Friday, January 25, 2008

The Unorthodox Patriarch

January 25, 2008;
Page W11

Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, can be regarded as the "pope," or at least the symbol of unity, of Orthodox Christianity. The denomination's 300 million or so adherents make it the second-largest body of Christians in the world, after Roman Catholicism. The 67-year-old Bartholomew also represents one of Christianity's most ancient branches as the latest in a line of 270 archbishops of his city -- modern Istanbul -- that traces itself back to the apostle St. Andrew, brother of St. Peter, in a part of the world where the Christian faith has existed since New Testament times.

In December 2006, Bartholomew, patriarch since 1991, was thrust under the world-wide media spotlight when he celebrated the Orthodox Divine Liturgy with Pope Benedict XVI. The two met in the tiny Church of St. George in the equally tiny patriarchal compound in Istanbul, all that remains of an Eastern Christian civilization on the Bosporus so glistening and powerful that for more than 1,500 years Constantinople called itself the "new Rome."

Now Bartholomew has a forthcoming book, in English, "Encountering the Mystery: Perennial Values of the Orthodox Church" (Random House). It purports to be a primer to Orthodoxy, with short chapters on ritual, theology, icons and so forth. What it really is, perhaps inadvertently, is a telling glimpse into the mindset of a church that, venerable and spiritually appealing though it may be, is in a state of crisis. And the book reveals the jarringly secular-sounding ideological positions its leader seemingly feels compelled to take in order to cultivate the sympathy of a Western European political order that is at best indifferent to Christianity.

The Orthodox community, rooted mostly in Russia and Eastern Europe, is in "apparently irreversible demographic decline," as religious historian Philip Jenkins wrote in 2006, thanks to falling birthrates, cultural secularization, turf battles between the various ethnically focused Orthodox churches, and past communist ravages. The historic Christian communities in the Islamic-dominated world -- some Orthodox -- have fared even worse, their numbers reduced as members frantically immigrate to the West under pressure from terrorism, persecution and religious discrimination. The historic fate of Christianity in Islamic-majority lands has been cultural annihilation, whether gradual over the centuries or, as in recent decades, swift.

Nowhere does the plight of Christians look so pitiful as in Turkey, nominally secular but 99% Muslim. At the turn of the 20th century, some 500,000 Orthodox Christians, mostly ethnic Greeks, lived in Constantinople, where they constituted half the city's residents, and millions more resided elsewhere in what is now Turkey. Today, Bartholomew has only about 4,000 mostly elderly fellow believers (2,000 in Istanbul) left in Turkey's 71 million-plus population. The quasi-militaristic regime of Kemal Ataturk that supplanted the Ottoman Empire during the 1920s forcibly Westernized the country's institutions but also made Islam an essential component of the Turkish national identity that it relentlessly promoted.

"Kemalist ideology regarded Christianity as Greek and thus foreign," says Greek Orthodox writer Joshua Treviño. The result was a series of official and unofficial ethnic cleansings, population transfers, massacres and pogroms in Turkey, such as the wholesale destruction of Orthodox churches in 1955. The murders of a Catholic priest in 2006 and of an Armenian Christian journalist and three evangelicals, two of whom were Turkish converts, in 2007, together with threats and assaults against other Christian clergy by ultra-nationalists and Islamic militants, indicate that such anti-Christian animus is far from dead. Furthermore, the current government refuses to allow the reopening of Turkey's sole Greek Orthodox seminary, closed in 1971, which means that there have been no replacements for Turkey's aging Orthodox priests and -- since Turkish law requires the patriarch to be a Turkish citizen -- no likely replacement for Bartholomew himself, whose death may well mean the extinction of his 2,000-year-old see.

Nonetheless, Bartholomew devotes the bulk of his book to anything but the mortal threat to his own religion in his own country. High on his list of favorite topics, most with only a tangential relationship to Orthodoxy, is the environment. He has won the nickname "the Green Patriarch" for the decade or so he has preached the ecological gospel, largely to liberal secular audiences in the West. "Encountering the Mystery" is in large part a collection of eco-friendly platitudes about global warming ("At stake is not just our ability to live in a sustainable way but our very survival") and globalization, adorned with a bit of theological window-dressing, that today's secular progressives love to read.

On first reading, this exercise in fiddling while the new Rome burns seems pathetic, presenting a picture of a church leader so intimidated by his country's Islamic majority that he cannot speak up for his dwindling flock even as its members are murdered at his doorstep. Bartholomew's book presents an eerie mirror image of the concerns of aging, culturally exhausted, post-Christian Western Europe, happy to blather on at conferences about carbon emissions and diversity but unwilling to confront its own demographic crisis in the face of youthful, rapidly growing and culturally antagonistic Muslim populations. The suicide of the West meets the homicide of the East.

On the other hand, Bartholomew's "green" crusade across Western Europe may actually represent a shrewd last-ditch effort to secure a visible profile and powerful protectors for his beleaguered church. The patriarch has been an incessant lobbyist for Turkey's admission to the European Union, and his hope has been that the EU will condition Turkey's entry on greater religious freedoms for all faiths.

Orthodox Christianity is not dead yet. Its famous monastery on Mount Athos in Greece has enjoyed new growth recently, and in America some Orthodox churches are drawing converts attracted by the glorious liturgy and ancient traditions. It is unfortunate that Orthodoxy's spiritual leader feels compelled to position the Orthodox with a Western Europe that is, in fact, spiritually dead.

Ms. Allen is the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus."

This article raises serious questions about the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the future of the patriarchal see and the health of Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe.

In the context of recent conversation with friends and coleagues on the journey to the Ancient Faith, full of idealism and the fervor of new discovery and conversion, this article strikes a sobering note. The crises prompted by globalization, secularism, changing demographics and politics aparently are no respecters of antiquity, beauty , orthodox belief nor apostolic lineage and pose a challenge to the whole of Christendom.

It did me good to read this article, surely there is some bias in it, but also elements of truth that should cause me to pray and to ponder. How is the faith to survive in the modern world unless, aided by the power of the Holy Spirit we can bypass the barriers, boxes and limitations placed around us? Maybe the unusual approach of His Beatitude is an attempt to address issues beyond the boxes other would put him in which in time could give results beyond what we expected.

The interesting note reporting growth in the Americas and at Athos is refreshing. Maybe it is a testimony to the Holy Spirit's sense of humor ...He goes where he chooses despite demographics! It definitely is a reminder that God's life defies predictions of death and can crop up in the least likely of places. Despite all, even the seeming Un-Orthodoxy of the patriarch's style... Orthodoxy is not dead.



Thursday, January 24, 2008

Patriarch’s Message from the March for Life

"...We are light because He is the Light..."

I just returned from a gathering with the young adults of the American Church in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, January 22nd we gathered at the Supreme Court to pray for the souls of the hundreds of thousands of babies who have died in the greatest holocaust known to mankind and then we joined hundreds of thousands of others - mostly young adults and walked in prayer to end abortion in our generation.

I also want to thank the priests and deacons who came to the events. Your presence is a clear sign that our communion is Pro-Life. Thank you to the adults from various churches that took a day off from work and travel great distance to be part of the March for Life - your sacrifice means a great deal in the heavenly realms.We were reminded over and over again by our first Patriarch that we are a church of generations. The blessing of God is for us and our children and our children’s children. In one generation the culture of death has made great advances, but I believe in one generation abortion in America will be once again made illegal. Young men and women of the CEC, you are the generation of warriors for the Gospel. You are the generation that will bring in a revival of God’s gift of love and life in the Western Church.

Abortion, not only in American but also around the world, is the most obvious and horrific manifestation of the culture of death. However to be pro-life is far deeper than being anti-abortion. The Gospel is a message of life. Jesus said that he came to bring life to its fullest.The greatest gift of life is the forgiveness of sin, which is received freely by those who come to Christ Jesus in genuine repentance and willingness to amendment of life. This is the message of reconciliation that we are commissioned to preach in word and action. Genuine life and the fullness of life come from God as we live in relationship with Christ Jesus. The promise of those who believe in Christ Jesus and follow Him is eternal life.

The sacraments, as means of grace, give life. Baptism not only conveys the reality of the forgiveness of sin and reception of the Holy Spirit, it is also an affirmation of life as a gift from God. In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist we proclaim the death of Christ. This death we know is our own forgiveness of sin. The Eucharist is also the hope of the eschatological banquet and our participation in the heavenly wedding feast. Jesus proclaimed that when we eat His flesh and drink His blood we will have life in us. Every Eucharist is pro-life.

We are light to the world. This is the message of Epiphany. For some of us the darkness is very dark. Many minister in situations where there are constant death threats upon them and their families. But we are called to be light. And, as it has been suggested, “it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” We are light every time we go into the world with the message of hope, but also with ministry that makes visible the void. Every birthing clinic, orphanage, feeding program, nursery school, or HIV/AIDS clinic is a proclamation that all life is sacred. Every time evangelists go into the world under the power of the Holy Spirit they are going empowered by the very Lord and giver of life.

Christ has come among us and He will never leave us or forsake us. He is in our midst and the light will overcome the darkness.

Under His mercy,
The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates,
Patriarch, ICCEC

There are several wonderful things I get from this statement from the Patriarch of the CEC.

First is the unfailing commitment to the pro-life cause. The CEC was birthed in the midst of this movement, something we have been often reminded of. A commitment not just to end abortion but promoting a culture that respects life has been a theme in communications from the Patriarch and other CEC leaders. Though polls regarding the legality of abortion do not give as optimistic an outlook as this communication suggests, there is of course room for hope. Most Americans seem to feel that abortion should probably be limited, but few that it should be illegal in all cases. That could change and the young are challenged to be catalysts of transformation.

Secondly, he rightly identifies abortion as a symptom of a wider evil in our society, a culture of death. Though he does not specify what he means by that presumably violence, wars, hostility to the Gospel, could be intended as he quickly identifies the proclamation of the Gospel as a message of life through Jesus Christ.

The sacraments, he points out, are life giving means of grace. Baptism and the Eucharist, long held by Anglicans as the essential sacraments are cast as pro-life sacraments, God's affirmation of life and promise of life eternal. We iluminated by the life of Christ also stand in some sense as sacraments, bringing light rather than cursing darkness, through our very concrete actions of message and ministry to the hurting and needy.

I love the reminder at the end, very much in the tenor of our founding Patriarch "Christ will never leave us nor forsake us..."

May this be a vision we hold close to our hearts and God give us the grace and strength to live it!



Heath Ledger, Actor: 1979-2008

Australian-American screen actor Heath Ledger is dead. Ledger was an Oscar-nominated leading man with an admirable career both artistically and at the box office—he may currently be seen in 2007's art-house sleeper I'm Not There and he'll soon be opening across the nation as the iconic Joker, the lead villain in next chapter in the Batman film franchise. He died in Manhattan. He was 28.

Ledger was born in Australia, achieved some degree of teenaged fame on Australian TV, and decamped for America where he quickly became a likable heartthrob in movies destined to be camp favorites (10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight's Tale probably share nothing in common but stars and fates as nostalgia fodder). His turn as Mel Gibson's son in The Patriot earned him a GQ cover. Then he got serious.

He became both a gay icon and an acclaimed thespian with his role as Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain—and in addition to the Academy Award nomination, people were suddenly bestowing upon him the dangerous mantle of "young Brando."

And while he attacked his share of paparazzi, as all young guns must, Ledger became a New York icon not through phone-throwing and cop-slugging but through embodying a certain mid-2000s trend of quiet Brooklyn cohabitation.

In Brooklyn, with fiancee Michelle Williams, Heath Ledger became a Hollywood actor that the more sensitive among us could love, or at least tolerate. Why? Well, he lived in Brooklyn, wasn't afraid to kiss a dude in Brokeback Mountain, and showed us all that achieving (temporary, at least) domestic happiness was indeed possible. He and Williams went to community meetings to protest the Atlantic Yards development, hung out in the same places the rest of the parents in their neighborhood, took their kid to Prospect Park, and just generally behaved like normal people.

But the relationship ended. Ledger moved into Manhattan and began partying and making the columns in the proper young movie star fashion. In a November piece in the New York Times (tracked down by commenter TedSez), Ledger, in the midst of playing a criminal psychopath in a perhaps unhealthily Method fashion, admitted to being distressed. He popped Ambien. And then, some months later, he died, surrounded by pills, in an apartment belonging, according to early reports, to an Olsen twin.

He leaves behind a surprisingly short and almost as surprisingly consistent filmography. And he's survived by a two-year-old daughter, Matilda Rose

I found this shocking and very sad specially for his family and young daugther. May God grant him mercy and rest.



Lambeth 2008

Archbishop Outlines Lambeth Goals
Posted on: January 23, 2008

Joined by 30 bishops from 17 provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams announced the official program for the 2008 Lambeth Conference on Jan. 21.

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Williams pointed out that the first Lambeth Conference in 1867 was called in part in response to “a crisis about the limits of diversity allowed in the Anglican churches around the world; so there’s nothing so very new about a Lambeth Conference meeting in a climate of some controversy.”

The archbishop noted that the conference “has never been a lawmaking body in the strict sense and it wasn’t designed to be one: every local Anglican province around the world has its own independent system of church law and there is no supreme court. But the very fact of the conference shows that we have always been willing to look for ways of setting our common life on a firm basis so that we can act and serve more effectively in our world.” He said this year’s gathering will focus on strengthening the sense of a shared Anglican identity among the bishops, and helping to equip bishops for mission.

“In spite of the painful controversies which have clouded the life of the Communion for the last few years, there remains a very strong loyalty to each other and a desire to stay together,” he said, noting that about 70 percent of bishops invited have now registered for the conference. “These close and personal relationships, which are not often in the headlines because they simply carry on doing the work they set out to do, are part of the solid ground that helps us cope with the turbulence in other areas.”

Jane Williams, wife of the archbishop, said attendees at the spouses’ conference she is organizing will “look at some of the huge issues that face us all, and that diminish God’s people and make it harder for others to hear God’s good news. For some of these themes, we will be joining the bishops’ conference, because these are not ‘women’s issues.’ The whole people of God need to be challenged and have their needs heard and ministered to in these areas.”

Responding to questions after his prepared remarks, Archbishop Williams noted that the Global Anglican Future conference scheduled to be held in Jerusalem a month before the Lambeth Conference was not unique. “Before the last Lambeth Conference, and indeed on other occasions, there have been major international gatherings regionally, or in other ways constructed preparing for Lambeth, and I am very happy to see such regional events going forward,” he said. “But I do have real concerns that in this case there are unresolved concerns for the local Church, the Church in Jerusalem, which has pinpointed some anxieties about having such a conference at this time in the Holy Land. I hope that those can be addressed.”

Asked how the conference would address the issue of homosexuality, Archbishop Williams said one day on the schedule was reserved to consider “sexuality questions as they affect the ministry of bishops,” including a report on the listening process from the Rev. Canon Phil Groves of the Anglican Communion Office. “It [also] is inevitably going to be part of the conversations informally, day by day as people will bring to the conference what their anxieties are and what their hopes are. There will not be a resolution on this subject.”

Archbishop Williams reiterated that Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has not been invited “and it's proving extremely difficult to see under what heading he might be invited to be around.” Asked whether he had considered inviting all bishops, including CANA bishops and Bishop Robinson, Archbishop Williams said he had, but “I thought it best to stick fairly closely with what the Windsor Report recommends, that we should see this as an event for those who have accepted the general direction of the Windsor Report and haven't flown in the face of its recommendations.”

Regarding the attendance of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield, inhibited by the Presiding Bishop earlier this month, the archbishop said he is “waiting on what comes out of the American House of Bishops’ discussion of that. It's not something I've got a position on yet. At the moment he still has an invitation.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Abortion Rates Decline

Report: U.S. abortions decline
By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer Thu Jan 17, 2:11 PM ET

NEW YORK - The number of abortions in the United States dropped to 1.2 million in 2005, the lowest level since 1974 and down 25 percent from the all-time high of 1.6 million in 1990, according to report issued Thursday. The Guttmacher Institute, which surveyed abortion providers nationwide, said there likely were several reasons for the decline, including more effective use of contraceptives, lower levels of unintended pregnancy and greater difficulty obtaining abortions in some parts of the country.The institute's president, Sharon Camp, noted that despite the decline, more than one in five pregnancies ended in abortion in 2005.

"Our policymakers at the state and federal levels need to understand that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy, so we must redouble our efforts towards prevention, through better access to contraception," Camp said. The Guttmacher Institute supports abortion rights, yet both sides in the debate on the issue consider its abortion surveys the most comprehensive in the United States because they encompass California, the most populous state. California state agencies do not collect abortion data to contribute to federal surveys.

According to the Guttmacher data, the number of abortions declined by 8 percent between 2000 and 2005, from 1.31 million to 1.21 million. Similarly, the 2005 abortion rate of 19.4 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 was down 9 percent from 2000. Abortion rates were highest in Washington, D.C., New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Florida, Maryland and California. Rates were lowest in largely rural states: Wyoming, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Idaho and Utah.However, the report noted that the rates reflected the state in which the abortion occurred, thus including nonresident women who crossed state lines to get an abortion. By region, the Northeast had the highest abortion rate, followed by the West, the South and the Midwest....

This should be good news as we prepare for March for Life and Sanctity of Life Sunday this week. Not that the current numbers are in any way acceptable but there has been a drop in abortion that we are thankful for. Of note , unmarried, poor minority women are still the highest risk group for abortion.

O Father in Heaven. Thou art the Creator of life. Protect all expectant mothers and the babies they carry in their wombs. We pray that those who suffer from the evils of abortion will be open to Thine Infinite mercy and love. We ask for the conversion of all who fail to respect the gift of human life. Heavenly Father, guide our actions to help restore in the hearts of all people the sanctity of human life. Amen!



The CEC Talk....

Our parish had “the talk” yesterday, one that we have been trying to put off for weeks. After a wonderful time of prayer and fellowship we had the very serious conversation about our status in the CEC.

The problem we finally had to face, is that the institutional and canonical developments within the CEC over the last decade, are in no way parallel to the development of this very nice group of people, given to God, each other and to those in need.

There has been a great emotional investment by many of these folks in the name CEC, in belonging to a community which seemed to capture the idea of convergence. That name has meant for some a place of conversion, for others the discovery of the Holy Spirit and Charismatic gifts, the beauty of the Eucharist, a place where the Bible has become a living book, a place of freedom and family. To visit a Eucharistic celebration you would be experiencing convergence at its best! That, makes it all the more difficult!.

Most people in this colorful CEC parish, probably would not feel comfortable with a female celebrating the Eucharist but, cringe at the thought that there would be any impediment for someone called by God on the basis of gender. Women, in all areas of ministry pray for and welcome more male involvement, but be taken aback by the suggestion that leadership in church should be only open to their husbands. Along with great respect for clergy, there is a healthy sense that all people are called to ministry, and all voices important in the discernment of God’s will.

The CEC, as presently defined by its canons and some in its leadership and episcopate, is not just about convergence or ministry. It is also defined by government by consensus, male headship and female exclusion from holy orders and church governance, a conservative bent on social issues, a growing demand for conformity in theological views to traditional boundaries. It is a quandary!

How do you choose convictions over family? How do you come to accept that others feel you “do not belong” though every fiber of your being tells you otherwise? Do you compromise deep held convictions or do you resist the forces demanding uniformity despite the risk of being an outcast? None of these seems like attractive options, nor has this kind of conflict been on the radar screen of a parish leadership that has avoided conflicts of a theological or administrative nature by focusing on evangelism and mission.

On the other side, there are those, outside the parish, who wonder how it could be possible for any group in the CEC to have existed for so long without any reference to GBC, the communion's very clear positions on male headship, women in ministry and other social issues. The question of how people with progressive leanings were ordained, commissioned to minister and encouraged in this communion has also been voiced by some!

Maybe, the mere fact of the existence of our congregation, speaks to the disarray of our communion in the last decade! Maybe it is testimony to the very flexible margins of CEC’s early days! Maybe it is evidence of a don’t ask, don’t tell policy some in the episcopate have tacitly followed! I would like to think it is testimony of things as they should be, unity in essentials, liberty in non essentials and charity in all things.

Should relationships trump religion? Should unity mean uniformity? Can two who love but disagree still live together? Is the CEC to be a tight ship or a big tent? The answers to that are still undetermined but the future does seem uncertain.

I could not help a feeling of sadness as a wonderful bunch of people I respect and love settled with firm determination to; be in the CEC but, of course, to also be us! A total wonderful contradiction, but then again...they say that "nothing is impossible" to those who believe. With new leadership and momentum in the CEC wether that is in the realm of surely to be soon put to the test!

Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles,‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you’:look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church and grant it the peace and unity of your kingdom;where you live and reign with the Fatherin the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever. Amen



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Holy Trinity...Gay Weddings!

Toronto Church is First Anglican Parish in Canada to Approve Weddings for Homosexuals

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

TORONTO, January 15, 2008 ( - Toronto's Church of the Holy Trinity has presented a direct challenge to the leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada by voting to hold weddings for same sex couples.

Their statement says, "Holy Trinity will continue to exercise its conscience and bless same-sex unions and marry same-sex couples." While Holy Trinity has been conducting blessing ceremonies for some time, Rev. Jim Ferry, a preist at Holy Trinity clarified, "We also intend, when the opportunity arises, to take the next step, which is a (same-sex) marriage ceremony."

Ferry also claimed that numerous other parishes across Canada are "quietly" conducting same-sex blessings. "We're not the only ones," he said yesterday, according to the Ottawa Citizen. "There are other parishes across the country who have been quietly going ahead and doing same-sex blessings. They're in the major urban centres, wherever there's a significant population of gay and lesbian people."

...While four Canadian Anglican dioceses (Niagara, Ottawa, Montreal and New Westminster, BC) have voted to allow ministers to conduct blessing ceremonies, Holy Trinity has defied the doctrine and normative procedures of its own church by not only endorsing gay marriage, but doing so without seeking the permission of its bishop.

Last week Archbishop Fred Hiltz said in a letter addressed to his clergy, "It is important to note that the Anglican Church of Canada has not altered its doctrine of marriage as outlined in our prayer books and canons," but hedged that statement with the qualification that Canadian Anglicans "live in a country where the federal government in 2005 approved legislation that allows the marriage of same-gender couples."

The Anglican Church of Canada, which is holding its annual synod in Winnipeg this week, will be considering a resolution that would allow individual congregations to decide for themselves whether or not to bless gay 'marriages', but not in fact to 'marry' same-sex couples. The worldwide Anglican Church is currently deeply divided over the issues of ordaining homosexual clergy and same-sex marriage.

I can not see any scenario in which this will have a positive outcome as far as the unity of the Anglican Communion! People on both sides of this divide seem intent on pushing the envelope as far as possible, making any meaningful discussion of this very divisive issue nearly impossible.

Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy on us!


Discord and Dissention: The Early Years

by Tobias Haller BSG

One of the prevailing myths of Christianity is that the Church was more or less of one mind until the Reformation. Like unto this, the Reformation myth is that the Scripture itself is a seamless garment, and it is bad form to point out or make anything of the contradictions or tensions within it.

However, neither myth will serve us well in addressing reality: the reality of our present tensions and disagreements. On the contrary, it is helpful to make use of the disagreements in the apostolic Church, attested to in Scripture, and hold them up as a mirror in which we may helpfully see our present controversies reflected, and take heart that the Church survived.

One can point to the tensions between Peter and Paul, or Paul and John Mark as obvious points of disagreement, leading to sharp words and separation in mission. (Paul does seem to have been at the center of a good bit of dissension, doesn’t he?)

Obviously the greatest controversy of those days concerned the place of Gentiles in the Church, and what was to be required of Gentile converts. After much ad hoc and informal argument and a few tussles, a Council was called. After hearing reports, and consultation, the Council reached a decision and issued a Communiqué: (1) Gentiles allowed; (2) circumcision not required; (3) a list of required moratoria on a number of practices, including eating meat offered to idols, enacted.

One might have thought that would settle it; but no. The Scripture attests that the circumcision party continued to demand more than the Council required. Saint Paul stood in strong opposition to the conservatives in this regard, in particular in his correspondence with the Galatians. But on the Council’s decision on food offered to idols, Paul took what might best be called a revisionist view when he wrote to the Corinthians. It really ought not be forbidden, he said, but in the interest of harmony why not oblige? Don’t let such unimportant things as food (you and I know they are unimportant) disrupt the Church.

This kind of accommodation was seen by others as both disrespectful of the Council, and really quite contrary to what that Council intended: that eating meat offered to idols was a serious matter, and no trifle. John the Divine may have had Paul or someone like him in mind when he excoriated the people in Pergamum for tolerating those among them who held “to the teaching of Balaam” and “ate food sacrificed to idols.”

And so the conflict went, until the issue of food offered to idols finally disappeared in a generally Pauline direction — although it seemed important at the time, in the long run it really wasn’t a core doctrine after all.

Does any of this sound familiar — I don’t mean from your knowledge of Scripture but from the current goings-on in the Anglican Communion? It seems that Councils (or Conferences) never have settled the dissension they are designed to address, at least not completely. There will still be hardliners at one extreme and progressives at the other. But the good news is that the Church muddles through. The hot issues of each age do eventually burn themselves out, and the ashes are blown away by the wind of the Spirit.

I really liked this article! It points out some very common presupositions many of us hold when thinking about the Church or Scripture! It leaves us with the hope,based on our own history, that the refreshing wind of the Holy Spirit will continue to blow away our discord and dissention.



You Did Not Choose Me....

From Bishop Craig Bates, Patriarch of the ICCEC

...I want to thank everyone who has sent email and notes of congratulations on my election. I am grateful to be part of such a fellowship of believers. Our Lord is leading us and as the people of God we will continue to listen to the voice of the Lord and when we hear we will obey.

Many have said to me “let’s forget the past and move forward.” I understand what they are saying and what they mean by that statement. But to totally forget our past would be foolish and dangerous. I want to acknowledge today, and will continue to do so in the future, the faith, courage, and boldness of Archbishop A. Randolph Adler. This man of God was willing to be obedient to the Lord and continues to be obedient. Bishop Adler was chosen by the Lord in the midst of defending the rights of the pre-born to speak the word of the Lord concerning what we now know as convergence or three streams. Making visible the void was not spoken in the comfort of the pews but in the streets and jails of Los Angeles. Bishop Adler for over three decades has spoken prophetically and pastorally to the good people of St. Michael’s Church and since 1992 has spoken to the nations of the world. He has prayed for us, led us with a spirit of humility, has been a giver and not a taker, and has raised up men and women around the world who will carry on the vision. I am not worthy to step into his shoes and I need each and every one of you to stand with me, in a unity that will be given by the Holy Spirit.

And, I stand today and honor Betty Adler. There are not words that can express our appreciation for this more than gracious woman of God. Few know the sacrifices she has had to make over the last decades. How she had to often stand-alone while her husband was traveling and facing the demands of leadership. How she, along with Bishop Adler, had to face personal sacrifice. How they model faith during the death of loved ones. We honor and love Betty. Our prayers are that after some well-deserved rest they will once again be among us in giving voice to the love, mercy, and forgiveness of the Father. We want the wisdom the Lord Holy Spirit has given to both of them. It is a wisdom birthed not only in obedience but also in suffering.

Our Church is Pro-Life. ..It is my plan to join Fr. Terry Gensemer and the youth of our Church on January 20-23 in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life and the annual gathering of CEC for Life. I hope and pray that many of people, particularly leadership will be with CEC for Life and me at this event.

...On Wednesday evening of the Convocation I will be enthroned as the second Patriarch of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. It is my hope that Bishops from around the world will be able to be in attendance to once again express liturgically what is true about our communion. We are an international church! And, my hope is that as many of us as possible will be able to be present.

Thanks to a working group on communication we have two new websites - and As you can see by visiting the sites there will be regular updates from around the world. Very soon you will be able to make your reservations for Convocation on line. We encourage you to do so quickly. Let’s fill up the Wyndam Resort in Orlando and gather for three days of fellowship, teaching, and worship of our Lord Jesus.

...Archbishop Adler and Archbishop Chuck Jones have prophetically spoken of a Tsunami anointing of God’s love coming upon the earth. This word has been spoken not only by them but also by prophetic people throughout the church. God is pouring out His love and mercy everyday. We are, through prayer and worship, to earnestly seek God as He seeks us. Brazil is evidence today of a spirit of revival and renewal. To sit with Archbishop Paulo Garcia is to be encouraged to press on and see that even in the midst of post modern humanism God still moves drawing people to Himself. I know in the future God will use Archbishop Garcia, and indeed the Bishops of the South Hemisphere, to work with the Bishops of the West in walking close to the heart of God.

There is a spirit of unity and cooperation among the Bishops of the West. I know each of them is eager to get to work and build the Church. It is no longer time to describe our wounds it is time to seek healing for our wounds. The American Church has gone through hard times - much of which we inflicted upon ourselves. We made mistakes, often had poor judgment, and in so doing we not only offended but hurt many. We have asked forgiveness. We intend amendment of life and will implement necessary corrections. But more than anything we will move forward in articulating the vision God has given us. We will move forward with loyal and faithful men and women who have weathered hard times. We will move forward knowing we will make other mistakes and face difficult times. We will however move forward knowing that the Lord will not leave us or forsake us. We will move forward not with political agenda but being led by the Spirit.

I have hit the floor running. I will try to answer as much correspondence as possible. This Friday and Saturday I am in Portland, Maine meeting with the great clergy of Maine. On Sunday, I head of to Washington, D.C. and then the following Sunday-Monday I will be gathering with some administrative types to begin looking at not only the transition of leadership but the creation of an infra-structure for the entire communion. When things begin to get into place I will try, through our website, to keep everyone informed of our progress.

Please pray for me. I yearn to be among you as one who serves. I am humbled by this task and humbled by the love and support so many of you have already offered. I am humbled to follow such a good and godly man. Please pray for the Cathedral Church of the Intercessor, as it becomes the new See of the ICCEC. The faithful people of St. Michael’s Cathedral will tell you what a difficult job it is to be out front. They did a phenomenal job and our hearts will always be drawn to them. Now we pray for them, as they get about the new phase of their life together as a family. Pray for my family particularly Cathy. Those who know Cathy know you are around a special person when you are in her presence.
Under His mercy,

The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates,

For prayer and consideration! Read the whole text at



CEC- International Communion!

The election of new patriarch for the ICCEC brings into focus yet again the international character of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. As Archbishops and bishops from our communion in other parts of the world write to congratulate our new Patriarch, their faces and words, remind us that others share with us the vision which is the CEC

In reality most of the faithful and clergy in this communion are not North Americans but people in what has been termed the Global South; the Church in Brazil, several African nations and the Philipines outnumber by many times those of us in the US who call the CEC home. Even prior to the divisions and defections of clergy and congregations in the last years, the church in the US was but a small minority.

Perhaps, as we look forward to a new season in the church, we would do well to look at the perpectives, experience, ideas and spirituality of our brothers and sisters elsewhere. They seem, for the most part, to have been spared the crises we have faced and continued to grow, even as many of us felt the whole church was crumbling around us. It may be that, as we go forward, their greater participation in the life of our church will be a catalyst for renewal! Maybe,the growing realization that we are but a small part of a community that extends beyond the walls of our parish, priest, bishop, patriarch or computer server, will help us set healthier priorities as we live the life of faith and engage in the mission and ministries each have been called to.

There are particular strong concerns I hold about the life of our church in the US. The aura of a growing conservatism in some areas, less accomodation to diverging theological views, a push for more unformity in liturgy. Issues of accountability, the application of Government by Consensus, limited laity participation and the exclusion of women at all levels of church government still cause me to wonder about the future. Yet, looking at the faces from across the globe, gives me some hope.

It may be that some answers to our dilemmas can come from those we rarely look to, those who in the setting of other cultures, customs, traditions and different circumstances are living the life of faith under the banner of the Charismatic Episcopal Church .

May God bless the people of the ICCEC


The Time is Now

I look forward to the 2008 March For Life more than ever before. I am encouraged for many reasons, not the least of which is the growing intensity of the battle. After several years of domination by a political party that promised everything, yet delivered very little, maybe the church will wake up and realize the futility of putting all of our eggs in one basket.

This battle must be fought on all fronts. It is a battle for the hearts and souls of mankind. It is a battle that will decide the future of humanity and civilization. It is a battle that will not be completed until a majority of people both in the U.S. and throughout the world grasp the concept of the sanctity of human life. That ideal will only be realized as hearts are changed. That means we have to fight spiritually through prayer and truth as well as visibly being seen with our message on the streets, in the political, social and economic arenas. You might appropriately ask how that can be accomplished. To be honest, I do not have the complete answer. However, I do believe the solutions to winning the battle for life are encapsulated in the energy, passion, creativity, and enthusiasm of our youth. They are the ones closest to the battle. It is their friends who are faced with crisis pregnancies, with Frankenstein-like bioethical decisions being thrust upon them, with increasingly louder voices denying the existence and relativity of God. So I believe that God will reveal the solutions to them. We as adults and battle weary soldiers need to trust them and their ability to hear the voice of God in this strategic time. We can be there to help, to advise and give counsel, but we must let them enter this battle in full armor. Having said this, I am strongly appealing to Clergy and youth leaders to come to Washington this January and bring your young people with you. (My idea of youthfulness ranges from teens to thirties).

This will be the best event we have ever had in Washington and will be totally different than what we have done before. We will have rallies both Sunday and Monday nights as well as different events planned for the day of the March. We will no longer be standing around for hours on the cold, frozen Mall. We have different plans. More on the details coming soon. As you can read from the quotes on the front page, our youth are ready to step up. Let’s join them and encourage them. See you in DC!

Thank you for your support and dedication to protecting life!

Fr. Terry Gensemer, Director
CEC for Life

Blessings to you Fr. for being an inspiration and a voice for life to the CEC and world!


CEC Reconciliation?

It is no secret to most people by now that the CEC has experienced very hard times lately. One of the most difficult episodes in the life of the communion was the loss of aproximately half of its bishops within the past 2 years.

The reasons for the breakup have been the subject of speculation and discussion. It has been attributed to growing theological differences among bishops, conflics arising from leadership style at the higher levels of the church, credible allegations of misconduct about the CEC's founding patriarch and issues of accountability.

With changes in the make up of the CEC's house of bishops and recent election of a new Patriarch, the question of reconciliation, communion, or even reunion among this once self proclaimed "band of brothers" was posed at a discussion forum about the CEC's situation. Here a response from Bishop Painter...

"...First, to answer Seraph's question...I would always welcome the restoration of friendships and even fellowship with my estranged Bishops...even those that called me unrepeatable names, told lies about me, and blamed me for things I could have in no way ever had the authority to make happen. However, to be a part of the CEC again I have no interest...just personal. I still pray for my brother Bishops and the CEC and pray for God's blessings on them, and all of the clergy and laity. Not endorsing any cover-ups, sloppy agape, or acting like "it does not matter". Rather, I must leave that between God and all those still involved.

As to +Bates, the new Patriarch. I am sorry the CEC retained that office and title. There are other, better in my viewpoint, options available to them and to choose one of these would have been fresh and demonstrated forward looking more than just words. I still believe +Bates will do a very good job in his new "official role". He is very gifted, has true administrative and organizational skills, is an outstanding preacher and teacher, loves people and souls and God's church (en toto), and is called and anointed by God.

Has he ever blown it? Yes. Have I ever blown it? YES! Is he human and even carnal at times? Yes. Am I human and even carnal at times? YESSSSS! Will he make mistakes in the future? Yes. Will I make mistakes in the future? YES! Are we clear, yet? All of us need all of the help, prayer, love, and forgivenes we can get. My friend, Craig, if you read this or someone shares this with you...I love you and am praying for you and all in the CEC...God's very best blessings on you and them!!!

Thank you patient people for hearing this old, a little tired, Bishop! You are all in my prayers, even though I do not know all of you personally...

+Rick Painter

Our prayers are with you as well bishop, thanks for all you do!



Monday, January 14, 2008

Baptism of Jesus

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

I love this feast day and the gospel texts for the day. Jesus comes to the river Jordan to be baptized by John who, after initial reservations proceeds to baptize Jesus as he did so many others. John preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and people of all sorts flock to hear him and be baptized. Yet, as we analize the gospel texts relating to John's ministry, it becomes apparent that though many come , those seeking baptism are reckoned among the rejected of society! Tax collectors, women of ill repute and even soldiers go into the waters, while many of the religious watch from a safe distance.

What prompted Jesus, by all accounts the sinless one, to submit himself to a baptism for sinners? Perhaps his desire to fully identify with the human condition, to be counted among those whom society despised and in need of God's intervention in their life, whom by his own account, he came to seek and serve. This solidarity with the marginated would accompany Jesus throughout his ministry, death and resurrection. He announced himself as the Messiah to a woman of a despised ethnic group with relationship issues,now on her 6th significant other. He attended the houses of public sinners, allowed a woman of ill repute to touch and kiss his feet and some of his last words were reserved for a man dying for crimes committed. His first words recorded after Resurrection were to a woman, from whom it is said he cast out 7 demons and with no credibility among the apostles.

No wonder it was difficult for the religious of his day to relate to Jesus; How could his actions in any way be those consistent with their idea of a Holy God whom they claimed to serve? Yet, as he comes out of the water, fully identifying with sinful, needy people, his identity as Son of God becomes even more clear! Here is one of the places in Scripture where we glimpse into the mystery of the Holy Trinity; Jesus is Baptized, the Holy Spirit as a dove descends upon him and the voice of the Father proclaims his approval.

This image is one we would do well to remember as we strive to, "with the help of God", live out our own Baptismal covenant! In baptism we identify with Christ's death and resurrection, we "put on Christ"! We also identify with others in whom, we promise to "seek and serve Christ", whose dignity we pledge to acknowledge, vowing to work for "justice and peace" in the world. May God grant us his power and grace to do so!



Thursday, January 10, 2008

God's Purpose

“The Lord shall accomplish his purpose with me”
Psalm 138:9

These are faith filled words that encourage us in times of uncertainty and doubt.

Certainly the author was no stranger to unusual turns in life. After being anointed to be king , gaining the favor of the people, he becomes a persecuted outcast, exiled to the land of his enemies and surrounded by people of ill repute. I wonder how many times this shepperd boy, turned warrior and would be king wondered whether the words of the prophet and the promises of God would be fulfilled in his life.

So it happens to us at times. The circumstances ever changing of life can bring questions we have no easy answers for, bewilderment, fear. What a good reminder are the words of this Psalm there is a purpose in our life which is God’s and he will accomplish it. It is an invitation to trust in God and his mercy, his providence , his promise that “all things will work out for the good of those that love him”.

These words found in the scripture selection of today’s Morning Prayer are also of comfort for us as the CEC begins a new season of ministry with the election of our Patriarch yesterday. Despite our disappointments, concerns, flaws and obvious failures, there is a purpose of God that he means to fulfill.

May we find ourselves united to God’s purpose, may ours be the prayer “thy kindgdom come”, “thy will be done” , May we be coworkers with God in the fulfilling of his vision, his dreams his purpose and trust him to accomplish in us what he has in his heart.



Church..? NO Thanks!

Survey: Non-attendees find faith outside church
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
A new survey of U.S. adults who don't go to church, even on holidays, finds 72% say "God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists." But just as many (72%) also say the church is "full of hypocrites."... 44% agree with the statement "Christians get on my nerves."

LifeWay Research, the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, based in Nashville, conducted the survey of 1,402 "unchurched" adults last spring and summer. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The survey defines "unchurched" as people who had not attended a religious service in a church, synagogue or mosque at any time in the past six months.

Many of the unchurched are shaky on Christian basics, says LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer. Just 52% agree on the essential Christian belief that "Jesus died and came back to life." And 61% say the God of the Bible is "no different from the gods or spiritual beings depicted by world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.," although Buddhist philosophy has no god and Hindus worship many.

Non-churchgoers "lean to a generic god that fits into every imaginable religious system, even when (systems) contradict one another," ...Most of the unchurched (86%) say they believe they can have a "good relationship with God without belonging to a church." And 79% say "Christianity today is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people."

But despite respondents' critical views of organized religion, Stetzer is optimistic. He cites the finding that 78% would "be willing to listen" to someone tell "what he or she believed about Christianity."

They already know believers — 89% of the unchurched have at least one close friend who is Christian, Stetzer noted. And 71% agreed that "believing in Jesus makes a positive difference in a person's life."

Lets go with the good news in this survey. Those folks who have not graced the door of a church in recent times overwhelmingly have a belief in the existence of God, have a good opinion of Jesus and the positive difference he can make in a life. This is not necesarily a hostile audience, and if it is Christ, reconciliation with God and a new life we are marketing we already have tremendous inroads into this target audience.

The bad news, sadly seems to be us, we the body of Christ, colaborators with God, the sent to the world with the command to go tell, the ones with the ministry of reconciliation, have a bit of an image problem. Like the shampoo model with horrendous split ends, the deodorant salesman with a hefty BO, the overwheight promoter of weight loss products, our credibility is somewhat lacking! Most of the unchurched know someone who is a Christian...could that be influencing their perceptions?

"Church is full of hypocrites"!!! don't we know it...we go there! To be fair, if the unchurched avoided malls ,movie theaters, bars and all places populated by hypocrites they would be quite lonely and isolated. We live in a world, where people often do not mean what they say and wear different masks according to the ocassion. "Christians get on my nerves", so do many non Christians, depending on the day and the cycles of the moon, such is the human condition, Yet objectively we know we often fail at being followers of the Christ we claim to serve.

Lord help me to be a better example and help others know the God they already acknowledge! May others, as they see me and those who live the life of faith, recognize in us your presence, your love, hear your words, feel your power and desire to come "to the house of the Lord".



+Bates, Patriarch for the CEC

Orlando, FL - January 9, 2008
The Most Reverend Loren T. Hines, Senior Archbishop of the ICCEC, announced that the Patriarch’s Council, in accordance with the Canons, has elected The Most Reverend Craig W. Bates as the new Patriarch of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church.

Craig W. Bates, 58, is the Bishop of the Northeast Diocese and the Diocese of Canada and Senior Pastor of the Cathedral Church of the Intercessor in Malverne, New York. He is a graduate of Franconia College, Franconia, New Hampshire with a BA in Psychology. He has a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts and a Masters of Divinity from the General Theological Seminary in New York City. He was ordained a priest in 1980.

He served as Senior Pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Fitchburg, Massachusetts from 1980 to 1985 and has served at the Church of the Intercessor since 1985. He was consecrated a bishop on November 14, 1997. Prior to ordained ministry, he worked in Drug and Alcohol Counseling as a Psychologist and Administrator both in treatment programs and for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Bridges of Greater New York and the Board of Directors of Concerts of Prayer of Greater New York. He is considered one of the key pastors in the New York City area. He and his wife, Cathy, have three grown children and three grandchildren

Whereas the whole concept of a Patriarchate for a communion as small as ours has always been a question for me, the election of a new Patriarch does put the CEC on a path for the future. My prayer and well wishes to Bishop Bates and his family. May his leadership bring much needed change and stablity to the CEC.