Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent I at Holy Cross, Dallas

Today I was the supply priest at the Church of the Holy Cross in Dallas. The Rector, Fr Will Brown was visiting family in Virginia for Thanksgiving weekend. His church blog is here. It was good to be with the people there, who were delightful (as was the liturgy). I like the church, which though it was built in an economical 1960s style, is very monastic in its layout and has great acoustics for singing.

The Ring

I finally found a picture of the ring! Archbishop Michael Ramsey visited Pope Paul VI in Rome in 1966 and was received in the Sistine chapel, the first Archbishop of Canterbury in modern times formally to visit the Vatican. The evening before leaving for London, the Pope took off his own episcopal ring, presented to him by the people of Milan, and gave it to Ramsey, who wore it until the day he died. The ring is now kept at Lambeth Palace and is still worn when Archbishops visit the Vatican.

Above, Pope Paul shows Archbishop Ramsey around St Peter's Square. Below, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, reflects on his own 2006 visit with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

From the Common Declaration of Arhbishop Runcie and Pope John Paul II in 1989:
"We also urge our clergy and faithful not to neglect or undervalue that certain yet imperfect communion we already share. This communion already shared is grounded in faith in God our Father, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, our common baptism into Christ, our sharing of the Holy Scriptures, of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds; the Chalcedonian definition and the teaching of the Fathers; our common Christian inheritance for many centuries. This communion should be cherished and guarded as we seek to grow into the fuller communion Christ wills. Even in the years of our separation we have been able to recognize gifts of the Spirit in each other. The ecumenical journey is not only about the removal of obstacles but also about the sharing of gifts."

From the Common Declaration of Archbishop Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI:
"Mindful of our forty years of dialogue, and of the witness of the holy men and women common to our traditions, including Mary the Theotókos, Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict, Gregory the Great, and Augustine of Canterbury, we pledge ourselves to more fervent prayer and a more dedicated endeavour to welcome and live by that truth into which the Spirit of the Lord wishes to lead his disciples (cf. Jn 16:13). Confident of the apostolic hope “that he who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion”(cf. Phil 1:6), we believe that if we can together be God’s instruments in calling all Christians to a deeper obedience to our Lord, we will also draw closer to each other, finding in his will the fullness of unity and common life to which he invites us."

Thursday, November 27, 2008


"Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made."

"We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory."

The Very Rev'd Rick Lobs (above), Sometime Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St Luke in Orlando gave a wonderful sermon last night at the Thanksgiving Mass at St Vincent's. He also performed two baptisms (both of friends or family, I believe).

I have been reflecting this week on what a wonderful year it has been and how thankful to God I am for his many blessings. My wife and I keep saying to each other, "It sure has been a great year!" And so it has.

God has blessed me with the best wife in the whole world. I often reflect on how lucky I am that our paths happened to cross. If events had not unfolded just as they did, we never would have met. I cannot help but see the hand of God in it all.

My ministry has been a blessing to me as well as the clergy and people of our diocese, especially our wonderful bishop. It has been very saddening that some individuals have left our church this November. I miss them, and I wish they did not feel they have to shun our doors on Sunday mornings. However, the door is always open to them to return and they will always be welcomed home. But if they cannot worship with us, I wish them well as they build a new parish family. Many wondered what St Alban's might be like that Sunday after realignment. Far from our numbers being down, our attendance rose by 60 people. Way to go, St Alban's!

Family has been a great blessing to me. The best was getting to add a little one to our home. I love my daughter Madeline; she is the best thing to ever happen to me.

We have also been blessed by two courses offered at our church, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course and Mark Gungor's Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage course.

Lastly, we have been so blessed to live where we live--to have a nice, safe home; to have all our needs met; and to live in a country that is free and prosperous. For these and all God's many blessings, my heart is truly thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wisdom from Fr Tony Clavier

One of the more formidable problems such a church will face is a continued obsession with the church they have left. I call it the Lot’s Wife Syndrome. If the preoccupation of this group remains what it perceives to be the ills within TEC, if bitterness and the wounds of divorce remain active in the body, inevitably it will dwindle and be consumed in its own rancor.

If however it sets its sights on evangelism, on living into its Anglican heritage in a positive way, if it in public admits its own faults and failings in charity and compassion, walks the extra mile and seeks to cooperate with those it has left where conscience permits, it may become a body raised up by God.

Read the whole thing here.

Fr Kirk's "The way we live now"

Fr Geoffrey Kirk offers this penetrating analysis of the American Anglican scene from across the pond:

It is strange that Americans, with the glaring example of the Civil War in their own history, were not more circumspect about the consequences of democratic self-determination. Its ultimate result is secession. For who is to determine (except arbitrarily) at what level or in what forum finality resides? Is it the Union, or the States? Is it the National Church or the dioceses or the parishes? And since a democratic vote is merely the aggregation of individual consciences, what place does the individual have in this economy?

In recent times The Episcopal Church has placed a high value on individual autonomy, allowing, for example, the continuance in office of plainly heretical bishops from Pike to Spong. More recently the case of Dr Ann Redding has highlighted this issue. Redding claimed to be 'following Jesus' into Islam. Now her bishop, Geralyn Wolf, is disciplining her for 'abandonment of communion' (the very accusation against those who have left TEC for the Southern Cone).

I have to say that I have a great deal of sympathy for Redding. Her only offence is to fail to take the creeds literally. 'We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of Jesus and the pattern of life he offers, describe him as the 'only begotten son of God'. That's how wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal.' If this is an offence, then it is a very Episcopalian offence. And Bishop Wolf is being inexcusably picky.

In short, it is a strange Church which can tolerate Jack Spong, eject Ann Redding and depose Bob Duncan - in the same breath and for the same reasons. It is a very strange and wholly inconsistent Church which will not extend its tolerance of individuals to dioceses or parishes; and which acknowledges the plenary self-determination of its General Convention, but will not allow the secession of its constituent diocesan Conventions.

What is happening in The Episcopal Church is the gradual unfolding of the implications of Provincial Autonomy. What is remarkable is that no one seems to have noticed the fact. And can it happen here?

Click here to read his entire essay.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Contending for the Faith

I took time out from my vacation to go to the 26th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, held last Friday and Saturday at St Vincent's Cathedral in Bedford. Here are some pictures I took, along with some of my favorite excerpts from the bishop's convention address.

This past year has been a tense and at times contentious period in the life of our diocese. Every one of our congregations has engaged the controversies that are before us, some more than others. Most of our churches have hosted forums and conducted study groups on why we are doing what we are doing. Differences of opinion remain in our church family, but we cannot avoid the decision that is before us. Some can no longer remain within the structures of The Episcopal Church, and others cannot bring themselves to leave TEC, even though they may disagree with the direction it is headed. Some have encouraged us to stay and fight as the faithful remnant in TEC, to work for reform from within. I can only reply by quoting the saying that “the definition of insanity is to keep on doing the same thing, expecting different results.” The time has come to choose a new path and direction, to secure a spiritual future for our children and our grand-children.

Today we shall make the decision in the only way we can – by the constitutional, legislative process of this Diocesan Convention, which is the only body that can speak with authority on behalf of all the congregations of this Diocese. No Vestry can override or disregard what is decided here today. Once the vote is cast, we have decided what we will do as a Diocese. If some must separate from the Diocese as a result, then so be it. But let the parting of the ways be as between friends in Christ, without rancor or ill will, without trying to punish or force one another to do what we cannot do.

I have chosen “Contending for the Faith” as the theme of this year’s Convention, for it speaks to the heart of the matter that is before us. It comes from the Epistle of Jude, a letter written to warn the faithful against false teachers who had made their way into the church of the first century. Though we are not told much about the content of their teaching, we are told that they were immoral and covetous men, who rejected authority and created divisions in the Church of God. St. Jude urges his readers to “contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (verse 3) and to stand firm against false teaching and immorality. And so we shall at this Convention, for the controversies that surround us have to do with standing for the truth of the Gospel.

I am certain that in the months ahead, leaders of TEC will move to depose not only me, but every deacon and priest here present who votes for realignment at this Convention. Sad to say, some of you here in this Convention hall will cooperate with and facilitate those plans. It is my belief that such a course of action is not only unreasonable and uncharitable, but violates our ecclesiological understanding of what the Anglican Communion claims to be. If we are a worldwide Communion of Provinces who share a common faith, practice and ministry, then it does not make sense to depose clergy who move from one Province to another. No one is abandoning the Communion of the Church by realigning with another Province. The far better way to proceed would be for TEC to accept the fact that a realignment has occurred, to recognize the transfer of this Diocese to another Province of the Anglican Communion, and to wish us well in the name of the Lord. There is something deeply disturbing about a Church that would prefer to litigate and depose rather than to negotiate a peaceful, amicable separation among brothers and sisters in Christ who can no longer walk together. I call upon the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and her colleagues to halt the litigation, to stop the depositions, and to cease the intimidation of traditional believers. Instead, let us pursue a mediated settlement, a negotiated agreement that provides for a fair and equitable solution for all parties, and let us resist taking punitive actions against our opponents. Christians are called to work out our differences with one another, not sue one another in secular courts.

I call upon those who dissent from the decision we make today as a Diocese to remain as faithful worshipping members in your local congregation. If we could welcome diversity and still worship with those who disagree with us before this Convention, then surely we can continue to do so after this Convention. Your church family will still be there for you tomorrow and next Sunday and the Sunday after that. I urge you to remain fully active in your church home, where you have been nurtured and fed, where you are still wanted and loved. I urge you to resist the appeals to go off and find alternative meeting places so that you might worship separately from the rest of your parish family in the weeks ahead. Regardless of the decision of this Convention, there is no reason why we cannot continue to worship together in the future just as we have in the past. Let us strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace, in every congregation of this Diocese, where there is room for everyone.

You can read the whole speech here, or view it below.

It was such a blessing to have Bishop Godfrey of Peru with us at the convention, who brought greetings from his clergy and people.

As was shown in the convention video, the front lines of both mission and humanitarian work are their everyday concern.

David Weaver of St Alban's, Arlington gave the report of the Constitution and Canons Committee. It was a pleasure to see so many familiar faces from our parish, including our former rector, Fr Mark Cannaday.

There were also many young clergy and young families present. Thank you to everyone who gave my wife and daughter (pictured below) a warm welcome.

Wow, that's cold!

The record-breaking lows were among the latest feats of ultracold physics, the laboratory study of matter at temperatures so mind-bogglingly frigid that atoms and even light itself behave in highly unusual ways. Electrical resistance in some elements disappears below about minus 440°F, a phenomenon called superconductivity. At even lower temperatures, some liquefied gases become "superfluids" capable of oozing through walls solid enough to hold any other sort of liquid; they even seem to defy gravity as they creep up, over and out of their containers.

I've been fascinated by this article, "The Coldest Place in the Universe." You can read the whole thing here.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thanks be to God

My daughter, Madeline Grace Matkin was born on the 8th of November, 2008. At birth, she was 19.5 inches long and weighed 9 lbs, 1.5 oz. She has blond hair and blue eyes, and her parents are very happy.

For more pictures, go to her blog.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

All Saints' episcopal visitation

The sacrament of Confirmation (sometimes called chrismation) is vital to the perfecting and strengthening of the Christian walk and has always been historically connected with Baptism. While they continued to be administered together in the Byzantine East, Confirmation came to be delayed in the Latin West until the baptized had reached the age of reason and was ready to take on the duties of Christian living.

Confirmation is the sacramental strengthening of the baptismal vows and graces for adult life and service upon making a mature commitment to the Christian faith.

The seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit are poured out upon the baptized—the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, courage, piety, and the fear of the Lord. At times, other signs of Christian maturity may accompany the sacrament, as when St Paul once laid hands on some newly baptized believers, “the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6).

The power to administer confirmation belongs to the apostolic ministry, and now to the bishops as the successors to the apostles. In one case, when the deacon Philip had baptized some new believers and was not able to confirm them himself, they sent for the apostles, “Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17).

(Thanks to the Steve Altman for the pictures above.)