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Kendall Harmon’s reflections on Gafcon 2018: ‘our God is a global God and he calls us to go to the whole world which he has made’


I remember when Elizabeth and I visited the Grand Canyon (if you have not you should definitely go). At the end of the day in which it seemed at every single vantage point, in every possible way, there was more to take in, we came to a lookout and there was the sign: “it seems too grand a statement even for nature to make.”

That sentiment fits well with all epic events and visits—there are so many perspectives you can never take them all in, and then if you could the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Gafcon 2018, one of the largest international gatherings of Anglicans in the last 5 decades, was just such an epic event. So read widely, take in all the livestream daily and other videos, and then realize even for those of us who were there it was just so much more.

I offer only my vantage point, trusting you will drink deeply from the good well of all the resources out there to get a better sense of the whole.

Consider the people. There were those whom you did know, and those who were new, and the sheer joy on both of those scores for me personally was immense.

Imagine—there was Vaughan Roberts, who I first met in the early 1990’s at Saint Ebbe’s, Oxford, when he was a curate (he is now a distinguished preacher and author). And up one day came Bishop Ray Smith and his wife Shirley whom I hadn’t seen since the mid 1980’s! These kinds of joyous reunions went on all conference long.

Then there were new people, most notably me for my daily prayer group which consisted of 2 Americans, 2 Australians, 2 Ugandans and 2 Nigerians. What different contexts and yet what a common bond in Christ and what beautiful prayers were prayed!

I should also mention my roommate, Sam Ferguson, assistant pastor for research and teaching at The Falls Church Anglican in Falls Church, Virginia. We had so much fun talking together that by the end I had him conversing with my wife via Facetime so he could tell her I was indeed behaving. Sam is one of the promising up and coming leaders in North American Anglicanism and is at present pursuing a PhD at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he is focused on the relevant and vital subject of biblical anthropology. (I am very pleased to say that when I was finalizing this reflection, Sam had been called to be the new rector of Falls Church, succeeding one of the true giants among the senior leaders of North American Anglican evangelicalism, John Yates).

The worship every morning was unforgettable in its contagious joy. We were led by a choir from Nigeria who wore different colors for each morning, all of which matched—and oh how they lifted us into the Lord’s presence. It was a chance to experience the rich embodiment of Psalm 122:1 ‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

In terms of the plenary sessions, a number of elements stood out. Our theme all through the conference was proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations and this was emphasized in many facets and ways–as for example when we welcomed continents and they would flash all the countries from a given continent who were at Gafcon 2018 up on the screen. By far the most moving moment of the whole gathering for me personally was when we were encouraged to pray the Lord’s prayer in our own language and nearby one could hear maybe 60-100 different dialects and languages. It was an awesome reminder that our God is a global God and he calls us to go to the whole world which he has made.

The authority of the Bible and the importance of letting the text speak on its own terms was another important feature of the major presentations. For myself I would highlight the presentations of Richard Coekin, David Short and Michael Raiter as excellent examples of people who were working hard to unearth the treasures of the text with theological depth and integrity.

As if all this was wasn’t enough, there were the individual seminar sessions, and I would like to say a word about the one I was asked to do. I was paired with evangelist Rico Tice, whom I had never met until we worked together in presenting on the Christian understanding of hell. It was Rico’s idea when we spoke over the phone before the conference to interview me as one who had devoted three years of his life to doctoral research on hell. This made for a very engaging format for the participants, especially when it was paired with Rico’s own evangelistic presentation on hell in which he went into detail about how he presents Jesus’ clear teaching on the possibility of missing one’s destiny to his own friends.

Of all the elements that emerged from the questions which came from the floor in the second half of our presentation, the one which seemed to have the most traction was the idea of practical universalism. This is the idea of the parish who says they take the clear New teaching on hell seriously but in practical terms they never present classes or sermons about it, or engage their friends in serious witness for the kingdom where hell features in a meaningful way. In such a case there is no difference between that parish and one which denies hell altogether in terms of the day to day life of the Christians in the community.

Our challenge is to reclaim the doctrine of hell in the twentieth century and lovingly warn people that rejecting Christ is a choice of eternal significance. It was of special interest in this regard that the doctrine of hell was regularly mentioned by a number of the plenary speakers at Gafcon 2018.

The mention of hell had a logical fit in the overarching structure of Gafcon2018. Because the unsearchable riches of Christ are the most precious gift in the universe, not to receive them would be the greatest loss. This was yet another reminder of the importance of proclaiming Christ faithfully to the nations, the conference theme.
–KSH.

Posted in GAFCON

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Sergius

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us, we pray thee, from an inordinate love of this world, that inspired by the devotion of thy servant Sergius of Moscow, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

Let us praise and thank God for all great and simple joys;
For the gift of wonder and the joy of discovery; for the everlasting freshness of experience;
For all that comes to us through sympathy and through sorrow, and for the joy of work attempted and achieved;
For musicians, poets and craftsmen, and for all who work in form and color to increase the beauty of life;
For the likeness of Christ in ordinary people, their forbearance, courage and kindness, and for all obscure and humble lives of service;
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost ever world without end.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.

–Psalm 78:39

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(CT) Mr. Rogers Had a Dangerous Side

Raised as an only child—the richest kid in the working-class town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania—Rogers started off miles away from the children who would end up watching his programs. He was nicknamed “Fat Freddy” and bullied in school, and significant health concerns made his mother overprotective—she had him chauffeured to and from public school in a fancy car. Rogers never let go of the wounds of childhood, especially the fears and anxieties. He was one of those rare figures who sees some essential truth before everyone else—in this case, the importance of cultivating social and emotional intelligence in young children.

Reading about his early childhood, one gets the sense that Rogers was a highly sensitive person—something I knew nothing about until my first child was born and I struggled to make sense of how terrifying the world was to her. Together, we learned a lot from watching episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a program made by Fred Rogers Productions, a foundation that carries on his legacy of educating children in social-emotional intelligence. A brightly colored cartoon tiger helped my daughter learn that other people sometimes feel frightened and angry and don’t know what to do. The show gave her a language for understanding her inner world and taught her steps for addressing her fears. (As one song advises, “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”)

Rogers cut through the trappings of a Victorian-inspired culture that preferred children remain quiet, or at least deal quickly with any unpleasant feelings. Sadly, as a parent, this remains my first impulse—to wave away fears, supposedly to encourage resilience. King’s biography shows that Rogers took his bearings from experts who changed the way we view child psychology—not only Benjamin Spock but also Erik Erickson and especially Margaret McFarland, known as a giant in the field. For 30 years Rogers sought McFarland’s counsel on his shows and scripts, and her famous phrase, “Whatever is mentionable is manageable,” shaped his focus on helping children articulate and process their feelings. He saw all his work as a service for mental health—for creating neighborhood expressions of care.

As always, he grounded this approach in his Christian faith: The book quotes Rogers saying, “I believe that Jesus gave us an eternal truth about the universality of feelings. Jesus was truthful about his feelings: Jesus wept, he got sad; Jesus got discouraged; he got scared; and he reveled in the things that pleased him. For Jesus, the greatest sin was hypocrisy. . . . Jesus had much greater hope for someone like [a tax collector or prostitute] than for someone who always pretended to be something he wasn’t.”

In the preface to a 2016 edition of Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water, author Sara Zarr wrote on the division between sacred and secular in Christian culture. Growing up in an evangelical family, she heard a great deal about what was “secular,” or bad, in popular culture. But she never heard anything Christian called “sacred.” Instead, Christian advertising and media routinely used “safe” or “clean” as an alternative. This, Zarr points out, is miles away from the real meaning of sacred—something holy, worthy of veneration.

Rogers treated children and their inner lives as sacred.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Local Paper Front Page) How will South Carolina cope as ‘extreme’ weather becomes the new norm?

Scant attention is devoted to how we might avert the next catastrophe or whether we need to change the ways we function in a world where “extreme weather” no longer lives up to its name.

Climate change has caused our seas to rise and fueled ever-more powerful storms that hurl massive amounts of water from the oceans and clouds. And while much of our attention has been focused on the fragile coast, South Carolina’s inland communities have repeatedly taken a beating, as well, most recently from the trillions of gallons of water dumped by Hurricane Florence.

Consider that the tiny town of Nichols, a 90-minute drive from the coast, sank beneath floodwaters for the second time since Hurricane Matthew drowned the community in 2016. Rebuilding was still under way when Florence caused the nearby rivers to again jump their banks.

Climatologists and risk management experts say South Carolina, like much of the country, is woefully unprepared for these new threats, partly because the resources to help people understand and prepare for flooding are decades out of date.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood risk maps don’t consider several key factors, including sea level rise, development trends and extreme rainfall that can exacerbate flooding. Yet they are still the primary guides for how and where homes get built….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc.

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frank Colquhoun

Almighty God, who art the author of all spiritual gifts: Bestow upon thy Church in this our day the grace of knowledge, to apprehend the fullness of divine truth, and of utterance to declare that truth to others; that the testimony of Christ may be confirmed among us, and in everything we may be enriched in him, even thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

And they told Mor’decai what Esther had said. Then Mor’decai told them to return answer to Esther, “Think not that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

–Esther 4:12-14

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(ABC Aus.) Grave concerns for small town cemetery caught up in Diocese of Tasmania Anglican property sell-off

A small town is fearful that graves at its local cemetery will be damaged or destroyed if the Anglican Church sells it off, but the church says it is the responsibility of government to protect cemeteries.

Richard Condie, Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, has responded to fears in the community about grave tampering, if cemeteries are sold along with churches as part of the plan to help fund Tasmania’s $8.6 million contribution to the national redress scheme for victims of child sexual abuse by clergy.

The concerns have been voiced by parishioners across the state following the announcement that nearly eighty church-owned properties could potentially be sold to help raise the money.

A recent meeting of the newly formed protest group, Save our Community Souls in Campbell Town, in the northern midlands, heard claims of graves illegally moved by developers to make way for sewer lines.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Death / Burial / Funerals, Stewardship

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Daily Prayer

Give us grace, O God our Father, to keep this day and always the new commandment and the great commandment and all the commandments, by loving thee with all our mind and soul and strength, and one another for thy sake; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Daily Prayer, Eric Milner-White and G. W. Briggs, eds. (London: Penguin Books 1959 edition of the 1941 original)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
thy throne is established from of old; thou art from everlasting.

–Psalm 93:1-2

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Wa Po) Marijuana use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens, federal data shows

“…it’s becoming increasingly clear that stereotypes of marijuana users as risk-taking disaffected youth are outdated in the era of legal marijuana, with middle-aged and even older Americans becoming more likely to use the drug than their children and grandchildren.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Philander Chase

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith We give thee heartfelt thanks for the pioneering spirit of thy servant Philander Chase, and for his zeal in opening new frontiers for the ministry of thy Church. Grant us grace to minister in Christ’s name in every place, led by bold witnesses to the Gospel of the Prince of Peace, even Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Charles Kingsley

Lift up our hearts, we beseech thee, O Christ, above the false show of things, above fear, above laziness, above selfishness and covetousness, above custom and fashion, up to the everlasting truth and order that thou art; that so we may live joyfully and freely, in faithful trust that thou art our Saviour, our example, and our friend, both now and for evermore.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for

‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your poets have said,

‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from among them. But some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

–Acts 17:16-34

Posted in Theology: Scripture