Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hope for the Future: What the Primates' Decisions Mean for the Communion

Okay...wow. Praise God; I'd been praying that whole week that God would not let our Communion split. I sincerely believed that the Archbishop of Canterbury would do nothing about the Episcopal Church (and the Anglican Church in Canada; more on that, later),  leaving the conservative Primates to simply walk out on the Communion. That would mean about 80% of the Communion, the ACNA included, would leave.

Instead, we had the Primates vote to "not sanction" but face "consequences" (read: "sanction") the Episcopal Church for its formal endorsement of gay marriage.

For those who do not know, the Episcopal Church has been in a downward spiral, spiritually, for the past three or four decades. It first began with the ordination of women into the priesthood (or...did it begin with the allowance of contraception? Yes, I just went there.), and continued with the ordination of women to the bishopric, then with the allowance of an actively gay man into the bishopric in 2003 (an alcoholic who eventually had to resign, and also "divorced" his "husband", the one he was living with for seventeen years after divorcing his wife in 1986...but yeah, he fit St. Paul's requrements to become a bishop; sure. Oh! And he's totes legit wildly conservative!!!!) and the promotion of gay "marriage" in the Church, then finally had the marriage rite changed last year (2015) to include gay couples.

So this downward spiral has been pointed out repeatedly throughout the years, with little consequential action done. It has caused many divisions within the Communion, most notably the formation of the ACNA. It's also caused an international alliance of conservative Anglicans, known as GAFCON, to push for more conservative reforms and discipline against those who've pushed for fundamental changes within the doctrines of the Church.

On the week of January 11th, 2016, the Primates of the Anglican Communion gathered together in Canterbury for a meeting on what to do to maintain unity within the Church. Somewhat surprisingly, my Archbishop Foley Beach was invited to the gathering as well by Archbishop Justin Welby. Why is that surprising? Because we split from the Episcopal Church, and are not considered "fully Anglican" by the Archbishop of Canterbury, although 80% of the Communion recognizes us as fully Anglican. Initially, my Archbishop was only going to be observing the talks, with no ability to vote for any decisions to be made. We'll get to that part soon enough.

Our church parish had been praying for the gathering ever since it was first announced last year. Many of us were concerned that the Primates gathering would be unable to come to a solution, which would cause many of the conservatives to simply leave the Communion. Thankfully, that did not happen; far from it. Instead, the Communion decided, by a 3/4's majority, that the Episcopal Church needed to "have consequences" (read: "be sanctioned") for its actions in unilaterally changing the understanding of marriage. For the next three years, the Episcopal Church is not allowed to represent the Anglican Communion in any official capacity, nor is it allowed to vote in matters of doctrine or polity. Archbishop Foley Beach was not only invited to the talks, but was given full allowance to vote on the issues at hand!

You should see this interview with Archbishop Foley Beach:





You should also see this (much longer) press conference with Archbishop Justin Welby and some other Primates:




This has been nothing but an amazing sign of God's Hand on our Communion; people don't know this, but the Anglican Communion is the third largest group of Christians in the world. We are also strongly conservative, despite the image that the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and a few other groups have presented us as. There are some minor (and I want to stress, minor) problems with some of the decisions made, but I don't want to focus on those at all right now. This gathering demonstrated that the conservatives are still the majority in the Communion, that Archbishop Welby is not going to make the same mistakes as his predecessor, and that there is a real possibility for the ACNA to take the place of the Episcopal Church, if TEC does not repent of its sins (all signs indicate that it will not).

Who knows? We'll find out more within three years. For now, let's praise God for keeping our Communion together.












Friday, January 15, 2016

Why I Lost My Relationship with Christ

Alright, it's time I came clean. I've been living a duplicitous life for a long time. I kept acting like I loved Jesus and was following His commands, but in reality I wasn't.

So, I've decided to no longer live a life of lies; I'm giving up my relationship with Jesus.

This revelation might disappoint some of you, while others might be happy about it. Hopefully, you all can appreciate and still love me after making this decision...


...oh, wait: you think I'm saying I'm no longer a Christian?! Well, how silly of you: of COURSE I'm a Christian still! I'm just getting rid of my former BAD relationship with Christ; that's all I was saying! Of course, EVERYONE has a relationship with God, whether it's a good or a bad one. Mine was bad. Like, I was periodically falling into the sins of lust  and procrastination; because of that, my relationship with Jesus was bad, so I had to get rid of it and start having a GOOD relationship with Jesus. That's all I'm saying, guys!


Last night I went to a college group that meets once a week at a church near where I live. It's a non-denominational group; the people there are good-hearted and many of them genuinely love God. I'm a cranky Anglo-Catholic, so part of my reason for going to it (as well as other church places, periodically) is to remind myself that people can genuinely worship God with low-church (read: rock n' roll Jesus concert) worship services. I may disagree with the form of worship, but I don't think it's necessarily unbiblical.

However, when I got there last night I walked to one of the seats and remained standing for the song (I was a bit late). The song was one I'd never heard before, so I couldn't sing the words to it very well. Thankfully, like any good modern worship service, there was a screen with the words to the song on it. When we got to the chorus, I read these words:

"I'm laying down all my religion
I'm laying down
I want to know you, Lord
I'm laying down all my religion
I'm laying down
I want to know you, Lord
I want to know you, Lord"



When I saw those lyrics, I had to leave the service. Part of it was anger, because (besides the fact that rejection of the Christian religion is both incredibly stupid and wrong) one of my pet peeves is the whole "spiritual but not religious" foolishness. I was going to have to talk to people about that song if I remained there, so rather than remain and cause contention during and immediately after a worship service, I decided to quietly and peacefully remove myself from the situation.

Yay for self-control! ^_^ .

 Now, for people who sing this song or songs like it, I'm sure many of you don't really mean, "I'm laying down my belief in God, the Deity of Christ, Jesus' death paying for my sins, the physical Resurrection of Jesus, our future physical Resurrection, the Church as the Bride of Christ, the authority of Scripture, belief that abortion is murder, understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman for life, etc.", when you say "I'm laying down my religion".

But guess what? When we tell people that we're "spiritual but not religious", or "laying down my religion", there's a really good chance that that's what they think we mean.

This is one of the many problems with my generation (myself included): we think that because we use a word in a certain way, everyone understands exactly what we mean by it. Perhaps it's a problem for every generation, but it seems much more pronounced today among my peers (once again, myself included).


United Pursuit performs the song "Simple Gospel", the one that I have a major problem with. I'm sure they mean well, but good intentions don't mean anything when your words lead people to reject Christ's teachings in favor of a do-nothing feel-goodism. Songs like this can lead people to a false faith that collapses the moment tribulation comes, leading them to hate God Himself.
(photo obtained from http://www.worshiptogether.com/worship-leaders/united-pursuit/ )

Words are important; when we use words like "religion" to talk about, well, "only bad, man-made, divisive religion", we run a terrible risk of coming across as meaning, "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you have a good feeling when you sing songs about Jesus." to young Christians or to those interested in possibly becoming Christian.

It is especially bad if we simply make it a song and refuse to elaborate what we mean in the lyrics.

I'm sorry, but when we let go of Christian religion, "Simple Gospel" can very easily be confused with "watered-down gospel".

"Simple Faith" can turn into, "dumbed down blind and feel-good faith".

A watered-down "gospel" has no power.

A dumbed down poor excuse for "faith" that only works when things go well is worse than useless: it creates angry former Christians who've been let down by the lies a dumbed down blind faith promises. I know many people who fit that story, as I'm sure you do. Good Lord, I almost became that story a few years ago.

Our words are important.

Treat our words with the utmost care and respect.

Let's pick our worship songs carefully. Let's drop this one.





Monday, January 11, 2016

God is Not Your Boyfriend

I'm in my friend's house one Sunday afternoon, when I hear some cheering, followed by ecstatic giggling, coming from one of the rooms. The room belongs to my friend's roommate.

What? I wonder, then think it might be better not to know. However, curiosity gets the better of me, as it always does, and I decide to ask.

"Hey," I call out his name. "What the heck are you giggling like some little girl for?" (I'm blunt like that.)

"Oh, the Passion Conference is livestreaming right now, and I'm watching it."

"Oh, um...okay. Did you go to church this morning?" I knew the answer.

"No, but I'm watching the Passion Conference, so it's basically the same thing."

Seeing that he goes to a non-denominational church, one that I've been to, I could not disagree much with his logic.

For those of you so (un)fortunate (take your pick) to not know what the Passion Conference is, it's a conference (duh) that happens once a year in Atlanta, Georgia. Here's the promotional for this year's event, which happened just a few days ago:



Now, I've never been to Passion Conference, and I never plan on going to it. At all. Ever. I'm too old now, anyway.

I'm sure it's got good preaching; in fact, I know it's got some great preachers. Francis Chan is one of my favorite preachers, despite my disagreements with him on parts of theology, and he's preached at this conference.

While I've not been to the conference, I've seen enough clips from the sermons and music to get what it's about. I've also been to Passion City Church, which was...less than thrilling for me. Call me a cranky Anglo-Catholic, but I kinda got ticked when a bunch of teens and college students started "Christian mosh-pitting" in front of the stage for the Sunday night church service; that's what I called it, anyway. It's sort of like a mosh pit, without the actual moshing. It's like when people want to go crazy at a party, but not REALLY, so they kinda just waddle around.

Anyways, I'm getting off-point.

My reason for writing this article is not so much to critique Passion Conference itself, although I might do that for a variety of reasons, but to point out the problem that that friend's roommate has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate, along with a great many others in cultural Christianity: the infatuating of the love we are to have towards God.

I am NOT saying that our love for God should be without emotion; far from it. I've cried at services, both contemporary and liturgical. Nor am I saying that the people I am talking about are somehow not Christians. NOR am I saying that modern musical instruments or even modern genres of music are bad. I am saying that there is a real problem in how we, as Christians in the United States, often find ourselves whittling down the Faith to a feeling. A strong feeling, perhaps, but one with no substance.

I don't say this as a person who was never caught up in that mentality. I went through my own "relationship not a religion" "Jesus is my homeboy" stage not five years ago. I went to one of the big mega-churches in my town, and got caught up in the whole emotional-manipulation scheme, which is all it really was. For the moment it "feels right"...but it doesn't ever actually lead to repentance and a deeper faith.

Taken from http://terryivy.com/ 

That being said, this is what I have to say:

Stop it.

God is not your girlfriend.

God is the creator of the universe.

You should not have a feeling towards God that is pretty much the same feeling you had when you went to your Hannah Montana concert in 5th grade.

You should not ignore the intellectual part of Christianity, because you've confused the Holy Spirit with emotional manipulation.

You should not confuse an emotional high with spirituality.

Stop getting high on an entertainment atmosphere, thinking you're somehow closer to Jesus because of it. 

Jesus Christ had something to say about such things...

The hyper-emotionalism of modern American Christianity has no roots. It creates Matthew 13:20 Christians, nothing more.

God doesn't deserve infatuation.

God doesn't deserve a one-night stand.

God deserves your devotion in its entirety, not just in momentary emotional highs, but in your intellect and spirit and body as well. And if you're a pragmatist who "doesn't have time for that theological mumbo-jumbo", I have news for you: theology is INCREDIBLY practical, and affects your beliefs far more than you realize.

You don't have to be a theologian contemplating the mysteries of the Divine in ways that would make St. Thomas Aquinas' (for my Reformed friends, insert "John Calvin"; for my "Jesus Hippie Movement" friends, put...I don't know, John Piper or Joel Osteen or whoever) head spin.

But you do have to be a theologian.

Just as you would chastise me--and rightly!--if I were to say we should worship without emotion, you should consider yourself a theologian and worship God in THAT respect as well.

I will close this article with a very good quote I recently came across; it's attributed to Warren and David Wiersbe:



"When ministry becomes performance, then sanctuary becomes a theater, the congregation becomes an audience, worship becomes entertainment, and man's applause and approval become the measure of success. But when ministry is for the glory of God, His presence moves into the sanctuary."