Friday, October 26, 2012

A newcomer's guide to the Anglican Church

“We profess the holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West; more particularly, as professed by the Church of England.”Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, England (d. 1711)

What is Anglicanism? 
Anglicans are Christians who belong to the Church of England or its daughter churches throughout the world that maintain a fellowship in what is called the Anglican Communion. Christianity came to Britain in the first or second century, probably brought there by merchants. Legend says that the gospel was brought there by St. Joseph of Arimathea. When Pope St. Gregory the Great sent a monk named Augustine to England in 597 to establish a Roman mission at Canterbury, he found there was already a British church with its own bishops and customs.

The two church traditions existed side-by-side until the Synod of Whitby, presided over by the abbess Hilda in 663. For the sake of Christian unity, it was decided that Roman customs would be followed in England and that the realm would come under the jurisdiction of the pope. That relationship continued in England through most of Anglican church history.

As church structure was increasingly centralized in Rome around the turn of the first millennium, some argued that the pope had no formal authority in England. In 1208, a confrontation arose between King John and Pope Innocent III over rights in the church which led to England being placed under interdict and King John being excommunicated for five years.

Good relations were interrupted again in the 1530s, when King Henry VIII, desiring to obtain an annulment of his marriage, renounced the jurisdiction of the pope or any other foreign bishop in the English realm. Communion was restored briefly in 1553. Unfortunately, relations were severed again in 1570 with the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I by Pope Pius V. The Church of England became an independent body at that point and would continue to follow its own laws and customs thereafter.

The Anglican church in the American colonies became a separate ecclesial body along with the birth of the United States. Anglicans used the name “Episcopalian” almost exclusively after the Revolutionary War. However, they noted that this new Episcopal Church “is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or further than local circumstances allow” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 11) .

The word “episcopal” comes from the Greek word episcope (“overseer”) that the New Testament uses for the office of a bishop who oversees a local church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia (“assembly”) that the New Testament uses for God’s people gathered into an assembled congregation. So the term “episcopal church” means a church overseen by bishops, according to the New Testament model.

“Episcopal” was first used to distinguish Anglicans in Scotland from those in the established (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland—governed by presbyters (“elders”). There are seven provinces of the Anglican Communion in which Anglicans are commonly referred to as “Episcopalians.”

Are you Catholic or Protestant? 
One of the blessings we have through historical accident is the way our church has embraced the best features of both Catholicism and Protestantism. The goal of the Church of England was to maintain continuity with its past, but also to be a truly reformed Catholic Church.

Some of the things we gained from our Reformation heritage are: common worship in the vernacular (the language of the people), the primacy of Scripture, an emphasis on personal Bible study and evangelism, a stress on salvation by God’s grace, and the discipline of a married clergy.

Some of the things we retained from our Catholic heritage are: apostolic orders of ministry (bishops, priests, and deacons), the monastic life (monks and nuns), ancient liturgical forms in our worship, the seven biblical sacraments of the Church, and a reverence for sacred Tradition and the early Church Fathers.

What do Anglicans believe?
As disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, Anglicans share with other Christians the historic biblical faith of the undivided Church of the first millennium. We believe the doctrines taught in the Bible. You will also find our statements of belief in the Creeds, the writings of the early Church Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and in the language of our prayers.

In short, we believe in one true God, eternally existing in a Trinity of Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Is 44:6; Jn 1:1,14; 15:26). As members of the Universal (or “catholic”) Church established by our Lord Jesus Christ, Anglicans accept the apostolic Tradition (both oral and written in holy Scripture) to be authoritative in disclosing the fullness of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ (2 Thes 2:15; 2 Tim 3:16-17) which is expressed in the Creeds.

Since the disobedience of our first parents, human beings have been sinners from birth (Ps 51:5; Rom 5:12: Eph 2:1-3). This wounding of humanity is what we call original sin. Jesus Christ is the only Son of God—fully human and fully divine—who was born of a pure and holy Virgin, died on the cross for the sins of mankind, rose from the dead on the third day, and will return to the earth in glory (Jn 1:1-14; Mt 1:18-25; Heb 4:14-16; 1 Cor 15:3-4; Jn 14:1-4).

Salvation is a free gift, merited by Christ, bestowed by God’s grace in the sacrament of holy Baptism, and received by faith animated with love (Eph 2:4-10; Titus 3:4-8; Jas 2:14-26). Holy Baptism gives us a share in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ by incorporating us into his mystical Body (Rom 6:1-4).

The Catholic Church is the bride of Christ (Eph 5:31-33) and the mystical Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-31). The local Church, in a territory called a “diocese,” is governed by godly men called bishops, assisted by the priests and deacons (Titus 1:5ff).

In her sacramental worship, the Church offers herself in union with the perfect offering of Christ through the holy Sacrifice of the Altar, and in the Eucharist, receives divine life in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the forms of bread and wine (Rom 12:1; 1 Cor 11:26-29; Jn 6:51-58).

The purpose of the Church on earth is to glorify God by our worship, by our service, by loving our neighbors, and by fulfilling the last command of Jesus to make disciples (Mt 28:18-20) until he returns to earth in glory.

What binds Anglicans together? 
With the spread of the British colonies, Anglicanism evolved into a world-wide communion of churches. We are joined by a common heritage and a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, the Book of Common Prayer in its various editions is used for worship.

Among other “instruments of unity” are the Archbishop of Canterbury (the spiritual head of the college of bishops) and his Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops every ten years. The primates of the communion (chief provincial bishops) meet on a more frequent basis. And ministries around the globe are coordinated through the Anglican Consultative Council.

What can I expect? 
If you have ever worshiped in a Lutheran or a Roman Catholic parish, a Sunday morning in an Anglican church will look very familiar. Our main service of worship on Sundays is the Holy Eucharist, also called the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Liturgy, or the Mass.

The words in our worship services are written in the Book of Common Prayer. It is our guide for liturgical worship. Liturgy comes from a Greek word meaning “a work for the people,” so you can expect to be involved in the worship service.

When you visit our parish you will be respected as our guest. As you enter the church, you will notice an atmosphere of quite and reverence. Many people kneel for a few moments of silent prayer to prepare their hearts for worship.

Generally, we stand to sing, sit to listen, and kneel to pray. Many people make the sign of the cross during the liturgy. Do not feel pressured to do anything you are not comfortable with. The first part of the service is centered around reading and preaching the Word of God. The second part is centered around the Altar.

Visitors who are baptized Christians, who repent of their sins and have faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament and who receive it in their own church may receive Holy Communion with us. Anyone is welcome to come forward to receive a blessing (you may cross your arms over your chest to indicate a blessing).

We hope you are blessed by worshiping with us. For more information about Anglicanism or to join, we invite you to speak to our priest.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Spoiler alert! Third-party candidate trivia

A "third party candidate" has never been elected President of the United States. Shifts to new majority parties (Democrats, Whigs, Republicans) are sometimes incorrectly reckoned as "third parties."

John Quincy Adams lost the popular vote and the electoral college vote, but was elected president in 1824 by the House of Representatives. In this election, four candidates from the same party obtained electoral college votes (between 37 and 99). This result solidified the two-party (and one nominee per party) system we have today.  This has served us well.

The most successful third party candidate for president was Teddy Roosevelt who came in second with 88 electors and 27.4% of the popular vote as the candidate of the new Progressive (or "Bull Moose") Party in 1912. The "Bull Moose" was basically Teddy and it's safe to say that he did so well because he had already been president. TR's candidacy paved the way for the Democrat challenger Woodrow Wilson to prevail. Wilson still would have won even if you combine the Progressive and Republican votes, but Roosevelt's challenge to his chosen successor made him incapable of maintaining any campaign momentum. The Republican incumbent William Howard Taft came in third. Interestingly, progressivism dominated both the Democrat and Republican parties at this time; TR mounted a new run because Taft wasn't progressive enough.

Roosevelt was initially a Progressive candidate in 1916 as well, but he became convinced that a third party run would simply throw the race to President Wilson (again). TR didn't want a vote for him to be a vote for Wilson, so he rejoined the Republicans and campaigned vigorously for Justice Charles Evans Hughes. Wilson came very close to loosing.

It all came down to California, where margin of 0.38% separated the two major candidates and a switch of merely 1,887 votes would have changed the outcome.There was a third party candidate named Allan Benson who got 42,883 votes, but as he was the Socialist candidate, he probably pulled most if not all his votes from Wilson (but as both Wilson and Hughes were progressives, it is difficult to know for sure how it would have affected the outcome).

Legend has it that Hughes went to bed on election night in 1916 thinking that he was the newly-elected president. When a reporter called him the next morning to get his reaction to Wilson's late comeback, the person who answered the phone told the reporter, "The president is asleep." The reporter retorted, "When he wakes up, tell him he isn't the president."

The last third party candidate to garner any electoral college votes was George Wallace who got 46 electoral votes in 1968. He did not realistically hope to garner the majority of electoral votes which is required to win the presidency, but his strategy was to keep Nixon and Humphrey from getting a majority of electors and thus throw the election to the House of Representatives (as in 1824).

There, the voting goes by block (one vote per state, with divided states ending up with a blank ballot). Since de/segregation was an issue of the day and he was the only pro-segregation candidate, Wallace hoped to get the southern states to vote as a block and thus beat out the other states which would be split between Nixon and Humphrey or end up casting blank ballots. The electoral college was nearly abolished after this election.

Third party candidates have a more viable role as spoilers, lending truth to the old admonition that "a vote for A. is really a vote for B."

In 1980, John Anderson obtained 6.6% of the popular vote. Although his total added to Carter's 41% would not have been enough for Carter to prevail, Anderson was polling much higher before the election and his candidacy created a "two against one" dynamic for the incumbent. In the summer, it was nearly a 3-way split. Even though he was a Republican, it was generally viewed that Anderson pulled more votes away from Carter than from Reagan. Interestingly, the first debate was not between Reagan and Carter, but Reagan and Anderson. Even though the final tally did not make the difference, Anderson may have pulled momentum away from the incumbent president earlier in the race.

A far more direct impact was made by Ross Perot as a spoiler to George Bush in 1992. Perot actually led the two main candidates in the polls in June. Although Perot drew support from both Democrats and Republicans, his candidacy was widely beleived to hurt Bush more than Clinton (usually, third party candidates are more advantageous for the incumbent by dividing the opposition). In the final election, Perot obtained 18.9% of the popular vote. If only half of Perot's votes had gone to Bush, that would have given him an edge over Clinton (47% to 43%). It is difficult to determine how this would have affected the electoral college, but it certainly seems possible (if not likely) than Vermont, California, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania would have gone the other way, giving Bush 286 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Although he did not become president, there is little doubt that Ross Perot likely changed the outcome of the 1992 election.

In 1996, Perot ran again, but was not as successful and did not change the outcome. Even if all of Perot's 8% were added to Dole's 41% it would merely have equaled Clinton's 49%. But it is worth noting that Perot's candidacy probably ensured that Clinton only received a minority of the popular vote again.

Ralph Nader got only 3% of the popular vote in 2000, but when the major candidates were only 0.5% apart, it was more than enough to make a difference. And in Florida (the state whose electors determined the final outcome in the electoral college) the race was much tighter. Out of nearly 6 million votes cast, George W. Bush prevailed with only 537 votes in the final outcome. Ralph Nader got 97,488 votes in Florida, and it's very hard to imagine that any of those would have gone for Bush over Gore. Would other conservative candidates have evened it out? If the votes that were cast for the Libertarian, Constitution, Natural Law, and Reform Party candidate (Pat Buchanan in 2000) were added up, they would fall nearly 60,000 votes short of the consumer-protecting candidate of the Green Party.

Given that the outcome of the 2000 election lay in the balance and that the attack on America in September of 2001 and two following wars were just around the corner, it is certain that third party candidate Ralph Nader would never have been elected president, but he certainly changed history.

The presidential election of 2012 could be a very close race. Will a spoiler determine the outcome?

The urban and rural divide

The map above represents the county-by-county results of the 2000 presidential election. I post it because the 2000 results were the closest of recent time (with Bush winning the electoral college by only one vote over the required majority and Gore winning the popular vote by 0.5%). And yet with the results about as even as possible, the map looks overwhelmingly red.

Although there are obvious anomalies, the map illustrates the historic urban/rural divide that has characterized American national elections throughout the 20th Century and beyond. Basically, with the concentration of population in cities where liberal strongholds developed, a geographical divide with the largely conservative small towns occurred. This was perhaps best exemplified by divergent attitudes to the Volstead Act.


"Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52).
In honor of the reappearance of the Holy Father donning the papal fanon on Sunday, here are some images of the garment being worn by his predecessors. It is a white shoulder cape with thin gold and red stripes worn by the pope at solemn Mass.

The fanon was last seen on John Paul II who wore it once in 1980. That chasuble ain't half bad either. I'm not aware that Papa Luciani ever wore the fanon, but then the "September Pope" didn't have time to do very much during his pontificate.

Pope Paul VI looks very dignified wearing pinstripes on the throne of St. Peter.

Pope John XXIII kneels for prayer in St. Peter's Basilica while wearing the fanon.

Pope Pius XII takes in the moment while wearing the papal fanon (which might have been his coronation).

What is the significance of seeing it again? Although it is interesting as a matter of historical curiosity, the real significance is as a visible sign with continuity with the past. It is especially fitting in this "Year of Faith" and 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council as it highlights Pope Benedict XVI's emphasis on a "hermeneutic of continuity" in interpreting the council as a continuity of tradition rather than a break with tradition.

On a personal level, there is also a tender feeling in pulling out an old garment with its own history and wearing it during divine service. There is something comforting in knowing that "Father so-and-so wore this back in the day." It gives you a feeling of connection with the faithful who have gone before and with that faith they believed, taught, and defended.

The fanon worn by the pope on Sunday was probably new since popes are buried in the garment (though I don't think John Paul II was). But the feeling is the same--joining with those who have gone before us in a shared life of faith.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Jesus' wife

“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . .’ [and that’s where the page is torn].” So reads one line of a business card sized scrap of papyrus unveiled on September 18th at a conference in Rome by Harvard Professor Karen King. She claims this is new evidence that some early Christians may have believed Jesus had a wife, whom King has speculated was probably Mary Magdalene.

(By the way, if that sounds familiar, it was a central plot point in Dan Brown’s novel, and then movie, The Davinci Code in which a massive cover-up has concealed a royal bloodline of Jesus through his child with Mary Magdalene. This is not really a new idea. It is common for European secret societies to invent a grandiose heritage for themselves.)

Within hours, news agencies around the world advertised the announcement with headlines like “Ancient Papyrus Could Be Evidence that Jesus Had a Wife.” This week, several experts in Coptic (the language on the papyrus) insisted that the scrap of papyrus in question was a forgery. And there was a whole new set of headlines.

What has not appeared in the press (at least not yet) is the startling “new” evidence revealed by an Anglican vicar to a shocked rural Texas congregation which proves not just that some early Christian’s believed Jesus had a wife, but that in fact Jesus was married.

Let's look at Luke's gospel, chapter 5. This passage came up in the Daily Office readings this past Wednesday. The situations here is that some complainers came up to Jesus and asked why his disciples were eating and drinking in all festive delight while at the same time John the Baptist’s disciples and Pharisees were fasting according to pious Jewish custom.

Listen to what Jesus says to them in verses 34-35: “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

Did you catch what Jesus is saying here? His disciples are wedding guests—at his wedding! He’s the groom! And in fact, I’ll give you another shocking detail. The New Testament actually gives us the name of the bride, and many old churches actually house pictures of her.

If you walk into the large Abbey Church of St. George in Regensburg, Germany, you will find the whole interior covered in beautiful frescoes. And if you go to the center of the church and look up into the dome, you will see a huge painting of a crowned woman holding a processional cross and seated on a throne. Her name, the name of Jesus’ wife, is Ekklesia (a Greek name that means “assembly” or “church”).

In our first reading today from Genesis (2:18-24), we read about how God invented marriage. But God didn’t just invent marriage, God is married. In fact, the human institution is a shadow of a heavenly reality as St. Paul describes it--a sacred mystery.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is betrothed to his people. Through the Prophet Isaiah, God told the people of Jerusalem, “As a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God marry you” (Isaiah 62:5).

That’s why the Old Testament prophets call idolaters adulterers. That’s why God is jealous of the relationship he has with his people. That’s why the Song of Songs overflows with vivid erotic poetry (don’t tell the kids). That’s why Hebrews 13:4 says “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, for God will judge the adulterer and fornicator.” That’s why God cares about chastity.

That’s why Jesus tells us in the gospel today (Mark 10:2-9) that divorce is not an option. That’s why St Paul describes Jesus as our bridegroom and his Church as his bride. That’s why in the book of Revelation, the joy of heaven is compared with the joy of a great wedding banquet.

That’s why the intimacy of marriage is the best comparison we have to intimacy with God, as we find in the writings of many saints and mystics. That’s why we cannot reinvent or redefine marriage. It’s not ours to do with as we please. God created man and woman for each other in the beginning.

In Genesis we read that “the two shall become one flesh.” That’s why Jesus gives us his flesh to eat and blood to drink at the altar. Genesis explains that in marriage, a man leaves his family and clings to his wife so that "the two shall become one flesh.” Marriage is not created so much by vows or promises or covenants or rings or even love. Marriage is created by the union of the body. “The two shall become one flesh.” To be our husband, to make us his bride, Jesus gave us his body.

Why did he consider the cross to be a noble sacrifice? Why does God care so much about human marriage? It is because he is entirely, deliberately, eternally, passionately, and hopelessly in love with you. His is a love that overcomes fear, a love that embraces the good of another, a love that involves suffering, a love that doesn’t count the cost, a love totally naked before another, a love that is the total gift of self.

To make us his bride, Christ gave us his Body--his flesh to mingle with ours, his blood to mingle with ours. "And the two shall become one flesh." All of baptized believers are married to Christ. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one try to tear apart.

St. John wrote in his Revelation (19:7-9), “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

"Is divorce lawful?"

Mark 10:2-9 
Pharisees came up and in order to test [Jesus] asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away." But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."

In today’s gospel, the Pharisees came to test Jesus with a very difficult question. Divorce was epidemic in those days; it had become a serious problem. It had come to the point that many divorces had no grounds at all. So they came asking Jesus to take a stand on a hot-button issue. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” they said.

Now there were two different rabbinical schools of thought about the legitimate grounds for divorce, so they were probably asking him to take sides or setting him up for criticism. The Hillel school basically argued for no-fault divorce--that most anything could be deemed just grounds (this view became dominant in Jewish thought). In contrast, the Shammai school argued that divorce was only acceptable in the case of very serious transgressions. We should also note that in Judaism (even today) a man divorces a woman; a woman cannot divorce a man.

Jesus basically tells them they ought to know the answer. What did Moses say? Write out a certificate of divorce. Notice that every time that they came to Jesus asking about something in the Torah, he always did two things: he made the application more strict than it had become and he directed them back to God’s purpose in the first place. You might think that after awhile they would have stopped asking.

Jesus does the same thing here. Our Lord explained that Moses allowed you to divorce because he knew that your hearts were hard and cruel, but that’s not how God planned it in the beginning. God made the man and woman for each other; that’s why they come together as husband and wife. So what God has joined together, let no man tear apart.

In the next few verses following our reading, back at the house in private, the disciples ask Jesus to clarify the matter. Did he really mean to be so strict? And Jesus basically tells them that remarriage is adulterous. In the parallel text in Matthew they are despondent, saying, "Maybe it’s better not to marry." But that’s not what Jesus was trying to say either.

Jesus is calling us back to God’s will from the very beginning. We have a tendency to turn the exception into the rule. We did it in Jesus’ day and we have done it in our own day. And God wants us to look beyond the exceptions to the ideal—to the way it was supposed to be in the beginning which means, before sin came along and messed it up.

Jesus wants a godly harvest in our homes. Why is God so protective of marriage and the family? For two main reasons: first, Paul tells us marriage is a great mystery (sacramentum in Latin) of the union between Christ and his bride, the church. God is betrothed to his people. That’s why idolatry is like adultery. That’s why in the book of Revelation, heaven is pictured as a great wedding banquet—with the bride (the church) ready to meet her bridegroom (Christ).

Second, God is protective of the family because we are adopted into God’s family. When we are baptized, we are joined to Christ, and so we can call God Father. In Hebrews we heard how Jesus took human nature to make us part of God’s family. God warns us to flee from anything that would endanger the family. We care about our own families, wouldn’t God be protective of his?