of a 13-week-old fetus two weeks earlier – made headlines, especially when she ended up volunteering at the Coalition for Life center a few doors away. Her former employer filed a restraining order to silence Mrs. Johnson, but a judge threw out the case on Tuesday.

Now she is facing a different kind of music at her parish, St. Francis Episcopal in nearby College Station, the home of Texas A&M University.

Whereas clergy and parishioners welcomed her as a Planned Parenthood employee, now they are buttonholing her after Sunday services.

“Now that I have taken this stand, some of the people there are not accepting of that,” she told The Washington Times. “People have told me they disagree with my choice. One of the things I’ve been told is that as Episcopalians, we embrace our differences and disagreements. While I agree with that, I am not sure I can go to a place where I don’t feel I am welcome.”


Abby, if you’re reading this, I’m sure the whole world is looking a lot different than it did a few weeks ago.   Stand strong on what you know your heart — and God’s Spirit — is showing you and telling you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.    Psalm 139: 13-16

——Read the full stories by clicking the individual links.   The Stand Firm story is reprinted in full and the Washington Times article it refers to is worth reading in full.    An attempt by Planned Parenthood to obtain an injunction silencing Johnson failed as reported in this story in Metro Catholic.

Also, here’s a repeat from a few days ago of a link to seven pictures — be sure to see all seven — in the London Telegraph showing a human fetus (or foetus, as the Brits spell it) developing in the womb.

October 22, 2009

Disenchanted Anglican Congregations Invited to Adopt Catholic Brand

When the large Pontiac dealer out on the freeway near my house got dropped by General Motors, it didn’t shut down.   It emerged as a Hyundai dealership and simply carried on business as usual.

With large numbers of Anglican churches frustrated with the issue of ordination of gay clergy, The Vatican is inviting those churches to be rebranded much like my local Pontiac franchise was.

Here’s the lead from writer Cathy Lynn Grossman on the USAToday Religion page:

USA TodayThe Vatican has opened an express lane to traditional Anglicans — unhappy with their own church’s moves toward accepting female and gay bishops — to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church their forefathers left nearly 500 years ago.

In a surprise announcement from Rome, Pope Benedict XVI approved a provision to create a new church entity that will allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church in a format similar to Ukrainian or Eastern Rite Catholics, keeping their liturgy and married priests, but not married bishops.

The announcement Tuesday stunned many in the 77-million worldwide Anglican Communion, particularly the Church of England, where the Archbishop of Canterbury has wrestled for years with factions that opposed female bishops.

Pope - confessionIt’s a sell job where you want to emphasize the similarities, not the differences:

“Don’t forget, we had 1,500 years of unity with their forebears and today’s Roman Catholics. It’s the same apostolic tradition,” said the Rev. James Massa, head of the interfaith and interreligious affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The move is certainly being seen as born out of pure motives:

Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, saw the Vatican announcement as a global event, “maybe one of Benedict’s biggest moves.

“Rome is trying to find a structural solution to an unbearable pastoral problem,” Harmon said. Vatican leaders “clearly feel that if they don’t intervene now, it will get worse. Their motive is the reunification of Christianity. If Anglicanism wasn’t going to provide a catholic solution, the worldwide church would fracture even more.”

But the move is complicated by The Vatican’s refusal to accept married clergy elevated to the role of Bishop.   This, of course, and the more obvious complication:

Archbishop Robert Duncan, founder and leader of the breakaway traditionalist Anglican Church in North America, issued a statement calling Benedict’s move “a momentous offer,” and he “blessed” those who choose this new path.

However, Duncan spelled out major obstacles between Anglican traditionalists and Rome that still stand. He cited “our historic differences over church governance, dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary” and the nature of the priesthood.

One leader noted that while Catholics have welcomed Anglicans and former Anglicans in the past, this move ends up in “creating what he called ‘parallel structures’ for entire groups of converts.

You can read the entire USAToday article here.   BTW, the religion page at USAToday is always bookmarked on this blog.

Ottawa Gatineau…For my Canadian readers, here is an analogy I’ve always found helpful.   The conversion of an Anglican to, for example, Pentecostalism, might be compared to someone living in Ottawa who decides to move to Windsor.   It’s all the same province, they keep their driver’s license and their health cards, but it’s a major move — around 800 km — and a complete change of both climate and culture.

The conversion of an Anglican to Catholicism could be compared to the that same person in Ottawa deciding to move to Gatineau.    The moving van might only have a ten-minute drive across the river, but it’s a new province, requiring a new driver’s license and even a new way of looking at common law.   Compared to moving to Windsor, it’s a cakewalk, but at a deeper level it is a much more radical change of address.  Which one is the bigger move?

For Anglicans, the Roman Catholic Church may seem like a comfortable fit but it is, to use the above analogy, “a change in province.”  It might meet some short term needs; there is this huge emotional bonding to multiple levels of ecclesiastic oversight and generations of history; not to mention robes, processions, choirs and liturgies.

But personally, I see disenchanted Anglicans and former Anglicans finding a better long-term fit in another Protestant denomination or in the creation of a new entity.    What works for car dealerships may not work where matters of faith and doctrine are concerned.

COMMENTS:  If you see your ministry as flitting from blog to blog leaving remarks which attack or tear down another denomination, please note those comments will not be posted here.    On the other hand, if you want to actually discuss the finer points of the topic of absorption of some Anglicans into the Catholic Church, or the Catholic church’s decision to make this offer; then those on-topic comments will be published.   You know who you are.

March 29, 2009

After the Church in the UK has Disappeared

Several months ago, I wrote about alternating between contemporary Christian books and classic Christian titles.   This time around, I’m writing about a 2004 book that’s already out of print.   Not sure where that fits in…

For reasons I won’t attempt to list, I think Christian Canadians resonate to a greater degree with British Christian writers.    That’s if they can find them.   We have no true marketing machine here, so we simply have the spillover affects of American marketing and promotion, which means that we end up with U.S. titles accounting for around 95% (or more) of Christian book sales.

But given the opportunity to hear of a UK title, most Canadians will say they enjoyed it.   Some of my favorites include apologist Michael Green, humorist Adrian Plass, songwriter Graham Kendrick; not to mention a rather obscure chap who simply goes by C. S. Lewis.   And then there’s Nick Page, author of over 20 books, of which I’ve been fortunate enough to read four.

nick-pageNick’s prime visibility in North America is owed to a book called The Map; a Bible handbook published by Zondervan,  built around a graphic theme which resembles most European train or subway maps.    (His harmonization of the gospels is thereby most interesting, with the story running on four parallel tracks.)

church-invisibleSo several months ago, I spotted The Church Invisible in a pile of remainder books; two weeks ago I took it to Atlanta with me; and after returning home not having cracked the cover, I finally finished reading it over the weekend.

In it, Page, writing a story in which he plays himself, is transported forward to the year 2040 where he meets Lydia, who takes him on a quest to see what has become of the Church in England as he knew it.      Lydia provides commentary on the before/after relationship between what Page is seeing versus what he remembers:

“The church of your time rightly rejected the nominalism, the archaism, the general lack of understanding.   What it didn’t do was incorporate the depth, the richness, the artistry.   It didn’t become a regular part of people’s lives.  And it too assumed that people understood the language and the forms it was using.”


“Leadership…That’s what you need to lead a church.   That’s what you need to take people forward, you need to be a leader.  You need leadership skills.   And what did we teach them?  Theology.   …The assumption is that those who teach are always going to be the ones who lead.   We so combined the teaching and preaching role with the leadership role that we couldn’t imagine one without the other.   Those who lead the churches had to be the ones who preach…”


“So often what we wanted to do was to talk rather than act.   We were too busy telling people what was wrong with them, telling them what to think…  We had so much doctrine and dogma to stuff them with, we never noticed they were scared and desperate and lonely.”


“…So many people were put off church because there was simply no variety in how it was done.    …That’s not how Jesus taught.  Sometimes he preached.   Sometimes he led discussion groups.   Sometimes he just told stories.   Sometimes he just did things and left people to draw their own conclusions.   So why did we assume that one person talking to a room full of other people was the best way to teach?”


“You couldn’t have a worship song unless it was filled with sheep and swords and banners and people being ‘refined by fire.’   I mean, what was with all that refining fire bit?   How many people understood the image?  Did I miss something?   Was the 21st century church filled to the brim with an in-depth knowledge of smelting?  …What we really needed were new metaphors; new images to convey God’s love.  …We should have kept checking that the words were working.   Instead we were sloppy and lazy.   It was far easier to fill our sermons with antiquated images that meant nothing.   Thinking up new metaphors is hard work.”

…and from another character who appears near the end describing the change that has taken place:

“You keep thinking of the church like a warship, with a captain on the bridge and the crew obeying orders.   But we’re not an aircraft carrier anymore; we’re a fleet.   We’re hundreds of little boats, going where they will, doing what they think is right.   We’re not the navy, you know.  We’re pirates.

There are so many more great sections.   The book also deals with the practical matter of municipal councils listing buildings (i.e. designating them as historical) eventually forcing their owners to maintain them.   Something already problematic both in the UK and North America due to dwindling attendance.

In addition to the fictional fast-forward narrative; each chapter also contains a lengthy critique of the manuscript in the form of letters between two other parties.

In North America, the end of mainline denominations is equally predictable, even as the megachurches appear to continue to blossom in the suburbs.  In the UK, where the Church of England (i.e. Anglican for my Canadian friends; Episcopalian for my U.S. friends) so greatly dominates, the impact is more critical.

It’s too bad this book went, as booksellers say, OP.   It was a slight bit ahead of its time.   If you’re ever in England and you see remainder copies, bring me back a half dozen, okay?

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