March 19, 2011

Planning Update: Litigate? Negotiate? Relocate?

Dear Parish Family,

This Lenten season we are living through an uncertain time for our parish church. I hope you came to one of the informational meetings we held to discuss the potential threat to our property. The Episcopal Church continues to insist that our property is their property and they are pressing their claim against us. We said, at those meetings, that our options were limited but clear. We could litigate, relocate, or negotiate. We also said that our immediate goal was clear. We would like to be faithful to God’s call and if possible we would like to remain in our present building. In order to best serve those goals, we wanted to gather the information and do the planning necessary to be well prepared to exercise any one of our options if and when it became prudent to do so.

I want to report to you that we are well on our way to accomplishing those initial goals. We have begun to explore the litigation option--enough said about that at present. A relocation team is meeting to develop a detailed and implementable plan for quickly moving our operations to another facility should we be forced into it. (we hope and pray that this is a remote possibility) The relocation team will also explore long-term options. The question they are attempting to answer is, what is the future that the Lord may be calling us into. Finally, we have met with what we hope will be the core of our negotiating team and we have discussed how we might begin to seek a settlement with the other side.

This is all very blessed news! Within a few days I hope to be able to report to you that we are ready, regardless of what the future may hold. I am sorry that all this is so sketchy at the moment. As we are able to release greater detail we will. For now, I wanted you to know that things are moving along. Our goal is to do God's will with integrity and we hope that means remaining in our present building. We also hope it means as little disruption as possible. We are not naïve however. This present dispute has real potential for harm to our current operations. We are, therefore, moving forward with contingency planning so that regardless of what may confront us we can continue to proclaim the good news in Jesus Christ and advance the Kingdom of God.

Thanks for your prayers on behalf of the parish, the parish leadership and me. It is pretty apparent that God is hearing you. I have personally felt bouyed up and carried forward in a way that can only be explained in supernatural terms. As always, call me if you have any concerns you would like to share. Our Lord is able to accomplish all things and he has promised that He will be in the midst of our current circumstances leading us into the new life He has prepared for us.

Blessings to you all, Fr. Scott

March 7, 2011

Summary of Last Meeting of Parish Leaders

From Canon Mary Hays
March 7, 2011

Dear friends,

Here is a brief update, as promised. On Saturday, March 5, about 200 of our parish leaders met to discuss the best way forward in light of current events.

. The Archbishop described how conversations with the Standing Committee had clarified values that would mark our oversight of all negotiations with the TEC Diocese. Negotiations must allow all of our parishes to survive and thrive; must allow the Diocese to continue its service to congregations; and must not cause harm to the Province as it seeks to care for congregations in other dioceses.

· Standing Committee president Geoff Chapman explained the content of Bishop Price’s letter and pastoral direction of March 1.

· Standing Committee member Jonathan Millard invited those present to sign “An Open Letter to the Clergy and People of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church.” We hope that this letter will be shared widely, as a blueprint for godly negotiations in the weeks ahead.

· Canon Mary Hays explained how congregations will be better equipped to negotiate if they have worked on their “BATNA” – their best alternative to a negotiated agreement. She and Chancellor Bob Devlin also provided a list of questions to help parishes clarify their mission and prepare for negotiating with the TEC diocese.

Parish leadership was also given the opportunity to gather in smaller “interest groups” to discuss what steps they were taking to clarify their mission and to respond to the demands of the TEC diocese. I left the meeting exhilarated and gratified. For years, we have been seeking a negotiated settlement with the TEC diocese. Now it seems as if such negotiations will become a reality. I was impressed by the good questions and hard work by our parish leaders.

In the past several weeks, I have met with a number of vestries – mostly those of parishes named in the Court Order. I have been so gratified to see a renewed commitment to mission in these parishes. Ironically, as congregations have considered the possibility of losing their property, they have become more focused on what really matters – reaching our neighbors with the love and power of Jesus Christ. Vestries have been asking hard questions about the best environment in which to carry out their particular piece of Christ’s mission. I have been struck by the prayerfulness, creativity and even excitement among vestries as they begin to take these tasks seriously.

Please continue to pray for the clergy, wardens, vestries and chancellors of our Pittsburgh-area diocesan parishes.

A special thanks to the clergy and lay leaders of our District 9 (“beyond the ‘burgh) and District 7 (Chicago, etc) parishes who have sent us warm greetings, promising their continued prayers. It is prayer that will get all of us through this – and enable us to give glory to God in the midst of our many challenges!

Much love and gratitude to you all,


An Open Letter to the Clergy and People of The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and to The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church USA

March 5, 2011

Hopes for Negotiations and A Call to Prayer

As we prepare to enter into good-faith negotiations, we ask the people of our two dioceses, and all Christian people in our communities, to pray that these negotiations will lead to fair and godly outcomes that will enable the mission of our churches to thrive.

We hope and pray that in the coming days the leaders and people in both our dioceses will find a way to seek blessing on one another. Specifically, we offer the following overarching principles in the hope that they might characterize the spirit of our efforts to resolve our differences:

1) Mutual Recognition: - that the members of each diocese may be able to recognize the other as seeking to be faithful to their Christian call as they perceive it, and to their conscience.

2) Mutual Forgiveness: - that the members of each diocese will work to forgive perceived wrongs and failures of charity.

3) Mutual Blessing and Release: - that anticipated settlements would not seek to damage the health and future of one another’s ministries.

It is our prayerful goal that our negotiations:

1) Assure that all the parishes and each diocese can survive and thrive;

2) Enable us all to move past litigation and focus on our respective missions;

3) Demonstrate our commitment to be at God’s best as we work to resolve our differences, mindful of the public and private impact of our disagreements.

Signed by clergy & lay leaders of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh gathered for a meeting at St. Martin’s, Monroeville.

Signed by Father Scott, and Jay Morgan

Transfigured and Transformed

The Last Sunday of Epiphany, March 6, 2011
by, The Reverend Denny Ugoletti

Christ was transfigured and we must be transformed

A woman testified to the transformation in her life that had resulted through her experience in conversion. She declared, "I’m so glad I got religion. I have an uncle I used to hate so much I vowed I’d never go to his funeral. But now, why, I’d be happy to go to it any time."

I don’t think this is the type of transformation we’re reading about today. The Collect for the Last Sunday of Epiphany has it right

O God, who before the passion of your only ¬begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The central point of today’s Gospel passage focuses on the word “transfigured.” It’s from the Greek word metamorphoo (pronounced meta-mor-phaw-o) in English we use “metamorphosis” - a complete change of form and substance like the total change of a caterpillar into a butterfly. St. Matthew records a complete change in the appearance or form of Jesus in the presence of Peter, James and John. Jesus became brighter than the light, revealing His true glory to them.

It is interesting to note that here we have the complete reversal of the theme of Philippians 2. In the Gospels the Servant takes on the form of God, revealing His glory. But in Philippians, Paul tells us that Christ Jesus took on the form of a servant.

St. Paul uses the same word in Romans 12:2 to remind us of our priorities - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (metamorphoo) by the renewal of your mind…”
Mega-church pastor and author Francis Chan wrote, “If it’s true that the spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not?”
Today we are talking about transformation – and that is the subject of Philippians 3: 7-14

In order to understand the passage we will need to set in its proper context: "A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text." D.A. Carson

According to Acts 16, the church at Philippi was the first church Paul planted in Europe. As such, Paul and the Philippians enjoyed a special relationship with one another. Paul is probably writing from a prison cell in Rome. In Greco-Roman society, just like our society today, incarceration carried a social stigma. But the church at Philippi did not abandon St. Paul during his time of trouble. They faithfully supported Paul’s ministry with prayer and finances, and sent Epaphroditus to Rome to look after Paul’s needs. Paul is writing this letter to thank the Philippians and to encourage them to live out their faith by following the pattern of Christ.

Chapters two and three form an extended demonstration of what true Christian fellowship should look like. At the close of the first chapter, Paul encourages the Philippians to have a “worthy walk,” that is, a walk or lifestyle worthy of Christ; worthy of the Gospel.
In chapter two, Paul shows us what a worthy walk looks like. His demonstration can be summarized with three points:
unity – of the same mind, of the same love, of the same purpose
humility – unselfish, unassuming, unpretentious
ministry – sacrificially serving one another in love

Brad Waggoner notes an important spiritual principle in his book, The Shape of Faith to Come. “Serving God and others is a mark of spiritual maturity. Without service, spiritual transformation is impossible.”

We are called to have the same mindset as Christ. To see how this is supposed to work, Paul presents the example of Christ to stress that the foundation of Christian fellowship is based upon sacrificial service.

Phil 2:5-11 (ESV) – the “Christ hymn”
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In the light of Christ’s example, Christians are to work out their salvation (together) with fear and trembling (2:12). St. Paul is not speaking in the individual sense in this verse to advocate our North American style of “Lone Ranger” Christianity. He is implying a corporate “you” – we are to work out our salvation together, serving one another.

The pattern of Christ, as revealed in the Christ hymn, follows these lines: Jesus gave up his legitimate interest of equality with God and then he was exalted. The one who dispossesses all – even coming to the place of being dispossessed by God in the end comes to possess all things. St. Paul is saying that our calling is to imitate the pattern of Christ – both individually and corporately. We cannot demand equality from each other and seek our own interests or agenda. Instead, we are called to empty ourselves in service to one another with the expectation that, like Jesus, we will be honored and glorified by God.

To demonstrate this pattern, St. Paul presents himself as an example (2:17-18). He is being “poured out” as a drink offering to follow the pattern of Christ who “emptied out” by making himself nothing. He rejoices with the Philippians because he spends his life for them. Then, Timothy is presented as another example of one who imitated the pattern of Christ. (2:19-24). He is genuinely concerned for the welfare of the Philippians and his service is defined by their needs not his desires. Then St. Paul presents one of their own, Epaphroditus, a member of the church at Philippi, as another example of a life lived for others. (2:25-30). Epaphroditus risked his life to minister to St. Paul in prison and was so obedient he almost lost his life by serving. Paul is showing us that the essence of discipleship is to live in the pattern of Christ. Self-sacrifice flows out of a love for Christ and a concern for other believers.

As we come to chapter three, we find yet another demonstration. St. Paul once again uses his life as an example. He begins by telling us that the Kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom. It is counter intuitive: down is up, loss becomes gain; gain becomes loss and all for the sake of Christ.

Loss becomes gain: St Paul uses three main points to demonstrate this – pattern, perusal and pedigree (3:4-11).

Pattern: The form of Christ’s self-emptying becomes the pattern for shaping the apostle’s life. St. Paul shows that his obedience followed the Christ pattern. He gave up status to become an obedient slave and now his gains are God-given. St. Paul’s one desire is to be found in Christ in the same way that Jesus was found in the form of a human being. To be found in Christ, is to be honored by God with the gift of righteousness

Perusal: St. Paul examined his life and determined that he was bankrupt! Because of Christ St. Paul puts all of his former assets in the deficit column and counts them as a loss. He considers them liabilities and hindrances to the life of faith. This resonates with me because the Lord brought me to the same place in my life. I was reading the Bible to check it out when I realized the Bible was checking me out! And I was coming up short. I thought was climbing the ladder of success, only to discover that my ladder was propped up against the wrong building!

Pedigree: St. Paul’s pedigree: (3:4-6) He was somebody! And he was going somewhere! St Paul was connected, confident and proud of his heritage and achievements. After all, he was a proper Jew with the right lineage, born on the right side of the tracks. He did everything right. St. Paul was affiliated with the right political party. He had status as a scholar and religious leader and a reputation for being zealous for the law.

St Paul had it all going on, or so he thought until he met Christ on the Damascus Road and everything changed! It was then that his gains became loss.

Gain becomes loss (3:7-8): After meeting the Master, the apostle considered all of his worldly “gains” as losses for the sake of Christ! He counts them as rubbish! The Greek word actually means rubbish, refuse, dung or garbage that was thrown to the dogs. This word is a Greek word play that connects to the dogs or Judaizers in 3:2. Jim Elliot understood what St. Paul meant. If you remember, Elliot was a Christian missionary to Ecuador who was killed on January 8, 1956 along with 4 other missionaries while bringing the Gospel to the Auca Indians. Elliot had it right when he said, “He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” My maxim is not as eloquent but it gets the point across “…you will never see an armored car following a hearse.”

All for the sake of Christ: St Paul realized that loss becomes gain; gain becomes loss; all for the sake of Christ. In this section St. Paul tells us that there are only three things worth having in life:

The knowledge of Christ (3:8, 10): “…that I may know him!” If I asked how many of us know Barack Obama would you raise your hand? But the truth is that you don’t really know him – you only know about him. This is not the type of knowledge St. Paul is talking about. He is telling us that the only type of knowledge that matters is experiential knowledge – to know Christ in a personal way through faith.

The righteousness of Christ (v. 9): St. Paul tried to earn right-standing with God, but as soon as Christ came into his life he lost his self-righteousness and gained the righteousness of Christ! On his own, through his own efforts, the apostle realized he was spiritually bankrupt. But in Christ, thank God, there is an exchange. God puts Christ’s righteousness on our account and puts all of our sins on Christ’s account. St. Paul’s number one concern was to know Christ!
The fellowship of Christ (v. 10-11) St. Paul is willing to pay the price, any price, whatever it takes to go through the process of fellowship with Christ. Make no mistake there is a process to go through. St Paul began the process on the Damascus Road. It was not the end but the beginning of a long relationship with Christ. We also start the process when we give our lives to Christ. St. Paul leaves us with five points to remember as we go through the process of discipleship and fellowship with Christ.

Personal – “that I may know Him” at any cost, whatever the price. The process is personal. It is individually suited to your walk with Christ. I can’t walk your walk and you can’t walk mine. God designs our circumstances to help each one of grow in the knowledge of Christ (cf. Romans 8:28). It’s personal, but the outcome is the same for everyone – to know Christ and him crucified!

Powerful – “the power of His resurrection” – This is the gas in the apostle’s tank; this is what made him go. St. Paul was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in the pattern of Christ. It’s no different for you and me; we all need God’s power, his resurrection power actively working in our lives. It is impossible to live out the Christian life, that is, to walk in the pattern of Christ without the enablement of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do it on with our own strength.

Painful – “the fellowship of His sufferings” – St. Paul counted it a privilege to suffer for Christ. He knew that suffering was the way that God molded and shaped him. Suffering comes to every follower of Christ, its part of the pattern. If we walk away with anything from St. Paul it is this - suffering will come but through faith it can be met with joy. Paul wrote the letter to Philippians while sitting in a Roman prison, yet the word joy is used more times in this letter than the combined total of the rest of his epistles. Like St. Paul, we should “[b]e anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6).

Practical – “being conformed to His death” - The apostle is telling us that the Christ life is a cruciform life. St. Paul could live for Christ because he died to self and picked up his cross. The pattern of Christ includes the cross for every one of us. God bids us all to come and die on the cross that we may have new life with him!

Persistent – “by any means possible, I may attain the resurrection from the dead” The apostle had one main goal in life and he kept at it. And this was before the energizer bunny! Like an athlete in a long-distance race, he remained focused on the prize. He ran toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ.

Running towards the goal (3:12-16); St. Paul’s goal should also be our goal – to be all that Christ saved us for and wants us to be! It is important to note that the apostle never thought that he arrived but he continually did everything in his power to possess everything that God had for him. Beloved, you and I are also called to have the same attitude.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 "wolves" inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee replied, "The one you feed."

The million dollar question is - Which wolf do I feed? Which goal am I running for?
Work out: (2:12-13) – to win a race an athlete continually “works out” to condition and train. In the same way, St. Paul exhorts us to “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” We must work out what God works in us – through systematically reading the Word, praying without ceasing, and serving one another sacrificially in love.

Focus on the essentials: St. Paul gives us five things to focus on if we want to win the race!

Dissatisfaction (3:12-13a) – A holy dissatisfaction is essential for spiritual progress. We need to learn to be satisfied with an unsatisfied satisfaction. “Not that I have already attained.” St. Paul was satisfied with Christ but he wasn’t satisfied with his Christian walk. He never allowed himself to become complacent. In the Kingdom of God to stand still means to go backwards – everyone else is passing you up!

Devotion (3:13a) – the believer must devote his or her self to running the Christian race. St. Paul says that there is only one thing that he does. One thing! Not many things – just one thing! (Success comes by specializing). In Mark’s Gospel – Jesus told the rich young ruler - there was “One thing you lack” (10:21). In Luke’s Gospel Jesus told a busy Martha, “One thing is needful!” (10:42). In John’s Gospel, the blind man who received sight testified, “One thing I know” (9:25). In the Psalter, the psalmist said, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek after!” (27:4). Remember the old saying, “When E.F. Hutton talks, everyone listens.” When the apostle to the Gentiles says that there is but one thing to do – are we listening?

Direction (3:13b) – the Christian has to be future oriented - forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead! You cannot move forward if you’re continually looking back. We need to have a sight on where we’re headed. "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). To move forward means to forget what is behind us. The Biblical definition of “to forget” does not mean “to fail to remember.” In the Biblical sense “to forget” means to no longer be influenced by or affected by someone or something. “Forgetting those things that are behind” requires that we leave the past in the past. We can only break the power of the past by living for the future! This requires reframing. We cannot change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past by taking a heavenly perspective on things! The best time to plant an oak tree was 25 years ago – the next best time is now!

Determination (3:14) – I press on! I pursue! I strive! I strain! St. Paul was determined! We also need to be determined! The Greek word is used to describe a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey! Determined means that we put as much effort into our spiritual life as we do golfing, bowling, fishing or shopping! (I know, preacher you are meddling!)

Discipline (3:15-16) - maturity requires discipline! A disciple is one who comes under the discipline of the Master. It requires discipline to form and shape our lives by the pattern of Christ and not be conformed by the spirit of this present age. If we discipline ourselves to keep in step with Christ then Christ will keep us in step with one another!

Throughout this letter, Paul compels us to follow the pattern of Christ. The fellowship of Christians is a unity that comes from yielding to the Holy Spirit and expressing our humility through self-sacrifice and self-emptying love for one another. The example of Christ serving humanity, of Paul serving the Philippians, of Timothy and Epaphroditus serving Paul and the church, and finally, even the example of the Philippians serving Paul – all illustrate the same pattern. Not counting one above one another leads to service for others. In these uncertain times, as we move forward into God’s plan for our church let us commit to follow the pattern of Christ and join the Fellowship of the Unashamed:

The Fellowship of the Unashamed
(Author unknown)

I am a part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” The die has been cast. The decision has been made. I have stepped over the line. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense and my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, love with patience, live by prayer and labor with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable and my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, let up or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up and spoken up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My banner is clear: I am a part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed."