SEC. celebrates TEC’s Origins in Scotland 225 Years Ago

We love you, American Episcopalians!

by Kelvin 14 November, 2014 -


Two hundred and twenty five years ago today, something special happened in Aberdeen.

Two hundred and twenty five years ago today, Anglicanism in the USA was set ablaze with the consecration of the Rt Rev Samuel Seabury, their first bishop.

The fact that the consecration took place in Aberdeen is one of those quirks of church history which has shaped, and continues to shape the church of today.

The short version of the story is that the American church needed to have a bishop and elected one of their own and sent him across the Atlantic to be consecrated by the Church of England. The Church of England in its turn was having none of it, frightened off appearing to offer support to revolutionary tendencies in the United States. Frightened of promoting revolution.

Seabury had come a long way to be made a bishop and needed to look elsewhere. He had previously studied medicine in Edinburgh and perhaps we can presume that his thoughts turned back to Scotland because he had previously been north of the border. He made the the trip up to Aberdeen where he was consecrated by Robert Kilgour of Aberdeen (who was the Primus), along with two other Scottish bishops, Arthur Petrie (who had connections with my own congregation here in Glasgow) and John Skinner.

The deal was that they would consecrate Seabury so long as he took back the Scottish Liturgy to the American church and work for it to be adopted on the other side of the Atlantic. When you are in the know about matters liturgical, you can still see the similarities between the liturgies from our two churches.

The particular thing that the Scottish Rite had was the Epiclesis a prayer invoking the Holy Spirit over the communion elements. The Church of England didn’t have it though they’ve come close to adopting it since. Here in Scotland, that prayer is part of who we are and was part of our gift to America. Any true Episcopalian on either side of the Atlantic knows that the Scottish Episcopalians didn’t just hold up their hands to consecrate a bishop, but blessed the American church with something holy too.

And today, on that anniversary, I want to celebrate the US Based Episcopal Church. I wish they hadn’t tried to change their name to The Episcopal Church a few years ago, as it is downright confusing, but they’ve done so much good that I try to forget about that as much as I can.

In the various disputes within the Anglican Communion in modern times, we must never forget that the Scottish Episcopal Church was the Church that liked to say, “Yes”.

May it ever be so.

The US church received the Epiclesis from Scotland.

They’ve been using it well ever since.

God Bless America and the US-based Episcopal Church today!

Scotland gave

Kelvin | November 14, 2014 at 8:06 pm


Thanks to Fr. Kelvin at‘ for this reminder of the origins of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA), when The Revd. Samuel Seabury - elected as their first bishop by clergy of the Church of England in the United States – was consecrated as such by bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, including ‘Robert Kilgour of Aberdeen (who was the Primus), along with two other Scottish bishops, Arthur Petrie (who – as evidenced by Fr. Kelvin, Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, “had connections with my own congregation here in Glasgow”) – and John Skinner. 

The fact that the episcopal ordination took place in Scotland – rather than in the mother Church of England – was due to the reluctance of the hierarchy of the Church of England at that time to do anything about the establishment of an independent branch of the Church in North America. This meant that Seabury had to look elsewhere for his episcopal ordination. And where better that in the Scottish Episcopal Church – independent of the Church of England and yet sharing the provenance of the historic episcopate with that Church?

This spirit of independence from the Church of England – and yet its acceptance of the commonality of the world-wide Anglican Communion in fellowship with the historic See of Canterbury – the Episcopal Church of the United States still owes its episcopal characteristics and origins to the Episcopal Church of Scotland -is  a point worth remembering in the current disputes within the ACC.

And what about the fact that the Scottish Episcopal Church persuaded TEC to adopt the ‘epiclesis’ – the prayer of invocation of the Holy Spirit over the elements at the Eucharist – that was evidently missing in the English Prayer Book rite at the time? (We, in New Zealand, have the ‘epiclesis’!)

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Pope Francis demotes Conservative Cardinal Burke



Pope Francis finally dropped the long-expected axe on Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the curia’s cultural warriors-in-chief, on Saturday. Burke was removed from the powerful position of head of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican’s Supreme Court, and relegated to the largely ceremonial role of patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Vatican charity, effectively ending his career.

It’s the second time Francis has demoted Burke from a key role at the Vatican; last year he removed him from the Congregation for Bishops, which makes recommendations about which priests should begin their climb up the ladder of the Vatican hierarchy by becoming bishops.

While the move had been expected for some time, it was still significant in that Burke has emerged as the most outspoken critic of Francis’ agenda. During the recent family synod he was openly critical of Francis surrogate Cardinal Walter Kasper’s reform proposals for communion for the remarried and afterward suggested that the church under Francis was like a “ship without a rudder.”

The conservative Catholic blog Rorate Caeli called Burke’s pending removal some ten years before the mandatory retirement age of 75 unprecedented and “the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory … a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

Punishment or not, Burke’s demotion means that one of the leading conservatives in the United States no longer has a platform and is unlikely to be invited to participate in future high-level discussions about church doctrine. Burke is best known for saying that communion should be denied to John Kerry and other pro-choice Catholic politicians during the 2004 elections, a move that many bishops felt debased the sacrament of Holy Communion by turning it into a political weapon. By removing Burke, Francis appears to be signaling a preference for bishops who worry less about politics and more about the pastoral care of their flock.

Conservatives within the church are reacting with horror that Francis should exercise his papal authority to remake the curia more in his image, much as his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict did. (It was Benedict, née Ratzinger, after all, of the smaller and purer church, who appointed Burke to the high court in a clear signal of his preference for doctrinal purity and rigidity.)

Combined with a number of other lower-level curial promotions and demotions—including the firing of a bishop accused of protecting a priest suspected of sexually abusing a child—conservatives are complaining of the de-Ratzingerization of the Vatican (which does sound an awful lot like the fumigation the Vatican obviously requires) and throwing around words like “purge” and making not-so-subtle comparisons to Stalin.

The blowback forced Francis to take the also largely unprecedented step of releasing a Vatican edictcodifying the pope’s authority to fire bishops as he sees fit.

It’s funny how conservatives everywhere suddenly get all un-deferential to formerly revered, and unquestioned, sources of authority as soon as their agenda is out of favor.


‘Religion Dispatches’ blog-site offers us this latest evidence of Pope Francis’ movement towards a greater liberalisation of Roman Catholic policies towards people normally outside of the Church’s pastoral provision. Cardinal Burke, an American conservative, whose appointment to a place on the Doctrinal Commission was made by the previous Pope, Benedict, has finally been relegated to a minor post outside of any Vatican influence on the discussion of Church Doctrine. This paragraph tells the story:

“While the move had been expected for some time, it was still significant in that Burke has emerged as the most outspoken critic of Francis’ agenda. During the recent family synod he was openly critical of Francis’ surrogate Cardinal Walter Kasper’s reform proposals for communion for the remarried; and afterward suggested that the church under Francis was like a “ship without a rudder.”

Ironically, Cardinal Burke, whose ultra-conservative stance on Roman Catholic dogma would normally have been expected to support the initiatives of the reigning Pope; has become noted for his intransigent opposition to Pope Francis’ attempts to modernise the papacy, with a radical openness to re-married divorcees who had been refused the consolation of access  to reception of the Eucharist.

This sacking o Cardinal Burke is yet another sign of Pope Francis’ determination to broaden the platform of pastoral initiatives towards people on the fringes of the Church – thus overcoming the prejudice that has prevented the mission of Christ to all people from being pursued in the spirit of Christ in the Gospel.

This latest move will further dismay the leading conservatives in the Vatican – and other parts of the Church where Pope Francis’ palpable openness to the world is being resisted. May God’s Spirit continue to bring relief from prejudice against the marginalised of the world – so that God’s Kingdom might be seen to be coming among  us. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Lambeth Youth – Religious Community – Prior appointed

Archbishop appoints Prior to oversee radical new community at Lambeth Palace

Posted on: November 11, 2014 12:27 PM

Swedish Anglican priest the Revd Anders Litzell will pioneer the Archbishop of Canterbury’s new community for young Christians at Lambeth Palace.
Photo Credit: Lambeth Palace
Related Categories: Lambeth, Prior, Revd Litzell

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has appointed the Revd Anders Litzell as Prior of the Community of St Anselm, a radical new Christian community at Lambeth Palace.

Mr Litzell, 34, is an Anglican priest from Sweden, who has experience of the Pentecostal and Lutheran traditions as well as three provinces of the Anglican Communion. He will pioneer the Community, which launches in September 2015, and direct its worship and work. He will work as Prior under the auspices of the Archbishop, who will be Abbot of the Community. Mr Litzell will take up the role on 5th January 2015.

The Community will initially consist of 16 people living at Lambeth Palace full-time, and up to 40 people, who live and work in London, joining as non-residential members. The Archbishop hopes that the Community will be definitive in shaping future leaders to serve the common good in a variety of fields, as they immerse themselves in a challenging year of rigorous formation through prayer, study, practical service and community life.

Mr Litzell was ordained in the Church of England in 2012. He is currently serving at St George’s, Holborn, in the Diocese of London – where his ministry focuses on students and adults in their 20s and 30s. At the same time he is pursuing a doctorate which focuses on the relevance of St Benedict for contemporary leadership.  He trained for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, UK, including a sojourn at St Agnes, Diocese of Natal in South Africa.

Mr Litzell grew up in the Swedish Pentecostal Church. During his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College, Illinois he discovered ‘high church’ Anglicanism through St Barnabas Episcopal Church, Glen Ellyn – where his journey to ordination began. Back in Sweden he served in the Lutheran church, Sollentuna Parish in Stockholm, while directing the Alpha Sweden office, before moving to London to work with Alpha International.

Archbishop Justin Welby said: “My vision for the Community of St Anselm is that it be both ancient and postmodern: that young adults be steeped in the rich monastic traditions of the likes of Benedict, Francis and Ignatius, while discovering their striking relevance for the transformation of self and society today.  I am delighted at the appointment of Anders Litzell who will help to work this out at Lambeth Palace.”

The Archbishop’s Chaplain, the Revd Dr Jo Wells, who has pioneered the setting up of the Community, said: “Anders brings an experience and hunger for spiritual formation which is both wide and deep – crossing a variety of continents and traditions. He brings much energy and imagination to the work, a work in which he will participate even as he leads.”

The Revd Anders Litzell said: “I am hugely excited about taking on this role and, through God’s grace, turning Archbishop Justin’s vision for the community into reality. We pray that the Community will be identified by prayer, by learning, by love of each other and of the poor – all with one intention above all others: to become more like Jesus.”

For more information, visit:


Unlike the Youth Community of Saint Stephen in New Zealand, which has no residential base; this exciting new quasi-Religious Community being formed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby, now officially named as the Community of Saint Anselm, will be centred around a core group of 16 members living at Lambeth Palace, in the heart of London, closely associated with a larger group who will be living and working in the outside world.

The Archbishop has appointed the Revd. Anders Litzell, a Swedish Anglican priest, to be the first Prior in residence. Having just listened to the voice of this remarkable young priest (married to a South African), outlining his hopes for the future of the Community, one can detect a spirit of both active evangelism and Benedictine solidarity at work in Fr. Anders’ leadership trajectory.

It would be good if one or two New Zealanders could be encouraged to offer themselves for this experience of a life-time – to live in close proximity to the centre of Anglican life – and to learn to live in community with other like-minded young people who dedicate themselves to  becoming more Christ-like for the sake of the world around them.

May God richly bless these young people as they embark on their community life, in order to bear fruit that will last – in their own lives and in the lives of the people they serve for the Christ they will proclaim by their witness to Him.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Does ‘Religious Freedom’ give ISIS a Foothold?


USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett with Peter Van Dalen, co-chair of the European Parliament's Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, September 30, 2014.

This weekend in Oslo a group of parliamentarians signed a Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief, launching an international coalition to combat religious persecution and protect religious freedom. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) described the meeting as an “attempt to counter the dark networks of ISIS, al Qaeda and others focused on religious persecution and violence, with one committed to freedom of thought, religion and belief.”

USCIRF co-organized the Oslo meeting with Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, leader of the All Parties Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief in the British Parliament. I met Baroness Berridge last spring at the Westminster Faith Debates when we represented opposing sides on the question of whether governments should promote religious freedom abroad. Seeing her name brought to mind an odd story she recounted during our debate that involved sitting down to tea with General Sisi, shortly after the coup, to discuss the prospects for religious freedom in Egypt.

It was only a matter of time until the Baroness and others in the international religious freedom (IRF) lobby sought to capitalize on the moral panic surrounding ISIS to advance their agenda. The call to arms in Oslo is among the first attempts to link ISIS and international religious freedom, but it won’t be the last. As someone who has spent the past few years studying the global politics of the IRF lobby, my first response to the Oslo announcement was whether it would be possible to imagine a more effective ISIS-recruitment tool than the image of a group of global parliamentarians, led by the US and the UK, poised to lead the way to civilization by instructing citizens of the Middle East on how to be religiously free. In some sense, international religious freedom has become the civilizing discourse of our time.

Of course religious freedom advocacy is not the answer to the violence and oppression plaguing the contemporary Middle East. To the contrary, like missions civilisatrices of the past, such efforts tend to exacerbate the problems they are designed to resolve. Let’s be clear: ISIS and the IRF lobby cannot be equated. Yet they share more in common than either would care to admit. Both claim to be driven by the objective of universal emancipation and collective religious flourishing; both draw strength from an intensive, explicit, and highly politicized focus on religious and sectarian divisions; and both have the answer to how we should live together. In some sense they are each other’s nemesis, supporting and sustaining each other in an endlessly provocative (and for some, quite lucrative), globalized version of the American culture wars.

What would it look like to distance ourselves from the Manichean worldviews of both ISIS and the IRF lobby? Is it possible to refuse both positions, to harbor doubts about all claims to have discovered and perfected a universal model of how we ought to live together at all times and in all places in this world? Is there an alternative to the IRF lobby’s narrative in articulating a response to ISIS? Might the perception of a choice between religious freedom and religious tyranny rest in a misunderstanding of both of these supposed alternatives?

Today the IRF lobby, many IGOs and NGOs, foreign policy bureaucracies, and most of the international media relies on an understanding of religious freedom as a stable human right, legal standard and social fact that can be measured and achieved by all communities. Individuals and governments are expected to comply with this universal norm. States and societies are judged based on the extent to which they have achieved religious freedom. A small industry has emerged to quantify its presence or absence.

My experience as co-organizer of the Politics of Religious Freedom project over the past several years suggests that IRF advocacy is considerably more complex than is suggested by such accounts. To promote religious rights is to promote a particular mode of governing social diversity that implicates religion in complex and variable ways, depending on the context. Legal and political advocacy for religious freedom tends to mask other contributors to social tension and conflict, amplify and entrench the religious divisions it seeks to manage, and force political authorities to discriminate between “good” and “bad” religion. Each of these tendencies has implications for the current debate over ISIS.

A bigger field of play 

Religious freedom advocacy singles out individuals and groups for legal protection as religious individuals and collectivities. Positing religion as prior to other affiliations re-politicizes and retrenches divisions between religions, and between the religious and the secular. It leads to what historian Sarah Shields describes as a particular “ecology of affiliation.” Other factors that contribute to social tension, discrimination, conflict, and co-existence are lost from sight.

In a recent piece in the New York Times magazine, the American journalist Theo Padnos described his experience as a hostage held for two years by the al-Nusra front. In reading his account I was struck by the extent to which Islam and the role of Islam in the war in Syria remain in the background, always part of the context, but never defining it. Padnos’ narrative, like those of others who have been close to the ground in this war, suggest that the tragic conditions leading to the rise of ISIS cannot be reduced to Islam, religious persecution, or a lack of religious freedom.

To understand how a movement like ISIS became possible requires grappling with the effects of a series of complex and entangled enabling conditions. As others have noted, these include a long history of state-sponsored violence with origins both inside and outside of the region, multiple legacies of colonial oppression, a pervasive lack of good governance, the widespread resonance of Islamist politics as an oppositional and anticolonial discourse, a dearth of economic opportunity for the vast majority of the region’s population, an unequal distribution of resources, sectarianizing state politics, exploitation and repression by local, regional and international elites, and ongoing oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians. ISIS is but the latest manifestation, a lashing out, and a last stand against the injustices plaguing the people who live in this part of the world.

To suggest that legal guarantees for religious freedom, as defined and imposed by the international community, will solve these complex problems and challenges is at best naïve and at worst an insult to the people of region. To endorse religious freedom as the solution is to refuse the reality and complexity of the situation on the ground. It hinders the development of informed governmental and non-governmental policy responses by deflecting attention away from the considerations described above in favor of a focus on (whatever is defined as) religion, religious leaders and religious communities.

An informed response to this crisis would combine a deep understanding of the factors listed above with a sense of humility and respect for the people of the region, from all backgrounds, that rose up beginning in 2011 to challenge impossibly repressive governments and their foreign supporters, unthinkable police brutality, and unjust living conditions. This was not, and is not, only about the politics of social and religious co-existence. It is much more encompassing. The response of the international community should reflect this complexity, honoring those who gave their lives attempting to create new forms of political community and solidarity reflecting a democratic sensibility.

Whose religion? Whose freedom? 

But the problem with the IRF lobby runs deeper. Paeans to religious freedom not only mask the causes of conflict in the region but also, and more perniciously, exacerbate the situation on the ground by giving sustenance to the “us versus them,” black versus white, right versus wrong logic on which ISIS thrives. The Manichean worldview espoused by the IRF lobby—either you’re with us or against us; either you support our version of religious freedom or you don’t—ironically works to retrench the very divisions (Christian/Muslim, believer/unbeliever, western/non-western) that groups like ISIS depend on to cement and popularize a collective sense of identity and purpose defined in opposition to western states, Israel, Jews, and Christians. Prioritizing advocacy for religious freedom unwittingly reinforces the boundaries that feed ISIS’s fire. Undermining ISIS is a long-range project that involves, among other measures, unsettling the assumption that the boundaries dividing Jew from Christian from Muslim from Hindu from unbeliever are the only ones that matter. They aren’t.

And yet the IRF project presses the public imagination, legal and political institutions and social practice in the opposite direction, reinforcing the public and political salience of sectarian divisions and empowering some leaders and orthodoxies over others. In this worldview, individuals are identified based on perceived religious affiliation—for instance, he’s a Muslim, she’s a Christian, they are part of a particular “religious group.” These groups are publically consecrated as discrete faith communities and official spokespersons are called forth to represent them. A “religionized” political landscape takes shape. Faith leaders who enjoy good relations with the political authorities are emboldened, while others are marginalized. Dissenters, doubters, those who practice multiple traditions, and those on the margins of community fade into the background.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, in the world of IRF many violations of human dignity fail to register at all, languishing beneath the threshold of national and international recognition as scarce resources go to rescuing persecuted religionists and defending faith communities that have broken through the threshold of international religio-political recognition. As I argue in Beyond Religious Freedom, these selection dynamics cannot be mitigated with a more diverse and sophisticated understanding of religion or religious community. There is no easy fix. Certain questions always plague such efforts: Which religions are protected? Which leaders are engaged? And whom exactly are these leaders presumed to represent?

In another tragic mirroring of ISIS’s ceaseless reckoning of who is a “good” or “bad” Muslim, the politics of religious freedom force political authorities to make determinations between “good” and “bad” religion. In ISIS’s books, al-Nusra once occupied the position of good Muslim, was reclassified as bad Muslim, and, as of this writing, appears to be back in the “good” Muslim column as the two fronts join forces against Assad and the US-led airstrikes. A related set of dynamics bedevils American efforts to identify and support “religious moderates” in Syria. Prioritizing religious freedom in the fight against ISIS simply exaggerates these dynamics as the IRF lobby struggles desperately to distinguish between sects and leaders who support “religious freedom” (as defined by the lobby and its powerful donors) and those who do not.

Beyond religious freedom 

It’s not my intention to judge individuals who find themselves in difficult circumstances and choose to make political claims in the language of religious freedom. Nor do I wish to undermine local groups working to oppose violence and discrimination that have chosen to register complaints using the legal tools at their disposal, some of which will inevitably invoke religious classifications. This is understandable. But there is a larger story to be told about that which is hastily described by the IRF lobby, the media, and others today as “religious” violence and persecution—and freedom and toleration.

The challenges facing the Middle East today cannot be reduced to a choice between religious freedom and religious violence. The solution to today’s dilemmas of global collective life lie neither in the relentless pursuit of the international religious freedom agenda nor in ISIS’s oppositional fantasy world. Despite the rhetoric in Oslo, and the momentum of the new religion agenda in Brussels, Washington, and Ottawa, the last thing the people of the Middle East need is a religious freedom charter that will serve only to embolden ISIS among its followers. If a solution exists, it lies beyond religious freedom, and with the people of the region.


This article from ‘Religion Dispatches’ offers us food for thought. Would the overall advocacy of ‘religious freedom’ be a worthy tool of opposition to the type of fanatical religion such as that presently being thrust upon the world by ISIS and Al Qaeda?

Would a Western advocacy of religious freedom for all people help to curb the growing propagation of fundamentalist religious totalitarianism, which currently has us all wondering about the future of the world’s civilisations? Frankly, looking at the ambitions of the ISIS leadership, it would appear that nothing less than capitulation to a harsh application of inhumane religious sanctions – that includes death for ‘the infidel’ and isolation for Islamists whose way of life is less stringently conformed to the observance of strict Sharia Law – could be countenanced by Islamic Fundamentalists.

As Christians, there can be little doubt that the Lord of The Church counsels us to ‘seek peace’, but, I suggest, not without the possibility of justice. Perhaps this is the basic criterion for any future hope of religious co-existence. There can be no peace without justice, and justice is at issue at this point in time in any negotiations with ISIS.

Father Ron Smith

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Adoring crowds – and ministry success

crowd1 33

“Our worship attendance has grown from 100 to 500 in just the last year.” “We have over 75 kids in the youth group.”

Numbers. They’re the currency of ministry. The crowd has become the definition of ministry success.

But if crowds indicate success and effectiveness, Jesus’ ministry was a bust. The crowds turned out to see this famous guy. They sometimes assembled in large numbers to hear an inspiring word or glimpse a miracle. They lined the streets on Palm Sunday like fans at a Hollywood red-carpet awards show.

But a week later the adoring crowds turned away.

Jesus’ true effectiveness, his real disciples, did not come from the crowds. He changed the world through his personal interaction with a small number.

It’s likely true for you too. You have the power of the resurrected Christ within you to change lives. One by one. Who will in turn change other lives. One by one.

People in ministry are all about encouraging faith. That’s not a crowd thing. You don’t mass-produce faith. It’s an individual thing, a relational thing.

We tell our Lifetree Cafe branches that it’s not about the numbers. It’s about the narratives. When thinking and talking about this ministry, we urge leaders to tell the stories about what God is doing in people’s lives. Don’t focus on the numbers. Focus on the narratives.

I received an email this morning from Katie, a volunteer at a Lifetree in Indiana. She told her story of sitting with three new people from the community. She raved about how the experience “steered the conversation. They asked questions left and right about my faith.” She told how she shared her faith story, in a very natural way, with these curious new friends.

God worked through Katie. Not through a crowd. But through a faithful disciple who engaged in a natural conversation with three wanderers who trusted her with their questions.

Take time today to celebrate your Jesus-inspired success. Not in the size of the crowd. But in the individuals God has placed around you.

Thom Schultz –

- See more at:


“People in ministry are all about encouraging faith. That’s not a crowd thing. You don’t mass-produce faith. It’s an individual thing, a relational thing.”

The above comment, from Thom Schultz, posted on the ‘My Christian Daily‘ web-site, gives us a timely reminder of true Christian evangelism. Rather than a self-appointed spiritual guru, the propagation of the Gospel requires a team of Christ-centred servants, whose own lives of dedication to evangelism are closely bound to their imitation of the Lord they proclaim.

The Big-Band, Big Tent, idealization of the bringer of the Good News, is antithetical to the ethos and culture of the Gospel Message; which is to proclaim Christ’s ministry as the Servant King. In the course of that ministry, the God/man Jesus pointed beyond himself to the Father, whose will he was intent on obeying – even unto death. The glory of Christ lay in his sacrificial life, and his life-giving death and resurrection.

Triumphalism was never a characteristic exhibited by Jesus. His riding on a donkey into the city of Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday gives evidence of this: “He was humbler yet – even to death, death on a Cross”. On the matter of self-advertisement, Saint Paul had this to say: “God forbid that I should glory – save in the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ; through whom the world is dead to me and I to the world”.

Mass evangelism can occur only in situations where its promoters are totally dedicated to the God they have been called to serve. The agency of that evangelism is none other than the Spirit of God. “Those whom God calls, God equips”. Words alone can never convict a person to faith in the God they seek. There has to be some evidence of a deep connection – between the messenger and the Message – that needs to be personal and convincing, in order for the Gospel seed to be produced and sewn in fertile soil: “By their fruits you will know them!”

Each seed of faith  is sewn separately, bearing fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in an individual life. That life can then be nurtured in the community of faith – and that is where the Church, the Body of Christ, begins to grow. “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord”. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Thoughts on Bishops who won’t Ordain Women


Considering the fact that I, and people like me who profess to embrace true liberality in the Church; this blog-post comes as a refreshing breath of fresh air. Despite the problems of dealing with conservative clergy and bishops in the Church, I believe that, in the interests of the acceptance of diversity, we must all come to the realisation that this is what Christian liberality is really all about – acceptance of the fact that there are points of view, different from own own, that have an intrinsic right to be expressed in a Church that calls itself ‘catholic’. – Father Ron –

Originally posted on Gerry Lynch's Thoughts...:

Philip NorthToday it was announced that Philip North, Vicar of Old St Pancras in London and a prominent member of Traditionalist Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith, is to be the new Bishop of Burnley. He is, therefore, someone who will not receive the sacramental ministry of women priests and bishops. Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost of Glasgow, has objected to Philip’s appointment on social media today. Although Kelvin is someone I have a lot of regard for and agree on a lot of things with, I simply can’t agree with him here.

For what it’s worth, I am and always have been a supporter of the full inclusion of women in the Church’s threefold orders of ministry. It is one of the main reasons why I moved from Roman Catholicism to Anglicanism 17 years ago. I rejoice that I think I can reasonably expect to see a woman as Archbishop of Canterbury…

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Jesus and the Modern Man

By JAMES CARROLL – New York Times

SOMETIMES, when I kneel alone in a pew in the far back shadows of a church, face buried in my hands, a forbidden thought intrudes: You should have left all this behind a long time ago. The joyful new pope has quickened the affection even of the disaffected, including me, but, oddly, I sense the coming of a strange reversal in the Francis effect. The more universal the appeal of his spacious witness, the more cramped and afraid most of his colleagues in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church have come to seem.

It is easy to love Pope Francis for his resounding defense of the poor, his simplicity, his evident large heart. But the moral grandeur of his personal triumph throws into stark relief the continuing pettiness of the institution over which he presides, a pettiness that inevitably seeks to impose itself on him. What magic, actually, can Francis’s singular magnanimity work on the church’s iron triangle of bureaucracy, dogma and male power?

The intruding voice in my head keeps asking, for example, why has Francis, too, joined in the denigration of American nuns?

Why is the culture of clerical immunity that unleashed a legion of priest-rapists being protected instead of dismantled?

Why in the world beatify, or advance toward sainthood, Pope Paul VI? With his solemn reiteration, in 1968, of the ban on contraception, that pontiff, whatever counterbalancing virtues he displayed, single-handedly made Roman Catholicism a church of bad conscience.

Is an awful truth about dogged church backlash on display here?

No one cares whether one bent man in a back pew, like me, throws in the altar cloth at last, but the religious disenchantment of the secular age puts the question even more broadly: Why the church at all? Yet as soon as the voice in my head forces the question, I know the answer, although it’s hard to explain. Unlike many Protestants, Catholics have long put their practical faith more in the community of belief than in the person around whom that community gathers.

We are on intimate terms with saints, the mother of God, the parish priest, the good sisters, fellow Knights of Columbus or Legionnaires of Mary; we make our home in the seasons of the year, from Lent and Easter to Advent and Christmas; the trusty liturgical cycle; a beloved sacrament for each stage of life; the silence before and after Mass; holy water. But what’s left when, owing to intrusions of power or sex or new ideas, the ancient solidarity cracks?

Compared, say, with Evangelicals, we Catholics do not speak easily of Jesus Christ: no “closer walks” for us.

Yet Jesus Christ is the point of all the smells, bells, rules and dogma; the point, finally, of being Catholic. Ironically, the failures of the church make that point with power, for it is when one dares imagine the deliberate act of lapsing that the image of Jesus Christ snaps into foreground focus. Here, perhaps, is the key to Pope Francis’s astounding arrival, for beyond all matters of style, doctrine and behavior, he is offering a sure glimpse of a fleeting truth about the faith: The man on his knees washing the feet of the tired poor is the Son of God.

Francis is pointing more to that figure than to himself, or even to the church, which is why institution-protecting conservatives are right to view him with alarm. For this pope, the church exists for one reason only — to carry the story of Jesus forward in history, and by doing that to make his presence real. Everything else is rubrics.

So what can a modern person believe about Jesus? There are intellectual obstacles to faith. The church has always shaped what it believes in terms drawn from the prevailing worldview, but history is the record of one worldview yielding to the next — from Ptolemy and Aquinas to Copernicus and Darwin to Einstein and Hubble.

More than a century ago, the church was thrown for a loop by the mind of modernity, and even now struggles to assimilate the established ideas that change is essential to the human condition; that truth is always seen from a particular point of view; that all language about God falls short of God.

And, speaking of God, in what way, actually, can Jesus be said to be divine? A scientifically minded believer wants to discard that notion, but before he does, he should remember that if Jesus were not regarded as somehow divine almost from the start of his movement, we would never have heard of him. And if faith in the divinity of Jesus is left behind because it fails the test of contemporary thought, Jesus will ultimately be forgotten. Is it possible that contemporary thought can learn from this old article of faith? What if the so-called divinity of Jesus lays bare not so much the mystery of God as the majesty of what it is to be human?

But, in addition to intellectual barriers, there are moral obstacles to faith in Jesus, too — not just the blatant sins of the church like sex abuse or misogyny, but also sacrosanct core traditions of Christianity that turn out to be grotesque distortions of who Jesus was.

Chief among these is the way in which the full and permanent Jewishness of Jesus was forgotten, so much so that his story is told in the Gospels themselves as a story of Jesus against the Jews, as if he were not one of them. Against the way Christians often remember it, Jesus did not proclaim a New Testament God of love against an Old Testament God of judgment (which girds the anti-Jewish bipolarity of grace versus law; generosity versus greed; mercy versus revenge). Rather, as a Shema-reciting son of Israel, he proclaimed the one God, whose judgment comes as love.

Imagined as a zealot who attacked the Temple, Jesus, on the contrary, surely revered the Temple, along with his fellow Jews. If, as scholars assume, he caused a disturbance there, it was almost certainly in defense of the place, not in opposition to it. The narrative denouement of this conflicted misremembering occurred in the 20th century, when the anti-Semitism of Nazism laid bare the ultimate meaning of the church’s religious anti-Judaism.

The horrified reckoning after the Holocaust was the beginning of the Christian reform that remains the church’s unfinished moral imperative to this day.

Most emphatically, that reform must be centered in a critical rereading of the Gospel texts, so that the mis-remembered anti-Jewish Jesus can give way to the man as he was, and to the God whom he makes present in the lives of all who cannot stop seeing more than is before their eyes.

Such retrieval of the centrality of Jesus can restore a long-lost simplicity of faith, which makes Catholic identity — or the faith of any other church — only a means to a larger communion not just with fellow Jesus people, but with humans everywhere. All dogmas, ordinances and accretions of tradition must be measured against the example of the man who, acting wholly as a son of Israel, eschewed power, exuded kindness, pointed to one whom he called Father, and invited those bent over in the shadowy back to come forward to his table.

It was the table, I suddenly recall, that brought me here in the first place. The lights come up, the people arrive, and I stand.

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