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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The Mother of the Lord

Today is the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin. It is sometimes called the Assumption (by Roman Catholics), the Dormition (By Orthodox Christians) or the Falling Asleep of the Virgin (by others). Regardless of what we call it we still recognize her as the Mother of the Lord.

With Mary we see the first witness to the Lord. With Mary we see a woman who when approached by the Angel of the Lord willingly accepted to bear the “Son of the Most High”.

Being the Mother of the Incarnate God probably wasn’t easy. You’d have to think raising him was unusual. God only knows what it must have been like seeing him start his ministry let alone see him suffer Death on the Cross and finally rise from the grave.

So today, think of the Mary, the Mother of the Lord.

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son. May we who have been redeemed by his blood, share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Collect for Saint Mary the Virgin
Book of Alternative Services (1985)

Random Thoughts on He-Man and the Sacraments

I am a child of the 1980s and 1990s. One particular cartoon I grew up with was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. For those of you unfamiliar this animated series deals with events surrounding the life of Prince Adam, the son of King Randor and Queen Marlena of the planet of Eternia. Prince Adam has been given a weapon called the Sword of Power that when he holds in his hand and says the phrase “By the Power of Greyskull” he will be transformed into He-Man: The most powerful man in the Universe. See below:

(Sidenote: His large, cowardly tiger Cringer will be transformed into Battle-cat by the Sword of Power).

However, in the all the episodes I ever saw not once did we see He-Man transform back into Prince Adam; Every episode Adam would have to take out the Sword of Power to become He-Man. Maybe this is always done off screen or maybe it goes slowly a few days later but we never see He-Man become Adam. We see it as a one way process. There is also the striking fact that in the Church we have processes that are one way.

Baptism takes someone and makes them a Christian, bringing them into the Body of Christ. We never re-baptize as Baptism leaves a Sacramental Character on them. We hold the same true for Confirmation and Ordination. (Possibly Marriage in some circles)

In a way we also hold this to be true for the Eucharist as we consider the Bread and Wine to have become the Body and Blood of Christ. The Church does not teach that the consecrated elements lose this over time or if something is done to them.

Unlike Prince Adam we don’t need to change ourselves every episode because we know that God has, through Christ, made permanent changes to ourselves in the material world.

Thanks be to God. Amen
MA~

Even More Ten Reasons for being an Anglican… in Canada

Recently my former temporary American Nemesis Father Tim Schenck noted the American Comedian Robin Williams had authored a list of Ten Reasons to be an Episcopalian, and he decided to build on this. As part of my reconciliation with Father Tim after naming him my temporary Nemesis while Father Scott Gunn was in Canada I have decided to post the lists.

Robin William’s List:

  1. No snake handling.
  2. You can believe in dinosaurs.
  3. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
  4. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.
  5. Pew aerobics.
  6. Church year is colo[u]r-coded.
  7. Free wine on Sunday.
  8. All of the pageantry — none of the guilt.
  9. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.
  10. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

Father Tim’s More Top Ten Reasons to be an Episcopalian:

  1. The only thing we take literally is “Coffee Hour.”
  2. All of the sacraments — none of the indulgences.
  3. Gay and straight God created them; gay and straight we marry them.
  4. Bouncers don’t check your ID at communion.
  5. Fire and incense, not fire and brimstone.
  6. Guilt-free royal watching — because we’re Anglicans.
  7. Vestments cover a multitude of wardrobe malfunctions.
  8. No “second collection.”
  9. Washington National Cathedral? Yeah, that’s ours.
  10. We’re the only ones God trusts enough to take the summer off.

We here at Maple Anglican (okay, its just me) feel that Robin’s and Father Tim’s list needed to be expanded on especially because it is awesome to be a Canadian and an Anglican.

However, I felt like both lists don’t cover the awesomeness of being a Canadian Anglican. So, without further ado here is my Even More Ten Reasons for being an Anglican… in Canada.

  1. Don’t want to do Pew Aerobics? Then don’t.
  2. Think there are seven Sacraments? Two Sacraments? Hey, this place is still for you.
  3. We’ve agreed to have a mature and considerate discussion about changing our Canons on Gay Marriage. (Let’s hope that attitude lasts)
  4. Book of Common Prayer? Book of Alternative Services? Occasional Services? We got it all!
  5. Bishops? We have Archbishops. And Metropolitans Do you Episcopalians? I thought not.
  6. Ecclesiastical Provinces that actually do something!
  7. We can be proud in Archbishop Michael Peers apology that began reconciliation with the First Nations people of Canada.
  8. Excellent relations and cooperation with the Evangelical Lutherans.
  9. Women in Mitres way before the Church of England.
  10. The Queen is one of us! (Take that United Church of Canada and Episcopalians!)

Pax

Urgent Prayer Request

Back in the Summer of 2000 a good friend of mine (Pam) from the TUXIS Parliament of Alberta moved into the house myself, the future Mrs Maple, and another friend of ours were living in.

Since then Pam has been married to a man named Nick and had three children (Erica, Emily, and Donovan) with him. Their marriage broke down about six years ago and she has since had two more children with her fiancé Warren.

Yesterday, Sunday, 27 July, 2014, Nick was driving a vehicle with his mother (Linda) and the eldest Children (Erica, Emily, and Donovan) when he was involved in a collision with another car. He did not survive. His mother Linda did but was severely injured. All three children survived with minor injuries.

I would kindly ask you pray for Pam, her children, her ex-Mother-In-Law, her family and her ex-Husband’s family in their time of need.

MA~

Maple’s Mar Thoma Adventure

Today I had a unique opportunity to worship with the people of Trinity Mar Thoma Church, a Parish of the Malanaka Mar Thoma Syrian Church here in Edmonton. They use a variant of the West Antiochene Rite.

Now, of few of you might go “Maple, why the heck would you go do that?!” The answer is a simple “Because I could”

The Anglican Church of Canada is in Full Communion with groups like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Old Catholics in the Union of Utrecht and the Malanaka Mar Thoma Syrian Church. This last Church, a group of Christians from the State of Karela in India, have been in full Communion with the Church of England since 1961, and while using Eastern liturgies, are still technically Protestant.

If you wanted any pictures I must then apologize to you because I didn’t take any. I thought it would be rude.

First of all, as some of you know I am what is called “White”, that is, I am of European descent. In fact, three of my eight grandparents were born or born to people from Scandinavia, two were of a particular Volksdeutsche known as Volga-Germans, and the remainder were from Northern Britain (none Anglican, by the way). So, yes I am “White”. With this much ancestry from Northern Europe I am fairly pale. So, when I went to Church this morning I stood out a bit. I really stood out.

However, I would like point out that the people at the Church were exceptionally friendly. They were really helpful so I knew what was going on, where to look in their Prayer Book (they have them, by the way!) and not to sit on the right had side because that is for the women. Also, when you basically say “I am an Anglican coming here to exercise Full Communion with you” the basic response was “Okay, sounds great. Many of us use to do it all the time because we didn’t have this Church.”

The service itself is a little odd. For example, we Anglicans begin the service with a Procession of the Priest and others to the Front of the Church. In this Church they pull back the Curtain to show the Priest partially vested to begin the service. They had a hymn, some prayers and then the Curtain closed.

Then there was a reading from the Old Testament, a Hymn based on a Psalm 42, and then a New Testament reading. Finally, I was told by the elderly gentleman in front of me that the service of Holy Qurbana was now beginning and where to go into the Prayer book.

Now, I mentioned earlier that they use the West Syrian Rite. I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not demeaning the service, however, to most Western Christians there is a lot of chanting, a lot of intercessions, and a lot of “Wow, we say a lot less in my Parish”. That is the way they do things. That is the way they have basically been doing things since well before the Reformation.

There is a particular way the Epistle and Gospel were introduced (which I can’t remember). There was also the Nicene Creed (slightly different from what I was use to) and prayers of thanksgiving for people celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries. That occurred before the Sermon… which oddly wasn’t on any of the readings. And, I’d rather not talk about what it was about. I will how ever point out the priest solicited Parishioners to look up biblical passages and read them out loud.

Oh, and Confession. Lovely confession prayer. Only those intending to communion had to stand up to say it. The Consecration prayers for the Eucharist were shorter than what we see in modern Anglicanism. However, there were a lot of prayers and intercessions after the consecration was complete. In fact, the Congregation was blessed not once, not twice, but three times before distribution began.

Next, there was taking Holy Communion. They knelt for it. Cool, I can kneel for Communion all the time. The host is placed on the Tongue. Okay, don’t see a lot of that in Anglicanism. I have done it a few times (in some cases to bug the Priest). However, the wine is served in not by having the chalice touch the lips of the communicant, but by using what I can best be described as a liturgical ladle scoping wine from the chalice and then the wine being placed into the mouth of the communicant. I found the experience to be quite different. Not wrong. Just different.

The Post-communion was really, really quick. Just a blessing from the Priest and then the Curtain closing. After that was announcements.

For me this was an important experience. In some ways it was very different; Different to the point of “Really? You do it that way?”. However, there is nothing wrong with the way they worship at all. It is the way they worship and I came to see how they worshiped. And I am glad I did.

Those of you who have meet me in person will know I am a big believer in a “Big Tent” Church. I want a Church with Liberal Evangelicals, and Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics. I want to have LGBTQ friendly parishes and retain parishes that might not be that friendly to LGBTQ Christians. I want to have Parishes with more than just a boring vanilla page 185 BAS services; I like the fact my Diocese has a Dinka-language Parish, a Cantonese-language congregation and a Liturgy for First Nations persons.

I also like the fact that while I might be a pasty white-guy I can walk into a friendly Mar Thoma Church like I did today, worship the Lord with them and partake of the Sacraments with them how they do it rather than how I am use to doing it.

In Christ,
MA~

PS – Lutherans, I might be showing up on your doorstep next month.

Maple is Going on a Small Adventure Tormorrow

Hey everyone,

So, all this month and possibly next month I planned on Parish hoping a bit to see how things are done differently. Tomorrow, 27 July 2014, is going to be incredibly different. Tomorrow I am not going to go to an Anglican Church, however, I do plan to take Holy Communion. It won’t be with a Parish of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, although they are on my list to try out. And it won’t be a Parish of the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht because they don’t operate outside of Europe.

Tomorrow I am going to worship with a Parish of Trinity Mar Thoma, which is part of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, which contrary to the Syrian part of it’s name it’s Syrian at all but from the state of Kerala in India.

It just so happens the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church is in Full Communion with the Anglican Communion, including the Anglican Church of Canada, which means that I can partake of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist with them. And I have no idea what it is going to be like.

So, Adventure.