Saturday, December 29, 2007

Of The Mind and Heart...

"...Where the Mind is biggest, the Heart, the Senses, Magnanimity, Charity, Tolerance, Kindliness, and the rest of them scarcely have room to breathe..."

Virginia Woolf

Of Clergy and Pink Hats...

What's With All that Stuff?

What's with the difference in clergy, the different colored shirts, crosses, and "plus" signs? Such have been a few of the questions I have received since my consecration as a bishop last month. Briefly--and I do mean briefly--here are a few words on the matter:

There are three types of clergy in the Charismatic Episcopal Church with all three being ordained ministers; deacons, priests, and bishops. The laity are also ministers by virtue of their baptism. Actually they are THE ministers of the church--the ordained clergy are like the "coaches" with the laity being the "players" on the field and in the game.

Deacons are not to be confused with evangelical protestant deacons. Evangelical protestant deacons, for the most part, are laymen, not ordained clergy, who serve on a "board" and may have other assignments. They are not normally authorized to do priestly or sacramental duties, although good deacons in an evangelical church are a very valuable asset to the pastor and the church.

Our deacons are fully ordained clergy and, under certain circumstances, may marry, bury, be a pastor, serve Eucharist with pre-consecrated elements, counsel, pray, baptize, and assist the priest or bishop, among other duties. Deacons in our communion wear a gray clergy shirt. On Sundays, they wear a stole that is diagonal. Deacons represent the servant heart of Christ. They wear a silver, pewter, or wooden cross on a black cord. Some deacons are "permanent deacons" and will serve God as lifetime servants, usually in one church, unless they move to another location, assisting the priest and bishop. Others deacons feel called to the pastorate and are "transitory deacons" who, one day, may be ordained to the priesthood and will plant a church.

Priests may perform all of the sacraments except confirmation and ordination. They wear a black clergy shirt, although they may also choose to wear gray at times. On Sundays, their stole hangs straight down, hopefully equally, on both sides in the front. They wear a silver cross and chain. Priests represent the father heart of God. A priest may use a cross, or a plus sign, after his name in correspondence, for example, Father John Brown +. The cross indicates that he is a priest. Priests should also be good deacons, as far as their "servant hearts" are concerned.

Bishops may perform all of the sacraments. They wear a purple clergy shirt but--guess what--they may also choose to wear black or gray! Confused yet? They wear a gold cross and chain and wear a ring on their right hand indicative of their office. A bishop is the chief pastor in a diocese and is a pastor to ALL the members of the churches but especially to the deacons and priests. In our communion, bishops who lead a diocese are to be pastors of their own churches--demanding, but good for keeping their feet on the ground and their heads out of the ozone.

The bishop represents the government of God--but he should also be a prime example of a servant and be a good spiritual father. The bishops may use a plus sign, or a cross, in FRONT of their name as in: + John Brown. The cross takes the place of the word "bishop." So, + John means "Bishop John." Deceased believers also have a cross in front of their name in special services such as All Saints Day. So both bishops and deceased people have crosses in front of their names, which says something--I don't know exactly what-- but something.

But the truth is that it's ALL about the High Priest and, if it's not, we are wasting our time. Jesus is the High Priest in the midst of his people and He is the consummate servant, father, and king. Don't get all hung up about this stuff. If you desire to know something, just ask. There are no dumb questions, although I just might give a dumb answer---it's happened before! :o)

On Sundays, I wear a purple "beanie-thingy" called a "zucchetta," not to confused with "zucchini." Actually, it's sort of a "red-purple." A young boy asked me the other week, "Why do you have to wear that pink hat?" "For humility," I said. "For humility."

Anyway, I hope that answers a few of the questions you might have on your mind. If there are any others, let me know! If I have shared any incorrect information, I am certain that someone will correct me--but it's okay. I wear a pink hat and am learning humility.

Your servant,

+ David Epps

I have always liked + David and this little article is part of the reason why. Blessed is the man able to find some humour in religion and his job!


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Divine Instruction

Jesus needs neither books nor Doctors of Divinity in order to instruct souls; He, the Doctor of Doctors, teaches without noise of words.

St Therese

Japan's Secret Christians

Kakure Kirishitan

IKITSUKI ISLAND, Japan (Reuters) - One by one, the sacred relics -- a medal of the Virgin Mary, a crucifix and other revered objects -- are taken from a cupboard and placed on an altar for a Christmas Eve rite passed down through centuries from Japan's earliest Christians. Then, kneeling in the simple hall built where martyrs are said to have been burned on this tiny, remote island 400 years ago, five elders murmur chants as they bow and make the sign of the cross. The kimono-clad deacons are descendants of "Kakure Kirishitan," or Hidden Christians, who kept their religion alive on Ikitsuki and in other isolated pockets of Japan during 250 years of suppression, adapting their rites to the demands of secrecy and blending them with local beliefs.

First brought to Japan by Portuguese missionaries in 1549, Christianity was banned a few decades later in 1614, initiating a period of bloody persecution that forced the faithful to choose between martyrdom or hiding their beliefs. Medals or hanging scrolls depicting saints and martyrs, often with Japanese features, were hidden in cupboards as "nando-gami" ("gods in the closet") and only taken out on special days. In an apparent echo of the bread and wine of the Eucharist, elders still share sashimi and sake as part of the Christmas Eve and other ceremonies. Huge "mochi" rice cakes adorn the altar. Transmitted orally and in secret, Latin "oratio" chants, "orasho" in Japanese, lost all but symbolic meaning.

"They preserved the style and form of the Christianity that they inherited, but the teachings were no longer from the Bible and changed into respect for local martyrs, so in that sense it can be seen as a Japanese ethnic religion," said Shigeo Nakazono, curator of an island museum who has studied the "Kakure Kirishitan" for years.

When Roman Catholic missionaries returned with the lifting of the ban in 1873, some Japanese Christians accepted their teachings, but others clung to what they saw as the true faith of their fathers. "'Gotanjo' is the day of Christ's birth. That's no different from Christianity," said Yasutaka Toriyama, 68, who holds the hereditary position of "gobanyaku," or head of a household that traditionally held a group's relics, such as scrolls or medals.

"But while ours is a religion that believes in Mary and Christ, we also believe that our ancestors who suffered persecution are gods."

This is a fascinating article. A picture of how a faith community isolated and uninformed can alter and dilute the very faith they tried to preserve.



Friday, December 7, 2007

No Concelebration...

Court fines Lutheran pastors for job discrimination against woman colleague

A religious conviction does not justify discrimination against a female colleague in the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, according to Hyvinkää District Court. The court imposed fines on two male pastors, Tauno Tuominen, who served as acting vicar at the Lutheran parish at Hyvinkää, and Ari Norro, a visiting pastor, on Friday. The conviction was for gender discrimination against a woman pastor, Petra Pohjanraito, in March this year. Also fined was a member of the parish's church council.

The case revolves around an incident in which Norro, a member of the Lutheran Evangelical Association in Finland (LEAF), had been invited to preach as a guest on the Sunday in question. Shortly before the service, he declared that his conscience would not allow him to share the altar with a woman, even though she had been scheduled to officiate on that Sunday.

In the exchange that followed, Norro was supported by a member of the church council, who is also the head of the local branch of LEAF. Tuominen, Pohjanraito's immediate superior, was on hand, but did not take part in the discussion.
The court noted in its decision that nobody came to the defence of Pohjanraito, and that she was left with no choice but to leave.

The visiting preacher was convicted of discrimination. Norro was sentenced to pay 20 income-linked day fines, and the chair of the local organisation of LEAF was sentenced to 15 day fines. In his defence, Norro appealed to the principle of freedom of religion. However, the court found that he had exercised his religious freedom by agreeing to preach in the church without preconditions. The court also noted that the LEAF members were aware that Hyvinkää parish was bound by a report by the Lutheran Bishops' Conference last year calling for the equal treatment of pastors.

Tuominen was also sentenced to 20 day fines for job discrimination and neglecting his official duties, because he did not step in on behalf of Pohjanraito.
The court found that it would have been his duty as acting vicar to prevent the pastor from being put at a disadvantage because of her gender.The court also recognised as a mitigating factor the fact that Tuominen had a very short time to make a decision in the situation.

Norro said after the decision that he would appeal the case to the Court of Appeals.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hispanics and Democrats..

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Hispanics are returning to the Democratic Party after several years of drifting toward the Republicans, with many saying Bush administration policies have been harmful to their community, a poll showed Thursday. By 57 percent to 23 percent, more Hispanic registered voters say they favor Democrats than Republicans, according to a survey by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center.

The survey found that among Hispanic registered voters:

• Forty-one percent said Bush administration policies have been harmful to Hispanics, 16 percent said they have been helpful and 33 percent said they have not had much impact.

• Forty-four percent said Democrats have more concern for Hispanics, 8 percent chose Republicans and another 41 percent said there is no difference.

• Forty-one percent said Democrats do a better job of handling illegal immigration, 14 percent named the GOP and 26 percent said neither.

Among Hispanics who are registered Democrats, 59 percent said they want Hillary Clinton to be their party's presidential candidate, followed by 15 percent who prefer Barack Obama. Among Hispanic Republicans, Rudy Giuliani leads Fred Thompson, 35 percent to 13 percent...

Not at all surprising



Tear gas at Church

In an incident that a Cuban Catholic official called ''the worst attack against the church in 45 years,'' witnesses said police and state security agents raided a church in the eastern city of Santiago on Tuesday, using tear gas and blows to drag 18 dissidents to jail.

''This is an example of the relationship between the church and the Cuban government?'' said Rev. José Conrado Rodríguez, parish priest at the St. Teresita Church. ``This was a wild terrorist party.''

Human-rights activists say the roundup at the church capped a weeks-old crackdown by state security agents against a rising movement of young dissidents demanding more freedom and independent universities.The series of detentions of young people began last month when a handful protested recent municipal elections, and expanded days later when dozens were arrested for wearing white rubber wristbands that say CAMBIO -- change.

...The latest arrests occurred when a group of dissidents dressed in black walked from Santiago's cathedral to St. Teresita some 20 blocks away in support of other youths arrested last week in Havana. Once at the church, they planned a prayer service for their jailed friends.

...'Everybody wore something black, and some people were wearing stickers on their shirts that said, `I don't cooperate with the dictatorship' and slogans like that,'' Hechavarria said by telephone from Santiago. ''When we got to the church, about 25 patrol cars surrounded us on every side. It was huge. I have never seen anything like it,'' she added. ``Everyone rushed in the church, but they came in after us with tear gas. They were pushing and shoving and hitting people and saying any number of terrible things to the priest.''

While the witnesses said the roundup targeted the dissidents, they questioned why authorities waited until the marchers arrived at the church to arrest them.''Don't you think that's kind of strange?'' Conrado asked by phone from Santiago.''I was speechless. Who has ever seen such a thing in a church? There is no justification for this, and I cannot accept it,'' said Conrado, long known as a critic of the Cuban government. He said Santiago Archbishop Dionisio García later that day held Mass at St. Teresita and branded the incident as ''the worst attack on the church in 45 years.'' Conrado said his bishop was demanding answers from state authorities.

....Witnesses said 18 people were arrested, and one woman was released after eight hours, because she was lactating. They said we were CIA and mercenaries,'' said Tatiana López Blanco, the Cuban Youth For Democracy Movement member who was released at 2 a.m. ``I never thought I would see such a thing in a house of God.''

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Canadian Anglicans

To the Clergy of the Diocese of Toronto.
From: Bishop Johnson

Dear Friends,

As you know from the media, the Essentials Network met last week in Burlington to prepare for a formal separation from the Anglican Church of Canada. Please note that this is the “Network” branch of Essentials, and it is clear to me that it is not the intention or desire of the majority of those who are involved in the mainstream of the Essentials movement itself. (ed: divide and conquer?)

I am saddened but not surprised by this development. I do understand that some people may choose to leave their denominational tradition because they feel led to a different path. I, myself, left the denomination of my birth and early development to become an Anglican – and I have never regretted that decision. What I cannot countenance is a primate and province of the Anglican Communion in another part of the world claiming missionary jurisdiction here, not as another denomination but in competition as the “real” Anglican Church. A few clergy who have relinquished voluntarily their orders in the Anglican Church of Canada, or will soon do so, are actively engaged in this. This is not acceptable....

We have worked together in this diocese to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to build communities of hope and compassion, and to create space where faithful people of very diverse theological and cultural perspectives can all contribute to enriching our ministry and deepening both our understanding of and our engagement in God’s mission here today. We have done so, even in the midst of differences and ambiguity and discomfort, because we know we have been called together by Jesus Christ. We have been initiated into his life through baptism that unites us with him and with each other in a holy fellowship that is more than of our making, so much more!

...I list below ten cogent points from another bishop’s letter to his clergy that I think bear repeating as we respond to the Network’s actions:

• Pray for the unity of Christians, for a spirit of charity towards those with whom we may disagree, and for God’s forgiveness of our mutual failure to honour the prayer of Christ in St. John’s Gospel “that they may be one.”

• Give particular support to those conservative and traditional Christians who remain with their church and grieve the departure of friends.

• Teach our members about the genius of Anglicanism and its balance of Scripture, reason and tradition within the boundaries of common prayer.

• Emphasize in our preaching and leadership the centrality of mission and its priority over ecclesiastical politics.

• Challenge the false stereotypes that foster polarization - e.g. the ‘heartless conservative’ or the ‘unbiblical liberal.’

• Give thanks that our church, for all its messiness, is honestly and openly facing issues some other bodies cannot.

• Press forward in ministry and evangelism at the local level.

• Deepen our study and immersion in Scripture. Place ourselves under the authority of the Christ it reveals. Avoid both an empty relativism and a harsh literalism.

• Encourage both local media and the non-churchgoing public to understand the deeper roots of this development.

• Take the ‘long view’ - i.e. remember the consistent triumph of the Gospel over the historic fragmentation of the church, and the persistence of faith through the failures of human discipleship.

... Let us continue to worship, proclaim and embody the Good News of Jesus Christ in our Diocese! Please know that you are in my prayers during this holy season of expectant waiting, as I trust I will be in your prayers.

Yours faithfully,
(The Rt. Rev’d) Colin R Johnson,
Bishop of Toronto

Saturday, December 1, 2007

World AIDS Day

We are well into the third decade of a scourge that has expanded exponentially beyond a small specific group to almost every corner of the globe. Whilst in some areas, incidence may have turned, prevalence continues to rise and will do so for a long time- more young people will be infected, more orphans will occur.

Yet, today still 70% of infected people don’t have access to life saving therapies. Many still face stigma, economic deprivation and rejection because of their infection. Many still don’t have access to basic information or simple interventions that will reduce risk. This is not the time for complacency nor apathy. It is the time for compassionate leadership that recognises that the voiceless are often those who suffer most- who can they turn to if their leaders do not listen and heed their cries.

--Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M Tutu

Prayer for Peace

Lead us from death to life
Lead us from falsehood to truth
Lead us from despair to hope
Lead us from fear to trust
Lead us from hate to love
Lead us from war to peace
Let peace fill our hearts,
our world, our Universe.