Category : Church History

Nathan Barontini–The Three Advents of Christ in Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

From here:

We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.

In case someone should think that what we say about this middle coming is sheer invention, listen to what our Lord himself says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him. There is another passage of Scripture which reads: He who fears God will do good, but something further has been said about the one who loves, that is, that he will keep God’s word. Where is God’s word to be kept? Obviously in the heart, as the prophet says: I have hidden your words in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.

Keep God’s word in this way. Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength.

Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation.

If you keep the word of God in this way, it will also keep you. The Son with the Father will come to you. The great Prophet who will build the new Jerusalem will come, the one who makes all things new. This coming will fulfill what is written: As we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly man. Just as Adam’s sin spread through all mankind and took hold of all, so Christ, who created and redeemed all, will glorify all, once he takes possession of all.

Posted in Christology, Church History

(Eleanor Parker) Some extracts from an Anglo-Saxon homily on St Swithun’s life and miracles

Today is St Swithun’s Day, when the weather-gods obey the saint of Winchester – ‘St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain / For forty days it will remain’, and all that. So let’s look at a few extracts from an Old English homily for St Swithun’s Day, written by Ælfric in the last decade of the tenth century.

Ælfric had a personal connection to Swithun’s story, and in this homily he adds in one or two comments to remind us of it. Swithun was an obscure ninth-century Bishop of Winchester whose fame is almost entirely the work of Æthelwold, his successor at Winchester more than a century later. Winchester was the royal city of Wessex but it was surprisingly short on saints, so Æthelwold did his best to elevate some of his predecessors to that status, including Swithun and St Birinus (a better-attested saint, though his popularity never caught on as Swithun’s did). On 15 July 971, Æthelwold had Swithun’s remains translated to a new shrine inside the Old Minster, Winchester. Ælfric, who was educated at Winchester under Æthelwold and had a great respect for his bishop, would have witnessed much of this, and by the time he wrote about it, around 25 years later, he had come to see Æthelwold’s time – his own youth – as a kind of golden age for the English church, when the king and holy bishops worked together and religion and peace flourished in the land. By the 990s, with the Vikings suddenly once more a pressing threat, this seemed to him like a bright but vanished world.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, England / UK

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Swithun

Almighty God,
by whose grace we celebrate again
the feast of your servant Swithun:
grant that, as he governed with gentleness
the people committed to his care,
so we, rejoicing in our Christian inheritance,
may always seek to build up your Church in unity and love;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

Friday Food for Thought from Richard Baxter

It is not the work of the Spirit, to tell you the meaning of Scripture, and give you the knowledge of divinity, without your own study and labour, but to bless that study, and give you knowledge thereby. Did not Christ open the eyes of the man born blind, as suddenly, as wonderfully, and by as little means, as you can expect to be illuminated by the Spirit? And yet that man could not see any distant object out of his reach, till he took the pains to travel to it, or it was brought to him, for all his eyes were opened.

–The Practical Works Of The Rev. Richard Baxter: With A Life Of The Author, And A Critical Examination Of His Writings, Volume XX (my emphasis)

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

Vital Food for Thought from Alisdair MacIntyre on Saint Benedict’s Feast Day

“It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. None the less certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead–often not recognising fully what they were doing–was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct [one characterized by moral incoherence and unsettlable moral disputes in the modern world], we ought to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another–doubtless very different–St. Benedict.”

–Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Terre Haute, Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 3rd. ed., 2007), p. 263 (my emphasis)

Update: Peter Leithardt’s comments on this are also worth pondering:

“The turning point, he says, occurred with a renunciation of the “task of shoring up the Roman imperium,” which required “men and women of good will” to begin to distinguish between sustaining moral community and maintaining the empire. Roman civilization was no longer seen as synonymous with civilization itself. Mutatis muntandis, this is the intellectual and practical transformation that has to take place before we can begin to construct “local forms of community” for the flourishing of civility and intellectual life. We need to acknowledge that our task isn’t to shore up America, or the West, or whatever. If we promote local communities of virtue as a tactic for shoring up the imperium, we haven’t really grasped MacIntyre’s point, or the depth of the crisis he described.

That renunciation is as emotionally difficult as the project of forming local communities is practically difficult.”

Posted in America/U.S.A., Canada, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Philosophy, Theology

(NPR) Inspired By The Beatles’ Love Gospel, ‘Submarine Churches’ Bucked Tradition

When the phantasmagorically weird Beatles film Yellow Submarine premiered 50 years ago, its psychedelic colors and peace-and-love sensibility quickly influenced fashion, graphic design, animation and music.

But the 1968 movie also influenced organized religion — a fact lost in the hubbub over the release of a restored and remastered version in American theaters on July 8.

Not long after the British-made film landed in the United States, “submarine churches” attracted urban, young people. They adopted the outline of a yellow submarine with a small cross on its periscope as their symbol and displayed it alongside peace signs, flowers and other popular emblems of the 1960s.

There were enough of the churches a year after the film’s release that they operated The Submarine Church Press, which published a national directory of 40 such churches, most with mainline Protestant or Catholic roots, and held a three-day “rap session,” or conference, in Kansas City, Mo. Attendees came from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis and Akron, Ohio.

“In the Beatles’ movie, the submarine was the place where they loved each other in a groovy way and got strength to do battle with the Blue Meanies,” Rev. Tony Nugent, a former co-pastor of a submarine church in Berkeley, Calif., told The New York Times in 1970. “It also shows that a church has to have flexibility and maneuverability.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, England / UK, Music, Parish Ministry

Saint Benedict on his Feast Day–On Humility

Holy Scripture, brethren, cries out to us, saying,
“Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled,
and he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
In saying this it shows us
that all exaltation is a kind of pride,
against which the Prophet proves himself to be on guard
when he says,
“Lord, my heart is not exalted,
nor are mine eyes lifted up;
neither have I walked in great matters,
nor in wonders above me” (Ps. 130[131]:1)
But how has he acted?
“Rather have I been of humble mind
than exalting myself;
as a weaned child on its mother’s breast,
so You solace my soul” (Ps. 130[131]:2).

Hence, brethren,
if we wish to reach the very highest point of humility
and to arrive speedily at that heavenly exaltation
to which ascent is made through the humility of this present life,
we must
by our ascending actions
erect the ladder Jacob saw in his dream,
on which Angels appeared to him descending and ascending.
By that descent and ascent
we must surely understand nothing else than this,
that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility.
And the ladder thus set up is our life in the world,
which the Lord raises up to heaven if our heart is humbled.
For we call our body and soul the sides of the ladder,
and into these sides our divine vocation has inserted
the different steps of humility and discipline we must climb.

–The Rule of Benedict, Chapter 7

Posted in Church History, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Benedict of Nursia

Almighty and everlasting God, whose precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father: Give us grace, following the teaching and example of thy servant Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service; let thine ears be open unto our prayers; and prosper with thy blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

Food for Thought from CH Spurgeon

Posted in Church History, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Jan Hus

Faithful God, who didst give Jan Hus the courage to confess thy truth and recall thy Church to the image of Christ: Enable us, inspired by his example, to bear witness against corruption and never cease to pray for our enemies, that we may prove faithful followers of our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

AS Haley on the Ongoing South Carolina Episcopal Church litigation mess–“O, What a Tangled Web We Weave . . .”

Thus two of the Justices viewed this case as one in which the civil courts should “defer” to the “ecclesiastical authorities” — even though South Carolina is a “neutral principles” State, in which “deference” has no role! — while the third reaches his result based “strictly applying neutral principles of law.” Two of them simply “reverse” the decision below (and one only in part), while only Justice Hearn declares the whole kit and caboodle to belong to her own denomination.

The first two Justices would thus have overruled the leading South Carolina neutral principles case, All Saints Parish Waccamaw v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, but two votes do not suffice for that. They would have required a third vote to overrule that decision, and they never obtained that third vote. So the neutral principles doctrine of All Saints Waccamaw stands unchanged.

Nor did Justice Hearn get any other Justice to buy into her “constructive trust” rationale (unless Justice Pleicones may be said to have done so by “joining” in her opinion). But that was not a ground urged on appeal by ECUSA or its rump diocese — so Justice Hearn gratuitously inserted her views on an issue that was not properly before the Court.

Finally, only two of the Justices (Hearn and Beatty) mentioned Camp Christopher — the retreat property that belongs not to any one parish, but to the Diocese itself. The Dennis Canon does not apply to the property of a diocese, and so it cannot be used to transfer ownership. For Justice Hearn, “deference” requires that result, while for Chief Justice Beatty, the result follows from the fact that he cannot see how Bishop Lawrence’s Diocese is the “successor” to the diocese that owned the property before the lawsuit began. (But the Diocese did not go anywhere — it is still the same South Carolina religious corporation it always was. So how can there be any question of whether a Diocese can “succeed” itself? The Chief Justice went out on a limb, and no one joined him.)

An even bigger problem for Judge Goodstein on remand, however, is how she should regard the opinion of Justice Hearn, who belatedly recused herself due to a (presumed) perception of a conflict of interest. (You think?) Which is to say, she never should have participated in the case to begin with.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, Corporations/Corporate Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

(Wa Post) Is God male? The Episcopal Church (TEC) debates whether to change its Book of Common Prayer

The terms for God, in the poetic language of the prayers written for centuries, have almost always been male: Father. King. Lord.

And in the Episcopal Church, the language of prayer matters. The Book of Common Prayer, the text used in every Episcopal congregation, is cherished as a core element of Episcopal identity.

This week, the church is debating whether to overhaul that prayer book — in large part to make clear that God doesn’t have a gender.

“As long as ‘men’ and ‘God’ are in the same category, our work toward equity will not just be incomplete. I honestly think it won’t matter in some ways,” said the Rev. Wil Gafney, a professor of the Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Texas who is on the committee recommending a change to the gendered language in the prayer book.

Gafney says that when she preaches, she sometimes changes the words of the Book of Common Prayer, even though Episcopal priests aren’t formally allowed to do so. Sometime she switches a word like “King” to a gender-neutral term like “Ruler” or “Creator.” Sometimes she uses “She” instead of “He.” Sometimes, she sticks with the masculine tradition. ” ‘Our Father,’ I won’t fiddle with that,” she said, invoking the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to say in the book of Matthew.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(SA) Ed Loane–Will Gafcon 2018 be seen as a turning point in the history of Anglicanism?

As the invitations went out for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, those who remained faithful to the biblical doctrines which were the basis of Anglican unity found the Instruments of Communion were being employed to condone fundamental disunity. By including schismatics in fellowship with orthodox Anglicans and claiming that unity was a result of attending the same conferences the Instruments of Communion had become a conceited phantasm.

This was called out for the fallacy that it is and GAFCON was born. In 2008 the first GAFCON arrived at the Jerusalem Declaration which was a statement reaffirming what it means to be an orthodox Anglican. Paradoxically those who had betrayed the basis of Anglican unity began ridiculing the orthodox Anglicans as schismatics. Nevertheless, fidelity to the gospel compelled the GAFCON movement forward and a deep spiritual unity, the kind of unity the Instruments of Communion were supposed to foster, was cultivated. The GAFCON movement continued to call upon the Instruments of Communion to fulfil the mandate they had been created for. Unfortunately, in the decade since the first GAFCON there has been no indication that the Instruments of Communion will return from their usurpation of the basis of unity being in shared history, doctrine and mission. Rather, they continue to contend falsely that they are the basis of Anglican unity.

GAFCON 2018 marks a significant turning point in the history of Anglicanism. The conference was not only the largest international gathering of Anglicans in the last 50 years, it represented the majority of the Anglican Communion. In the final statement the movement reiterates its earlier calls for schismatics to submit to the authority of the Bible and the Instruments of Communion to return to the purposes they were established for. But the legacy of GAFCON 2018 will be more than a reiteration of orthodox Anglicanism and a call for schismatics to return. In a highly significant move the conference endorsed the establishment of several networks which will foster the fellowship between Anglicans who share a unity of history, doctrine and mission. Nine networks were established including networks for theological education, youth and children’s ministry and all importantly, mission and evangelism. In this way, GAFCON 2018 has effectively declared that the mission of the church is too urgent and important to indefinitely wait for errant churches and corrupt fellowship structures to fulfil their original purposes. These new global networks will deepen the fellowship and expand the mission of those who share unity in Christ.

Under God, the new communion structures that GAFCON has endorsed hold great promise and there is good reason to be hopeful about the future of Anglicanism. Of course, it is desired that the original Instruments and the errant churches will return to their purpose, but now whether they do or not is quite irrelevant to the future of global Anglicanism. Some within the GAFCON movement, out of love, will continue to engage with the old structures and call for repentance. Others will see participation as a validation of a false fellowship and will choose to not be involved. Either way, the fellowship and unity of global Anglicanism will grow as the majority of the church get on with mission and partner in the gospel through the newly established networks.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, GAFCON, Instruments of Unity

(Local Paper) An Important Letter to The Editor on the Historic Diocese of South Carolina Lawsuit

“Conflicting rulings leave church dispute unsettled”

From there:

Recent letters to the editor suggest that because the United States Supreme Court denied our petition for review, the legal questions between the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church (TEC) are settled and all that remains is return of the property. As the elected leaders of our congregations (St. Michael’s, St. Philip’s and the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul) we have a far different perspective.

While the denial of our petition means the five opinions of the South Carolina Supreme Court justices will not be reviewed, it was not an affirmation of them. The same day, the court also declined to review a Minnesota church case with the same facts but an opposite outcome to ours. All the denial means is that the court was unwilling to resolve this conflict between the lower courts.

So why do we continue in our legal defense? Our houses of worship, established by faithful generations before us, are worth preserving for our children and grandchildren. And the faith we proclaim there, the immutable Gospel of Christ, is worth defending.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria said last week, at an international gathering of Anglicans in Jerusalem, “If we walk together with those who reject the orthodox faith, in word or deed, we have agreed that orthodoxy is optional.” We believe the divinity of Christ and the authority of Scripture must be upheld, not revised to suit the times. The Gospel ministry we share in our churches today, and the ministry these sanctuaries will enable tomorrow, is worth protecting.

We believe that the grounds for doing so remain strong. As TEC itself argued in its Brief in Opposition before the United States Supreme Court, the South Carolina ruling is “fractured.” Among the five separate opinions, promulgated after two years of wrangling, there is no majority legal opinion. The conflicts of interpretation among the five opinions are significant.

One key example illustrates this well. In the deciding opinion on the parish property issue, Chief Justice Don Beatty said only parishes that acceded in writing to the Dennis Canon created a trust. None of our parishes signed such a document. To our knowledge, no congregation in our Diocese did so. On that basis, what the ruling says is that no congregation should lose their property. This is one of the many difficulties that must still be resolved by a state court.

Many of our congregations have been faithfully proclaiming the Gospel here for over 300 years, through earthquake, fire and flood. We will pass through this challenge as well and look forward, God willing, to another 300 years of faithful proclamation. We pray that The Episcopal Church will respect the path of faithfulness we have chosen, as parishes and as a Diocese. For those truly concerned to heal fractured relationships, this is the shortest road to that destination.

–Penn Hagood is senior warden of St. Philip’s Church. Heidi Ravenel is junior warden of St. Michael’s Church. Todd Lant is senior warden of the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

The Guardian view on an Anglican cover-up: the church that didn’t want to know

It’s not the scandal that does the damage, they say, but the cover-up. What happens if the cover-up is itself covered up? This is the question that the Church of England must face with the publication of an extraordinary report into the occasion, eight years ago, when it gave itself a pass mark on the issue of sexual abuse. A report then published, prompted by scandals earlier in the decade, was meant to measure the extent of historic sexual abuse known to the church. Instead it produced the frankly incredible claim that there were only 13 cases in 30 years that had not been dealt with properly.

Now that Peter Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and of Gloucester, has been convicted of indecent assault and been sentenced to 32 months in jail, while Lord Carey, who as archbishop of Canterbury attempted to rehabilitate him and suppressed some of the evidence against him, has been barred from working as a priest in retirement, it is time to review the church’s earlier self-examination. The Ball case is only the most visible of what is now obviously a considerable load of past cases. The archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, along with two of his bishops, has been formally reported to the police for alleged inaction over the case of one of their priests who was as a young man raped by an older priest.

So it is disappointing to see that the church has managed to produce another report that appears to argue that the original clean bill of health was the product of perfectly innocent misunderstandings.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence