Christian Zionism is False. There, I said it.

Disclaimer!!!

Before I go any further into this bringing down the wrath of God only knows what on my head I want to make this absolutely, crystal clear: I am not talking about the State of Israel, it’s right to exist, nor am I in any way supporting or encouraging the hatred of Jews in general or Israelis in particular. So, without further ado

Christian Zionism is False. There, I said it.

With the recently agreed on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany, and the European Union we have seen some very negative reactions to the agreement, primarily from conservatives in the United States and Israeli politicians. This post is not about the JCPOA nor any of it’s details, but it was very striking to see the reaction of persons were against a “bad deal” who actually hadn’t read the 109 page agreement. [Disclosure: Neither have I] What was more shocking was a short video produced by AJ+ showing the reactions of some at a conservative summit in Iowa. The video is just below, is quite short, and I encourage you to watch it:

Well wasn’t that fun. Sigh

Now, let’s be fair to the interviewees that is a short video, and we only get small tidbits of the reaction from the persons being interviewed. However, we do get a sense that some of the interviewees are holding to their position on the JCPOA because they think it is bad for Israel and then suggest their support for the modern nation of Israel is required of Christians. This concept is part of something bigger called Christian Zionism.

Christian Zionism is (I’m doing the horrible thing of quoting Wikipedia) “is a belief among some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy. The term began to be used in the mid-20th century, superseding Christian Restorationism.” It is massively problematic beyond Christians have nearly blind support for the State of Israel. This modern idea began with English and Scottish clergy but it is much more identifiable with North American Christianity particularly with Evangelical Christians.

In 2006 four prominent Bishops for Christians in the Holy Land signed the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism and it was responded to by another statement published by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. The response is rather telling as it actually points out some major issues theologically and politically:

  1. “God, by a sovereign choice, gave the Land of Canaan as an everlasting possession to the Jewish people, for His kingdom purposes. (Genesis 17:7-8)”
  2. “Our Messiah and King, Jesus Christ, was born of Jewish parents, into a Jewish society, thus making the Jewish people our ‘royal family'”
  3. “Christian Zionists .. base their theological position .. on the faithful covenant promises of God given to Abraham some four thousand years ago”
  4. “[T]here are biblical considerations that regulate Israel’s national existence”

Firstly, the modern State of Israel is not spoken of in the Bible any more than the modern Arab Republic of Egypt is spoken of in the Bible. Secondly, we have to remember that the creation of the modern State of Israel rests on the formal end of the British Mandate in Palestine, the Israeli Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948 and the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 which was suppose to carve up the mandate into three areas: a Jewish area, an Arab one, and the City of Jerusalem to be under a “Special International Regime”. The modern State of Israel should in no way be viewed as a legal continuation of the Roman Province of Iudaea nor any other political division that was jurisdiction for the Jewish people. And while I point out this blog post does not speak to Israel’s right to exist I will point out that the State of Israel’s right of existence does not come from Scripture, more importantly not from the New Testament.

The passage in Genesis that is quoted deals with the offspring of Abraham through his son Isaac and deals with the Old Covenant. However, the Old Covenant has been replaced by the New Covenant revealed to us through the Incarnation, Birth, Baptism, Ministry, Passion, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ. In Galatians 3 Saint Paul wrote “those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.” If this is extended to Genesis 17 then this not mean that we Christians have a claim to the land promised to Abraham’s descendants?

When it is said that “Our Messiah and King, Jesus Christ, was born of Jewish parents, into a Jewish society, thus making the Jewish people our ‘royal family'” are we not ignoring what Saint Peter said of us, the Christian people, his First Letter when he said “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” he also points out that Jews (unlike those like Saint Paul and himself) who rejected Christ had rejected the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:7Psalm 118:22). In fact, if one reads Saints Peter and Paul close enough one has to come to accept that they believed the Jews of their day had lost their status of being God’s chosen people and that status came to lie exclusively with those in the Church.

If there are Christians among us that are wanting to hold to a view that the Covenant given to Abraham was not transformed into the New Covenant of the Gospel then we have to be willing to point out that their Theological position is one of a selective interruption of Scripture that involves ignorance of a large portion of the New Testament because the New Testament is very clear that Christians have become God’s chosen people: the new IsraelThe Circumcision of the Old Covenant has been replaced with the Baptism of the New Covenant, the Passover meal has been replaced by the Eucharist, and the Law of Moses has been fulfilled.

Christian Zionism must be rejected as False Doctrine. This goes beyond what anyone thinks about the right of existence of, and the actions of the modern State of Israel. Given the Apostles writings in the New Testament it is scandalous to accept that both Christians and Jews can simultaneously be God’s chosen people. That should in no way be a reflection that Jews should be the target of ridicule, bigotry or hatred for they (like any non-Christians) are still Children of God and made in his Image. Nor does it mean that it is acceptable to target the State of Israel with violence or hatred. But we as Christians must be prepared to point out that Christian Zionism is False Doctrine, Heretical, and a horrible reason for which to base foreign policy and political decisions.

Reflections on Waterloo and Edmonton

In 2001 the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada reached an accord officially named Called to Full Communion but is better known as the Waterloo Declaration. The accord established a relationship of Full Communion between the two Churches in which the validity of the Sacraments and Ordained Ministers of each Church were recognized, among other things. This was the result of discussions between Anglicans and Lutherans going back decades worldwide. The Waterloo Declaration is one of several Full Communion agreements between Churches of the Anglican Communion and Churches of the Lutheran World Federation, the most noteworthy being the Provoo Communion Statement of 1992 which established inter-Communion between Six Anglican and Seven Lutheran Churches.

It is no secret that I am a proud Anglican. I also have made it no secret that I consider myself a Nordic Canadian with ancestry from Denmark, Norway, Sweden along with Volga German and Lowland Scots. Thus, for me the fact I am in Full Communion with fellow Nordic and German Canadians is really cool, and I have proudly exercised Full Communion by receiving the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist from a Lutheran Pastor (and Bishop) twice.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of dropping in on the National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada here in Edmonton, notably to have a beer with the Rev. Erik Parker, host of the blog The Millennial Pastor. While I was enjoying my Keith’s IPA Erik had told me about a motion to be debated the next day that might “Test Waterloo”. That motion (which passed) started hitting the Anglican blogosphere yesterday in part due to the Anglican Journal’s story entitled ELCIC approves lay communion presiders and preachers, and the reaction has been primarily negative and for good reason.

The ELCIC motion (see pages 1-3) allows for authorized lay ministry to be approved by the Bishop of a Synod (equivalent of a Diocese) where in some situations a lay minister would be appointed to Preach and Preside at a service of Holy Communion. It specifically does not allow said lay ministers to conduct baptisms, weddings, funerals or “or other activities which are normally in the purview of ordained ministers.”

Now, if you are not an Anglican you might be thinking “I don’t see the problem”, and if you are Anglican (or Catholic, or Orthodox) you might be thinking “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat!?!?!”.

The reason for this motion is that some isolated Lutheran Congregations do not have a Pastor, nor an Anglican Priest or some other Ordained Minister that can fulfill the need to preside over the Eucharist for them. Most Anglican Parishes celebrate the Eucharist weekly, or bi-weekly at worst. The frequency for Lutheran parishes is less than the frequency for Anglican Parishes. However, for many Lutherans it is difficult to get an Ordained Minister to Preside over a service of the Eucharist monthly.

Anglican and Lutheran Theology differ on a number of issues, not least of which is the nature of Ordained Minister which even Anglicans will debate among themselves. Lutheran Theology is very much confessional (What do our Confessions say), while Anglican Theology is very much Liturgical (The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief). For example in the Augsburg Confession the early Lutherans stated that “no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.” (Article XIV, Augsburg Confession) while the closest thing in Anglicanism would be from Article XXIII of the Articles of Religion. However, Anglican liturgical resources such as the Books of Common Prayer are quite clear that only Priests (or Bishops) can preside over the Eucharist. The only jurisdiction in the Anglican Communion willing to contemplate otherwise is the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in Australia.

With the recent change to practice within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada does present a question: Can the Anglican Church of Canada continue to be in Full Communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and does this action violate the Waterloo Declaration. I am going to answer with a definite Yes, and No.

But, Maple, you attend an Anglo-Catholic Parish and are a stuck up guy on rubrics and liturgy.

Yes, I do presently attend an Anglo-Catholic Parish, and I can be a bit of a rubrics snob but I am knowledgeable enough to understand what is going on.

Firstly, if you take the time to read the Waterloo Declaration you will notice that while the validity of the Ordained Ministers of each Church is recognized and the encouragement of members of either Church to communicate in the other Church the document does not indicate the necessity of an Ordained Minister to Preside at the Eucharist.

The Waterloo Declaration defines Full Communion as:

Full communion is understood as a relationship between two distinct churches or communions in which each maintains its own autonomy while recognizing the catholicity and apostolicity of the other, and believing the other to hold the essentials of the Christian faith. In such a relationship, communicant members of each church would be able freely to communicate at the altar of the other, and there would be freedom of ordained ministers to officiate sacramentally in either church. Specifically, in our context, we understand this to include transferability of members; mutual recognition and interchangeability of ministries; freedom to use each other’s liturgies; freedom to participate in each other’s ordinations and installations of clergy, including bishops; and structures for consultation to express, strengthen, and enable our common life, witness, and service, to the glory of God and the salvation of the world.

So, the Waterloo Declaration does not force the Anglican Church of Canada to recognize the validity of a service of the Eucharist which was presided over by an authorized lay minister. If an Anglican would find themselves at a Lutheran Parish and such a lay minister was to preside nothing requires them to receive the sacrament in order to keep up the appearances of Full Communion.

Secondly, while the Waterloo Declaration would put the Anglican Church of Canada in the position of being in “mutual recognition and interchangeability of ministries” with the Evangelical Church of Canada this in no way would require us to allow such lay ministers to preside over the Eucharist in one of our own services. They would effectively be the equivalent of Lay Readers in our Church.

Thirdly, and I am not going to lie, this act by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada might represent a threat to continued Full Communion depending on where this action takes the theology of the Lutherans. I could speculate for a number of paragraphs, however, the best thing to say is that this very well could create a problem in the future.

The Waterloo Declaration, and the path that brought both Churches there, forced both Churches to examine their own beliefs and doctrine, along with having to make some changes within their Churches to make Full Communion work. By far it was the Lutherans that had to accept more compromise then the Anglicans have.

If there are persons among us in the Anglican Church of Canada who believe that this change by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is important enough to end our Full Communion then they have the ability to voice that concern at General Synod next year in Toronto. However, this change for a very small amount of Lutheran Parishes is unlikely to affect any Anglicans or Anglican Parishes. If it did then I would say there is more cause for concern.

So, my fellow Anglicans (especially all my High Church friends): let’s calm down, take a deep breath, and relax. It is best to wait and see what develops. The only way this is going to affect you is if you show up at a Lutheran Parish in a rural community and you see someone wearing an Alb but no stole trying to preside at the Altar. If you happen to see it happening just don’t take Communion and be polite. If something else develops in the next decade or so we can politely withdraw from Full Communion, but until then this isn’t that bad.

Thoughts on CWOB: Communion without Baptism

The 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church is currently going on in Salt Lake City. One of Resolutions being considered was C010 “Invite All to Holy Communion”. The Resolution had the purpose of forming a task force to look at allowing all persons to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion. The Resolution originated in the House of Bishops and was defeated 79-77.

While The Episcopal Church, like my own Anglican Church of Canada, does allow Christians of other traditions to receive the Eucharist such persons must be baptized. The reason why many clergy and laity seek to do this is that they very honestly feel that having the barrier of requiring someone to be baptized is unwelcoming. This viewpoint is actually one held in the Church I grew up in, the United Church of Canada, however the Eucharistic Theology in the United Church of Canada is very different from Anglicanism. (No! I will not be bashing the United Church in this, or any other post of mine.)

When I first started attending Anglican services in 2008 I was just coming out of being an Apostate for some 5 years. (There you go: you know one of my dreaded secrets.) Thus, before I took Holy Communion for the first time in an Anglican Parish I checked to confirm I could out of respect for the Parish. (At the time I didn’t know I would be staying. Ta da!!!) Thus, my being baptized and raised a Christian enabled me access to Holy Communion some 5 years after I had left the Church. And while I greatly appreciated the fact that I could, and that I did commune that Second Sunday after Easter in 2008 (yes, I remember the date) I can tell you I would have very likely come back the next Sunday had I not taken Communion.

However when it comes down to it there are some major issues with Communion without Baptism (CWOB).

The first, and very obvious reason, is that it simply not been part of the Christian tradition as the standard practice of the Church. Heck, if we want to get technical the Catechumens, that is people seeking baptism (hence unbaptized) got kicked out of the Church and didn’t get to witness or be present at the consecration of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. However, one could easily and honestly retort that Tradition on its own isn’t enough and that things change. Okay, I will give them that… but this is a rather important tradition.

Second, we have scripture. Now, there is nothing explicitly saying we aren’t allowed to Commune the Unbaptized. But, it is pretty clearly that at best the New Testament points to it being a bad idea. For example in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 St. Paul tells us:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves.

If someone has little to no experience of the Christian faith how can we expect them to be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord? How can we put that on someone? I mean, we can barely put that on ourselves.

Scripture does speak to us a great deal more on Baptism then it does the Eucharist. There are seven I usually like to point to when discussing Baptism:

  1. Matthew 28:19-20 which states Christ’s Great Commission to spread the Gospel, but also importantly to Baptize.
  2. Mark 16:16 which states that Baptism is necessary for Salvation
  3. Romans 6:3-11 in which St. Paul links our Baptism to Christ’s Death, Burial and Resurrection.
  4. Titus 3.5-7 which states that we are saved through the “water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”
  5. 1 Peter 3.18-22 which states that Baptism “now saves you”.
  6. Colossians 2.11-15 which effectively establishes Baptism as either a replacement of Circumcision, or as the Circumcision of the New Covenant
  7. 1 Corinthians 12.12-13 which states that being Baptized makes one part of the mystical Body of Christ a.k.a. the Church, and therefore Christians.

It is very apparent that Scripture tells us that Christ told us to Baptize people abd that it was key to our salvation, and that the Apostles said it saved us, and that it made us Christians. It is also very likely the Circumcision of the New Covenant as in the Old Covenant the act of Circumcising a male made him Jewish.

Chapter 12 of the Book of Exodus deals with the institution of Passover, which was (and still is) an important part of the Jewish. The festival involves the slaughtering and consumption of an unblemished young male sheep or goat in celebration of their deliverance from Slavery in Egypt. The Chapter ends with the relatively important Verses 43 to 49 which makes in fantastically clear that the uncircumcised were not to partake of the Passover. What does this have anything to do with the Eucharist? In short, I would argue that the Eucharist is Passover meal of the New Covenant. For, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8:

Christ our passover is sacrificed for us

So, if we were to postulate and hold that the Eucharist is the Passover of the New Covenant, then those uncircumcised according to the New Covenant (the unbaptized) are to be excluded.

I will admit that my analysis can seem cold and harsh but the truth is that the Christian doctrines surrounding the receiving of the Eucharist to the Baptized in good standing has an incredibly strong foundation in Scripture and Tradition.

The Didache (which is not part of our Canon as Anglicans but is still an excellent reference) states in Chapter 9 that only those baptized can Commune. It is from the 1st or 2nd Century AD.

The Apostolic Constitutions (Book VIII, Chapter XXXV) also states that the unbaptized are not to receive. It also states that if such a person has to instruct him and baptize him quickly. The Constitutions are argued to be from the late 4th Century AD.

Heck, it was not until the mid-20th Century that in Anglicanism that a unconfirmed person would receive the Eucharist.

I do not, in the least, want to seem disparaging to my brothers and sisters in Christ who honestly think that the Church is being unwelcoming to the unbaptized. However, we have good case not to admit them. No one is expecting that Priests be carding people at the Altar rail, or to be giving a long winded speech after the Consecration to tell the unbaptized to come up. However, if they are aware of someone attending that is not yet baptized they should not be communing them. And if at the altar rail says they never have been baptized the Priest should refrain from communing them. Beyond that our Clergy should assume likely any newcomers or visitors are baptized when they come to the Altar Rail.

In Christ, MA~

Note: Please note that an Earlier version of this post said that the Resolution was D051 and did not mention the proposed Task Force.

Could we all stop having Negative Assumptions about one another, please? Thanks.

Could we all stop having Negative Assumptions about one, please? Because, I am really, really sick of the finger point that has happened over the last week and a bit. Maybe I should go back to the beginning.

On 2 May 2015 Rich McCaffrey of Orlando, FL posted on an issue close to his hear and that of his husband Eric McCaffrey. Yes, I said husband; They are a Married Same-Sex couple. Rich posted a public status onto Facebook where he expressed his disappointment and sadness in that the baptism of his son, Jack, had been cancelled. The baptism was originally suppose to have happened on April 19 but was cancelled/postponed on April 16 and was to be held at St. Luke’s Cathedral, which is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida.

The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida is considered on of the more conservative Dioceses of the Episcopal Church. It’s current Bishop, the Rt. Rev’d Greg Brewer, is openly opposed to the blessings of Same-Gender unions and Same-sex marriage. His predecessor the Rt. Rev’d John Howe was much more vocal in his views on the matter.

Normally when a sacrament is being denied the Ordinary of the Diocese, in this case Bishop Brewer, is given some sort of notification. It has been reported that Bishop Brewer first learned that Jack McCaffrey’s was via Rich McCaffrey’s Facebook post. At least, that is what Bishop Brewer said. This incident reached the religious and then the secular press with Bishop Brewer making a statement to the Orlando Sentinel that he was going to be meeting with the McCaffrey’s.

The online reaction to the baptism being postponed (as per Bishop Brewer in the Orlando Sentinel article) or being outright cancelled (as per two posts by Rich McCaffrey) was very much in opposition… unless you count the unsigned blog post on the website of the Anglican Communion Institute which never mentioned the case of Rich McCaffrey. Regardless of whether the Baptism was set for April 19 and then either cancelled or postponed that date was removed from the Cathedral’s calendar by the Very Rev’d Anthony Clark, who is the Dean of Central Florida and Rector of St. Luke’s Cathedral. However, Dean Clark was not the target of most of the online scorn here on the internet. The majority of the blame rested on the feet of Bishop Brewer.

The backlash against Bishop Brewer has been tremendous. In fact, I would say downright absurd. The reason I say so is that it appears many of us have gone on the assumption that because Bishop Brewer is opposed to both blessings and marriages of Same-Sex unions that somehow this is either his fault, or he must have been doing a lot more interference then has come out. Hypothesis abound that:

  • Read the first Orlando Sentinel Article: It seems like he is going to be asking them a lot of questions? It’s like they are back at Square One.
  • It’s his Diocese: He is suppose to know what is happening and be notified if something like a Baptism is being denied,
  • It was at his Cathedral: Bishops have to work closely with their Cathedral Deans since it is their own Cathedral Church. Plus his office is probably right down the hall, and
  • He a conservative that doesn’t like LGBTQs: Why do these parents have to meet with the Bishop? Are we to expect that all LGBTQ parents are going to have to meet with the Bishop to have their children Baptized.
  • He had to be involved or condone it otherwise the Dean would have been fired.

So, I am about to warn people: Cut the Bull S**t please! Cut it. I am seriously pissed off. Way too much rage was directed at keyboards because of Negative Assumptions about Bishop Greg Brewer in large part because he is a conservative. Does the man support Same-sex blessings or marriages? No. Why? Because he has well grounded theological concerns, that is why!!! If anyone thinks “No he doesn’t” or that I am somehow taking he side please understand that the Christian Faith has seen a wide variety of stances on a multitude of issues that is fairly well grounded even before we ran into our current issues on Human Sexuality.

That all being said the negative assumptions about Bishop Brewer and his diocese have in my view lead to what I think is some less then acceptable commentary by my fellow Anglicans/Episcopalians over this past week. It’s going to go through the four points I had earlier and show how bad assumptions about Bishop Brewer and the Diocese of Central Florida got us into this mess.

The Orlando Sentinel Article

If anyone in their right mind thinks that  of the Orlando Sentinel went into Bishop Brewer’s office and said “Let’s write an article together”, sat for an hour or so to make the story you probably have no idea how articles like this get written. At best Mr. Kunerth was in the Bishop’s office for a half-hour or so asking questions while the Bishop answered them and took quotes. At worst it was a five minute phone call that the Bishop squeezed in between seeing a Priest with a major maintenance problem at his parish and a person seeking information on becoming a Vocational Deacon.

This might be news to some but reports, especially in the secular media, don’t get all the religious facts straight. No, really: They Don’t. We don’t know exactly what happened. The quotes from Bishop Brewer are very likely accurate, don’t reflect the entire conversation but are designed to be read by persons who don’t know much of what was going on. So, yes, the Bishop said in the article he was going to be asking questions; Why should he not be asking questions if his intent is to confirm that there is no reason why Jack McCafferty shouldn’t be baptized

Bishop Brewer’s Diocese

This might come as a shock to people but Bishop’s don’t always know what is going on in their Diocese even when they are trying to keep appraised and it comes down to people just not telling the Bishop what they need to hear. They are human! Their Episcopal Consecrations don’t make them omniscient. Conversely, this might also come as a shock but clergy don’t tell the entire truth or outright lie to the Bishop. I know, shocker. Turns out clergy are humans too.

Bishop Brewer’s Cathedral

Yes. The Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando is the Cathedral Church of Bishop Brewer. Does anyone have any idea how often a Bishop is at his/her Cathedral Church? It’s not as much as people think it is.

Most people know this but for 5 years I was a Parishioner at my own Diocese’s Cathedral. When I was first attending Bishop Jane Alexander was Dean Alexander. I would be lying to say that as a parishioner of the Cathedral I knew the Bishop well; She most definitely knew who was I was because I was a server at the Cathedral and was thus at Diocesan services, but the reason Bishop Alexander knows the people of the Cathedral so well is because of her two years there as Dean Alexander. She has a geographically large Diocese to cover and her primary concern (like Bishop Brewer) is the pastoral oversight of the Diocese.

Bishop Alexander and the present Dean, the Very Rev’d Neil Gordon, get along very well. Without trying to mess around too much about any internal politics of my Diocese I would say that communication between these two awesome clergy-persons is not perfect. They are humans. And their offices are in the same building about 25 meters away from each other.

So, I would expect that the Bishop and Dean of Central Florida would have the occasional communication glitch. Their offices are about a mile away from each other as the Diocese Offices and the Cathedral are not co-located. The Bishop is usually only going to be on site for one service around Christmas and Easter, one or more services a year for Ordinations or Installation of Diocesan officers, and a canonical visit to the Cathedral itself once every one to three years. That is it. Bishops hang around their Cathedrals a lot less then you think they do.

Bishop Brewer is a Conservative

I am just going to be frank here: This is a dumb attitude to take. If he was so conservative why is he having the meeting with the parents in the first place? Why do the article and say what he said in the article? Why is he taking time out of an evening of his to meet with the parents? Do you have any idea how much clergy don’t like making appointments in the evening and want it during their daytime so they can spend it with their family? But, here is this Bishop who is “probably being a giant homophobe” making an evening appointment with the McCaffreys which is likely much more convenient to them. He went out of his way to make that appointment.

The Dean was not fired

Sigh. Clergy are humans. They make mistakes sometimes. As well, they operate in a world that is outside the business world. There are a lot of clergy who do things that should be fired that aren’t. But, that is a how other issue. Could have the Dean been fired over this? Maybe. He could have gotten a verbal warning. However, since the Dean wasn’t dismissed we probably never will know what happened because it would be considered a confidential matter and wouldn’t be disclosed unless the Dean chose to or the Dean was seeking employment elsewhere and the new Bishop (or a Nominations Committee) was asking for information.

The McCaffrey’s Final Post

Finally, there is Rich McCaffrey’s (presumably) final Facebook post on the incident does shows Bishop Brewer, and the congregation of St. Luke’s Cathedral, in a very positive light. It states that:

  • “The Bishop acknowledged he learned the Cathedral set a firm date of April 19 for the baptism, but did not support postponing the baptism.” (We don’t know when the Bishop learned this was a firm date)
  • “He genuinely wanted to learn about us and expressed his apologies for how it had been handled.”
  • “Most importantly, he was clear he is supportive of Eric and I, two dads, baptizing our son at the Cathedral and offered to be a part of it.
  • “We are appreciative and are looking forward to the baptism to take place this summer.”

Read the post for yourself if you want to but this post reads like the McCaffreys concerns have been addressed and dealt with, that the Bishop was truly apologetic for what had happened, that the Bishop did not support a cancellation or postponement of the Baptism, that he was supportive of them getting their son baptized, and was more than willing to be a part of it.

There is also the Facebook post that Bishop Brewer himself made that I also encourage you to read. In it Bishop Brewer states that he and the McCaffreys had the chance to “talk through the events” of the postponement, that the “conversation was open, warm, and frank”, that the McCaffreys had asked to wait until the summer “‘after the dust settles'”, but very importantly that he refers to Jack as “their son”. It also points out that he has meet with the “leadership of the Cathedral” on this matter. Hint: that means the Dean.

After reading carefully into the posts by Rich McCaffrey I have come to the conclusion that if he wanted to “burn” the Bishop, the Diocese, the Dean or the Cathedral congregation in any of these posts he would have… especially in that final post. He didn’t. Instead, we are seeing Bishop Brewer doing what he was elected and called to do: Be the Chief Pastor of the Diocese of Central Florida. His flock includes the McCaffreys… and in a few months it will include little Jack as well.

A lot of people made some bad assumptions about Bishop Brewer this last week. The article which included an interview with the Orlando Sentinel did not help and may have made things a bit worse. However, not doing the interview would probably have made things much worse as all the article would say was that “Bishop Brewer has no comment” and silence can sometimes be deafening.

Likely his own Dean should have been more honest with him from the beginning. Dean Clark was probably getting leaned on from parishioners of influence at the Cathedral and made a bad choice and was less then honest with the Bishop. The Dean is human. He makes mistakes. So do I.

Bishop Brewer deserves an apology from many of his this last week as we played armchair Church politics all over the internet. He got dragged through the mud. A lot of people made some bad assumptions about him because of his theological positions on Human Sexuality. It turns out as a “conservative” Bishop he is just fine with Baptizing the children of a Same-sex married couple. The Dean got some mud on him to, but it was far less then Bishop Brewer got on him. And that pisses me off.

For a long time now we have been using the internet to cast stones at one another over our theological differences. This “Liberal”/”Conservative” divide. Because of Bishop Brewer’s (and the majority of his) Diocese known position on Human Sexuality a lot of us made the negative assumption that this was done because of Homophobia, specifically on Bishop Brewer’s part. Or, that the McCafferys’ meeting with and “scrutiny under” Bishop Brewer was based on Homophobia. Because of these assumption people jumped to various opinions. And, let’s be honest: They were mostly Bull S**t opinions.

A bad assumption was made about a Bishop in the Church of God, people extrapolated information that didn’t exist from their bad assumptions and suddenly Bishop Greg Brewer becomes a Homophobic boogeyman. I saw a lot of downright despicable posts this past week from good people and smart people that should have known better. Frankly it pissed me off. For someone who gets identified by most as a “liberal” on issues related to human sexuality I wanted nothing to do with “liberals” for a while. After all, aren’t the “liberals” suppose to be the ones that rise above on matters like this over the “conservatives”.

All of this happened because of negative assumption. In our little Anglican/Episcopal corner of the internet we had a little S**t storm without half the facts. How are we going to build up on the Church when we did stuff like this? Does it help us at all when we do this? Blog posts, and comment threads like I saw last week show me we are not using the medium of the Internet to reach out and build up the Kingdom of God. I saw a lot of scorn and I only saw two people offering prayers; That should have been flipped.

Could we all stop having Negative Assumptions about one another, please? Last week it caused us a lot of unnecessary pain. Better still can we stop using the internet to throw mud at each other? Can we use this as a forum to actually build up the Church? Or are we just going to use this as a place to show our contempt for others that don’t share our exact theological view?

I hope and pray that Jack McCaffery is baptized this summer and grows up to be a fine Christian, possibly by Bishop Brewer himself. I hope and pray that between now and when Jack’s own children come to be baptized we have learned how to use the internet much more positively to build up the Church. And I pray we stop making so many negative assumptions about each other because it is going to hurt the Church.

MA~

Trolls, Michael Coren and other Social Media Observations from the Last Week

When I started up the ministry that is Maple Anglican, something beyond just little ole me, I was attempting to be part of what I feel is the going to be the greatest tool to re-evangelize the Western World. Anyone reading this thinking “Re-evangelize? Does MA know the Western World is pretty Christian already” I would retort with the plummeting Church membership and attendance rates occurring across the board in most denominations that Re-evangelization is necessary. But, on to other things that are possibly more depressive.

On April 28, 2015 the story broke that author and columnist Michael Coren had left the Roman Catholic Church for the Anglican Communion. The first time I saw this my good friend Brett Fawcett (aka Papist Witness) had posted a link on his Facebook Timelinefrom the Catholic media organization called Church Militant. The name of the story was “Michael Coren Leaves the Church”. Now, I am going to be honest (and Michael, if you are reading this please forgive me) but when I saw the link the first thing that went through my mind is “Who is Michael Coren again?” I think had to do a little Google searching which jogged my memory.

Michael Coren
Michael Coren, left, enters St. James Cathedral with the Rev. Canon Susan Bell for his reception into the Anglican Communion.
Photo by Michael Hudson.

It turns out that Michael was received into the Anglican Communion 5 days earlier at St. James’ Cathedral in Toronto (lovely place, by the way) and a photo of him outside the Cathedral was posted to the Anglican Diocese of Toronto’s Facebook feed that day, 23 April. So, this was publicly available information that no one in the Church based media picked up on for 5 days.

Now, if you look back on a number of articles that Michael has penned in the last year you can see that this was a possibility. He has publicly shifted his views on human sexuality very massively. However, Michael is a big wig in the Canadian conservative community and also among Catholics. He is the author of the aptly named Why Catholics Are Right that he published back in 2012. So, him leaving the Roman Catholic Church for Anglicanism is rather big.

After leaning that Michael had left Roman Catholicism for Anglicanism (and yes, using Google to jar my memory of who he was) my first reaction was “Okay. No biggie” (Sorry Michael if you are reading this but I am being truthful) and I jokingly remarked “I’m not entirely certain we wanted him.”

That all being said Michael has picked up an incredible amount of flak around the internet for his conversion to Anglicanism. This was the first Tweet showing the reactions and was published 3 days before the story broke on religious media:

  I could post things from Michael’s Facebook timeline and Twitter feed for a few weeks as he has been involved in a number of spats were people have contacted him about his conversion. It also increased a lot today as hit hit the mainstream media, namely a published interview in the National Post. A lot of Catholics have sad that they are sorry to hear he is leaving the Church and pray that he comes back. Many are not that way:

Now, Michael has been Twitter a long time and he can handle himself. However, what his happening to him is a sign of a massive problem with Social Media: Humans have the capacity to act like monsters on it and on Twitter it gets a lot worse.

This week also saw the reveal of the nominees (so far) for the position of the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. This July the Episcopal Church will be meeting in Salt Lake City UT and one of their duties will be to elect the successor to the Most Rev’d Katherine Jefforts Schori. There have been a lot of blog posts about this. There were pre-announcement posts by people like the Rev’d Canon Scott Gunn on his blog Seven Whole Days and post-announcement reviews by people like the Rev’d Tom Ferguson (aka Crusty Old Dean).

Now, I am not going to analyze the slate of nominees because it has already been hashed. But, I will say that i was really cool to see my fellow Anglicans (yes American Episcopalians, you are Anglicans when we speak about the global Church) get excited about the nominees. I will admit that when I saw that the Rt. Rev’d Michael Curry I went “Huzzah!!” in my head not because I thought it was great to see an African American nominated for the post but because Michael Curry is a really cool Bishop.

Why is it that we see divides like this on Social Media? How is it that we can get so engaged and positive about four middle age-to-elderly men being nominated for a Church position but when a famous author and columnist publicly is received into our Communion we aren’t either getting excited or saying “Welcome” en-mass? Why is it instead the man gets more scorn and ridicule form his former co-religious? For me it seems like we need a lot more effort to do positive work in Social Media if we are going to use it as an Evangelization tool.

There is one other thing of note with Michael Coren’s conversion. While he has left to go from Roman Catholicism to Anglicanism he has specifically attending St. Martin-in-the-Fields’ Church in Toronto (not the much more famous one in London, England). St. Martin’s is a Parish in the Anglo-Catholic Tradition, of what my own Parish (St. Stephen the Martyr’s) belongs to. So, the fact he is attending a similar parish is kinda cool in my books.

So, officially from me: Welcome to the Anglican Communion Michael. I’m sorry you’ve probably had a few crappy days with the Twitter Trolls but I am certain you are use to it.

In Christ,

MA~

Announcement Concerning Lent Madness 2015

Greetings,,

Many of you that for the last two years I have produced videos with Archbishops’ Thomas Cranmer and John Chrysostom giving colo(u)r commentary on Lent Madness. Doing these video productions has been an awesome experience. However, it appears that my participation may be coming to a close.

After some careful thought I am having to withdraw from further participation in Lent Madness. I want to be very clear on this: at no point have Scott or Tim of the Supreme Executive Committee asked me to withdraw nor am I in a dispute with them. And, I still consider Forward Movement the owners of the content I created for Lent Madness 2014 as it was uploaded to a YouTube channel that they control and not me. So, please do not think this was the result of any dispute or squabbling in the back scenes.

That being said I will say what this was about: Me. I have been producing few videos recently and that comes down to having less time to do the work to create the content. I love doing it, but finding the time is difficult. Back in 2013 I changed positions with my employer and production of the videos in 2014 for Lent Madness was possible in that I had a very fixed schedule with fewer duties. However, just since last month my duties have expanded greatly and I do not have the time needed to commit to producing the videos in Lent Madness this year.

The Archbishops have been fairly supportive on this. They are going to miss not doing videos this year, but they do plan to give commentary via Twitter. However, they had been considering retiring so as they could go back to competing.

I am not closing the door on my involvement in Lent Madness. I am just unable to create the type of content I did in 2013 let alone 2014. Conversely, my schedule in April and May should allow me to participate in the equally wonderful 50 Days of Fabulous.

I would also like to give a chance to publicly thank both Scott and Tim for bringing me onto the crew back for Lent Madness 2013. You guys helped to give me a lot of expose that I am grateful for.

In Christ,

MA~

 

John Shelby Spong Makes Me Facepalm

Earlier this afternoon the Right Reverend John Shelby Spong, former Episcopal Bishop of Newark in the Episcopal Church of the United States, released the following Tweet:

Now, in all fairness to Bishop Spong Twitter is a medium that only allows you 140 characters to say what you want to see. However, Bishop Spong has a very well documented litany of statements and more importantly entire books with ideas that fly in the face of (small-o) orthodox Christian understanding. Now, I am not talking about Human Sexuality whatsoever; I’m talking the fundamentals like basic Christology. the Resurrection and the Ascension. This topics and his positions are likely beyond being Heterodoxy and into the downright Heretical.

Bishop Spong’s quote is a bit of a play on a quote by St. Athanasius of Alexandria:

[Christ/God the Son] was God, and then became man, and that to deify us

Paragraph 39, Against the Arians

This usually gets rendered as “God became man, so that we might become god” (note the lower g on the second god). The quote by St. Athanasius is linked heavily with the Atonement, linking the importance of the Incarnation of Christ with our Salvation.

In Bishop Spong’s statement he is very clear that the important part of Christianity (what it is all about) is “the human becoming divine” and not “the divine becoming human”. Again, Bishop Spong might be limited to 140 characters in explaining his view to us, however, it’s utterly wrong.

St. Athanasius’ is, along with many others, building on 2 Peter 1:4

Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature.

Thus, the very act of God becoming Human (the Incarnation) for the purposes of bringing Man to God is very grounded in Scripture and the Church Fathers. In truth, I could make a million page blog based on this if I felt like it.

Now, Bishop Spong is not an idiot. He holds a a Master’s of Divinity. He has done a lot of Biblical scholarship. He was an active Diocesan Bishop for 21 years. But, more importantly he has authored (according to his Wikipedia article) 24 books, eight of which have come out since he retired as Bishop of Newark in 2000. So, he should know better.

Bishop Spong is, luckily, part of a breed of leaders within Anglicanism that are starting to fade; Those who think that the entirety of Christian Theology needs to be turned on its head to work with the modern world. I disagree with him very strongly. However, there are still a lot of people (Anglicans, non-Anglicans and non-Christians) who believe what he is saying very strongly … and buy his books.

I have a lot of good friends who are Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Evaneglical and even Anglicans that are in the Anglican Church of North America. We spar sometimes but we mostly get along. One of my biggest “Sigh” moments comes to defending fellow Anglicans/Episcopalians (most of whom are self-described “Progressives” or “Liberals”) when they say or believe in inane things. Bishop Spong is one of these people.

Bishop Spong makes be facepalm when he says or tweets things like this not because I think it is stupid, not because I think he is trying to promote his books (which he probably is) but because he actually believes it … and he is getting other people to believe it as well.

The Great Litany contains the petition:

V. From all sedition, conspiracy, and rebellion; from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and Commandment,
R. Good Lord, deliver us.

What Bishop Spong has stated today on Twitter is exactly something we pray for in this Petition. However, the Great Litany also contains the petition:

V. To give to all Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, true knowledge and understanding of thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth and show it accordingly,
R. We beseech thee, good Lord.

Bishop Spong makes me facepalm. And I shouldn’t be doing that. I should be praying that he will be given “true knowledge and understanding of [God’s] Word; and that [in his] preaching and living [he] may set it forth and show it accordingly.” Bishop Spong’s statement should have petitioning prayers for him and not have me facepalming.

May those of us Anglicans who hold to a traditional and orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity, the Incranation, the Nativity, the Baptism, the Passion and Death, the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord God Jesus Christ pray for those who have strayed. Amen.

How many Sacraments are there in Anglicanism?

I recently got into a discussion via twitter with a Lutheran Pastor from Manitoba that made me want to do a post on the Sacraments, or more importantly, the number of Sacraments: Are their two or seven. As an Anglican presently attending an Anglo-Catholic Parish the answer for most of us would be Seven. However, most Protestants (Lutherans included) believe that there are Two. Part of this is because there is a dispute of…

What is a Sacrament?

There are multiple views of what a Sacrament is even within Anglicanism. However, given that we are a people who follow the principle of Lex orandi, lex credendi; The Law of Prayer is the Law of Believe.

Articles of Religion

The Articles of Religion, better known as the XXXIX Articles, don’t give us a definition of what a Sacrament is. Why are included in the Books of Common Prayer of most members of the Anglican Communion, however the aren’t a prayer, aren’t included for instruction and may no longer have authority even in the Church of England. That being said Article XXV states the following:

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Okay. So, there are two then. Right. Well, the Article then goes on to say:

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 Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

On the surface that former portion of the Articles says that are not Sacraments…of the Gospel. It reiterates to say these Rites are “not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel“. Thus, this Articles seems to suggest a possible Hierarchy of Sacraments.

Catechism of the Church

One part of the Prayer Books that would be from the Catechism included in the Book that was used to instruct those preparing for Confirmation. The Catechisms generally give us a definition. Now, there are a number of editions as each member Church has their own.

Church of England, 1662

Question. How many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Question. What meanest thou by this word Sacrament?
Answer. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.
Question. How many parts are there in a Sacrament?
Answer. Two: the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.

So, the Church of England says there are only Two … as “generally necessary to salvation”. It also gives us the definition that a Sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us, ordained by Christ himself. That last part is important as we see there is importance to Sacraments being ordained by Christ. If you recall Article XXV said the additional rites were:

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;

It seems that the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer rules out the other five rights as being Sacraments. The Questions and Answers given in the 1962 Book of Common Prayer for the Anglican Church of Canada are nearly identical.

The Episcopal Church in the United States, 1979

The Episcopal Church’s contemporary language Catechism has a bit more of a middle path:

Q. What are the sacraments?
A. The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.

Q. What is grace?
A. Grace is God’s favor toward us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.

Q. What are the two great sacraments of the Gospel?
A. The two great sacraments given by Christ to his Church are Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.

Here will still have the language that Sacraments are still given by Christ. However, in this Catechism refers to Baptism and the Eucharist as the two “great sacraments of the Gospel”. We are also given a definition of Grace. However, this more modern Catechism does state:

Q. What other sacramental rites evolved in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
A. Other sacramental rites which evolved in the Church include confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction.

Q. How do they differ from the two sacraments of the Gospel?
A. Although they are means of grace, they are not necessary for all persons in the same way that Baptism and the Eucharist are.

Here the 1979 Book refers to the other five rites as “Sacramental Rites”, and reiterates that they are “not necessary for all persons” for salvation. This book is written in more modern times but also more than 150 years after the Oxford Movement which sought to re-affirm the Catholic Heritage of Anglicanism. This insertion and language is here to seek a middle ground between Low and High Church Anglicans.

Service of Holy Communion

The service of Holy Communion for Anglicans was changed very little from 1552 until the 20th Century. However, there is a small phrase of importance in the service that is very important to how many sacraments are there:

take this holy Sacrament to your comfort

You might think to yourself “Okay. So this is something said by the Priest for those communing, right?” Well, not exactly.

During the invitation to Confession that is given before the Eucharistic prayer the service has the following rubric and statement:

Then shall the Priest say to them that come to receive the holy Communion,

YE that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon your knees.

The language here is a little ambiguous. One interpretation is that the Sacrament being taken is the Eucharist. The Exhortation and the other prayers in the service would seem like more than enough to point to the attendants coming for that Sacrament. However, it can also be interpreted that the Confession is the Sacrament being mentioned. After all, immediately following the Confession by the Faithful are the Comfortable words set to re-assure the Faithful that their sins have been forgiven.

The ordination prayer for Anglican Priests going back to 1550 states:

…Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments;

The prayer specifically quotes John 20:23. It is then understood that an Anglican Priest is forgiving Sins in the Absolution during the Service of Holy Communion:

Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins;

I would submit that the liturgy is stating that Confession, at least confession during the service of Holy Communion, is a sacrament. However, the English Reformers seemed to prefer that a Sacrament was necessary to Salvation and thus leave it to the “big two”.

So, after all this how many Sacraments are there?

Well, it depends on your definition of Sacrament. The English Reformers seemed to move towards the other reformers on the continent and say there are Two: Baptism and Communion. However, it appears they made their definitions and liturgy open enough that the Rites of Confirmation, Penance, Ordination, Matrimony, and Anointing of the Sick can be considered lesser Sacraments.

Thus, I believe the correct Anglican answer is Seven: Two necessary for Salvation and Five not necessary for Salvation.

Looking for Feedback on What to do Next

Hey Everyone,

So, you will have noticed that I haven’t made a video at all since my thing for 50 Days of Fabulous. There are a few reasons for this. When I created that video I had just started a four-month course in IT Security and thus it had priority. I finished that back in August. However, over this summer I had been bouncing around parishes as well trying to figure out if I should move and if so where: The answer ended up being yes and to St. Stephen’s Parish.

Earlier this week one of my many non-Christian friends whose daughter is in the same pre-school as my son remarked to my wife (Mrs. Maple) that he hadn’t seen me do any videos recently and was worried about me. When I heard that I realized that I might have been take astray a tad.

To sum this up I need some input: What do you want to see next in a video if I was doing one? I had prepped some scripts back in May on some Quirks and Quarks of Anglicanism. I use to have a tonne of ideas. But now I am looking for what you guys want.

If you give me ideas I won’t be putting things out too quickly. I am presently finishing up helping my new parish with one thing I do best: Evangelizing in the Social Media World. Please checked out their website, and twitter feed. We will be adding some other Social Media stuff soon for them. Once I have their ball rolling I would like to do some videos.

In Christ,

MA~

Nipping Something in the Bud

Okay, I would like to nip something in the Bud about my personal life.

Yes

As of this month (September 2014) I am no longer a member of the Parish of All Saints’ Cathedral, Edmonton.

No!

I did not leave due to a dispute with any of the clergy or any other Parishioner. I wish everyone at the Cathedral Parish well.

Yes

I have now moved to the Parish of St. Stephen the Martyr. St. Stephen’s is much closer to my current residence than the Cathedral, and I am on very good terms with it’s Rector whom Baptized both my children when he was the Vicar at the Cathedral.

However, I have come to a point in my own Faith journey that I need to explore. Some of it might spill into my videos. (Which reminds me; I need to make more videos.) So, I will be exploring at St. Stephen’s for a while.

St. Stephen’s is a Parish within the Anglo-Catholic tradition. It generally only uses the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer with it’s Lectionary and Collects. It is also a struggling, Inner City Parish that was forced to abandon their previous Church building in 2009 due to problems with the foundation. As such they have been co-located with the Parish of St. Faith’s in their Church since then.

While I am doing a bit of exploring I hope to help build up St. Stephen’s (and St. Faith’s) online presence because I believe that it is important to the future of the Church as a whole and not just any one Parish.

So, to recap: I am leaving the Cathedral on very good terms with the people there. I will miss them but for myself, for my family and for my new Parish I need to move on.

Pax

MA~

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