November 30, 2009

November 29, 2009

Heaven is an Acquired Taste

by the Reverend Scott Homer

In the name of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

I want to begin with a quote from St Bernard of Clairveaux because it gives us a good grounding in the meaning of Advent. He said,
"We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible while the other two are visible. In the first coming He was seen on earth, dwelling among men; … in the final coming "all flesh will see the salvation of our God and they will look upon Him whom they have pierced". The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In His first coming our Lord came in our flesh and our weakness; in this middle coming He comes in Spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and in majesty. Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last."

Welcome to the first Sunday of Advent. The old church year is over. The new church year has begun. Last week we celebrated the end of the story, Christ the King, triumphant and glorious reigning forever and forevermore. This week we begin at the beginning, a people living in darkness, awaiting the coming of the Savior. That is what the word “advent” means: the coming or arrival of something of great importance. And so the Christian season of Advent anticipates the anniversary of the coming of Christ into the world, but not just that. Advent looks forward to the Christ’s coming again in glory. But there is more. Advent also recognizes the third coming of the Lord—the coming of the lord into our lives, here and now, to do the work of restoring God’s people—restoring you and me—to our original glory—to the way God intended us to be. Did you know that we are not currently the way God intended us to be?

This morning we prayed, “Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and to put on the armor of light…” That is very nearly a direct quote from the 13th chapter of Romans. St. Paul has just gone through a very long laundry list of the ways that the Romans ought to submit to authority and the ways in which they ought to be displaying holiness and now he wants them to know that this is a matter of some urgency. He says, “The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Our Lord is coming! The time to prepare is now! The day of Christ’s triumphant return draws near! We will see him coming on the clouds soon! Prepare now! Jettison your bad behavior! Trust in the power of the Spirit and do right, right now! Do it now while you still have the chance. If we are not earnestly preparing for him now, we will not be ready for him when he arrives.

In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus is describing his second coming that will occur at some time in the future, and in the middle of that description he gives some advice. Jesus says, “34…Take heed…lest your hearts be weighed down in dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life and that day (of the second coming) come upon you suddenly like a snare…Watch at all times…” We have to be prepared for heaven. And St Paul says the same thing to the people in Thessalonica in verse 13. “Pray that God would establish your hearts unblamable in holiness…at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our hearts need to be established. We have to be prepared for heaven.

Sometimes I think we Christians are a little naïve. We act as if one day the Lord will wave a magic wand over us and somehow, suddenly and without any effort on our parts, we will be transformed into angelic, sinless beings whose only desire is to do the right thing and to live in heaven praising Christ eternally. We act as if we can behave any way we please, do whatever we like, and nevertheless on that fateful day when we are called home we will be ready and willing to enter heaven as full fledged citizens of Christ’s kingdom. But that is not the message that the Bible gives us. Paul is clear. Jesus is too. If we hope to live in heaven eternally we are going to have to learn to like heavenly things. We are going to have to become righteous, virtuous people if we expect to live like righteous virtuous people. We have work to do. We are saved by God’s unmerited grace. We are given the power to change through God’s free gift of grace but we are not required to change. We need to be willing to change. We have to be willing to cooperate with God’s redeeming work in our lives, willing to be transformed, willing to cast off the works of darkness and willing to put on the armor of light.

We have to actually want to be like Christ and be willing to prepare to meet him. The great C. S. Lewis quipped, "the joys of heaven are for most of us, in our present condition, an acquired taste." I think what he meant is that, for most of us, the prospect of being in a perfect, eternal paradise is a bit disconcerting. The prospect of being eternally surrounded by unconditional love, of being in a place where there is no semblance of darkness, no opportunity to be the least bit naughty, causes us to recoil a bit. Are we really ready to caste off all the works of darkness? Are we really excited about the idea of goodness, virtue, honesty and truth telling being not just one of the options but the only option? Are we ready to give up our right to choose the wrong thing? Will we be content with the cardinal virtues? Or will we find all this virtue, goodness, light and love to be uncomfortable?

If we are honest with ourselves, if we really look into the mirror and examine our motives, I think most of us would have to agree that we find comfort in the occasional sin; and we take delight in our secret transgressions; and we rather like having the option of being dishonest when it serves our purposes. We certainly are not jumping at the chance to love our enemies. In fact, day to day, we show little interest in mimicking heaven on earth and we depend upon vice—the works of darkness—in some rather habitual ways. Behind closed doors we engage in activities we would never want people to know about. We take joy in seeing the people we don’t like suffering.

We like getting what we want, even when it costs others. I was listening to a Christian businessman describe an employee who was dishonest, manipulative and aggressively self-serving—not a very pretty picture. A pretty nasty character in many ways and yet the man concluded that although this is was not a person he liked, and he certainly did not admire, and certainly could not trust, still she made him money…and so she was a valuable employee. She possessed the only truly essential character trait. She could produce wealth.

It seems that C. S. Lewis was right, the joys of heaven for most of us, are an acquired taste—and in addition, a taste that has not yet been acquired, at least in some respects. The very things that define heaven are simply too rich for our tastes. And so this Advent season, represents another opportunity to recommit to the process of sanctification—of volunteering ourselves to the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit—it is an opportunity to gain more sophisticated tastes—those that will serve us not just today but in the kingdom to come. In this period in between Christ’s first coming, and that last great day when he comes in power and glory, we walk the road towards heaven, a journey from darkness to light; and our job on that road is to acquire a taste for heavenly things.

I have a nephew. When he was a teenager, for about a year, he ate nothing but Goldfish crackers and hotdogs. He claimed that he didn’t like anything else. Needless to say, he was not exactly the picture of health. He went to a wedding reception with a huge banquet table, full of wonderful foods but he could not bring himself to try any of it. He just kept munching on his crackers. And in spite of what he said, the problem wasn’t so much about what tasted good. He wouldn’t try anything else! How would he know how anything else tasted? The real problem was his unwillingness to try anything different. He was unwilling to stop eating the crackers and the hotdogs and to try something new.

That is a pretty good picture of most of our spiritual lives. We have lived with the same behaviors and the same attitudes for years. We go about doing the same things week after week. Things around us change. Some people we know get involved in new ministries. Some people we know are getting involved in prayer groups. Some folks are asking us about helping with outreach ministries. The pastor is telling us we need to be involved in adult education and bible study…but that all seems a little too uncomfortable to us. We don’t like anything different in our lives. We are content with our Goldfish and hotdogs. Needless to say, many of us are not the picture of spiritual health.

The Christ is coming! He is coming to restore the world. He is coming to take us home to our Father’s House and in house we will find a great banquet table. It will be filled with good things, exotic things, all for our enjoyment. When Jesus comes to take us home we can go to the party insisting that we are content with the limited diet we have been surviving on, or we can begin to open our minds to the possibility that there is more for us, much more than we have been willing to embrace up until now. This Advent season, I invite you to take a risk. Commit to casting away some dark behavior that has been dogging you. Make a confession with your priest. Seek help if you need it. It may seem risky. It may seem deadly but it is in fact, new life. Take on some spiritual discipline. Read a book about the Christian life. Join a bible study even though you don’t know all the answers. (Why would anyone study the bible if they already knew the answers?) Volunteer. Give to a noble cause. Commit to a regular time of prayer. Whatever you do, whether it be casting off works of darkness or putting on the armor of light, do it with the full assurance that you are not acting alone and in your own strength. Do it with the knowledge that God is with you—that the Lord has come into your life—that it is he who has inspired you to broaden your horizons—that he will give you the strength to accomplish the work.

Jesus Christ is not just a historical oddity. This Advent we are not just engaging in some long standing tradition of remembering Jesus’ birth. And Jesus is not just the hope of the future. We are not just anticipating the Last and Great Day when Jesus returns to set us free. Jesus has come. God is with us—right here and right now. We can’t see him. Most of the time we can’t feel his present either. He is with us none the less. And he is leading us and guiding us into the banquet hall. He is inviting us to share in all the blessing of the spiritual life. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Amen.

November 27, 2009

Restoration: God's Desire for Our Lives

Sermon, Christ the King Sunday, 2009
The Reverend Scott T Homer

In the Name of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I want to talk about restoration work this morning because on this Christ the King Sunday we are reminded that God is in the process of restoring the world…and us…to it’s and our former glory. He is in the process of establishing Christ’s kingdom forever.

In 1985, I was driving through one of the old but really solid suburbs of Cleveland, a place called Lakewood, Ohio and I noticed a “for sale” sign on a lawn and I looked up to see the property and I saw what looked like a grand mansion towering over the surrounding neighborhood. It had never noticed it there before. I was so taken with the house that I pulled off to the side of the road and I just stared at it for a long time. It was gorgeous—stucco construction, 21/2 stories tall with large, long expanses of roof. It was huge. It had multiple chimneys, seventy plus windows, two wings. It was built in the country Tudor style—one of the prettiest homes I have ever seen. It was old and little had been done to maintain it. It was rundown and in need of repair. The realtors would have advertised it as a fixer upper or needing TLC—all those terms realtors use to try and persuade you that it isn’t as bad as it seems; but my mind was not overwhelmed by the problems. It raced with the possibilities. I started to dream about what it would look like with new paint, new landscaping, and a new roof. When it had been built it must have been the jewel of the town and although it had suffered much over the last sixty years it could be a jewel again. What this house needed was a new owner—someone who could appreciate its true worth—someone committed to the long, difficult task of restoring it to its former glory—someone with the substantial resources that would be necessary in order to accomplish the restoration. We ended buying that place. And for the next seven years we poured our lives out, and we poured our money into that glorious old house.

What we did at that house was “restore” it. The place had lost its original luster. It had fallen into disrepair. It had become a fixer-upper but we took that old place and we tore out all the old damaged plaster. We gutted the kitchens and baths and replaced them with all the modern conveniences. We installed updated electrical service, ran a new larger water main in from the street. We knocked out old walls and re-plastered rooms. Outside we put on a new roof. We installed stone walls and patios and fences. We planted shrubs and gardens. We repainted everything. And, when it was all said and done that old house was restored to all its former glory—maybe even a little bit more. That house was once again the jewel of the neighborhood and it was a joy to its owners—but I have to admit too that it was more costly than we had ever imagined, and in fact, if we had understood the cost I am not sure we would have ever undertaken the task.

I want to draw your attention to the opening collect—that prayer that we pray towards the front end of our service. It is called a collect because the purpose of the prayer is to gather us all together around a common theme—to collect use—in order that our prayer and worship time might be focused and unified. So lets look at the prayer focus for this morning—on this Christ the King Sunday. We addressed Almighty God as the One “whose will is to restore all things in His beloved Son,” Jesus Christ. Our common focus for our worship this morning is Almighty God’s desire and purpose to restore his entire creation in his Son Jesus. That is what we will be singing about. That is what we will be reading the Scriptures about. That is what I am preaching about: God’s desire is to restore all things—all the trees and all the rocks, all the oceans and all the stars, all the animals and all the peoples of the earth—everything restored—that is, everything that has lost its luster, everything that has fallen into disrepair, everything that has become a fixer-upper, God wants to bring back to its original glory. God’s desire and purpose is to see his entire creation back to the way it was intended to be before it fell into disrepair.

Now, our collect tells us that “the peoples of the earth are divided and enslaved by sin. And the collect has got that right. Sin is the cause of our disrepair. You see, God never intended for us to be sick. It was not God’s plan that we should cry from the pain of a broken heart. God didn’t want us to have to suffer disappointment, or to know the sting of rejection, or to be brought low by depression. God didn’t design us to hate one another, or to be envious of others. He didn’t design us to be self-centered. God didn’t create smog. He didn’t foul our water. God was opposed to those guys flying airplanes into the World Trade Center. He despises the wars we wage against one another. He hates the way we allow our brothers and sisters to waste away from famine and thirst. He didn’t create any of us to age or to die. Lots of people go through life blaming God for the messes we find ourselves in, but it’s not God’s fault—unless you want to blame God for allowing us to have free will. (But if you are unhappy with your freedom you will have to become content with being a slave) The truth is that the world, and everything in it has fallen, and all this evil has come to pass because, from the beginning, humanity has chosen to live apart from God (that’s what sin means). We operate independent of God’s will for us (that’s sin too), demanding our own way (yes that is also sin). Nevertheless, when God looks at us and at his creation he remembers his beloved, beautiful, flawless creation. He recalls the glory of his children before the fall when they walked unashamed before him. He remembers how perfect it all was and his mind races with the possibilities for restoring his people. It is God’s will that everything in the universe be restored to its former glory.

And at the personal level, we are like houses that have fallen into disrepair. I never used to notice, but as I get older more and more stuff is breaking down. In the old days, if I didn’t hear you it was because I wasn’t listening. Now I don’t hear you because I can’t hear. When I try to run I get winded easily. I’m taking a fist full of drugs every morning to maintain this and prevent that. I’m less idealistic than I used to be. I want to be idealistic. I just can’t overcome the years of hard knocks. I don’t experience the great joys that I knew when I was younger. Sickness grabs me and holds on to me much longer than it used to. I have become a fixer upper. We are all fixer uppers in God’s eyes. But this is not the way God intends us to be. This is not the way God designed us. He designed us to walk with him in paradise forever. When God looks down on his servant he remembers the plans he made for you. He remembers the beauty and the joy and the peace he wanted for you. I suppose God weeps when he sees what has happened to us. But his tears are not tears of despair. When God sees us and he sees the disrepair into which we have fallen He takes the steps required to restore us. And, the first step, the first thing that has to happen, just like it did with me and that house years ago, is that a purchase has to be made. God has to purchase us. We have to come to belong to him. If you don’t belong to Christ, don’t expect him to be doing any rehab work in your life.

God has made an offer for your life. He has offered to buy you back from your present owner—sin and death. Death has owned you since you first sinned but the Lord has paid the price to purchase your life back. He sent his well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for you. In Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, the price was paid for all your sins. In Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the Lord tendered an offer sufficient for buying back your life and making you his child once more and forever. But you are still bound. There is one more thing holding you.
God has made an offer for your life…but the offer must be accepted. A house doesn’t get sold without the permission of its present owner. You have to agree to sell. You have to be sold out for Jesus Christ in order for the offer to take effect. The deed to your life has to be turned over to Jesus Christ. What must I do to be saved? Confess Christ crucified and accept Him as your Lord and Savior. The day you commit—or recommit—your life to Christ is the day when the work of restoration begins. It is just a beginning but it is a work that can not fail because God has the vision to see the project through. It is just a beginning but it will be completed because God has the strength and the resources to see it done. There may be a lifetime of rehab work before us. There may be some demolition work—maybe some excavating into areas left buried for too long. There may be lots of difficult days ahead and you may not see or feel the progress for a long time but “the Lord is able and he will do it.” Do you remember that quote from 1 Thessalonians? If you belong to him, if you have given yourself to him, “The Lord is able and he will do it.” And we will, one fine day, find ourselves restored to the dream the Maker had for us from the beginning. We will enjoy the fullness of life. We will live in the glorious light. We will know the peace that passes all understanding.

One last point: God’s desire and God’s purpose is that “all the peoples of the earth may be freed and brought together under the gracious rule of [our Lord Jesus Christ—God’s] well-beloved Son. People are set free the same way we are set free, that is, when they are brought under the reign of King Jesus; when they accept his ownership of their lives, and when they are sold out to the Lord. And people only come to Jesus by hearing the good news. This is why Christians are repeatedly asked to witness, to talk to other people, about their experience of coming into Christ’s kingdom, and of being blessed by God’s restorative work in their lives—to speak about the ways that Christ has made himself known to them—to speak about the freedom they are finding, the new life they are enjoying having sold out to Jesus. Christians are repeatedly asked to do good works, so that the world may see, so that those who do not know Jesus may learn about him by seeing the way his disciples act, and by benefiting from the works of kindness and mercy that his people perform. We love one another because Jesus loves us and gave his life for us—and if our king has been willing to give his life for me, and for you, and for us, then we ought to be willing to give our lives for one another too.

These days we hear a lot about reconciliation and the term is being abused. The work of reconciliation is not agreeing to disagree. It is actually about restoring broken people (people in some ways like us and some ways very different than us), restoring broken people to the Kingdom of God. It is like driving past rundown properties. It is like looking at distressed properties and seeing value in them, and committing to the work of restoring them. Reconciling the world to Christ is about investing our lives in the lives of those who do not yet know Christ. It is about the work of witnessing through our words and through our actions to the amazing grace that is being showered upon us day after wonderful day. It is about be grateful for the work God is doing in our lives and sharing the blessing with others.

There is one part of the story about our house in Lakewood that I didn’t mention. I wanted to wait until now. When I looked at that glorious but rundown old house and I considered how much it would cost to repair it, I knew that I did not have the resources necessary to get the job done by myself. And so, I went to my father and I asked if he would join me in the project. I asked if he would provide me with the tools I didn’t have and give me the money I needed to make it happen. And my father was delighted to help. In fact, he decided to join me in the project and together we worked until that place was done. Our church is being called out—we are being called out to witness to Christ and to bring people to faith and frankly, the project is too big for us. We need to ask our father to help. Pray to the Father. Pray everyday. Ask him to give us the tools we need. Ask him to give us the money we need and the other resources we need to make it happen. I know that our Father in heaven will hear our prayers and will delight in joining us in this greatest of all endeavors.

Lord we do ask for your help and your active participation, especially this morning as we begin the Mustard Seed Café, and as we look at doing prison ministries, and as we wonder about ways of moving our church outside the walls of this building and into the world around us. Open our eyes to see the potential in the people we meet, to see your intention in creating them. Open our hearts to commit to your will for the world, and to share our lives with others and to invite them to come and walk through life together. Lead and guide Lord until we find ourselves standing around your throne, worshipping you along with all our neighbors and coworkers and family, and singing Holy, Holy, Holy…we love you and we give you all the glory King Jesus.


November 24, 2009


On Friday, November 20, Archbishop Robert Duncan and numerous ecumenical Christian leaders from around the globe released the “Manhattan Declaration,” a 4,700 word statement which addresses the sanctity of human life, defense of a biblical and traditional definition of marriage, and the importance of religious liberty.

The document grounds itself in the Christian mandate to proclaim the truth regardless of cultural circumstances, stating that:

“Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”

The Declaration was initially signed by more than 125 Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical leaders including Archbishop Duncan, Archbishop Peter Akinola (Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria), Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of the Catholic Diocese of Washington, D.C., and former Catholic Bishop of Pittsburgh. Since the Declaration’s release, the number of signatories has grown to nearly 80,000.

The Manhattan Declaration website can be found at, where visitors can add their names to the rapidly growing list of support. A PDF version of the text is also attached to this email.

November 20, 2009

White House on Collision Course With Bishops Over Abortion -

Roman Cathoilics and Evangelical Protestants are coming together around shared values (in this case abortion and gay marraige). This is a very interesting time indeed. Check it out. Scott+

White House on Collision Course With Bishops Over Abortion -

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November 19, 2009

Get Your Daily Devotional Right Here

by Fr. Scott Homer

Our Daily Bread, is a daily devotional guide that we have been offering to members of the parish for some time now. It is now available as a link on my blog. If you will glance over to the right side of the blog page, just below the photo of the church building, you will see a link to Our Daily Bread's devotion of the day. Hope this helps!

Withdrawal Symptoms: Is God Giving Us What We Deserve?

By: Gene Davenport

In some respects, President Obama is like the man who, in an old story, caught a tiger by the tail. There is danger in holding on and danger in turning loose. Though he inherited three major problems – the economy, health care and U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan – his handling of these will have an impact on the nation for decades and will determine his own place in history.

In reality, the three areas mentioned are simply part of the chaos that engulfs contemporary Western society. Other manifestations of that chaos include the widespread breakdown of authority and personal responsibility, the increase in violence, the loss of respect for others and of a personal sense of decency and restraint, the political hysteria in radio and TV talk shows from both the right and the left – and on the list could go.

Twenty years ago, I wrote that Western society at that time exhibited characteristics commonly associated with insanity, including obliviousness to reality, absorption in a self-contained world of one's own invention, obsession with trivia and domination by paranoia. It was motivated by the contradictory drives of self-love and self-hatred and driven impulsively toward self-destruction. In other words, society, I said, was clinically insane. I see no reason to modify that observation today.

From a biblical perspective, we have been handed over to what English versions of the New Testament translate as "the wrath of God." For the apostle Paul, however, the wrath of God is not God's angry attack upon the world, but is God's withdrawal from the world, God's handing the world over to its own desires.

Some will say that since Paul also saw Jesus as the one in whom God reclaimed the world, God no longer acts the way I have described – that, instead, God so completely loves the world that he will never give up on it. Ultimately, that is correct. But that does not change the fact that there still are times when God abandons the world to its own devices. The work of God in Christ does not eliminate the wrath of God. It simply reveals it more clearly. And we experience the working out of that wrath as social and personal chaos.

Consequently, megachurches, mainline churches, independent churches, TV evangelists, church growth engineers, advocates of "bringing the church into the modern world," advocates of a return to Christian domination of the society – all, failing to recognize the reality of our plight, are simply tilting at windmills.

Although there have been religious thinkers with prophetic insight into the nature of our age – for example, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Merton and Ivan Illich (Catholic), Jacques Ellul and William Stringfellow (Protestant) and Martin Buber (Jewish) – there also have been secular prophets who saw the world more clearly than did most religious leaders – for example, George Orwell ("1984"), Aldous Huxley ("Brave New World") and Mary Shelley ("Frankenstein").

They warned that a world controlled by technology and good intentions would wind up with control in the hands of a few and with all those things that truly make us human having been sacrificed on the altar of efficiency. It is frightening that most college-age students today see as acceptable, even desirable, the very things against which Orwell and Huxley warned. In 1968 Huxley wrote "Brave New World Revisited" and he remarked that the prophecies made in 1931 were coming true much sooner than he had thought.

The constantly encroaching tentacles of government so feared by Libertarians, naively ignored by many liberals and blindly accepted by many conservatives are matched on the other end of the spectrum by the illusion of the Libertarians and most conservatives that either enlightened self-interest, rationalism or a combination of the two will lock the world into synchronization with some grand scheme of the universe and will produce a world of harmony.

So we labor on, using knowledge acquired by the natural and social sciences to increase our control over the world and our efficiency in that world. But we do so without the restraints of wisdom and humility. Consequently, even with the best of intentions, we plunge ever deeper into the chaos.

Gene Davenport is professor emeritus of religion at Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., and theologian in residence at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Jackson. It is reprinted here courtesy of the Jackson Sun.

November 4, 2009

God Bless Our Clergy for their Sacrifice

by the Reverend Scott Homer

I just received the letter, the letter from the rogue “diocese” addressed to me. It was written by some assisting bishop I do not know. He lives far away and most of us have never heard of him. He speaks as if he has authority, yet he speaks for a small minority of the clergy and people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He appeals to a Canon that he has misapplied. He argues his case out of silence rather than from fact. This bishop, acting contrary to the will of the majority of our diocese and by remote control, like some sort of ecclesiastical drone aircraft, has notified me, along with over one hundred faithful, obedient and gifted clergy, that we have been “removed” as licensed, ordained priests of the Episcopal Church. But the judgment of this bishop and the renegade minority he represents are of little importance. I write for one reason and one reason only.

I write to express my deep gratitude to God for allowing me to serve alongside this extraordinary group of men and women in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who have demonstrated such great courage and strength, who have stood side by side and remained steadfast. I am awed by their devotion to the Lord and their willingness to suffer for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have lost pensions. Many have lost friends. All face limited career opportunities and an uncertain future as a consequence of their stand for Christ. They are to be admired and applauded. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for reminding me that the Lord we worship is still worthy of our best. I am praying that the Lord God of Hosts will see your faithful witness and will honor it with blessing and honor and power and that you will see righteousness vindicated in our day.

As I look at the other names listed with my own I am deeply moved. It is a great honor to serve amongst these presbyters at this momentous time in the Church. Thanks be to God and to the Lamb!

Episcopal Diocese releases secessionist clergy from vows

Wednesday, November 04, 2009
By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has given clergy of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh an unwanted gift: release from licensed ministry in the Episcopal Church.

The gesture is symbolic, since the Anglican clergy left the Episcopal Church in 2008, when the majority of voters at the diocesan convention chose to secede from the denomination. Leaders of the minority who remained Episcopal say they want to remove the Anglicans from their rolls without using disciplinary charges of "abandonment of communion," as was done elsewhere.

Yesterday Bishop Kenneth Price Jr., of the Episcopal diocese sent letters of release to 135 priests and deacons.

This release "was for causes which do not affect your moral character [and] does not affect your ordination, which is indelible," he wrote. Should any clergy desire to return to the Episcopal Church "my door will always be open for such a conversation."

While Anglican leaders say they appreciate the gracious tone of the offer, they believe it is a suspect use of a canon written for clergy who want to renounce their ordination. Few responded to the first offer that the Episcopal diocese made last month.

"It's unfortunate that we're in this situation, but it is asking us to renounce our vows, which we cannot do," said the Rev. Mary Hays, canon to the ordinary for the Anglican diocese.

"They're interpreting the canon in a way that it's not been interpreted before. We're all in a tough place, but our clergy have not abandoned their ordination vows."

The split occurred because then-Bishop Robert Duncan and most diocesan officials believed the Episcopal Church had failed to uphold biblical doctrines on matters ranging from salvation to sexuality. After secession the Anglican diocese joined the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America. Both the Southern Cone and the Episcopal Church belong to the 80 million-member global Anglican Communion.

The Anglican diocese also has joined the new Anglican Church in North America, which seeks recognition as a province of the Anglican Communion and which is led by now-Archbishop Duncan of Pittsburgh. On Saturday the Anglican diocese will vote on a proposal to affiliate solely with the Anglican Church in North America, while Archbishop Duncan would also remain a bishop of the Southern Cone.

Ann Rodgers can be reached at or 412-263-1416.

Read more:

November 3, 2009

Cardinal joins Protestants in planting trees to mark Reformation

An encouraging article but note: Luther did not break with the papacy in Wittenburg. He merely listed his complaints there. The truth is the papacy ex-communicated Luther much later in the town of Worms. Scott+

Wittenberg, Germany (ENI). A top Vatican official has joined other global Christian leaders in the eastern German town where Martin Luther broke with the papacy, at a tree-planting ceremony that looks to closer ties on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

The ceremony took place in Wittenberg, the German town known as "Lutherstadt", 492 years after Luther nailed his epoch-changing 95 theses to a church door there, leading to the breach with the 16th-century papacy

"It is possible for us today to together learn from Martin Luther," said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity as he planted the first of 500 trees on 1 November in a landscaped Luther Garden, forming part of the celebrations for 2017.

Churches worldwide are being encouraged to adopt one of the trees planned for the Luther Garden and also to plant a tree themselves, to denote a link with the birthplace of the Reformation. Kasper said a tree would be planted at the Vatican in Rome.

Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox and Reformed leaders gathered alongside Kasper in the Luther Garden in sunny autumn weather.

"This newly planted tree reminds us that Martin Luther's call for reform in the Church was a call of penitence that also affects us today," said Kasper at the ceremony, which followed the anniversary of Luther's action on 31 October 1517 that led to often bitter quarrels between Protestants and Catholics.

The Luther Garden is planned around a landscaped adaptation of the Luther Rose, a symbol of Lutheranism based on the seal with which the Protestant Reformer authenticated his correspondence.

The idea is inspired by a quote ascribed to Martin Luther, "Even if I knew that the world were to collapse tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree today." Close to the Luther house on the outskirts of the town, two thick old trees still stand that locals claim Luther planted.

"Today is another milestone," the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, the Rev. Ishmael Noko, told Ecumenical News International. He noted that the tree planting in Wittenberg came after celebrations in Augsburg the previous day to mark the 10th anniversary of the LWF and the Catholic Church signing an agreement about the doctrine of justification, a central point of contention at the time of the 16th-century Reformation.

"The Catholic Church and the Lutherans have given shape to this as an ecumenical event. 2017 will be an ecumenical event," the LWF leader said. "The dialogue will go on," said Noko. "We have had our hiccups but we're still moving forward and every step we've taken in the last 10 years is a step towards ecumenism. The joint planting of the trees today is such a step. It is another step forward and this provides energy and strength for the ecumenical movement."

The joint declaration on justification stated that the condemnations on this issue made by Catholics and Lutherans against each other's teachings of the Reformation at the time do not apply today.

"It is fitting that churches should plant trees as a symbol of commitment to God's creation at this time when world attention turns towards the climate conference in Copenhagen in December with its focus on the impact of environmental destruction," the Rev. Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, said as he in turn planted a tree.

"This is a reformation event, the nailing of the theses in 1517. It is also an ecumenical event," Nyomi told ENI. "1517 has to do with the renewal of the whole church family and therefore needs to be commemorated ecumenically, affirming our common heritage."

Cardinal Kasper told ENI that he hoped the 500th anniversary of the Reformation would be marked jointly by Catholics and Protestants.

The 16th-century events, "divided our people and divided the Church", said Kasper, who until 1999 was the Catholic bishop in Stuttgart, in southern Germany. "It is a day we hold in common and for which we have a joint responsibility," he stated.

"Now again that which belongs together grows together," Kasper said in the Luther Garden, using a phrase of former West German chancellor Willy Brandt after the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and referring to hopes for unity between East and West Germany.

The tree-planting ceremony came 20 years after local Christians gathered in Wittenberg to celebrate Reformation day and to call for reform in communist-ruled East Germany, where religion was discouraged. Nine days later the borders between East and West Germany were opened.

The fact that Christians are now a small minority in the town where Luther started the Reformation means ecumenical cooperation is even more important, said Siegfried Kasparick, the Protestant regional bishop for Wittenberg.

"Today Wittenberg is one of the most de-Christianised zones in Europe, and 85 percent of our population have no connection to any church," said Kasparick. "Therefore, it is really bad when we fight each other."

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The Death of an Archbishop

Here is an article about the continuing violence in the Southern Sudan and the local impact. The Reverend John Dauu has worshipped with us and Elain Storm ministers at St Philip's in Moon Twp. Scott +

Faith J.H. McDonnell
Featured in World Magazine "Do the math" November 07, 2009

Before the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the National Islamic Front regime and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), death was a daily reality in South Sudan. Khartoum's crude but efficient anti-personnel bombs—barrels stuffed with shrapnel, dropped from aging Antonov aircraft—targeted those who opposed its forced Islamization and Arabization. Khartoum also waged war through slave raids, orchestrated famine, helicopter gunship attacks, scorched earth campaigns, displacement of people, and the killing of church leaders.

Now, despite the peace agreement, the regime's long-term agenda for South Sudan apparently has not changed. Reports claim that Khartoum recruits and arms proxy militias to destabilize the South, killing civilians and scattering its people once again. At the same time, the Islamist regime uses money and promises of power to divide Southerners against each other. In this way Khartoum may demonstrate that the South, scheduled for a secession referendum in 2011, cannot govern itself.

On Aug. 29 a militia of Lou Nuer killed 43 people and wounded 62 in Wernyol, a Dinka town. Among the dead was Episcopal Church of Sudan archdeacon Joseph Mabior Garang, killed while officiating at a morning prayer service.

Most likely, the militia (and its sponsors) targeted Mabior because he was a prominent, beloved leader in the community. He had recently become archbishop of Twic East diocese, newly formed to accommodate the fast-growing church in Bor county, which is part of Jonglei state in South Sudan.

While the Obama administration has focused on legendary atrocities in Darfur, the western region of Sudan, the UN reports that the rate of violent deaths in South Sudan now surpasses that in Darfur. Lise Grande, UN Deputy Resident Coordinator in Southern Sudan, recently said more than 2,000 people had died and 250,000 had been displaced by inter-ethnic violence across the region.

Witnesses report that Mabior was shot twice in the legs and that his attackers may have also used a military knife called a "sonki." After the first shots, 30 men and women from the church and town, including tribal chiefs, soldiers, a university student and other youth leaders, and several of the town's oral historians, covered Mabior with their own bodies. All 30 gave their lives in their effort to protect him. Mabior died two hours later.

In the aftermath of Mabior's death the Episcopal Church of Sudan is grieving: "Everyone in the diocese of Bor and the diocese of Twic East is painfully shocked and devastated at losing Joseph. Archdeacon Mabior was a father to many and a mentor to many of us who are clergy," said John Chol Daau, a priest of Bor diocese currently studying at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., and a former Lost Boy of Sudan who worked closely with Mabior.

After Mabior's death, Daau phoned Nathaniel Garang, the bishop of Bor. "Son, I lost a strong man, a follower of the living Christ who never hesitated to preach the gospel of Christ to our people," Garang said as he wept. "He was like my frontline captain as he and I preached the gospel . . . a great intercessor . . . a pastor and a leader . . . full of patience and love . . . very humble. . . . He would always want to care and serve in any circumstance."

Wernyol is home to other Sudanese in the United States. James Kuer Garang Manyok, another of the famous Lost Boys orphaned during Sudan's civil war, was Mabior's cousin and now lives in Virginia. Kuer said that although his parents were killed in the war he still had hope because "Rev. Joseph, the man of God, was still alive. And now he is gone."

He added, "all those who were murdered during that brutal attack are blood relatives to me." He had met almost all of the victims when he returned for the first time in 22 years to Wernyol in the spring of 2009. "I don't know what to say or do," he said sadly.

A number of Americans met Mabior this past June when he hosted a short-term mission team from St. Philip's Anglican Church of Moon Township, Pa. The team leader, Anglican clergywoman Elaine Storm, said, "Archdeacon Joseph was a man that passionately loved Jesus and passionately loved God's people." In a filmed interview conducted by missions team member Kathy VanDusen, Mabior thanks the Lord for protecting his life "up to now," and tells how he came to faith in Christ and began to raise churches under the trees in war-torn South Sudan.

In a Sept. 1 appeal, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul (Episcopal Church of Sudan) joined SPLM officials pointing out that the tribal groups comprising the militias had been cattle raiders. But these militia are attacking administrative headquarters and towns where no cattle are held. Deng Bul said, "In the view of the church, this was not a tribal conflict as commonly reported, but a deliberately organized attack on civilians by those that are against the peace in Southern Sudan."

Storm holds the same view. She, her sister Danielle, and her father Nick were all part of the Anglican mission team. She wrote to President Barack Obama and other government leaders about Mabior's death, urging more U.S. action to protect South Sudanese. A student at Eastern University, Storm wrote of Mabior, "He was a kind and gentle man and has left a family and a community of people who relied on him." With her letter she included a copy of a photograph taken by her father of Mabior playfully presenting "availability" beads, the Dinka traditional necklaces worn by girls of marriageable age, to her and Danielle. He smiles broadly, full of life, as he drapes the beads around their necks. "People who I now know and love are dying," Storm told Obama.

"It appears that the northern government is violating the comprehensive peace agreement," said Storm. "It appears that the government of South Sudan needs international assistance. Who is keeping northern Sudan in check?"

No one, perhaps. In a more recent attack, on Sept. 19, the same militia of heavily armed Lou Nuer waged an early dawn attack on the local government center of Duk-Padiet, also in Bor county. The militia overcame local youths and organized forces trying to defend the area and ambushed several places at once, according to South Sudan military spokesman Major General Kuol Diem Kuol. This attack left 80 dead and 46 wounded.

But Lou Nuer have been victims, as well. In an August attack on Akobo in Jonglei, Murle tribesmen killed 185 Lou Nuer—mostly women and children. Also in August, northern Ugandan rebels, the LRA, attacked Ezo Town in Western Equatoria. They killed three people, including an Episcopal lay reader, and took 10 children from the Ezo Episcopal Church. In each attack, property was destroyed, hundreds were wounded, and 250,000 have been displaced again from their homes. In each attack, locals report, militias were well-armed with new automatic weapons, dressed in professional uniforms, and were well-trained and organized.

President Obama's Sudan Special Envoy, Major General Scott Gration, has expressed willingness to help renegotiate terms of the CPA at Khartoum's request. But a big question for the administration is whether Khartoum can renegotiate in good faith. At a July hearing on Capitol Hill, SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum Okiech warned that the Khartoum regime had distributed 79,000 AK-47s to militias throughout Sudan. At the same time, the government of South Sudan is under pressure from the UN, U.S. Agency for International Development, and others to collect guns from civilians in South Sudan. The imbalance leaves Southern villages vulnerable to war, not peace.

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