This is from 'Band Wagon'. The dance is great, the movie, not so.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
I just finished reading the convention program for the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. I grew up in North Carolina and attended two churches there as a child (St. John's, Charlotte and St. Francis, Greensboro). My parents were very active laymen until they retired and moved to my mother's hometown in South Carolina. I have a connection with North Carolina.
I noticed several things. First, the diocese now has three bishops. This is two more than they needed when I was growing up there. Second, diocesan contributions from parishes are now mandatory. Third, plate and pledge income is up. Fourth, North Carolina is now apparently a “mission oriented diocese”.
What really struck me was what I did not see: Any discussion of the systemic decline in membership and average Sunday attendance (ASA) for the diocese and the national church. North Carolina's ASA is down around 7% for the past five years.
The official church line is that numbers do not matter. The only growth that truly matters is individual growth. And that is true, so far as it goes. But if what you are doing is worthwhile, then you will wish to share it, to get others to participate in your activity, be it bridge tournaments, baseball games, helping children or feeding the hungry. That is human nature. And if what you are doing is meaningful, then others will want to join in. That is also human nature.
The resistance to discussing the elephant in the room stems, I think, from the recognition that the Episcopal Church no longer has any meaning. We are a church of familiar faces, whose only remaining function is to be a circle of mutual admiration and self-love. We make all the right noises about serving others, about doing good. But in the end notice how little of the church's work at the diocesan or national level is about volunteers helping others and how much of it consists of paying someone to do something.
In the past the Episcopal Church was seen, rightly or wrongly, as being all about sin and guilt. The 1928 BCP is replete with phrases such as “have mercy upon us, miserable offenders”. The Episcopal Church has backed away from that in the past thirty or so years. The word from our clergy is that sin is largely irrelevant. That God loves us regardless. That we have nothing to feel guilty about, and nothing to worry about. We're good, right?
It's true that God loves us unconditionally. But it is not true that we love God in the same manner. We separate ourselves from God on a regular, almost minute by minute basis. And if we do not repent, that separation will continue and even grow. A church that does not believe in sin will also not believe in repentance and will thus offer no counsel on how to get closer to God.
As its members have withdrawn from God, so has the Episcopal Church. It no longer repents of current actions of intolerance, or bigotry or injustice, but instead repents of actions that none of its current members had any part in. Such repentance reaps its own reward in acclaim in the press, but accomplishes nothing.
The Episcopal Church seems to exist to make its members feel good about themselves. It no longer seems willing to help us be better than we were before. If I have a blister on my foot, telling me that I'm a nice guy really isn't helpful. Pricking the blister with a needle and then applying a bandage is what is needed. So too with sin.
“We don't evangelize”, I've often heard said. In the past we didn't need to yell from the street corners, because everyone knew what the church stood for: Well mannered and well meaning Christianity. Now we do yell from street corners and it doesn't help, because everyone knows what we stand for: A certain radical political progressivism coupled with a worship of the United Nations as well as certain totalitarian regimes. And no one needs to go to church to participate in those causes.
The main sin of the Episcopal Church is not lust, homosexual or heterosexual. It is pride. It is our stubborn refusal to admit that there is anything wrong. And there is something wrong. Our leadership says that there is something worthwhile about being an Episcopalian. And some of our members are buying the company line. But no one else is. That is the elephant in the room. As long as we refuse to admit our sin, we can not and will not do anything about it.
We have become a church without sin. We are also a church without God. And we are rapidly becoming a church without members. And our leadership does not or will not see a connection between those three statements.
We are a proud church, and no matter what happens that condition is not likely to continue. Either, as a church, we repent and humble ourselves before an almighty God, or we won't be a church and so will no longer be proud.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Mostly it's just fun watching an AP reporter make a horse's ass of himself and get called on it.
I heartily concur with the rash of recent posters on the subject of militarization of the police. My hope is that if the level of concern gets raised and broadened, there will be a backlash against it on the ground level.
Bishop Duncan was not inhibited, but it appears as though the Presiding Bishop is moving ahead to have him deposed. The time line stated in her letter to him makes it clear that the Fall meeting of the House of Bishops will be the critical one.
The problem is that the sole arbiter of the fairness of any proceeding before the House of Bishops is the House of Bishops. There won't be a lot of due process here.
My take on it is that Bishop Duncan will be deposed in the Fall, if he is still around. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that the Diocese of Pittsburgh will have withdrawn from the Episcopal Church by then.
I think that is what the Presiding Bishop is counting on. Things run much more smoothly in a trial if the accused is not present. Internally, I think this is what she sees.
As far as the greater Anglican Communion, I doubt she will win any friends by what she is doing. She may very well alienate some, who under other circumstances, would be her supporters. I doubt that concerns her much.
While the church documents may charge Bishop Duncan with abandonment of the communion of the church, this whole debacle shows that the Presiding Bishop has abandoned the Anglican Communion.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I will make a meat cake this year. It's a clear moral imperative. The only questions that remain are when, for whom and how many.
Suggested by Rachael Storm (link to the right)
Which ones are you? I know I have tendencies towards at least three of them.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
I understand what he is trying to say. I agree it would be nifty if we all lived by the Golden Rule. But we don't. And I can't help but think that what he means by God's law is not what I mean by God's law. One thinks immediately of Prohibition and blue laws when Baptist preachers start talking about God's law. I'm all for faith informed voting decisions, but being able to buy liquor at a liquor store has more to do with palliating congregations than following Scripture. And if you think you can legislate people into loving God and loving their neighbour, then your brain is broke.
Monday, January 14, 2008
76% Mike Huckabee
72% Mitt Romney
69% Rudy Giuliani
66% Fred Thompson
60% Ron Paul
57% Bill Richardson
56% Tom Tancredo
52% Chris Dodd
49% Barack Obama
49% Hillary Clinton
47% John Edwards
43% Joe Biden
43% Mike Gravel
35% Dennis Kucinich
2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz
This quiz is just wrong, by the way. There is no way on God's green earth I'm ever voting for John McCain or Mike Huckabee. One of these days I'll take a quiz and it will give me a velid result. That will be the day I clean my keyboard.
The Atlanta store was crowded. It was a beautiful day and late Saturday afternoon the store is jammed full of people. Add to that the layout of the store is like one long check out line. There was no point at which I didn't feel as though we were not standing in line. There is an approved path that winds its way through every department, just so you don't miss the glories of unassembled Swedish flat pack furniture. There are alleged short cuts, but it is impossible to walk in a straight line in the shop.
The store was crowded, noisy and smelled of fibreboard glue. The decorative style was reminiscent of Romper Room. I couldn't help but compare the store to Wal-Mart and Target. Wal-Mart also excels at dislocation, with their stores being laid out with circuitous paths. But it is a lot easier to navigate Wal-Mart once you know where the item you desire is located. There are also occasions where you can actually walk in a straight line to the area you wish to visit.
Target, by comparison, is a joy to visit. Items are located intuitively and there are broad clean aisles that make it simple to navigate your way whilst shopping. Target's selection of cheap furniture is smaller than Ikea's. But if I ever need a throwaway bookshelf, I'm going to Target. I know I can leave once I've found my item. Assuming Target has it, the prices are comparable.
Let's see. So far Sweden has brought us match monopolies, dynamite, clunky cars, cream based cuisine, meatballs, ABBA, Roxette and Ikea.
Is there no bottom to how low those evil Vikings will go?
Mr. Westbrooke is not alone. It can be very hard to keep an open mind and to evaluate evidence fairly.
Addendum: I've been thinking about this since I posted it. One further point: Us moderns don't like to think we're prejudiced. But we are. If you have an emotional reaction to facts that contradict something you believe (Ron Paul is the best candidate, Bush was a draft dodger, Britney Spears is a good mother), it may be time to take a step back, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself why the reaction?
For me, the biggest part of being an adult is acknowledging and taking responsibility for errors. We do not like to admit that we make mistakes. But we all do, on a regular basis. Show me someone who doesn't make mistakes and I'll show you someone who is delusional. Admitting that you are in error is the first step to correcting the error and then to getting back in touch with reality.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
I was a poor student until my senior year of high school. I tested into a bunch of AP classes and was not bored senseless for the first time in twelve years. I made straight A's that year. *On a side note my sister started high school the following year and spent three years hearing how wonderful a student I had been. The teachers conveniently forgot my less than stellar other two years. Sorry sis.*
So when I arrived at college, I was feeling pretty good about myself, standing in my very first registration line. I struck up a conversation with the fellow standing in front of me. And within five minutes I knew I wasn't going to be 'Mr Hot Stuff' at college. Steve was and is one of smartest guys I've ever met. And to add insult to injury, he's a really nice, decent fellow.
This all came home to me when I had breakfast with a friend of mine. When we met, we were both starting out as attorneys. Now he is a newly minted curate and I'm still an attorney, still working in the same dull field I started in.
And I'm content. Because when I first met my friend, some twenty years ago, I immediately thought he ought to be a priest. And I've known since I was eighteen that I have no call to be one. Being number two, or three, or fifteen, or what have you, has taught me the value of humility. I still have prideful moments. I still would love to shine in some way. But I do shine when I allow myself to see it. As my wife puts it, I am her favourite husband. And that means a great deal.
Most importantly, God knows me. He knows me and He still loves me. So, I'm a winner after all and always.
If you do not understand the importance of freedom of expression, then let me know. I will be happy to enlighten you.