Category : Sacramental Theology

South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence’s Episcopal Directive Regarding Spiritual Communion

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our Blessed Savior Jesus Christ as we walk with him in the Way to the Cross trusting that it will be for those we shepherd and to us the way of life.

As it seems prudent during this time of public and self-quarantine given the recent requests of national and local government as well medical professionals, for us not to gather in our churches or go to extraordinary means to offer the sacrament to our parishioners in piecemeal manner. Therefore, as I am not rescinding the prior prohibition on distributing the sacrament, I want to offer you some guidance on the matter of Spiritual Communion.

This is especially important as we draw near to Easter Sunday, the Sunday of the Resurrection. It seems appropriate that of all Sundays a priest, if at all possible, should be in the local church, or elsewhere to preside at the Easter Eucharist on behalf of the people of God and in festal celebration of our Lord’s victory over Sin, Death, Satan, Hell, Judgement and Wrath—wherein he trampled down death by death. The Anglican tradition has been for the priest to do this with two or three others being present even if they do not receive the sacrament (see my prior Episcopal Directive).

The ACNA Book of Common Prayer 2019 presciently has a prayer “For Spiritual Communion” on p. 677.

Dear Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to possess you within my soul. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you, together with all your faithful people [gathered around every altar of your Church], and I embrace you with all the affections of my soul. Never permit me to be separated from you.  Amen.

I recommend that you take a moment either after the offertory and before The Sursum Corda, or immediately after The Fraction and before the minister receives to draw attention to this prayer and give a very brief instruction about it. Some have chosen to read it in the place of what normally would be the “Prayer of Humble Access”. The celebrant would then receive the sacrament and, if not fasting in unity with the members of the congregation, the attending priests or deacons then receive. Once again, I reference the guidance of my previous directive. I share with you a comment a parishioner from Christ-St. Paul’s sent to the rector after last Sunday’s Palm Sunday Eucharist, “The spiritual communion was necessary and filled my soul.”

I also recommend for your consideration a seven-minute video, which our retired Archbishop, The Most Rev. Robert Duncan, has made, explaining the history of Spiritual Communion in the life of the undivided Church of the first five centuries, as well as in our Anglican history and the long tradition of the Book of Common Prayer. It is professionally produced, timely, and very instructive. While perhaps too long to show in the midst of Sunday worship, it will benefit those in our congregations if the link is available in advance of the Easter Eucharist.

One brick in this long tradition he did not reference is that found in the 1662 BCP. This prayer book, that is still the standard for many of the Churches across the Anglican Communion, has a rubric regarding spiritual communion in “The time of plague, sweat or other like contagious times of sickness or disease….” Reading such a rubric reminds me of just how relevant the teaching of the Bible remains. As we read in the Book of Ecclesiastes, ‘Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.’ (Eccl 1:10) The rubrics as do the Holy Scriptures continue to guide and teach us. I quote a portion of the rubric for your reference. “But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness,…or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood: the Curate shall instruct him that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore; he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Savior Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.”

One final word. Having followed what many of you are doing on line or by report, as well as in written word, I want to tell you how grateful I am for the ministry and the effort you are making to reach your people, as well as many others far and wide, with the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is an honor to serve with you in this most unusual season. This continues to be a Holy Week unlike any we have ever known. Let us continue to be vigilant not only in social distancing but also in social care—in the ministry of intercession for our world. As Jesus challenged his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “So, could you not watch me with one hour?”

Gratefully yours in Christ,

Bishop Mark Lawrence's signature

The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Eucharist, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology

Paul R. Hinlicky–Why Virtual Communion Is Not Nearly Radical Enough

Now to return to virtual communion and the recommendation for Eucharistic fasting during this divine judgment on our social greed. Let’s take an exemplary proponent, Lutheran theologian Prof. Deanna Thompson, who is now at St. Olaf College. She is a personally credible interlocutor on the question of “virtual” ministry, as she writes out of her excruciating experience of life-threatening cancer in the prime of life. She’s published a book, The Virtual Body of Christ, in which she makes the case for employing the new social media technologies just as the Lutheran Reformation employed the Gutenberg press. I agree with much of this, as I said above. Nevertheless, I respectfully and yet sharply disagree with her urging in the present pandemic crisis that people at home should set up bread and wine, as if to participate via the Internet in the live streaming of the Lord’s Supper liturgy. As I’ve listened and pondered the arguments being made in favor of this proposal, I have come to a certain realization which I would like briefly to argue here.

Let me begin, by affirming that Christ is “really” in the preached word which can be conveyed through these media. He is really present to offer himself in his righteousness, life and peace for the auditor’s sin, death and disease. Long ago, however, I discovered that in the Lutheran confessional writings what was at stake was never this so-called “real” presence but rather the “bodily” presence of Jesus Christ according to his word and promise. What difference does this apparently subtle distinction make? Answer: historically it excluded the so-called “spiritual” (or “real”) presence as the specific blessing or benefit of the Lord’s Supper just as it excludes notions of “invisible” church as the “real” church as opposed to the visible assembly gathered around Word and sacrament. By the Holy Spirit the word of the gospel awakens faith and if we want to speak of “spiritual presence,” we are talking about this ministry of the Holy Spirit who makes Jesus Christ “real” to us. But what differentiates the Lord’s Supper is the promised presence of Jesus Christ personally in his own body-and-blood, so that the blessing is not merely privative, the forgiveness of sins, but also positive: life and salvation on account of this specific union with Christ that consists in physical eating and drinking in the common meal of the Lord.

Why does this specificity of Jesus’ bodily presence matter? For one thing, it concerns the identity of Jesus Christ as the very body born of Mary and crucified under Pontius Pilate but vindicated and exalted to be present in his glorified body for the gathering of his faithful. This act of identification is precisely what the Lord’s Supper liturgy depends on, the specific act in the gathering as the church when a specific loaf is picked out with the words, “this is my body given for you….”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Eucharist, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology

(Mere Orthodoxy) Brad East–Sacraments, Technology, and Streaming Worship in a Pandemic

What does that mean for Christian life under quarantine? Might not a pandemic call for emergency measures, even granting the sacramental character of the church’s worship? Isn’t abstention from the bread of life too much to ask, too painful to endure for weeks or even months?

It is indeed a great deal to ask. It is very painful. But that does not resolve the issue. If a thing is unwise or impossible, we do well to resist the temptation to recast it as unavoidable or necessary. Better by far to acknowledge the pain and lament it together, albeit apart. As Chris Krycho has written:

We are eager to return to gather with God’s people. We are eager to come to the Table again. This eagerness, this longing, is a pointer just in the same way that the weekly gathering and Communion are in ordinary time: to the consummation of all things when Christ comes again. The hunger we feel keenly now for the gifts of God in this age can remind us to hunger more deeply for the gifts of God in the age to come — the gathering of all the saints, the feast of the ages, and both unbroken and unending. Temporary loneliness can point us to final fellowship. Temporary fasting can point us to final feasting.

Or in Scott Swain’s words:

Our inability to celebrate the Lord’s Supper for a season can only be, should only be, cause for sorrow and tears. For now, we are not able to celebrate this remembrance of the Lord by “tasting” and “seeing” his goodness (Ps 34:8). But this does not mean we are consigned to a state of utter forgetfulness. No. There is a kind of remembrance that accompanies exile from the city of God (Ps 137:5-6), the remembrance that leads to faithful tears (Ps 137:1-2) and that cultivates hopeful longing for restoration (Pss 63:1; 143:6), the remembrance of those who have once tasted and who, by God’s grace, know they will once again taste and see the Lord’s goodness, whether it is at his table in the covenant assembly or at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). This is the kind of remembrance that we are called to cultivate in ourselves and in our flocks in this season.

American Christians desire instant gratification. We expect technological fixes to temporary glitches. But this pandemic is not a glitch. It is a trial, and one that has no quick solution. It can only be endured. Instead of living in denial, we should allow the terrible burden of our endurance to make its mark on our habits of worship during this time. The liturgy ought not to carry on just as before, hastening to distract us from the danger around us. Let it instead bear the imprint of our moment. Life is not as it was. Worship shouldn’t be either.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Sacramental Theology

A paper from the London College of Bishops:The Eucharist in a time of Physical Distancing

Consistent with this position, we offer several options for parishes as long as the current physical distancing restrictions apply:

  1. Some parish churches may wish temporarily to suspend the celebration of Holy Communion until they are able to meet together in person again. We are already having to cease the practice of public Baptism for the duration due to the restrictions placed upon us, and so a church may choose to do the same with the other dominical sacrament. As one incumbent put it recently: “We will take this opportunity to fast from the Sacrament while we feast on the Word.”
  1. To ensure congregational involvement, where a parish church wishes to continue to celebrate the eucharist within the current advice issued by the London College of Bishops, and only the priest can be present, it should, whenever possible, be livestreamed, so that others can at least (as Cranmer put it) “see with our eyes” even if they cannot “smell with our noses, touch with our hands and taste with our mouths.” This enables the kind of spiritual reception that is at the heart of the sacrament, even if physical partaking is not possible.
  1. If that is not feasible, at the very least, it should be clearly advertised in the parish and among the congregation when the Holy Communion is to be celebrated in the home of the priest, with or without the presence of another member of that household. Such public advertising is insisted on in the ‘Exhortations’ in the BCP that are inserted between the Prayer for the Church Militant and the Confession. This way, others can be invited to pray and perhaps read the Scriptures at that time, so that the service takes place within some kind of extended communal act of worship in that parish, even if dispersed, and does not become merely a private act of devotion. Some prayers that would enable people to take part in such a celebration might be prepared.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology

(Telegraph) Christopher Howse–Sacred Mysteries: John Smith, the man who baptised himself

john Smith must already have been middle aged when in 1609 he did a strange thing. He baptised himself.

That was in Holland, where he had gone, with like-minded radical Puritans, and, it is supposed, his wife and two daughters, having broken with the Church of England. He had taken a degree at Christ’s College Cambridge and been ordained a priest by the Bishop of Lincoln, perhaps in 1594.

In Holland he found no church to join, so founded his own, which was to be constituted by breaking up the church fellowship he enjoyed and starting again. After baptising himself anew, he baptised his followers.

In the Old Testament, “Every master of a family administered the Passover to himself and all of his family,” he argued by way of justification in a little book, The Character of the Beast, published a year later. “A man cannot baptise others into the Church himself being out of the Church, therefore it is lawful for a man to baptise himself together with others in communion.”

This was such a peculiar position that it either shocked or amused most of his contemporaries.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Church History, Sacramental Theology, The Netherlands

Father Mark Mukan’s Wonderful Ministry–The Anglican Church in Jos continues to Grow

From there:

Watch Mark Mukan, Director of Mission Operations in Jos, Nigeria, report on the recent baptism of 21 believers from the Gospel Center, Bassa, Nigeria. It is important for us to hear, see and encourage our brothers and sisters around the globe as the Anglican church grows.

Mark could not contain his excitement of the Gospel Center Anglican Church baptism. The baptized were presented with a Bible for their pilgrim journey and Mark reports that their testimonies have been spreading around the surrounding villages. The ceremony included holding a candle a symbol for them to hold forth the light and to share it in areas where God has placed them.

Praise God for what he is doing in the lives of these newly baptized believers!

You can watch the whole video here.

Posted in Baptism, Church of Nigeria

For His Feast Day–Clement of Alexandria: To the Newly Baptized

Cultivate quietness in word, quietness in deed, likewise in speech and gait; and avoid impetuous eagerness. For then the mind will remain steady, and will not be agitated by your eagerness and so become weak and of narrow discernment and see darkly; nor will it be worsted by gluttony, worsted by boiling rage, worsted by the other passions, lying a ready prey to them. For the mind, seated on high on a quiet thrown looking intently towards God, must control the passions. By no means be swept away by temper in bursts of anger, nor be sluggish in speaking, nor all nervousness in movement; so that your quitness may be adorned by good proportion and your bearing may appear something divine and sacred. Guard also against the signs of arrogance, a haughty bearing, a lofty head, a dainty and high-treading footstep.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Church History

(Guideposts) Apollo 11: When Buzz Aldrin Took Communion on the Moon

For several weeks prior to the scheduled lift-off of Apollo 11 back in July, 1969, the pastor of our church, Dean Woodruff, and I had been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing.

We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets.

Dean often speaks at our church, Webster Presbyterian, just outside of Houston, about the many meanings of the communion service.

“One of the principal symbols,” Dean says, “is that God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life.” Traditionally, these elements are bread and wine–common foods in Bible days and typical products of man’s labor.

One day while I was at Cape Kennedy working with the sophisticated tools of the space effort, it occurred to me that these tools were the typical elements of life today.

I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe. For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.

Read it all.

Posted in Eucharist, History, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(CT) Mark Galli–Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?

Let clarify my use of the term sacrament. Some evangelical churches call the Lord’s Supper and baptism ordinances, to suggest they are actions Jesus commands us to participate in, and that they signal our faith in and obedience to Christ. The term sacrament includes these two ideas and another crucial one: that they are means of grace. By “means of grace” I’m not proposing any specific theology—whether trans- or consubstantiation, whether real or symbolic presence. But for all believers, Communion and baptism are practices in which one’s faith is deepened and strengthened, and that sort of thing only happens by God’s grace. This is what I mean by “means of grace” in this article, and why I will use the word sacrament to talk about them.

As I said, I believe these sacraments are in a profoundly low state in many areas of evangelical church life.

Take baptism. Even among churches that believe Matthew 28:19 is the church’s rallying cry—“Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ….”—the sacrament is no longer central to their mission. It would be difficult to come by statistics that suggest the problem, but one anecdote suggests it’s a serious one. I belong to an Anglican church in Wheaton, Illinois, which meets not far from Wheaton College. The charismatic singing and Bible-centered preaching attract many Wheaton College students to attend worship and to become members. However, to partake in Communion, as well as to become a member, one must have been baptized. The pastors are continually surprised at the number of Wheaton College students—no doubt some of the most earnest, devout, and intelligent young believers in the evangelical world—who have yet to be baptized. One would have thought that their churches would have attended to this matter long before they left home for college.

Another sign of the problem is the deep fear some evangelicals have of baptism. I attended an independent church in Dallas, Texas, on a Sunday on which they were having a mass baptism for some 400 people. This speaks well of the effectiveness of their outreach and their desire to obey the commands of their Lord. As part of the service, four or five people came on stage and were interviewed by the pastor to help them give their testimony. At the end of each testimony, the last question the pastor asked each was this: “But you don’t believe that baptism saves you, right?” It wasn’t just the question, but the leading way in which it was asked time and again that suggested to me that the pastor was deeply afraid of the power of the sacrament. And the fact that he also asked this right before each person was baptized went a long way into ensuring that the sacrament did not become a means by which God broke in and blessed the recipient but became all about the horizontal: an act of the person’s faith.

The state of the Lord’s Supper is in a worse state.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Eucharist, Evangelicals, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(CT) Peter Leithart–Taste and See That the Lord’s Supper Is Good

Evangelicals need to thicken our theology of the Lord’s Supper, first by drawing more of the Bible into the discussion of the Supper, and second by drawing more of the Supper into discussion of the Supper.

Even a fine recent treatment of Reformed sacramental theology, Todd Billings’s Remembrance, Communion, and Hope, is still too thin on both counts. Billings does discuss the key New Testament passages—the institution narratives, Jesus’ resurrection meals, 1 Corinthians 10-11—and makes passing references to Passover and other Old Testament passages, meals, and festivals. But the richness of Old Testament theology still feels lacking. Billings observes that Paul sees manna as a type of the church’s covenant meal, but he doesn’t follow up the clue. If manna is a type, might there be others?

Many examine the Supper through a “zoom lens,” focusing narrowly on the most disputed point in historic debates—the metaphysics of the bread and wine. Much to his credit, Billings pulls back the camera to give us a wider view. In several “congregational snapshots,” he reminds us that the Supper involves people gathered to say and do, eat and drink. He rightly shows that a theology of the Supper must be integrated with the theology of the church.

But we need an even wider angle. Communion bread doesn’t fall from heaven. Wine doesn’t come tricklin’ down the rock. As one Eucharistic prayer puts it, the bread and wine are “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands.” Bread and wine represent nature transformed into culture by human action. A thick theology of the Supper needs to broaden beyond the theology of the church into a theology of culture. So, I offer a suggestive, not definitive, picture of what a thicker theology of the Supper might look like—a pencil drawing, not a portrait.

Read it all.

Posted in Eucharist, Evangelicals, Holy Week, Sacramental Theology

Roseanne Gudzan–How a Jury Summons led to a very unexpected Outcome

In July of 2018, a summons ordered me to report to Charleston Municipal Court for jury duty in early August. After reading the very limited exemptions from duty, I realized that resistance was futile and reported on the required Monday morning to fulfill my civic duty.

As it turned out, a priest named Ryan Streett and 40-some other Charlestonians had been summoned for this same jury duty, and we all sat in the courtroom that Monday waiting to see if we would be selected. Later, those of us who were not chosen for the first case lined the walls of the hallway outside the courtroom waiting for the next case to be called. The week progressed this way and with a great deal of waiting outside the courtroom in the hallway.

During a particularly long recess, I spotted Father Ryan and I nervously approached him, introduced myself, and asked if he ever performed baptisms for people other than those in his congregation….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Baptism, Evangelism and Church Growth, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(CT) Andrew Wilson–why do we differentiate between the Sacramental and the Charismatic when the Early Church did not?

The eucharismatic both/and has the potential to increase both the height and the depth of our worship at the same time. Many (if not most) Christians today would be inclined to think in terms of a spectrum when it comes to church practice, with the historical-liturgical-reflective-sacramental at one end and the charismatic-Pentecostal-expressive-celebratory at the other. For various historical reasons, these two forms appear to be in tension with one another: If you want depth, come this way, and if you want bounce, go that way. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. If you want more height, you need more depth. Ask any trampolinist. Or tree, for that matter.

Without depth, height is unsustainable. If we have an anemic liturgy, then inspirational messages, emotive music, and cathartic experiences can only take us so far; whether or not they produce a short-term emotional response, they cannot build the kind of faith that, like Habakkuk, rejoices in God even when there is no fruit on the vine or herds in the stalls (3:17–18). Rather than attempting standing jumps in the center of the trampoline, which is exhausting as well as ineffective, we need to plunge ourselves into the depths of our tradition, so as to spring to new heights. Down, into historic prayers. Up, into spontaneous ones. Down, into confession of sin. Up, into celebration of forgiveness. Down, into the creeds. Up, into the choruses. Down, into knowing God’s presence in the sacraments. Up, into feeling God’s presence in song. Call and response. Friday, then Sunday. Kneel, then jump.

Yet this metaphor cuts both ways. Going deeper also requires going higher. We are embodied and emotional creatures, and people who dance for joy, as opposed to merely singing about it, are more likely to be people who fall on their face, as opposed to leaning forward and putting their head between their knees for a few seconds. This both/and is precisely what we see in Leviticus, when fire comes out from the presence of the Lord as the priesthood is consecrated: “And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown” (Lev. 9:24). Those who laugh in church are more likely to cry there. If you are captivated by the presence and gifts of the Spirit in worship, you will probably find the presence and gifts of the Spirit in the sacraments more wonderful, not less. If you go further up, you go further in.

As such, this is an invitation to be eucharismatic. Worshiping God with both sacramental and spiritual gifts can deepen our joy, enrich our lives, and remind us that there are things we can learn from the worship practices of other church traditions.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Sacramental Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

(DM) Just one in ten babies is baptised into the Church of England with the numbers even lower in London at three in every 100, figures reveal

Only one in ten babies is baptised into the Church of England – and in London, the figure is even lower at three in every 100, a national breakdown of the Church’s strength has revealed.

The tiny minority of infants who are introduced to Christianity by the CofE in London is mirrored in other major cities.

In Birmingham, only 5 per cent of babies are christened by the Anglican church; in Bristol it’s 6 per cent; in Manchester 8 per cent; and in Nottingham 9 per cent.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture

(TLC Covenant) Eugene Schlesinger–Things Fall Apart: Musings on TEC and Eucharistic Hospitality

There is a movement afoot in the Episcopal Church to remove our restriction that only the baptized receive Communion. In my new location, it seems to be diocesan policy not only to allow the unbaptized to commune, but to invite them explicitly to do so. Every parish my family has visited in the diocese has made it very clear that absolutely everyone is invited to the altar for Communion. I have found this grating, theologically. It disregards the proper sequence of initiation. It undercuts the long-standing historical practice of Christian churches. It renders incoherent any sort of claim to have a baptismal ecclesiology. Most important, it downgrades the central role of commitment to Jesus Christ and a life of discipleship to something optional. I’d heard of such things from afar, and now my eyes have seen them.

Recently, our family ventured a bit further north, into the Diocese of California, to a parish where the logic of Communion without baptism is being carried to its logical conclusion, which is also a reductio ad absurdum. The parish we visited did much well: the hymnody and chant were excellent; the liturgy, while using expansive language, remained fairly grounded in traditional forms. Then we reached the fraction anthem.

After a verse about Christ giving himself to his beloved in the bread, we turned a corner in which claims about breaking this bread with Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims were articulated. While I am confident that the intention behind these words was to be open and inclusive, to express solidarity among people of faith, its effect was to undo any sort of claims about Christ’s uniqueness or the necessity for salvation, as well as to colonize these other religious traditions, rather than respecting them in their diversity.[1]

The canons of the Episcopal Church are clear: no unbaptized person is eligible to receive Holy Communion at our altars (I.17.7). This creates a rather interesting contrast in the current church.

Having updated our canons (but not our doctrine, as set forth in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer) to make marriage gender-neutral, there is a movement afoot to bring Communion Partner bishops into line, so that the trial rites for marriage are celebrated in all jurisdictions. At General Convention, Resolution 2018-B012 provided a means for doing this while also respecting the consciences, teaching office, and liturgical presidency of bishops within their dioceses. William Love, the Bishop of Albany, has caused a furorwith his refusal to comply with the provisions of B012, prompting suggestions that Title IV charges be brought against him.[2] Leaving to the side the question of the precise canonical force of a resolution passed by General Convention, and, hence, the applicability of disciplinary charges, we must acknowledge that this outcry is in some tension with other realities in our church….

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Eucharist, Pastoral Theology, Sacramental Theology, TEC Bishops, TEC Polity & Canons

He attended last year’s deadly Charlottesville rally. Then a black pastor changed his life.

One year ago, Ken Parker attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but has made a significant transformation after accepting an invitation to a black church. His story is featured in part in the Emmy-nominated Fuuse film ‘White Right: Meeting the Enemy’ on Netflix.

You need to take the time to watch it all.

Posted in Baptism, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Soteriology

Douglas Farrow on the Meaning of the Ascension for Ascension Day

Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.

–Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Ecclesiology, Eucharist

(CNA) Marriage and Communion: Roman Catholic Norms address interchurch couples

For the universal church and in the guidelines offered by different bishops’ conferences distinctions are made between the faithful of the Orthodox churches and the faithful of the Anglican and mainline Protestant churches.

The Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orthodox sacraments and welcomes members of the Orthodox churches to receive the sacraments in a Catholic Church, although it cautions that their Orthodox pastors and bishops might object.

The U.S. bishops’ brief guidelines, published in 1996, said, “Members of the Orthodox churches, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these churches.”

For Anglicans and Protestants, the situation is more complicated and Catholic church law requires that they “manifest Catholic faith in this sacrament,” as the directory phrased it.

Shared faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not unlikely, however, because it formally has been affirmed over the course of more than 50 years of formal theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican and mainline Protestant churches.

Therefore, the norms published by the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, in 1999 stated, “Episcopalians and Lutherans can be presumed to believe in the real presence. For members of other communions there may be need for some further discussion concerning their belief in the Eucharist.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Ecumenical Relations, Eucharist, Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology

(CT) Peter Leithart–Taste and See That the Lord’s Supper Is Good

Evangelicals need to thicken our theology of the Lord’s Supper, first by drawing more of the Bible into the discussion of the Supper, and second by drawing more of the Supper into discussion of the Supper.

Even a fine recent treatment of Reformed sacramental theology, Todd Billings’s Remembrance, Communion, and Hope, is still too thin on both counts. Billings does discuss the key New Testament passages—the institution narratives, Jesus’ resurrection meals, 1 Corinthians 10-11—and makes passing references to Passover and other Old Testament passages, meals, and festivals. But the richness of Old Testament theology still feels lacking. Billings observes that Paul sees manna as a type of the church’s covenant meal, but he doesn’t follow up the clue. If manna is a type, might there be others?

Many examine the Supper through a “zoom lens,” focusing narrowly on the most disputed point in historic debates—the metaphysics of the bread and wine. Much to his credit, Billings pulls back the camera to give us a wider view. In several “congregational snapshots,” he reminds us that the Supper involves people gathered to say and do, eat and drink. He rightly shows that a theology of the Supper must be integrated with the theology of the church.

But we need an even wider angle. Communion bread doesn’t fall from heaven. Wine doesn’t come tricklin’ down the rock. As one Eucharistic prayer puts it, the bread and wine are “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands.” Bread and wine represent nature transformed into culture by human action. A thick theology of the Supper needs to broaden beyond the theology of the church into a theology of culture. So, I offer a suggestive, not definitive, picture of what a thicker theology of the Supper might look like—a pencil drawing, not a portrait.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Eucharist, Holy Week, Sacramental Theology, Theology: Scripture

Anglican Synod of SE Asia is in impaired Communion with Scottish Episcopal Church, Recognizes ACNA “as an Ecclesiastical Province in its own right”

Noting the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church on 8 June 2017 to change its doctrine of marriage and to recognise same-sex marriages and further to amend its Canons to allow for the rite of blessing of same-sex marriages, which is a contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998; and

Recalling that as a consequence of the then Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) proceeding with the consecration of Gene Robinson as a Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, in contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998, the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declared in 2003 that it was in a state of impaired communion with ECUSA (now known as The Episcopal Church)

Now it is hereby resolved,

That the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declares itself to be in a state of impaired communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church with immediate effect….

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Scottish Episcopal Church, The Anglican Church in South East Asia, Theology

(AI) A Pastoral Letter from the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church on women’s order

The bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) met at Church of Holy Communion, Dallas, Texas on October 2, 2017, for prayer, fellowship, planning for the renewal and planting of Reformed Episcopal parishes, and discussion of other matters concerning the church. Reformed Episcopal bishops from Canada, England, Croatia, Germany, and Brazil were present by teleconference call.

Among the topics discussed was the recent statement issued by the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), regarding the ordination of women. This statement arose from the conclave held in Victoria, British Columbia, September 5-7, 2017, and represents the first attempt by the ACNA College of Bishops, since the completion of the study by the Task Force on Holy Orders, to address the differing positions on this issue among the dioceses of the ACNA.

Because the Reformed Episcopal bishops in North America are members of the ACNA College of Bishops, the release of the statement has prompted questions among REC clergy and laity about the impact it may have on the Reformed Episcopal Church’s understanding of Holy Orders. Consequently, the bishops have deemed it wise to issue a pastoral letter to the REC family of churches, to clarify our position and allay any fears about the direction of our church.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology

The ACNA College of Bishops Statement on the Ordination of Women

In an act of mutual submission at the foundation of the Anglican Church in North America, it was agreed that each Diocese and Jurisdiction has the freedom, responsibility, and authority to study Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, and to seek the mind of Christ in determining its own convictions and practices concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate and the priesthood. It was also unanimously agreed that women will not be consecrated as bishops in the Anglican Church in North America. These positions are established within our Constitution and Canons and, because we are a conciliar Church, would require the action of both Provincial Council and Provincial Assembly to be changed.

Having gratefully received and thoroughly considered the five-year study by the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders, we acknowledge that there are differing principles of ecclesiology and hermeneutics that are acceptable within Anglicanism that may lead to divergent conclusions regarding women’s ordination to the priesthood. However, we also acknowledge that this practice is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order. We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province. However, we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood.

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Church Discipline / Ordination Standards, Ecclesiology, Sacramental Theology, Women

(EC) George Clifford–The 1979 Book of Common Prayer needs revision–is it time for an electronic prayer book?

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer badly needs revision:

It is sexist, e.g., in its presumption that clergy and God are male;
It is exclusionary, e.g., the marriage rite is only for heterosexual couples;
It is limited, as evidenced by the proliferation and popularity of authorized alternative liturgies.
Others may add additional theological and liturgical reasons to that list.

[Also] printing a revised Book of Common Prayer is inadvisable [for the following reasons]….

Read it all.

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, Anthropology, Christology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Douglas Farrow on the Meaning of the Ascension for Ascension Day

Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.

–Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64

Posted in Advent, Christology, Eucharist, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Uncategorized

(Church of England) What is the role of a Godparent?

Godparents are among the most important people at a christening, who make big promises to encourage their godchild to grow in faith and commit to helping them understand how to live their life in a Christian way.

Alongside your godchild’s parents, you will

Give your time to your godchild to talk to about the bigger questions of life – questions about hope, faith and love.
Model and encourage them to develop Christian values – being kind and compassionate towards others, being generous towards others in need with time or money and standing against things in the world that cause injustice and suffering.

Pray for your godchild through the ups and downs of their life and their faith journey….

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Children, Church of England (CoE), Marriage & Family, Sacramental Theology

(CNA) An Interview with Robert Spaemann on Amoris Laetitia

What then is Pope John Paul II’s exhortation about?

John Paul II explains human sexuality as a “real symbol for the giving of the whole person,” and namely, “without every temporal or other limitation.” He thus formulates very clearly in article 84 that remarried divorcés must refrain from sex if they want to go to communion. A change in the practice of the administration of the sacraments would therefore be no “further development of Familiaris consortio,” as Cardinal Kasper said, but rather a breach in her essential anthropological and theological teaching on marriage and human sexuality. The Church has no authority, without prior conversion, to approve disordered sexual relationships through the administration of the sacraments, thereby anticipating God’s mercy – regardless of how these situations are to be judged on a human and moral level. The door here ”“ as with the ordination of women to the priesthood ”“ is closed.

Read it all from last year, as it is still deeply relevant.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Jeffrey Miller's 2017 Sermon on the Baptism of Jesus: The King will Never Leave

You can listen directly here or download it there. Watch for a very important reference to an incident in London in WW II.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Baptism, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Baptism of Jesus from the Church of South India

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst humble thyself to take the baptism of sinful men, and wast forthwith declared to be the Son of God: Grant that we who have been baptized into thee may rejoice to be the sons of God, and servants of all; for thy name’s sake, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest ever one God, world without end.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Baptism, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Epiphany, Sacramental Theology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Baptism of Jesus from the Scottish Prayer Book

Almighty God, who at the baptism of thy blessed Son Jesus Christ in the river Jordan didst manifest his glorious Godhead: Grant, we beseech thee, that the brightness of his presence may shine in our hearts, and his glory be set forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Baptism, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Epiphany, Sacramental Theology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes–Infant Baptism: An Anglican Model for Same Sex Blessings?

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Baptism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Christopher Howse on 1 word in the liturgy– the return of the dew that we hardly knew we'd lost

One word has been reintroduced into one of the Eucharistic prayers in the Mass which had previously been omitted by the translators. I’m glad to see it.

When I say one word, I mean it was one word in the Latin original. In the so-called Second Eucharistic Prayer the word is rore, which is now translated as “like the dewfall”. I find it not only poetic but very expressive of the way that God seems to work.

This is the sentence where it occurs: “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Read it all from the Telegraph.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Baptism, Church History, Eucharist, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Sacramental Theology, Theology