Monthly Archives: July 2015

Christian Zionism is False. There, I said it.


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.