Friday, December 29, 2006

From Zechariah

Preaching on the Book of Zechariah

Rather than simply making comments on the lectionary, I am going to use this column to share with you the titles and main points of a Sermon Series that I have done. While I do follow the lectionary, I also often choose to make my own way through different portions of the Bible, believing as I do that the “lectionary was made for man, not man for the lectionary.”

For instance, for the first Sunday in Advent, we had Zechariah 14:4-9 as the Old Testament reading. That passage is about the second advent of Christ, and while it fits the theme of Advent, it made me wonder about the book of Zechariah itself. Who was he? Why did he say this? Why did he say it this way?

Well, I’m not sure I succeeded in answering all these questions; however, I will let you know what I did.

First, I spent the four weeks of Advent on Zechariah.

Week one: Zechariah 1:1-7

I looked at chapter 1.1-7 with special attention to 1:3 which I took to be the theme of the book…3 Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 1.3)

The prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, encouraged the returning exiles to rebuild the Temple. They were harassed by the local residents and were forced to end suspend their building projects.

Zechariah, however, along with Haggai, sees this issue as something more than a bricks and mortar affair.

Zechariah 1.3 says, “Return to me…and I will return to you.” Well, of course, they had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, yet the prophet insists they needed more than simply a geographical return. They needed to return, in faith, to the Lord of all the earth. The evidence of their returning would be the bricks and mortar of the temple going forward.

Their response is indicated in the 1.3a, but the 1.3b actually is a summary of the rest of the book. The Lord will return to them in a variety of ways.

Week 2: How Can We Go on with the Work – Zechariah 3

There are 8 visions, beginning in 1.8. They are all quite different; however, in differing ways they are encouragements to a very discouraged group to continue in their work because the Lord was ‘returning’ to them in blessing and restoration. The middle section of the visions concerns two key men; Joshua, the priest, and Zerubbabel, the governor. I chose to spend two weeks on these two visions.

The leadership of the people of God was, of course, central to their success. But, how can guilty people and guilty leaders possibly curry favor with God? Of course, they can’t; but God can grant them forgiveness. That seems to underlie this section. In fact, how can anyone serve the Lord? Aren’t we all compromised to a certain degree?

The vision is a courtroom scene with the angel of the Lord as the judge; Satan as the prosecutor and Joshua in the dock, albeit with dirty clothes (unimaginable for priest). He stands convicted without Satan having to say a word.

I made two major points. The first was that only a person who is clean or forgiven can serve the Lord, and this scene from the courtroom shows that the Lord unilaterally forgives. This is demonstrated by the Lord’s word to Joshua that he take off his dirty clothes and put on splendid robes. “I have taken your guilt from you.”

The second point concerns justice. How can God forgive a guilty man? It is the same dilemma Paul speaks of in Romans. God can’t forgive a guilty person; but he does. But isn’t he the judge of the universe. This appears to be a travesty of justice! But, wait. The basis of forgiveness is a promise to be fulfilled in the future. “I am about to bring My servant, the Branch…” (Zechariah 3.8) There is the answer.

God’s forgiveness meets the canons of justice, while also expressing God’s love for sinners. Joshua can and does live in light of the future promise of God to send his servant, the branch to be the means by which God can forgive a guilty man; and further, why he can forgive a guilty people.

Week Three: Zechariah 4: The Golden Lampstand

Where the question raised in week two concerned forgiveness from guilt resulting in freedom to serve the Lord, this vision of a lampstand raises yet another question. How can God’s people continue in the work he has given them? Won’t they just poop out? To answer that, we now have a vision of a lampstand, the likes of which we have not seen in the Old or New Testaments.

Attention is now paid to Zerubbabel, the political leader. He is a very able man as presented in both this letter and that of Haggai. The point of the vision seems to be the continuing supply of oil which comes from the Olive Trees via conduits to the lampstand.

How then can the people of God keep on going? The answer is given in verse 6.

Zechariah 4:6 (ESV)
6 Then he said to me, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

That, I think, is what the lampstand represents. Not might, not right, but God’s Spirit which is given to Zerubbabel, and his people day by day.

You can see how this leads into the New Testament realization of what is pointed to in Zechariah.

Ephesians 5:18 (ESV)
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

We are so concerned with being wise, dynamic and smart. But what we really need is God’s Spirit to enable us to continue in what he has started in us.

We so easily burst into project after project; but the ones that are needful in the kingdom of God takes God’s power, given to us in the Spirit through the Son, to get it done.

Week Four: Christmas Eve Morning: Zechariah 8:1-7

With 4 weeks for 14 chapters, one obviously has to make some choices about which parts of Zechariah to preach on. I chose to finish on this passage, since it picks up one of the great themes of Advent, as well as advancing the point of Zechariah 1.3 that God will return to his people. In this chapter, the return spoken of is the 2nd coming of the Lord, which Zechariah tells in a very unique way.

When we do think of Christ’s 2nd coming, we rightly think of power, clouds and glory. Then we think of the heavenly Jerusalem - sparkling with crystal, with a river flowing from the throne of God.

But the images in Zechariah, while complementary, are different. We have a picture of a park with elderly people sitting peacefully, untroubled by illness and young children running around without a hint of fear. Then the chapter ends with a great festival, and with people from many lands coming to Jerusalem.

I used chapter 8, because it casts its light on the future, but as Barry Webb – (The Message of Zechariah – The Bible Speaks Today Series) says the final reality is always viewed, in the Old Testament, as a light that casts its reflection backwards to motivate and guide life in the present.” “It is the goal the people of God are longing for, and every advance towards it is a cause for celebration.”

I highly recommend Barry’s wonderful commentary.

Just to Focus on One Thing from the English Covenant:

We can no longer associate with teaching that is contrary to the clear teaching of the Scriptures either doctrinally (for example, on the supremacy and uniqueness of Christ) or morally (for example, on issues of gender, sex and marriage), or church leadership which advocates such teaching.
A proposal from our English Evangelical brethren:

A Covenant for the Church of England

The following Covenant was drawn up by representatives of a number of evangelical groups within the Church of England including Church Society and was endorsed by the Council of the Society. It represented an attempt by people to work together in propagation the gospel, growing churches and opposing error within the Church of England.


At this time in the life of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, faced with a faulty view of revelation, false teaching and indiscipline, we believe that it is necessary to set out where we as orthodox Anglicans stand, and to invite others to join us.


We are members of the Church of England, part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, who share with others throughout the world a commitment to the biblical truths on which the Anglican Communion is based. This is what guarantees our fellowship with Anglicans historically and globally. We pledge ourselves to strengthen this fellowship.

The love and grace of God in the gospel saves and converts individuals to a relationship with God, introduces people to life in the Spirit, and draws members into the Body of Christ. It produces holiness of life, unity in the Spirit and life-giving and life-transforming mission. Therefore in dependence on God, we are committed to spreading the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ, to making disciples who make disciples of Christ, and to reviving existing and planting new churches. We wait for heaven to belong to a pure and perfect church – indeed, we confess our own guilty part in the church’s present failings. Nonetheless the gospel challenges the church to faithful obedience.

We are committed to faithful biblical orthodoxy as defined by the classic formularies of our tradition. Canon A5 states: “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal”. The Preface to the Declaration of Assent declares that the Church of England professes “the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds.” This is what the Church of England confesses and true unity belongs in this common confession. It is departure from this common faith that is responsible for causing schism.

Commitment to the gospel has the following implications for action at this time.


Mission: Jesus’ Great Commission to “Go into all the world and make disciples” has renewed force for us in our post-Christian society. As is being increasingly recognised, the historic focus on the traditional patterns of parishes, clergy and ecclesiastical buildings is now inadequate by itself to meet this great challenge and must be transformed by one that is dynamically evangelistic, committed to using every available means to reach the unchurched. “Existing ecclesiastical legal boundaries should be seen as permeable”. This means there cannot be any no-go areas for gospel growth and church planting. Best practice will always involve appropriate consultation, including with non-Anglicans. We will support mission-shaped expressions of church through prayer, finance and personnel, even when official permission is unreasonably withheld.

Appointments: The local congregation is the initial and key seed-bed for recognising, authorising, raising up and releasing new leaders. We affirm the need for the wider recognition and authorisation for leaders. We recognise the vital importance of biblically orthodox training both regionally and nationally. But many parishes have lost confidence in the institutional centre to discern and train suitable ministers, and fund and deploy them in sufficient numbers and appropriate contexts. Local churches must in future also play a major role in the selection, training, funding and appointment of ministers. This means that we can no longer be constrained by an over-centralised and increasingly ineffective control that is stifling the natural development of ministry. If the local Bishop unreasonably withholds authorisation, we will pay for, train and commission the ministers that are needed, and seek official Anglican recognition for them.

Fellowship: Fellowship is based on the faith “once delivered to the saints”. Global Anglicans observe that the Church of England is increasingly polarizing into two churches: the one submitting to God’s revelation, Gospel-focused, Christ-centred, cross-shaped and Spirit-empowered; the other holding a progressive view of revelation, giving priority to human reason over Scripture, shaped primarily by western secular culture, and focused on church structures. We reaffirm the Church of England as a confessing church, built supremely not on administrative or human structures but on biblical authority, belief and behaviour. This means that we can no longer associate with teaching that is contrary to the clear teaching of the Scriptures either doctrinally (for example, on the supremacy and uniqueness of Christ) or morally (for example, on issues of gender, sex and marriage), or church leadership which advocates such teaching. We will therefore encourage new informal networks of fellowship, augmenting where necessary the institutional geographical groupings, and will respect and support those who cannot in good conscience maintain Christian fellowship with neighbouring Anglicans who do not uphold the authority of Scripture.

Money: Money is an aspect of gospel partnership in the New Testament. It is entrusted to church leaders by church members who generously and sacrificially give to Christian ministry. Under charity law there is a responsibility that those who handle the church’s money steward those resources with integrity. Funds are expected to be directed towards the churches and causes in line with the beliefs and expectations of those who give. To direct the church’s giving elsewhere is a dereliction of duty for which leaders will be held accountable by God. This means that we can no longer support ministries or structures increasingly marked by the doctrinal and ethical heterodoxy outlined above. Our congregations will seek actively to become self-sustaining when and where we can, to donate a reasonable yet modest amount to support the administrative centre, to be part of mutually accountable financial partnerships, and to give generously to gospel ministries, at home and abroad, that share the same values.

Oversight: Christian leaders are servant leaders, servants of the gospel. As Anglicans, we affirm Episcopal oversight for the sake of God’s mission. But it must be ordered for the church’s well-being. This means having biblically orthodox oversight that will teach the apostolic faith, refute error and discipline the wayward. We can, therefore, no longer accept churches being denied such oversight. Ensuring that such biblically orthodox oversight is available for the health and well-being of the church is more important than arguments about jurisdiction. The immediate crisis is over the fundamentals of revealed truth. We are aware of those who justifiably consider that their communion with their bishops is impaired, and will support and help them to find alternative oversight.

We are committed, as authentic Anglicans, to praying, believing and working for a restored, reformed and renewed Church of England, holding its traditional convictions: confidence in the truth of God in his Word, in the sacrificial death of his Son for his world, and in the power of God’s Spirit to fulfil his mission.

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UGH! Aggies 10, California 45.

Since hope srings eternal, we will have to wait til next year for the blooming of the A&M football team as a major power! But, it was a good year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

From Hugh Fitzgerald: A fantastic war (Jihad Watch)

"In the future,” many have predicted, “the Iraqis will blame their civil war on the US."

Well, of course they will. They already do. They do in Man-on-the-street interviews, in which those men on the street explain how “everyone got along” until the bad old Americans came. In a poof, the persecution and mass-murder of the Kurds is forgotten by all the Arabs. In a poof, the persecution and mass-murder of the Shi'a by the Sunnis (the regime of Saddam Hussein being merely a disguised Sunni despotism) is forgotten -- certainly by almost all the Sunnis, but also by some Shi'a when they want to blame, as they do want to blame, the Infidels for everything. Everything was wonderful.

In Pakistan Sipaha-e-Sahaba never attacked the Shi'a. In Afghanistan the Taliban never tried to wipe out every last Shi'a Hazara. In Lebanon, the Shi'a have never suffered or ever wanted to get back at the Sunnis. In Bahrain, the Shi'a who constitute 75% of the population are ruled benignly by a Sunni Arab about whom they have nothing to complain. And as for the past 1300 years of Sunni-Shi'a relations, let's just say it has been roses, roses, roses all the way.

Of course the Americans are to blame, in Muslim eyes. Always will be.

But here's the amusing part. The Bush Administration cannot admit to itself that the Sunni-Shi'a divide pre-dated the invasion of Iraq by some 1300 years, and that the fissures between them would inevitably widen once the iron grip of Saddam Hussein had been removed. Because to admit that this was all inevitable, would be to raise the question: if it was all inevitable, why did we not see it? For it if was inevitable, and we hadn't -- and still refuse to have -- the slightest idea of its inevitability, then there must be something wrong with us. But we can't admit that. Nor can all the commentators, for and against the war, who failed to immediately identify this inevitable outcome, and who either remained Bush loyalists, or opposed the war for all the wrong, appeasing reasons. Or they advocated some halfway measure, such as that "put in a strongman" -- without, of course, asking themselves whether that "strongman" would be Sunni, in which case the Shi'a would never accept him, or Shi'a, in which case the Sunnis would never accept him.

No, those who were wrong, being unable to admit it, will persist in their obstinacy. And that obstinacy requires them to deny the depth and duration of the Sunni-Shi'a split, and thus to support the view that the "Americans caused it."

A fantastic war, this Iraq war. Undertaken for one stated reason, continued long after for quite another, crazily messianic and polypragmonic reason. Supported by those who simply mechanically rallied around the Bush-Republican-conservative wagons, without considering what was actually going on. And even today most are still unable to see the folly of the Bush and now Gates definition of "victory," which is the very opposite of what should be desired.

When Gates says failure to obtain "victory" -- by which he means ending the Sunni-Shi'a violence and forcing the Kurds to permanently acquiesce in remaining within Arab-ruled Iraq, he has it all backwards. He speaks of "catastrophe." But the real "catastrophe" would be if the Americans, after having squandered 3,000 lives and 22,000 wounded and a half-trillion dollars in sunk or committed future expenses, and after having done great damage to both the materiel and the morale of the armed services (not cheap to repair in one case and not easily recovered in the other), were to continue to squander men, money, and materiel in order to achieve the opposite of what would constitute a kind of victory, which would come through dividing and demoralizing and thereby weakening the Camp of Islam. Well, this would be the greatest self-inflicted defeat in American history. And it would have been entirely avoidable if Bush and Co. had had the right understanding of the instruments and full scope of the menace of Jihad.

But Jihad is not understood. Not by Bush. Not by Cheney. Not by Rice. Not by Gates. Not by the idiotic Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. Not by The New Duranty Times. Not by The Bandar Beacon. Not by the bright-eyed "insurgency experts" who keep making plans to win hearts and minds in Iraq, and who speak confidently and irrelevantly about how insurgencies "last on average ten years." They do not consider that this "insurgency" is Islam-based. As long as Islam is there, the Infidels will always be fought, and as long as Islam is there, the ethnic and sectarian divisions within Islam will never be overcome, because the spirit of compromise, especially peaceful compromise, is contradicted by the tenets and attitudes of the belief-system of Islam.

How long will it take this learning-curve to begin to take off, as it still strains and strains and strains for lift-off?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Chuck Collins: Can’t We Just avoid the National Church Controversy and Get on with Local Ministry?

Why not leave it to the bishops to solve the problem, ignore the mess in the national church, and get on with our own mission and ministry at Christ Church? After all, our Presiding Bishop is not making us believe her wild theology, and the Episcopal Church is not forcing us to do things against our conscience.

I’ve heard this criticism about Christ Church and about how we responded to the crisis caused by General Conventions of the Episcopal Church in 2003 and 2006. “The rector and vestry overstepped their bounds and allowed national church matters to cloud their judgment,” they say. They go on to say that a better response would have been to trust our bishops to fight the good fight for us, and reinvest in what we do best: Sunday worship and the day-to-day ministries of our parish. I’m sure this is also how our bishops hoped we would respond and how most churches in the diocese have. Not speaking for our vestry, but only for myself, the reason I can’t surrender this to some notion that the Episcopal Church’s impasse with the Anglican Communion will somehow take care of itself is because it affects me deeply and directly. The crisis has reached my life and ministry in a very personal way.

Steve Vrana, as many of you know, is the son of one of our vestry members. He died several months ago of AIDS. His ashes are in our columbarium. The year before he died Steve and I had several long conversations at La Fonda in which he told me he was hearing mixed messages from his church, the Episcopal Church. On one hand he was hearing that we are all sinners and the answer to the problem of sin is repentance, forgiveness and amendment of life. On the other hand, he was very aware that the national church’s official position supports homosexual relationships. Steve’s funeral was on the day it was reported in the news that yet another bishop (Maze of Arkansas) allows the practice of blessing same-sex couples in his diocese. Now a large number of bishops and a growing number of dioceses officially or unofficially approve this practice. This includes our new Presiding Bishop who was one of the first to permit clergy in her home diocese (Nevada) to preside over same-sex blessings.

If you say the crisis in the Episcopal Church hasn’t affected us at Christ Church, I couldn’t disagree more! Because of the mixed messages, at least this one young man felt that he had permission on some level for the gay life he was living, which eventually led him to be infected with HIV, which finally killed him. I understand that it’s a huge leap to blame Bishop Maze, the House of Bishops or the General Convention for Steve’s death, but I do blame them. At least partially. To call “sin” something else, and to deprive sinners of God’s remedy for their condition, is the worse kind of injustice. And to say this is the most compassionate response just amplifies the injustice. This is what Bishop Allison calls “the cruelty of heresy.” It’s what Jeremiah says of the false prophets, “They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you…’” (23:16, 17).

The second reason the Episcopal Church mess has become very personal is because being “Episcopalian” has become a theological statement supporting certain things that I don’t believe. When the head of our church (new Presiding Bishop) told interviewers from Time Magazine and National Public Radio that she doesn’t believe in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and that Christianity doesn’t have anything more to offer than the religions of the world, that’s when it became personal. I not only do not buy her Unitarian “anything goes” belief system, but having the leader of our church promote such beliefs mars my witness as a Christian and hurts my ability to share the gospel. Isn’t this true for everyone who is serious about what the Bible says about Jesus and is still in the Episcopal Church? “You say that Jesus is the answer, but even your own Presiding Bishop doesn’t believe that!” For awhile it was OK to explain to people that I don’t accept the official positions of my denomination and that Christ Church is a different kind of church from other Episcopal churches. But, patiently waiting for the national church to see the error of its ways has not turned it in the least towards the Anglican family that we left (as prescribed by The Windsor Report). In fact, every indication is that the Episcopal Church is bound and determined to stay the revisionist “anything goes” course, no matter what.

Now deceased Presiding Bishop John Allen, when he addressed the House of Bishops for the last time, asked for forgiveness for loving the church more than he loved the Lord of the church. I too was born and raised in this church, and as an adult I loved the Episcopal Church. But I love God more. Last week I signed welcome letters for three families who visited the previous Sunday. Every week God sends newcomers through our doors who are looking for God and for God’s solution to the discontent in their hearts. What we have to offer them is simple: Jesus Christ (and the community of followers of the Man who changed our lives). To take this away, is to take the gospel away, is to take my church away.

It should be clear to everyone that yesterday’s problem (homosexuality) is pretty inconsequential compared to today’s problem (the person of Jesus Christ and the salvation he has won for us). We shouldn’t be surprised when a church that blinks at the biblical teaching on smaller matters eventually blinks at the core doctrines of biblical Christianity. When orthodoxy is held up as optional, the door is wide open for the “anything goes” theology that describes the Episcopal Church today. I’ve said all along that this is not a crisis about sexuality, but about authority and whether or not we accept the Bible as God’s revelation.

So, you ask, why can’t I just ignore the national church, the House of Bishops and our Presiding Bishop? Why not just mind our own business? Because the controversies of the national church and the General Conventions have come to San Antonio in a big way. They directly affect the lives of such people as Steve Vrana and everyone who loved Steve. Because the deepest longing of every newcomer who visits is for the God of the Bible. Has Christ Church been diverted from its purpose and mission? I think it’s just the opposite; I believe we have been exceedingly faithful to our calling. I know there are some who would have us do nothing, but anyone who comes on Sunday mornings and who is involved in our parish life knows that while the vestry, clergy and I have made a strong stand for historic, biblical Anglicanism, we also have not skipped a beat in providing the worship, ministry, and care we are known for.

–The Rev. Chuck Collins is rector, Christ Church, San Antonio, Texas

Monday, December 11, 2006

Episcopal Dhimmitude

Dhimmi is an Islamic term which means 'protected.' It refers to the status of Jews and Christians in an Islamic state. They were permitted to live and keep their own faith, in return for payment of the jizya and adherence to various demeaning regulations.

Episcopal dhimmitude, particularly as revealed in the correspondence between Bps Jefferts Schori and Schofield, is an apt term, I think, to describe the relationship between 'orthodox' and the 'progressives.' Clearly, the 'progressives' as exemplified in Katherine Jefferts Schori, are in control of the institutional Episcopal Church.

Bishop Jefferts Schori reminded Schofield: "You have, however, taken vows three times over that period to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church."

In response, Bishop Schofield agreed, then added, "In 2003, the General Convention committed itself to a theological path that is irreconcilable with the Anglican faith this Church has received and has torn the fabric of the entire Communion."

It is the word 'doctrine' which is at issue. It can be easily shown that the Episcopal Church no longer consistently holds to catholic doctrine, therefore, in order to uphold it, one must move in a different direction from the national church.

All Bp Jefferts Schori can do is threaten because she is unable to argue from any orthodox doctrinal framework which she does not hold.

The result of this seems to be that it is okay for evangelicals and anglo-catholics, the only ones who seem committed to orthodox catholic doctrine, to do as they want, but they must not do anything to weaken the fortress at 815. People like Bishop Schofield, who find that to to uphold the doctrine, disciple and worship as the church has received it, they must move in a new direction, are now the subjects of threats, and verbal abuse from the rulers of 815.

Bible believing Episcopalians, of whatever variety, are treated like the dhimmi in Muslim ruled lands. They must pay the jiyza tax, be treated with contempt, and then are allowed to be part of dar al episcopus.

I don't think so.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chesterton once again...

"Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian"—Orthodoxy

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

From Orthodoxy - G. K. Chesterton

"But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert - himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason. Huxley preached a humility content to learn from Nature. But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. Thus we should be wrong if we had said hastily that there is no humility typical of our time. The truth is that there is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it is practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make hims stop working all altogether."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Gigantic Secret

I will never forget an editorial in NY Times years ago in which the author could think of few reasons why we should be joyful given world conditions of the time. After all, despite the promises offered at Christmas, there was no peace and further, no prospect for world peace. That was years ago in a different world situation. The great powers, and the great rulers come and go, yet the world seems in about the same condition. I’m sure there will be many editorials lamenting the absence of peace, despite the promise of King of Peace whose birth we celebrate this month.

However, what the editorial writer did not comprehend was another war that began with the fall of Adam and Eve, and which picked up steam with the coming of Jesus, and which continues to rage until the end of time. If you want a description of that war, try reading Revelation 6 for starters. It is the conflict between rebellious humanity which aims to displace God as ruler of the world. It underlies all other conflicts – which of course are horrendous and real in themselves, and which we pray and work to end (Blessed are the peacemakers…)

The difference between these 2 battles going on simultaneously is that there is a solution to one of them; that is also the solution to the other. That same book of Revelation, mentioned earlier, speaks of a lion that ‘was victorious.’ Yet that same lion is also described as a ‘lamb standing as though it had been slain.’ Salvation comes, not through military or political might, but through the sacrifice offered ‘once for all’ on the cross.

It is the victory through the ‘defeat’ of Jesus on the cross which is the answer to all other conflicts, because it has ended the primordial conflict between humanity and God which began in the Garden of Eden. That victory is what we as Christians remember each time we gather together, and especially so at Christmas. It is this good news which we offer to the world so that people might embrace and follow the Prince of Peace.

So, yes, there is tremendous conflict going on in the world; and there is the war that has been won by the lion who triumphed who also is the lamb that was slain. This is the gigantic secret revealed to all humanity and for this precious gift of our God, we rejoice and sing his praises now and throughout all eternity.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

From Bishop John David Schofield to Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori
The Episcopal
Church Center
815 Second Ave.
New York, NY 10017

Dear Bishop Schori:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and only Savior Jesus Christ.

I am in receipt of your letter to me and wish to make clear from the outset that I have always remained faithful to my vows as an ordained bishop in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. At my consecration, I vowed to "guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church of God." I was charged by my chief consecrator to "Feed the flock of Christ committed to [my] charge, guard and defend them in his truth, and be a faithful steward of his holy Word and Sacraments." I carry out my vow by defending and propagating "the historic Faith and Order" which The Episcopal Church commits to upholding in the preamble of its own Constitution.

In 2003, the General Convention committed itself to a theological path that is irreconcilable with the Anglican faith this Church has received and has torn the fabric of the entire Communion. The Primates repeated calls for repentance have not been heeded. More than half of the Primates and Provinces of the Anglican Communion have declared themselves to be in impaired or broken communion with The Episcopal Church. Beyond our Anglican Communion, relations throughout Christendom have been profoundly strained. With obvious reference to innovations and novelties introduced by The Episcopal Church, last week Pope Benedict XVI publically stated to Archbishop Rowan Williams that recent developments, "especially concerning ordained ministry and certain moral teachings," have affected not only the internal relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church.

The Episcopal Church, as an institution, is walking a path of apostasy and those faithful to God's Word are forced to make painful choices.

At a diocesan level, the choice is between continuing membership in an unrepentant, apostate institution or following Holy Scripture and the Anglican faith. Whether or not the Diocese of San Joaquin will continue its institutional membership in The Episcopal Church is a choice that will be made by the people and the clergy and not by me. They will express their collective will as provided in the diocesan governing documents which were approved by the General Convention when the diocese was first admitted to membership.

It is important to point out that the vote at the Diocesan Convention in December 2006 is neither final nor irrevocable. Should the Constitutional amendments being proposed pass the "first reading," then the diocese will simply have positioned itself to make a final decision at a second consecutive Annual Convention in 2007 if that proves God's call.

Under our diocesan constitution, the second and final reading is automatically scheduled for October 2007. The setting of the exact date may be advanced or delayed by the bishop. There are some significant factors that would influence such a decision.

First, at the meeting with the leading Primates of the Global South in Virginia, November 15-17 this year, the Global South Primates Steering Committee encouraged us by supporting our faithful stand and commitment to Christ, and they expressed a desire to be of help to us to relieve our untenable position. They have promised assistance, the form of which they will bring to the entire Primates meeting scheduled for Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in February 2007. In the meantime, in keeping with the goals of the Windsor Report and positioning ourselves to accept the Primates' help, we are responding to the Primates who called upon us to remain flexible until the details are worked out.

An additional consideration was your letter to me. I believe you have shown wisdom and restraint by not issuing an ultimatum. Instead, you have invited further discussion which could possibly lead to some degree of reconciliation. In recognition of what you have proposed, I, too, will exercise restraint by not advancing the date of what could be an historic and final act. However, should proceedings be instituted against me as threatened in your letter, I would not feel obliged to exercise restraint. My prayer is that neither of us takes action which upsets the delicate balance which now exists until the Primates have given us direction at their February 2007 meeting. Until then, powerful forces will be at work that will ultimately shape the future.

I pray that God's will be revealed to us all.

You may be assured of my prayers for the Holy Spirit's wisdom and guidance.

In Christ,

The Rt. Rev. John-David M. Schofield, SSC
Bishop of
San Joaquin

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Holiday Bowl - Here We Come!

- that is the OT prophet, not John the Baptist's father, who lived in the early 6th century BC after the return of the exiles to Jerusalem. I'm going to offer some thoughts on this book which I hope to preach on this Advent. (Better figure this out pretty quick since Advent is upon us.)

Zechariah 1:2 in the ESV is this:
2 "The Lord was very angry with your fathers.

The Hebrew is 5 words, and two of them are the word angry. Thus, it could be rendered "Angry was the Lord with your forefathers with anger." (New Bible Commentary).

The Lord was angry with Zechariah's forefathers, but why is he angry with Zechariah's contemporaries?

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 27, 2006

We outscored em!

A&M 12 tu 7

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Who is going to win? I'm not speaking about A&M and tu either. It is the showdown between Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori and Bishop John-David Schofield of the diocese of San Joaquin. Bp. Katherine is not going to tolerate Bp Schofield's faithfulness to the Bible and his desire to see his diocese in line with its teaching and the teaching of the catholic church.

No, by george. He must bow down to corporate episcopalianism, or he must be banished.

I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I wouldn't want to bet against John-David.
Deer Bishup Shorey,

I see from the news that you have sed that Episcopaliums are smarter than us catholics because you don’t have so many babies as we do. I guess that must be true. I have never thought of it like that before. Gee you are smart! Do you not have more babies becuz you don’t like babies or becuz you believe abortion is okay so you kill them before they are born or is it just becuz many of your peepul are homosexuals and they can’t have babies? Or maybe the numbers of Episcopaliums are dropping off becauze they are fed up and voting with there feet.

Anyway, thanks for putting me straight on that!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

From Bishop John-David Schofield...

The Spiritual Crisis In The Episcopal Church. Much has been said and written about the controversy over the revisionist teachings of TEC. The truth is that TEC (1) denies the unique divinity of Jesus Christ and (2) takes a position on human sexuality which undercuts marriage and is destructive to the family unit designed by God and revealed in Scripture. These are not positions and teachings which are merely "revisionist" or "liberal." These are positions of those who have abandoned the Christian faith.

Jesus says in the Bible that "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ( John 14:6) This is a cornerstone of the Christian faith and Anglican worship. It is what we believe in the Diocese of San Joaquin. It is our mission, and that of the Church, to bring all people into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

TEC at GC 2006 refused to pass a resolution endorsing John 14:6. By extension, TEC questions the validity and authority of Holy Scripture. According to the leadership of TEC, Jesus simply represents one of many ways of coming to a relationship with the Father. According to the leadership of TEC, the mission of the Church is "social justice" and "world peace" and not the Great Commission as set forth in Matthew 28.

TEC's unrepentant adherence to these heresies has wrought havoc within the American Church and throughout the world-wide Communion. At least 22 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion have declared impaired or broken communion with TEC. Vast numbers of faithful Anglicans have left and continue to leave TEC on a daily basis. Major parishes across the country have left and continue to leave in record numbers. (We are not immune in this Diocese having lost one parish already.) The statistics are staggering and clearly demonstrate that TEC is disintegrating. This is not surprising given that TEC has chosen to walk apart from the Christian faith.

Does This Spiritual Crisis Really Affect Us? You already know the answer to this question: it's "YES". Heresy is insidious by nature and, over time, the victim becomes desensitized to its effects. There are four recognizable stages from prolonged exposure. Initially, there is condemnation of the heresy; then it is tolerated; then it is accepted; and, finally, it is practiced. TEC is currently preaching and practicing heresy and the majority of TEC's leadership will not repent as evidenced by, among other things, TEC's refusal to comply with the Windsor Report.
Continuing in communion with TEC poses a clear and present danger to the spiritual health of the Diocese and its parishioners. TEC's continued membership in the Anglican Communion is tenuous and excommunication or isolation is a reality which, in turn, threatens the Diocese's place in the Anglican Communion. We must remember, we are Anglicans first and Episcopalians second.

What Does Scripture Tell Us To Do? When faced with unrepentant and public false teaching, Scripture is very, very clear. Christians are called to withdraw from Eucharistic fellowship. There are many biblical references directly on point, among them: "If anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine, you must not receive him in your house or even give him a greeting. To greet him would make you a partner in his wicked work."(I1 John, 10-1 1. Also Mt. 8: 17, I Cor. 5:11-13, Gal. 1:8, 2 Thes. 3:6, Rev. 2:20; BCP, p. 409.)


Monday, November 13, 2006

Simul Justus et peccator - at once righteous and a sinner.

We have Luther to thank for this expression!

Since the believer is justified by grace through faith, and not works, and since justification is not a infusion of righteousness that makes a sinner righteous 'in and of himself,' the sinner is both righteous in God's sight because of Christ and a sinner measured according to his own merits.
(Thanks to Richard A Muller - Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, p 283.)

So close, yet so far...A&M 27, Nebraska 28

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

So, what's Pelagius got to do with me?

Pelagianism: The theology stemming from the thought of Pelagius, which emphasizes human ability and free will rather than depravity and sinfulness. In the view of mostd Pelagians, it is possible to live without sin. The effect of Adam's sin upon his descendants was simply that of a bad example. From Millard Erickson, Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology, p126

Semi-Pelagianism: Rather than Adam simply providing a bad example, this position sees humanity as inheriting a certain weakness of volition from Adam. Although divine grace is indespensible for salvation, it does not necessarily need to precede a free human choice, because, despite the weakness of human choice, the will is able to take the initiative toward God.

Ephesians 2:1-3, however, says And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked...

Pelagianism and semi-pelagianism lead to moralism which comes in a variety of flavors, conservative and biblical; or liberal and secular. Moralism precedes on the assumption that the will is able to meet whatever is commanded, whether these commands spring from the Bible or from the post-modern culture.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Something more is wanted than merely to din into men's ears what they ought to be, and what they ought to do. Something is wanted more effectually to renovate the heart and move the springs of action. The water is nought, and if you make it flow it is bitter. You want an ingredient to be cast into it that will heal its poison springs, and make them sweet and clear."

What a wonderful and apt quotation from C.H. Spurgeon, posted on Pyromaiacs.

Moralism leads to immorality! We see that in spades in the Episcopal Church where we have more rules than ever before guiding the behavior of clergy, but absent the gospel, we have more immorality as well!
We won the half-time once again! But, we were outscored by OU Boomer Sooners, 16-17 in what appears to have been a defensive struggle, once we survived the 1st quarter OU blitz.

Looks like the Aggies are one season away from being on the same level as TU, but so far so good!
The Ags have lots of talent. They need a little more seasoning!

Friday, November 03, 2006

A&M vs OU at Kyle

Gig-em Aggies. Big, big game against OU. Alas, here in Alaska, ABC will be airing UCLA vs California! Who care about the left coast anyway. One more hardship living in AK.
A great read about our next Presiding bishop.

"Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. That is not to say that Muslim's or Sikhs or Jains come to God in a radically different way. They come to God through human experience -- through human experience of the divine. Christians talk about that in terms of Jesus."
(Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, in an interview with Robin Young on "Here and Now", October 18, 2006)

Gary L'Hommedieu, canon for Pastoral Care at Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando, Florida give an insightful view of our soon to be 'invested' PB.

Gary says, "As the interview demonstrates, the ascending Primate of the Episcopal Church is a politician of rare polish. By comparison her predecessors are a dim bulb (in the case of Edmond Browning) and a clownish dancing bear (in the case of Frank Griswold). Schori is probably the only member of the HOB with gravitas and (in a word) star power." (The interview can be heard here.)

"Soft-spoken, articulate, urbane, she hits all the buttons that excite the liberal mainstream of the new Episcopal religion: she validates the righteous-rebellion ethos of the Baby Boomer generation that only minutes ago was reported to be on life support."

Gary goes on to show that what Jefferts-Schori is offering is a new gospel. When she says gospel and grace, she doesn't mean what the Bible or even the 39 Articles of Religion (has she read them?) say, for instance in Article 11 Justification, "that we are accounted righteous before GOd solely on account of the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through faith and not on account of our own good works."

No, "We are saved rather through our own experience, through craning our necks toward the Divine, and being "graciously" drawn in by Him/Her/It, AS IF BY NATURE. Here "salvation" (which, on account of its "terrorizing" associations ought only to be placed in quotes) is not really "necessary", but certainly it "helps"."

Grace helps, but it is not necessary.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Gerald Bray is worth listening to. In this article he covers a number of topics, including the truth of the Bible, and the situation facing the Anglican Church.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Happy Birthday Brother John!

Sorry, card is almost IN the mail.
From Peter Jones:

"The beautifully sculptured wall, 18 feet high and 300 feet long, in a majestic park in the center of Geneva, Switzerland, constitutes an impressive monument to the Swiss Reformation of the 16th century. Last week, on an afternoon off from my lectures at the Geneva Bible Institute, I went with a few of the French and Swiss pastors who were attending the conference, to visit Le Mur des Réformateurs. At the centre of the wall are four impressive statues of Farel, Calvin, Beza and Knox. Behind them in letters six feet tall is the motto of the Franco-Swiss Reformation: "Post Tenebras Lux" (After Darkness, Light), referring to the coming of the Gospel and the revival of true faith after centuries of medieval obscurity. Certainly, that old Geneva was not heaven on earth, but it still stands as a moving example of the revival of biblical faith and piety in both private and public life.

There is a new darkness over Geneva, though long in preparation.

Two hundred years after Calvin, the Swiss Romantic anti-Christian philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778), said correctly of the Genevan pastors of his day: "We neither know what they believe or what they do not believe. We do not even know what they pretend to believe." He was referring to the disarray of sound doctrine already in the 18th century. In the twenty-first century a new, twofold expression of spiritual obscurity hovers over the church and the culture. On the one hand, the historic church, with its commitment to liberal theology, has lost its evangelical light and has adopted the message of religious syncretism. Two years ago the Dalai Lama gave an address at the Saint Peter's Cathedral where Calvin had preached for most of his ministry. On the other hand, the forces of paganism have taken over the culture. Having rejected its Christian past, the country is engaged in a radical overhaul of its basic beliefs, typified by the head of state, an openly-practicing homosexual, who appears at state functions with his lover.

One of the pastors attending my lectures witnessed a symbolic event that took place in front of the wall of the Reformers. Thousands of gays and lesbians danced in front of the wall in provocative states of dress and undress, giving an obvious finger of "deformation" to Geneva's spiritual past.

Two things remain with me:

1. Neo-paganism is a common problem wherever I go. Pagan spirituality is on the rise, remaking modern culture, in the name, of freedom and democracy, but really, in the power and inspiration of anti-Christian paganism, of which the gay parade is a fascinating symbol.

2. We are told that we are going forward to a new, global utopia of sexual and spiritual liberation. Of gay parades, Christian de la Huerta of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, states: "the wild mix of 'go-go boys,' topless lesbians and endless other sexual variations, all throbbing to tribal drumbeats" actually constitutes not a sin but "a gift, a blessing... a privilege...and a sacred service....Queer people often function as catalysts, acting as agents of change,...supporting the advancement of society."

Oddly enough, such thinking about social "progress" is taking us backwards! We are "Coming Home," as the title of a recent pagan book—affirms, home to the ancient pagan world of anything-goes-sexuality and monistic spirituality. Rewind the tape.

St. Augustine, in the fifth century AD, in the last gasps of the decadent Roman Empire, mentions parades "in the presence of an immense throng of spectators and listeners of both sexes" of obscene actors who role-played disgusting acts, joined by the public display of homosexual priests, galloi, priests of the Goddess, known for their cross-dressing, outrageous make-up, flamboyant hairstyles, ritual ecstatic dancing, and the gift of prophecy.

For radical feminists the future belongs to the worship of this same deity, as they await the "Second Coming of the Goddess." "It may be," they say, "that Sophia is about to be discerned in much the same way as she was in first century Alexandria: as a beacon to Christians, Jews, Gnostics and Pagans alike."

If there is nothing really new, and things will occur "in much the same way," then great is the likelihood that the future world system will not differ much from the polytheistic, animistic empires of old. The conflict is still between biblical theism and pagan monism. As we approach Reformation Day, October 31, 2006, it is good to remember that a courageous announcing of the original lux of the Gospel, that light that dissipated the tenebras of ancient Rome and 16th century Geneva, is surely the only answer to the growing pagan darkness of our time."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Resolution In Support Bishop Mark MacDonald and the Camp Allen Statement
(The following is a resolution offered by Jim Basinger, David Terwilliger and Bob Young at the Diocese of Alaska Convention at Wasilla, AK Oct 5-7, 2006. The Resolutions Committee dropped the 'whereas clauses' and the resolved clause was amended on the floor so as to evacuate it of any meaning. The resolution, gutted and morphed was passed.

1. Whereas Bishop Mark MacDonald joined with other bishops in The Episcopal Church (TEC) at the Episcopal Diocese of Texas’ Camp Allen Conference and Retreat Center to work for the unity, integrity and vitality of TEC and the Anglican Communion, and

2. Whereas the gathered bishops issued a statement on September 22 in which they affirmed their faith in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life – the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures, set forth in the catholic Creeds, and to which the historic Anglican formularies bear witness, and

3. Whereas it was their clear sense that General Convention 2006 did not adequately respond to the request made of The Episcopal Church by the Communion through the Windsor Report and the Primates at Dromantine – requests which included moratoria regarding church discipline and order, and

4 Whereas Bishop Mark and those bishops gathered at Camp Allen expressed their regret, on behalf of themselves for those actions with which the Windsor Report was concerned, and

5. Whereas they accepted and affirmed the Windsor Report as necessary for the healing of the breaches in the Communion and for ecumenical relationships and endorsed the development of an Anglican Covenant, and

6. Whereas they affirmed the teaching of the Anglican Communion, as expressed in successive Lambeth Conferences, including the resolutions of Lambeth 1998 (among which is Resolution 1.10), and

7. Whereas they recognize the need of some for alternative primatial relationships, and as it is their hope and prayer that their fellowship can contribute to our Province’s life within the Communion,

Therefore, be it resolved that this 2006 Diocesan Convention express and record its support for our bishop and the Camp Allen Statement which endorsed the Windsor Report recommendations, expressed adherence to the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as the teaching of the Anglican Communion, so that unity and truth prevail in the Anglican Communion.


Whereas' 1-7 were eliminated and the Resolved clause was changed to:

Therefore, be it resolved
that the 2006 Convention of the Diocese of Alaska expresses and records its support for our bishop in his continuing efforts to bring about reconciliation in TEC as exampled by the Camp Allen Meeting, so that unity may prevail within TEC and the Anglican Communion.
Forgive and forget? We certainly know that God forgives all our sins through the death of Christ. However, is it correct to say that God also 'forgets' our sins as well? If he forgets our sins, does that not imply a denial of his omniscience?

Further, we know how hard it is for us to forget offenses committed against and by us, even if forgiveness is extended and or received.

We can understand the difficulty of forgiving an unfaithful spouse after they have confessed their sin to the offended party.

I remember this question being raised by Bishop Festo Kivangere of Uganda who wrote a little book, I Love Idi Amin, even after Amin attempted to murder Festo. I think Festo would say that God's forgiveness is so exhaustive that not a remainder of our sin remains, not even in his memory bank. Why? Because the cross of Christ removed all sin from us, and also removed God's just anger from us as well. He can now look on us 'just as if I never sinned,' because of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. 'Love so amazing so divine...'

Further, the Bible supports the adage that God not only forives but forgets as well:

Isaiah 44:22; Psalm 103:12; Micah 7:19; Isaiah 38:17; and Jeremiah 31:34 all use images which can only be understood as God forgiving us, and forgetting our sins as well.

Monday, October 23, 2006

We won! A&M 34, Oklahoma State, 33

Friday, October 20, 2006

Following is the resolution as presented at the 2006 Diocese of Alaska Convention:

Therefore, be it resolved that this 2006 Diocesan Convention express and record its support for our bishop and the Camp Allen Statement which endorsed the Windsor Report recommendations, expressed adherence to the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as the teaching of the Anglican Communion, so that unity and truth prevail in the Anglican Communion.

 This is the revision which, by the way,
did pass, but not by much:

Therefore, be it resolved that the 2006 Convention of the Diocese of Alaska expresses and records its support for our bishop in his continuing efforts to bring about reconciliation in TEC as exampled by the Camp Allen Meeting, so that unity may prevail within TEC and the Anglican Communion.

Oh yes, 'Gig' em' Aggies. Big game against Okie State in Stillwater.
The Diocese of Alaska had a convention a few weeks ago. Our church, All Saints, Anchorage AK offered three resolutions. A fourth was added by several clergy, including yours truly. While the first three were soundly defeated, the fourth was accepted...after it was changed to say something quite different than what the authors intended. In this fourth, we supported our bishop, Mark MacDonald in his efforts to bring unity and truth to bear on TEC (The Episcopal Church) by signing the Camp Allen Statement.

All this from a diocese which a year ago supported Windsor and a diocese whose bishop has never wavered on Windsor, and showed considerable courage in signing the Camp Allen Statement.

Anyway, this was the third straight convention in which the issues arising from the approval of Bishop Robinson were discussed and voted on.

I think people have simply become so hardened in their positions, that further 'dialogue' is really futile. Either we believe the moral teaching of the Bible or we don't.

You've heard of born again Christians? (Is there any other kind?). I'm a back again believer, having already attempted a blog and gave up trying. But I'm back again.