Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to Succeed with the Genesis Covenant Goal: Diminishing Church Emissions, Without Really Trying

Here we are at another Earth Day, and it is time for a little reminder from the Episcopal church that they know what is best for the world. Does anyone remember this,

"Adopted in 2009 at the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the Genesis Covenant is 'a public commitment by the Church to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from every facility it maintains by a minimum of 50% within ten years'” (from ECF Vital Practices).
This is a joke that writes itself because at its current rate of membership decline, the Episcopal church may be able to hit that target simply from fewer buns in the pews, fewer cars driving to and from church buildings, and fewer coffee beans consumed each Sunday morning. This is an example of the "Eliminate people and greenhouse gas emissions will decrease" rule.
Most congregations find they save money when they implement the Genesis Covenant,” said Schut, “because they reduce their energy use. But the benefits go far beyond that. Community is built as people work together toward a common goal. And reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one very practical way of living out our faith’s call to care for the poor, as the poor are those most negatively impacted by climate change, caused by those very emissions.” From the Episcopal
We are halfway through those ten years, so how are things going? 
In 2009 the number of active baptized members was listed at 2,006,343 and the fell to 1,866,758 in 2013. If we factor in another 20,000 or so from the Diocese of South Carolina we have a 10% drop in membership over 5 years (and 18% over ten years). 
Total Average Sunday Worship Attendance (ASA) was 682,963 in 2009 and fell to 623,691 in 2013. The five year drop in ASA was 12% and the ten year drop in ASA was 24% (Source: The Episcopal church)
Top that! The Episcopal church is the one organization that is doing something about the impending collapse of our planetary ecosystem, and they are doing it by sacrificing the very members of their body! Wow! 

It is amazing that all this has been accomplished without most Episcopal parishes actually trying to reduce their carbon footprints, and the whole process has also seemed quite painless to most pewsitters. 

So, how will your church slash its greenhouse emissions by 50%????

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar..."

Many (but not all) Episcopal churches heard 1 John 1:1-2:2 during worship today (it was optional), and I marveled at the irony of the author's warning (which I hijacked for the title of today's post) being read aloud by many who likely supported the ordination of non-celibate homosexual deacons, priests, and bishops, and who likely support same sex blessings and even same sex marriages in the church.

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us-- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
When we celebrate our sins by turning them into blessings, rites, or sacraments, we are saying that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Why can't we just admit our sins as they are and thank God for his forgiveness?

Why spend countless hours in round table discussions and producing endless printed words trying to disprove what the saints and apostles clearly name as one of the many sexual immoralities that most of us are in one way or another guilty?

Because his word is not in us, that's why.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The New 39 Articles Part 3: Articles XXVIII-XXXIX

This is part three of a document retrieved by our venerable time travelling Deep Pew. For part one click here to travel back in time to 04/01/2015, and for part two click here to arrive at 04/08/2015.

"As established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention, on the first day of July, in the Year 2050.

XXVIII. Of the Common Meal.
Sharing of the Common Meal is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a metaphor of our relationship with the Holy Trinogamy.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Common Meal, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many unreasonable phobias and disorders of digestion.

XXIX. Of whom, which may eat not the Common Meal.
There be none to whom the Common Meal may be denied except for those who have been deposed from this Church according to Article XXVI as well as any of their supporters and those who have been excommunicated according to Article XXXIII.

XXX. Of both Kinds.
The Cup is not to be denied to Lay-people, infants, or the unbaptized, but in no way is it to be forced upon those who are germophobic.

XXXI. Of the one Oblation finished upon the Cross.
The death of the Christ upon the cross was once considered for all the sins of the whole world, but with a new awareness that what was once considered sin is not necessarily considered sin today, all other condemnations of the behaviors of people are blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits, so that the concept of an oblation may also be a dangerous deceit.

XXXII. Of the Marriage of Priests.
Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, are not commanded by the Creator/Om/Allah's suggestions, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other persons, to marry at their own discretion to whomever they love as often as is felt desired. It is also considered lawful for them to live in relationship without the requirement of marriage.

XXXIII. Of excommunicate Persons, how they are to be avoided except when seen in court.
Excommunication, ought to be reserved for those lay persons who refuse to submit to the authority of the General Convention, the Office of the Presiding Bishop, and all of its subordinate committees. It may be unavoidable and thus forgivable (provided Article XXXIX is kept in mind) to come into contact with such as these when called by civil authorities to meet together in a civil court.

XXXIV. Of the Traditions of the Church.
It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and  manners and may be approved as practiced with a single wink and nudge.

Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish Ceremonies or Rites of the Church, so long as all those things are done towards the advancement of social justice.

XXXV. Of the Homilies.
The Second Book of Homilies, doth contain a number of historical Doctrines that were necessary for those times of Edward the Sixth, and may no longer be applicable; therefore we judge them to be mentioned for historical purposes only.

Of the Names of the Homilies.

1 Of the right Use of the Church.
2 Against Peril of Idolatry.
3 Of repairing and keeping clean of Churches.
4 Of good Works: first of Fasting.
5 Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
6 Against Excess of Apparel.
7 Of Prayer.
8 Of the Place and Time of Prayer.
9 That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
10 Of the reverend Estimation of God's Word.
11 Of Alms-doing.
12 Of the Nativity of Christ.
13 Of the Passion of Christ.
14 Of the Resurrection of Christ.
15 Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
16 Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
17 For the Rogation-days.
18 Of the State of Matrimony.
19 Of Repentance.
20 Against Idleness.
21 Against Rebellion.

The Third Book of Homilies as found in the Church Publishing Catalog of 2048 is considered a standard reference on these and many other subjects and contains,

1 Of the Multipurpose Uses of the Church.
2 On Modern Idolatry: Capitalism, Republicans, Libertarians, etc.
3 Of raising money for the maintenance of the structures of the Church.
4 Of good Works: First of Protesting.
5 Against Gluttony and Carbon Emissions.
6 Against Underdressing.
7 Of Meditation.
8 Of the Body Positions for Meditation.
9 That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
10 Of the re-estimation of the Creator/Om/Allah's Word.
11 Of Church Offerings.
12 Of the limited birth stories of Christ.
13 Of the laughter of Christ.
14 Of the metaphorical Resurrection of Christ.
15 Of all receiving of the Sacrament of the Common Meal.
16 Of the Gifts of the Relational Spirit.
17 For the Pride Days.
18 Of the Various States of Matrimony.
19 Of Reconciliation.
20 Against Bloggers.
21 Against Rejection of the General Convention and Presiding Bishop of this Church.

XXXVI. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers.
The Book of Consecration of Bishops, and Ordering of Priests and Deacons, as set forth by the General Convention of this Church in 2048, doth contain all things necessary to such Consecration and Ordering; neither hath it any thing that, of itself, is absolutely necessary.

XXXVII. Of the Power of the Civil Magistrates.
The Power of the Civil Magistrate extendeth to all persons but does not extend to disputes of property within the Church, and hath no authority in other such things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all who are professors of the Gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the Civil Authority only when such authority agrees with us.

The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction except when he agrees to advance the Gospel as accepted and interpreted by this Church.

The Laws of the Realm may never punish people with death, even for heinous and grievous offences.

It is unlawful for Episcopalians to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.

XXXVIII. Of an Episcopalian's Goods, which are common to the Church.
The Riches and Goods of  Episcopalians are common to the Church, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same.

XXXIX. Of a Christian Person's Oath.
We find that the oath one repeats in court may not be binding in all times and in all places, and that it behooves members of this Church to exercise judgement in the keeping of their oath so that Church property may be protected and kept as a legacy for future generations.

We also judge, that Christian Religion doth not prohibit some other oaths, so that anyone may swear mightily at times of outrage at social injustices and/or microaggressions."


Having reviewed this document recovered from the future, I wonder if anything can be done to alter the course of history and to avoid such a radical downfall of the Episcopal church. I suppose that if these pages suddenly disappear from your screen, then maybe Deep Pew has figured something out and used his time machine for the good of humanity instead of for the good of his health and looks.

Or maybe these pages disappeared because you did something to put us on a different timeline.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dilemmas: Which to Fix First? Holes in Your Roof or Holes in Your Theology?

In lieu of a sermon, this Sunday we heard from our former Senior Warden about the need for a new church roof and a capital fundraising campaign to pay off the debt on our parish life building, a debt that for 20 years has never seemed to go away. Drawing a parallel with today's Gospel reading about "Doubting Thomas," he said that if people did not believe him, then he would be happy to show them the holes in the shingles.

Of course, this roof issue has been on the agenda of the vestry for at least 6 years, but since the church has been hemorrhaging members over the past 20 years, and money has always been tight, there was no way to put away funds for that rainy day when something had to be done.

Yes, our former Senior Warden fessed up about the loss of members but somehow concluded that it was a good thing. I guess it would be a good thing if those members were leaving a disciple incubator and planting new churches in the growing wasteland of our increasingly secular society. It might also be a good thing if looked at in the context of less money being sent to our bishop, a bishop who seems intent on chasing away more members.

And therein lies the crux of the matter: the Episcopal church's progressive theological drift into apostasy that we pewsitters have funded for the past 30 years.

One only has to study our bishop's "Curriculum on Same Sex Blessings" to know that there are serious holes in our theology, holes that are big enough to sink the Titanic. We have been sitting in our pews watching the waters pour in through those holes for many years now, all the while waving farewell to those friends and neighbors who jumped into the first available life raft.

Is it any wonder that our aging church structures are being neglected to the point that they must be rescued by last minute capital campaigns?

The dilemma is this: the ceiling of the nave of a church building looks like an inverted boat's keel, it is easy to imagine water dripping down onto our heads (it used to happen before the last set of repairs) from a leaky roof, but that is not what is going to sink your boat; the real danger lies in the water pouring in through all the gaping holes in our theology, and this endangers our very souls (as well as chases away enough parishioners to the extent that there won't be enough fingers left to plug the holes in the roof).

If you don't believe me, just insert your hand into one of the holes in the sides of Episcopal church theology.

So which would you fix first?

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The New 39 Articles Part 2: Articles XV-XXVII

This is part two of a document retrieved by our venerable time travelling Deep Pew. For part one click here to travel back in time one week.

As established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention, on the first day of July, in the Year 2050.

XV. Of the Christ alone without Sin.
The Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, born without sin. He came to be called the Lamb without spot by the ancients who, unaware of the details of the Christ's youth, believed that what was not documented did not happen, and who also considered many of what we now know to be natural instincts to be sinful.

XVI. Of Sin after Baptism.
Not every thing willingly committed after Baptism is sin. Wherefore the grant of relationship is not to be denied to such who are thought to have fallen after Baptism, for judgement is left to the Creator/Om/Allah's discretion, and we, unaware of the context, may judge unwisely.

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
Predestination to fullness of life and relationship of those born alive is the everlasting purpose of the Creator/Om/Allah, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) it hath constantly decreed by its counsel secret to us, to deliver us as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of the Creator/Om/Allah be made children of it by adoption: they be made like the image of Christ: they walk religiously in good works of social justice, and at length they attain to everlasting felicity.

Furthermore, we must receive the Creator/Om/Allah's suggestions in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in some parts of Holy Scripture as long as they be pleasing to us.

XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of the Christ.
This doctrine we find to be a repugnant relic of the ancient church for it is now clear that every person shall be saved by the Law or Sect which they professeth, so that they be diligent to frame their lives according to those Laws, and the light of those Natures. For Holy Scriptures setteth out unto others avatars of many names unknown to the ancients, whereby people can be saved.

XIX. Of the Church.
The visible Church is a congregation of faithful people, in which acts of social justice are performed, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to the Church's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, and the Episcopal Church in the past have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith. Through the progressive correction of such errors through successive movements of the Relational Spirit as expressed in resolutions of our General Conventions, we today find ourselves to be without error.

XX. Of the Authority of the Church.
The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and it may interpret the Creator/Om/Allah's Word written so that such controversies may or may not be resolved. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it may decree any thing seemingly against the same, so holding these things in tension among ourselves is to be a reflection of the relationship between the members of the  Holy Trinogamy.

XXI. Of the Authority of General Conventions.
General Conventions of the Church are to be held triennially in order that the movement of the Relational Spirit may be discerned through a representative, relational process, and such movements of the Relational Spirit are to be considered of utmost authority, until of course the next convention of the Church.

XXII. Of Purgatory and Other Loose Ends.
In addition to Purgatory, the Romish Doctrines concerning Celibacy outside of marriage, Marriage, Divorce, Abortion, and contraception, are fond things, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of the Creator/Om/Allah.

XXIII. Of Ministering in the Congregation.
It is lawful for any person to take upon themselves the office of public preaching, and ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation provided they abide by the resolutions of General Convention, and also those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by those who have authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Creator/Om/Allah's organic garden.

XXIV. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people understandeth.
It is understandable that people may not comprehend the ideas and words of those who take upon themselves the office of public preaching. It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of the Creator/Om/Allah, that the hearers lack such understanding.

XXV. Of the Sacraments.
Sacraments are symbols or tokens of a Christian's profession and may include Baptism and the Common meal.

Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Common meal, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of the Creator/Om/Allah.

The Sacraments were ordained so that anyone should consume them.

XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
Although in the visible Church the good be ever mingled with the not so good, and sometimes the not so good have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of the Creator/Om/Allah, and in receiving the Sacraments.

Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of Ministers who do not follow the resolutions of the most recent General Convention, and that they be accused by those that have suspicion of their offences; and be deposed.

XXVII. Of Baptism.
Baptism is only a sign of profession, and not of difference, whereby people are not to be considered set apart from others that be not christened, and it may also be considered by some a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, and of our adoption to be children of the Holy Trinogamy which in its power may adopt those not christened as is its right so to do.

While the Baptism of young Children is optional and in any wise to be commended in the Church, so liken unto it the Baptism of adults is also to be considered optional.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Cold Case Jerusalem

The case file of the empty tomb lay spread out in front of me. I had been handed the file by the Chief Inspector who, following the abrupt departure of yet another detective, curtly muttered, "I hope you can do something with this one" as he dropped the tattered file on my desk. "It is a very old case, a puzzle that has stumped more than one young investigator," he added before stomping off in a huff.

I methodically worked through the contents using the approach that I had been taught at the Academy.

1). Look for evidence.
     a. Examine the scene.
     b. Looking for clues.
2). Question the witnesses
     a. Question their reliability.
     b. Do they contradict each other?
     c. Do they have anything to gain or lose here?
     d. Examine their actions after the crime.
3). Create a timeline.
4). Are there any patterns that are similar to other crimes?
5). Use whatever powers of deduction you might have to correctly identify who did what to whom and when.
The case involved an empty tomb found 1,982 years ago in a city named Jerusalem. The actual scene can only be examined through the descriptions of witnesses, and no physical evidence remains.

"This is going to be tough one," I thought.

Sorting through the various witnesses written statements, I found them to be reliable, and in spite of a few discrepancies, remarkably consistent, and most of the witnesses kept to their stories even under abuse, prison, torture, and death.

The timeline was fairly straightforward and helped to eliminate certain possibilities.

I could not find any similar crimes for comparison.

In the end, I had to deduce that the witnesses were telling the truth.

Typing up my final report, I wondered if there would be any repercussions from my findings.
Hoping that there would be none, I placed my work in a "CASE CLOSED" file and carried it down to the Chief Inspector's office. After descending what seemed like an infinite number of flights of stairs, I reached his office, and perspiring heavily, I cautiously knocked on the door.

"Come in!" he bellowed.
I noticed that he was smoking, and was seated behind a massive desk which made me feel rather small and a bit fearful given the conclusion I was about to hand him.

"Case closed?", he fumed, "Do you expect ME to believe THAT?"

"Never, never in a million years will I ever, ever believe this nonsense, and I will spend the rest of eternity to disprove it if I have to!" He took out my report, touched his finger to it and threw it, burning into the waste basket.

"As for you," he said, pointing that same finger down at me, "I have no use for your kind, and if you really believe all of this claptrap, there is just one place for you to go."

I was quickly ushered out of the Chief Inspector's office and shoved into an "Up" elevator.

And that's how I came to be here along with several other lucky devils who tried to crack the case before me, and who had come to precisely the same conclusion as I, that Jesus had risen indeed.

Friday, April 03, 2015

"Were You There When They Crucified My Lord" Sung at the Cardiff Arms Park in Wales

The World's Largest Ever Male Voice Choir from the old Cardiff Arms Park in Wales sings "Were You There (when they crucified my Lord)" (May 1993).