February 28, 2010

Enemies of Faith: Presumption and Despair

Fr. Scott Homer
Second Sunday of Lent, 2010

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

Our God is an awesome God. We are so fortunate. God is on friendly terms with us. You know, its really quite amazing when you think about it. God, the creator of the universe, all powerful, all knowing, and yet compassionate and kind. He hold the supernova and the black hole in his hand. Light years are moments. The billions and billions of stars? All his and yet he has promised to take a personal interest in each of our lives and to see to it that we are protected and cared for forever. What does this sovereign Lord of the Universe expect in return? He expects us to cooperate with him by exercising our faith—by believing in the promises he has made and by preserving the hope we have in his saving work. We are saved by God’s grace alone, but we are saved through faith. And although faith is all that is required of us, it is required, and we need to beware that we do not fall into patterns of faithlessness. Faith is trusting in the hope of God’s promises refusing to succumb to either despair or presumption.

In the letter to the Ephesians Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” And Jesus, Paul, Peter and just about everybody else in the Holy Writings agree that it is God alone who does the saving work. God forgives our sins. God conquers the power of evil and death. God leads us into his eternal kingdom. God provides everything. All of this divine work is what we call Grace. God’s saving work in our lives is God’s grace and apart from God’s grace no one is saved. All depends upon God—almost. We human beings have not been left without a part in the process. We , in fact, play a vital role, so vital that there will be no salvation without our part. God saves but we accept God’s grace in our lives. It is God’s power working in us but it operates through our faith. And so faith, whatever that entails, is the link between us and God, the source of life. Faith is the key to our future so we might want to learn about it and get good at it. There is nothing more important—not family or career, not environment or economics, not even food, clothing or shelter. If our long term wellbeing depends upon receiving God’s grace, and if God insists upon working via our faith, which all the messengers of God tell us is the case, then having faith, living in faith, being expert at faith is the essential life task.

Now, as we look at this issue of faith, let’s not be confused about the nature of faith. Faith is not quantitative in nature. You don’t have a little faith or a lot of faith. You don’t have strong faith or weak faith. You’ve either got faith or you don’t. Either you is or you ain’t! The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith and Jesus responds by saying that even a tiny amount of faith is sufficient. He says the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains. Jesus’ point is that quantity of faith isn’t the issue, are you are acting out of faith or out of something else, that is the issue. I personally believe you can have faith one second and not the next. I think that is what we see in Peter’s confession. One second Peter is declaring Jesus the Christ. He is acting in faith. The next second he is arguing with Jesus. He is acting out of something other than faith. So, faith is neither great nor little. Instead, it is either on or off. So we don’t need to worry about how to increase our faith. We need to figure out what motivators are causing us to abandon our faith. If we can identify the enemies of faith, those things that cause us to act apart from faith, then we may be able to limit the enemy’s power over our lives. By the way, this is true of all dysfunction. If we are able to describe the dysfunctional behavior, and to understand the purpose it is trying to serve, then we begin to have options once again. As long as the dysfunction is invisible we are powerless over it but when we see it for what it is, we can begin to be set free from its destructive influence.

So what are these destructive motives that compete with faith and threaten us with extinction by separating us from the saving grace of God? What might be causing us to act apart from faith? Well, it is really much simpler than we might think. There are really only two root causes. They are opposites, but although they are opposites, they both cause the same mischief in us by leading us to act as if God’s Word and God’s purposes do not matter. One is very familiar to us. One is nearly invisible but both are deadly. The two are: presumption and despair. God builds up hope within us and presumption and despair tear it down. Most of us are very familiar with despair. We have experienced its powerful affect upon us at numerous points in our lives. We have felt its crippling effect. Despair is the near certainty that all is lost. There is no hope, no way that anything good can come out of our situation. In its extreme it is the feeling that God is powerless to help us or maybe even worse, that God is indifferent to our plight. It is no coincident that we are told that at the Gates of Hell there is a sign that reads, “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.” Despair is a hellish feeling that leads people away from God’s saving grace. And yet all of us, on a regular basis, choose to act out of the spirit of despair rather than out of faith.

Every time we say, “I can’t do anything about it,” or, “It’s beyond my control. The system is just screwed up. That person is a hopeless case. None of it matters. Whatever,” every time we abandon what we know to be right, decent, true and good, by resigning ourselves to futility we are acting out of the spirit of despair. Judas hung himself by completely and utterly cutting himself off from the hope of God’s forgiveness and salvation. But we entertain the same sort of despair in small ways on a daily basis. We all know despair intimately and usually when we talk about the enemy of faith, we talk about the various ways that despair manifests itself. But what about presumption?

Years ago I heard a story about a wild group of college students who decided it would be fun to watch a hurricane make landfall. These were the folks who had the most outrageous parties on campus. These guys belonged to the fraternity everybody wanted to pledge. The ones who claimed to work hard and play hard. And so when they heard that a category five hurricane was approaching, they decided to rent a beach house and to hold a big hurricane party and watch as the storm made landfall right before their eyes. As everybody else was fleeing for inland, this group was carrying their belongings, and the kegs and the liquor onto the barrier island. Well, when the storm hit the power went out. The water was so high that rescue workers could not get to the island for a couple of days afterwards. And when they did, there was no beach house left. There were no signs of life. Just waves lapping up on a deserted stretch of beach.

The young partiers had heard the warnings. They ignored them all. The partiers knew that police and rescue personnel wanted to protect them by getting them inland but they chose to believe they were above the danger. All the wisdom said, don’t do it but they knew better than all the experts. If any of them believed in God they must have believed that God would ignore their arrogance and recklessness and would protect them anyway. In a word, the partiers were presumptuous.

Jerusalem was the City of God—or at least it was supposed to have been—a city built around the Temple—the city where God dwelt in the midst of his people. Jerusalem was supposed to have been the city that housed God’s chosen people, the place where God’s people lived in God’s presence, worshipped in God’s sacred Temple and enjoyed God’s shalom, the peace that only God could ever provide. And when they strayed, God sent his prophets to Jerusalem. He sent them dozens of times and for hundreds of years—God anointed messengers to give storm warnings, to persuade the people to repent and return to the Lord, to listen to God’s word and to obey God’s clear commands but they ignored all the warnings and went on doing precisely what they wanted.

And so, as Jesus looked out over Jerusalem he gave voice to God’s complaint against the city. He said that Jerusalem was not the City of God. It had become something quite different from what He and his Father had intended it to be. Jerusalem had become the city devoted to killing God’s Word, the city devoted to crushing God’s people, the city that rebelled against God’s authority, and that thumbed their noses at God’s warnings. Jerusalem had become the city of God’s absence. A group of reckless and arrogant partiers in the face of an immense and dangerous storm. Jerusalem acted as if they could do as they pleased with impunity, that somehow being God’s chosen people exempted them from God’s clarion call to faith. In a word, they were presumptuous. They challenged God’s sovereign will, refused to heed the prophets’ warnings, choosing instead to kill God’s prophets in order to silence them, and now they were preparing to kill God’s Son.

Jesus laments the certain demise of Jerusalem. As a consequence of their actions, God had abandoned them. Jesus speaking in his true voice, as God Almighty, said, “Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” There would be no peace. There would be no freedom from the foreign oppressor. God would not enter into their presence. He rescue them from their fate. They would live forsaken—alone and apart from God. They would live vain, conflicted lives because of their presumption.

Some of us have made presumption high theology. We behave as though faith is proven by challenging God,by ignoring holy living, by acting selfishly, and by living recklessly and carelessly. We think we can behave like drunkards and God will not care. We act as if we can manipulate the world around us for our own advantage and Jesus will simply smile and ignore our bad behavior. We think we can ignore God’s call upon our lives, ignore the plight of the poor, ignore the pain and suffering around us and that God will ignore our indifference. But our God is not just a merciful God. Our God is a just God. Even when we don’t, He cares. Make no mistake about it. He cares and there will be a day of reconing.

Jesus, speaking like a prophet, though far more than a prophet, does what prophets always do. His words do not simply condemn. His words also point to restoration and salvation. Jerusalem will know God’s salvation. They will see God in their midst again. They will be redeemed. But when? When will Jerusalem once again receive God’s blessing? When will God’s people know God’s presence and God’s peace? Jesus says, it will be when they acknowledge God’s promises and heed God’s warnings, when they accept God’s Word and when they honor God’s Anointed One. Their salvation will come when they act in faith. They will be redeemed when, in faith, they welcome the LORD saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
We are saved by God’s grace. It can happen in no other way. It is a free gift—a gift we can do nothing to merit. Our salvation comes when Jesus enters into our midst and administers it to us. He is God’s word in our lives. From the moment he enters into our lives we will choose whether we will welcome him as the source of life and salvation or we will kill him as a false prophet. If we act out of despair we will not be able to believe that Jesus could actually make a difference in our lives or we will believe that He could not possibly care about us and we will have no faith in the promises he has made to us. If we act out of presumption we will believe that Jesus is an unnecessary step. We will believe that God would never be so closed minded as to insist on faith in his Son. Surely God will save us apart from all this old religion stuff. In either case, if we act out of despair or out of presumption we will be lost, not because God’s grace was absent but because we refused to acknowledge God’s grace when He presented himself to us.

Finally, we can choose to act on faith, to accept the promises as true. This may not be that easy. It may require that we suffer rather than submit to lies. It may compromise relationships. It may mean that we have to humble ourselves and admit that in God’s eyes we have fallen far short of his expectations but when we choose to act on faith, and to accept God’s promises as true, it will mean salvation for us. Amen.

February 17, 2010

Anglican or Other: Where Exactly Do We Stand in the Communion?

The Rev. Scott T Homer
February 17, 2010

On October 4, 2008 the Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (ADP) voted to separate from the Episcopal Church in the United States (TEC). We followed a similar action on the part of the Diocese of San Joaquin in California. These were unprecedented acts. A diocese has not separated from its mother church since Americans separated from the Church of England at the time of the Revolutionary War. Although parishes had left TEC, no diocese ever had and for those of us who consider membership in the Anglican Communion an important, even vital, part of belonging to the Body of Christ, the action has raised the question, where exactly do we stand? Is the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Anglican in name only or are we truly part of the worldwide Anglican Communion?

Of course, the first question begs a second. That is, what does it mean to be Anglican? What makes Anglicanism distinct? Here is a partial list: Anglicans have a particular organizational structure. They share a common set of beliefs and they worship in specific ways. But is that all? Is anyone who claims similarity in matters of organizational structure, belief, and liturgy legitimately Anglican or is there something more to it? Perhaps, some sort of official recognition that needs to occur?

Christian First, Anglican Second
This ought to go without saying but regrettably it has become a clouded issue. We are Christians before all else. We believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. We believe that he was born of a virgin. We believe in his bodily resurrection and that he is alive and living in heaven today. And we recognize that being Anglican is simply a distinctive way of being Christian but we also assert that there can be no Anglicanism apart from the core Christian beliefs. The one follows the other and their position can never be inverted. We are Christians first, and then we are Anglicans.

Theologically Anglican
We are theologically Anglican. Like Anglicans everywhere and at all times, we believe in the Creeds, the Apostle’s and the Nicene, as normative statements of the Faith. In them, we are told certain things about the character of God and the character of man and the nature of God’s redemptive work in the world. The Creeds are not historical oddities. Their teaching is not optional. The content of the creeds is nothing less than the Apostle’s teaching coming down to us through the ages, to instruct and to guide us in right belief. The Creeds define what it means to be Christian.

We, along with Anglicans around the world, ascribe to the teachings of the Thirty-nine Articles. These statements of belief were formulated in order to clarify what the Church of England and her daughter churches believed and how they differed from other denominations. We are theologically Anglican because we believe what Anglicans believe.

Liturgically Anglican
We worship like Anglicans. We do not worship like Presbyterians, Baptists, or Methodists. We are known as a liturgical church because our services follow an order that is both ancient and universal in form. Our Eucharist dates back to very roots of Christianity and the Medieval Church. In most respects we worship in precisely the same way that people worshipped in the Court of Charlemagne and perhaps much earlier even than that.

We believe in sacraments. We believe that the Holy Spirit has blessed and ordained certain outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace and that we can actually come to know the Lord in powerful ways through certain actions and events in the life of the Church. We believe that Baptism is not just an initiation rite but that, in fact, the Holy Spirit does come and wash away sin, and take up residence in the life of the Baptized. We believe that the Lord is really present to us in Holy Communion. And to lesser or greater extents, Anglicans honor the other sacraments as well. We are Anglicans because we worship like Anglicans worship.

Structurally Anglican
We are Anglicans because we believe that the Christian Church is universal. The Christian church is represented all over the world. We are all one body which the Bible calls the Body of Christ. As a consequence, we can not act independently. Our actions have a profound impact on other parts of the Body and so we are called to interdependence. So for us, a Church is a diocese made up of many parishes. Parishes belong to a diocese and are accountable to it. Diocese voluntarily join in a province, again to promote interdependence, and that province becomes a part of the worldwide communion. And we take council with one another to assure that our message is universal both in content and in effect, not just within our own context but for believers throughout the world.

We believe in different orders. We have lay people, deacons, priests, and bishops. Each has a legitimate function in the Church but the really distinctive thing about Anglicans is that their Bishops receive the laying on of hands by other bishops and they always have, all the way back to the time of the Apostles. We believe, therefore, that our Bishops stand in a special place of authority and responsibility and they deserve a special place of honor. We have traditionally listened to our bishops and allowed them to lead us. We are Anglican because our Church is built in the Anglican model for church.

Politically Anglican
Before a final vote to depart TEC and before any clergy led worship following the split the bishop and the clergy of our diocese were officially received as clergy in good standing in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. That relationship existed then. That relationship exists today. Our diocese was never anything other than Anglican. We have never been without accountability to the Anglican Communion. Today, the majority of Anglicans and the majority of Anglican Churches in the world recognize the Diocese of Pittsburgh as an Anglican Diocese. They have declared they are in communion with us. They are, likewise, in the process of recognizing the Anglican Church in North America, as the authentic Anglican province on our continent. And so, politically, we are Anglican.

When will we be officially recognized as Anglican?
Despite our legitimate claim to the title Anglican, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion Office, and the “official” decision making bodies of the Communion evade and obfuscate. They acknowledge in private what they ignore in public—that our bishops, our clergy and our churches are legitimate. Why? There are two major reasons. First, they are unhappy with the way we went about the separation. Second, they are afraid of TEC. They recognize that when we split with TEC we presented a viable option to dissidents around the world and they do not want to encourage dissident actions in their own provinces. But by far the more compelling problem for the Communion is that much of the work of the Anglican Communion is being financed, governed and controlled by TEC. There is a real question as to whether the Communion Office could remain open apart from TEC funding. And there are real questions about whether or not the clear majority in the Communion has any real voice in the decisions being made or any real authority to act against TEC.

And so, we sit and wait. We are Anglican in every legitimate sense of the word but we are like the Man in the Iron Mask, the true heir to the throne who has been imprisoned and disguised in order that the usurper might continue in power. I believe the day will come when we will be officially recognized but it will be a long time before we see it. In the meantime, we will continue to live out our lives in Christ, honoring the Anglican way and awaiting the day when the instruments of unity acknowledge what the rest of the world already knows.

February 14, 2010

Never Give In

By Fr Scott Homer

On October 29, 1941, just about a year after the Blitzkrieg of England began, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, visited Harrow School to listen to the traditional songs he had sung there when he was a student and to speak to the students about the war. The last half of 1940 and the first half of 1941 had been brutal. While much of the world seemed willing to allow the Nazis to overrun much of the world, England made a mutual assistance treaty with Poland and when Germany invaded Poland, England declared war on Hitler and his Third Reich. They were outgunned and outmanned. England experienced immense suffering and great hardship. Her people were reduced to living on rations. German bombs rained down on them without ceasing for days and weeks at a time. City children had to leave their families and were sent out into the countryside to live with strangers they had never met in the hope that they would be kept safe from the German attacks. And England was alone. The U.S. had declared neutrality. Much of Europe had already surrendered. The German invasion of England was already to be implemented. But despite what seemed like insurmountable odds England endured. They refused to surrender. They refused to allow evil to go unanswered. And their steadfastness was rewarded. Things did begin to look up a bit in the last half of 1941. The US would finally join in the war effort soon. The Soviets would stand against the Nazis as well. While the end was far from in site, England had hope that having faced down the most evil government in modern history, they might indeed triumph and Churchill did not want the lesson they all had learned to be lost. He told the boys at Harrow that the lesson learned was this:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” (Winston Churchill)

Churchill concluded his speech by saying,
“... our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.”

And of course, we who live in the aftermath of WWII, we know that Churchill was indeed correct. Britain would conquer, and the Axis of evil that brought so much pain and so much suffering to so many millions of people was eventually defeated. But what Churchill did not say, because he either did not know or would not say, was that Britain, and the rest of the free world conquered because the Lord was with them. It was the power of God that enabled the Allied Forces to triumph. And it was not grit that empowered the British people to endure through all the famines, all the explosions and all the uncertainty. It was their faith in Christ that carried them through night after dark night. It was faith that bolstered them up when their spines felt as if they were turning to rubber. It was faith that gave them the will to continue on in spite of all appearances. Truly, “they never gave in. {They} never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never gave in. [They] never yielded to force. Never yielded to the apparent overwhelming might of the enemy.”

A poor, bedraggled, befuddled, father comes to Jesus. He is at his wits end. He has tried everything and still a demon continues to torment and torture his possessed son. If you have ever seen a grand mall seizure you know how frightening they are—and how dangerous. A person in the throws of such a seizure has no control over their thrashing and they will injure themselves without even knowing they are doing it. Can you imagine that person being your child? Surely this boy’s father is tormented and tortured too. So this father, desperate to find freedom for his son approaches Jesus. Jesus is just returning from a retreat. He has seen the commotion from a distance. And when the father talks to Jesus he tells him that he “begged the disciples to cast [the demon] out and they could not.” Jesus looks at the situation. It is dark and ugly and plainly evil. He hears what has happened. His disciples have failed. And not only that they have failed to keep trying. He finds them having abandoned the boy. The people Jesus commissioned and empowered to cast out demons and heal in his name, are allowing evil to go unchallenged in their presence. And Jesus responds by saying, to his disciples, “O faithless and perverse generation! How long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring the boy to me.” In Mark’s version of this story the emphasis is on the disciple’s lack of prayer and fasting but here in Luke there is no mention of either. Here in Luke the problem is reduced to its essence—the followers of Christ had been authorized to act on his behalf. They had been empowered to cast of demons. They had been instructed to go out and do just that—to confront evil and to defeat it. But when Jesus comes down off the mountain, he finds them not even trying. Their initial efforts failed and they have abandoned the project all together. They ran into strong resistance and they threw up the white flag. Instead of conquering evil in the name of Christ, they have surrendered it.

No wonder Jesus scowls at his disciples and said, “O faithless and perverse generation!“ They don’t get it. Although they have received the Promise, although they have been blessed with supernatural power and authority, although they have the assurance of God himself that nothing in earth or under the earth can possibly prevail against them, they have chosen to live as if they are victims, powerless, incapable of making a difference.

Friends, we are the people of God. We are the disciples of Christ. The authority the disciples were given has been given to us. The commission given to the disciples is our commission. We live in the assurance of God’s grace and power just like the disciples. Like them, we are called to a purpose. We have been charged to go into every town and village, and to confront evil wherever we find it. Like them, we have been charged to be warriors, to do battle with the spiritual forces of darkness that separate humanity from the love of Christ. It is not a call to dabble in good deeds. We have not been told to do a good deed everyday—that is what Boy Scouts do. We are not to be content with occasional surprise prayer that actually comes true. We are the people of the promise and we are the living and breathing Body of Christ and we are called to never relent, never surrender, never, never, never give in.

But it isn’t easy, is it? Evil is powerful. It is not as powerful as God. Evil isn’t as powerful as good but it does not just lie down when we confront it. And appearances make it seem far more powerful than it is. When the chips are down, when the threats are real and when we doubt our ability to withstand the assault, honesty does not feel like the best policy, and we will be tempted to take matters into our own hands, and twist the facts and distort the truth. The problem is, as Iain Duguid says in our Bible study, when we play the game according to the world’s rules we are likely to find that we are outplayed. When we see corruption winning the day or we see bullying behavior being rewarded with them getting what they want, we are likely to want to back away from the conflict, to resign ourselves from the situation and to allow the evil to triumph. “Who are we,” we ask. “What difference can we make,” we wonder. Or we decide, “it is simply not worth it.” We all do it all the time. I’m not pointing the finger at one person here. In the midst of the battle it is easy for us to find ourselves with our backs to the battle and miles away from where we turned and ran. The Red Badge of Courage comes to mind.

Now, of course, when Jesus returns he will cast the demon out and the boy will be restored but he and his family will have gone through unnecessary pain and suffering. They will have lived on doubt about the power of God to keep his promises. He will not know the power that comes from a Body of believers surrounding him in love, praying without ceasing for his salvation, buoying him up and carrying through his hard times. This is work that only we can do. And it is the work we have been given to do. We can not assure the outcome. It is Jesus who rebukes evil and the Holy Spirit that drives evil away. God is in the results business but we are in the efforts business and maintaining effort despite the apparent odds is what Christians do. It is our witness to the world.

Trinity Beaver is showing remarkable faith in the midst of remarkably great challenges. We have engaged in a fight to defend the place of Holy Scripture in the universal church and this parish has been willing to give freely of its resources to support the cause. There has been no retreat and no relenting by your leadership. Their courage witnesses to a God who continues to be good to his promises, a God we can depend upon despite how desperate our circumstances appear to be. Does the world need that witness? More now than ever. This parish is investing itself in the lives of others, through programs like Financial Peace University, The Mustard Seed CafĂ©, and Flowers in the Desert. And of course, when we begin to invest our lives in other people’s problems we begin to see the truth. The truth is that the problems are legion. There is way more to do than we have resources for. And when we begin to see the actual need we may be repelled. We may, like the disciples, decide to cut our losses and pull back, and wait for the boss to get back. But as I think we have seen, Jesus is not pleased with that sort of contingency planning.

Two lessons this morning: The first is that Jesus is indeed, the Holy One, the Mighty One, the only One in whom we should trust. He is indeed stronger than any of the forces that seek to destroy us. His word is greater than Moses. His power is greater than Elijah. He is god’s beloved Son and the source of all healing. He is the only one who can restore us even in those cases that seem beyond hope. Jesus is Lord of all. The second lesson is a point of application.

We have been called to fight the good fight without flinching and without retreat. We are called to lean into the promises God has made to us, and to insist on claiming the power and the authority he has bestowed upon his Church. We are the source of hope in a hopeless world. We are the only ones able to successfully confront the evils of our day. When we surrender the field to the enemy we become the faithless and the perverse. So together lets take courage and never, never give in. We have nothing to loose. Nothing of value can be taken from us. Our lives are secure in Christ. So we can listen to the words of Teddy Roosevelt and we can claim them as our own:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Amen.

February 10, 2010

What is being argued in court?

by the Reverend Scott Homer
February 10, 2010

With all the posturing go on between Bishop Price and his TEC Diocese versus Archbishop Duncan and his ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh I thought it was time to explain, in its most fundamental sense what is actually being disputed and why their public statements often seem a bit obtuse. I have my opinions about how the disputes ought to be resolved but that is not the purpose of this statement. Rather, I simply want to get the real issues on the table so that everybody knows what is actually being argued in court. Because the truth is that the dispute has nothing to do with what most of us have been told. The court actions are not going to settle any of the issues about blessing gay marriages or ordaining gay clergy. It will not answer any of our differences over theology. The court actions will only answer two questions and at the end of the day, an enormous amount of money will have been spent for little good purpose.
The first and arguably the most important question being heard is this: Is a diocese sovereign or is it merely a subdivision of the national church? Put another way, is a diocese’s affiliation with the national church optional or is the diocese an inseparable part of national church? The Diocese of Pittsburgh assembled in October of 2008 and voted to separate from the Episcopal Church. Did that assembly have the right to separate? Were they still a diocese at the conclusion of the vote or had they become simply a bunch of dissident church leaders without authority and without legitimate claim to the assets of the diocese?
The second question being heard is this: who owns the stuff? Is it owned by the parish, by the diocese or by the national church? Does the parish leadership of Trinity Church hold legitimate claim to its property and monetary assets or are we simply custodians who care for the property on behalf of some other entity? Does the parish own the property or is it held in trust for the diocese or the national church?
TEC is arguing that a diocese can not vote to leave the national church and that what actually happened in Pittsburgh was that a lot of individuals voted to no longer be members of their church, nothing more. They did not vote as churches or as a diocese and they did not act with any authority. If the courts decide that TEC is right, then TEC will, in all likelihood, be awarded all of our properties.
The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is arguing that it had the right and the authority to vote to separate from the National Church and that it legitimately took its property with it. When representatives of all the diocesan churches lawfully assembled and voted in accordance with its own constitution and canons to separate from TEC, they did in fact leave as an intact diocesan entity. If the courts agree with the Anglican Diocese, there is a good chance our properties will be awarded to us.
This emotional, spiritual and economic drain is wasting precious resources on a battle that will ultimately resolve nothing of substance. Pray that Bishop Price and the TEC diocese actually agrees to negotiate a reasonable settlement with Bishop Duncan and the Anglican diocese. There is still an opportunity for the defenders of the faith to demonstrate the sort of grace and forgiveness that our Lord calls all of us to model to the world. A good place to start would be for the two sides agree that bringing suit in court is not a Christian option.

Ash Weds Services at Trinity Church

Imposition of Ashes and Holy Eucharist
Wednesday, February 17th at


February 10, 2010
Today, the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, meeting in London February 8-12, affirmed the Anglican Church in North America's desire "to remain within the Anglican family."

The Most Rev. Robert Duncan, archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, thanked Mrs. Lorna Ashworth of Chichester for bringing the church to the attention of the General Synod. "We are very grateful to Mrs. Ashworth and the scores of other friends in the Synod of the Church of England for all they did to give us this opportunity to tell our story to the mother church of the Anglican Communion. It is very encouraging that the synod recognizes and affirms our desire to remain within the Anglican family." said Archbishop Duncan.

A private member's motion, put forward by Mrs. Ashworth, and subsequently amended by the Synod, states that "this synod recognize and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family." The motion passed by a resounding 309 - 69 margin (with seven abstentions).

The motion was amended by the Right Reverend Michael Hill, the Bishop of Bristol. His purpose, in his own words, was "(1) to encourage those who are part of the Anglican Church in North America; (2) to commend the process of recognition afforded by the Instruments of the Anglican Communion; and (3) to ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to report progress back to Synod in a year's time."

The discussion at Synod presented an important opportunity for members of the Anglican Church in North America, joined by many friends in the United Kingdom, to share the vision and mission of the church with fellow Anglicans. "We are deeply thankful that we were given the opportunity to tell the Synod about our church, and our vision for reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. This chance to speak directly to our Anglican family was very rewarding. We look forward to working with the friends we made and reaching out to others in the years ahead," said Bishop Donald Harvey, who, with Mrs. Cynthia Brust, Dr. Michael Howell, and the Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum, represented the Anglican Church in North America in preparation for the Synod vote.

The Anglican Church in North America, founded in June of 2009 with 703 congregations, today unites 800 Anglican congregations across North America. The church's mission is to reach North America with the Transforming Love of Jesus Christ.

February 4, 2010

Judge issues order detailing assets of Episcopal, Anglican dioceses

Wednesday, February 03, 2010
By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James has issued an order detailing which assets are among the centrally held properties that he earlier awarded to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh rather than to the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, which broke from the Episcopal Church in 2008.

The order, issued Friday, doesn't apply to parish property, which is to be negotiated later. Leaders of the Anglican diocese had earlier said that they would appeal the October decision. The Rev. Mary Hays, canon to the ordinary of the Anglican diocese, said the appeal can be filed now that this order has been issued.

The original diocese split when a majority of clergy and laity at its 2008 convention voted to leave the Episcopal Church over theological differences. Prior to the split, some parishes now in the 28-parish Episcopal diocese sued for the property of the 57-parish Anglican diocese. The funds have been frozen by financial institutions until the litigation is resolved.

Friday's order said that as of September, the Episcopal diocese had $22 million in cash and investments, of which $2.5 million was held for parishes.

A footnote in the special master's report that formed the basis of the decision said, "it is believed that the individual parishes have the right to withdraw the value of their investment accounts" from the diocese.

A brief statement from the Episcopal diocese said that its leadership "plans to quickly make arrangements so that all parishes may again have access to their investment funds."

Asked if that applied to Anglican parishes, Rich Creehan, a spokesman for the Episcopal diocese, said, "any parish that had been participating in that fund from whatever time, we are making arrangements so they can access those funds."

The report documents another $717,000 in trust funds and at least $2.4 million in real estate belonging to the diocese. The latter includes a residence in Donegal, near Ligonier, that in 2007 was sold to Bishop Robert Duncan, then of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and now of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Friday's order stated that there are legal documents for the sale, and that the Duncans will owe the Episcopal diocese $135,507 on the mortgage.

Other loans to clergy and parishes totaling more than $1 million are to be repaid according to instructions from the Episcopal diocese. The report included a long list of religious objects, mostly from closed churches, awarded to the Episcopal diocese. But the order said that no real property can be sold or removed from its current site without a further court order.

The order lists 45 properties, most of them parishes, deeded to the Episcopal diocese. But the Rev. Hays said some of those may be incorrect. One is for a church that was sold over a decade ago and subsequently torn down. Another is for a playground, not a church building, she said.

"We're not looking to be argumentative, we just want to make sure the information is correct," she said.

Judge James gave the Anglican diocese 20 days to provide the Episcopal diocese with the records and information "reasonably needed by the Episcopal diocese to hold and administer the real and personal property that is subject to this order."

The Rev. Hays said she believed the appeal would put a hold on that process.

"We have always wanted to find a way where both sides could have the resources appropriate to their share," she said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10034/1032951-455.stm?cmpid=news.xml#ixzz0ea9ieOrS

AAC Tracks Episcopal Church’s Canonical Abuse - Plight of Orthodox Anglicans

Atlanta, GA - The American Anglican Council today made public an accounting of how The Episcopal Church (TEC) has spent millions of dollars in over 50 lawsuits, deposed or inhibited 12 bishops and more than 400 other clergy, and violated its own canons numerous times. The paper, titled "The Episcopal Church: Overbearing and Unjust Episcopal Acts," chronicles each of these subjects and a number of other abuses or injustices committed against faithful Anglicans in the U.S.

"The Episcopal Church is systematically targeting, intimidating, suing, and ultimately persecuting orthodox Anglicans throughout the U.S." said the Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council. "This paper illustrates the lengths to which TEC leaders will go to silence the voices of orthodox Christians in the Anglican Communion - Anglicans whose only offense was to stand for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and Anglican Communion teaching."

The Rev. Philip Ashey, AAC Chief Operating Officer and a practicing attorney, originally authored the 29 page paper at the request of several members of the Church of England's General Synod. Fr. Ashey was also instrumental in helping draft the constitution and canons of the new Anglican Church in North America (AC-NA). The Synod is expected to vote on the nature of its communion with the AC-NA next week. The AC-NA, of which the American Anglican Council is a member group, formed in 2009 and is made up of many former Episcopalians who left that church over deep theological differences.

While many groups outside and inside TEC have called into question the church's canonical and legal practices, Fr. Ashey believes few realize the extent of the abuse. "I don't think there has ever been a period of time in the Anglican Communion where one church has deposed such a huge number of clergy. It is my hope that Anglicans around the world will read this paper and do something to halt these unjust and un-Christian actions."