Thursday, October 27, 2011

Science and Religion

I love the conversation.  I found this video from EWTN this afternoon of a Notre Dame physicist discussing the science v. religion "tension".  I particularly enjoyed his comments about St. Auggy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


What would you think of a retailer with the following stats for its domestic outlets over the last five years?
1.      A loss of 300 store fronts
2.      A loss of 11% of its card carriers
3.      A loss of 16% of its regular active customers
4.      A business model where 68% of its stores had less than 100 customers per week

Would you be willing to invest in this business?  If you were an investor, would you be concerned?  Would you be satisfied with a mantra that “All is Well?”, or we are just rightsizing to our market/niche?  Would you demand a change in the business model?   

Now, what would you say if I told you those were the numbers for The Episcopal Church (domestic dioceses) over the last five years?  Here are the raw numbers 2006 & 2010:
1.      Parishes and Missions: 7095  & 6794
2.      Active Baptized Members: 2,154,572 &  1,951,907
3.      Five Year % Change in Active Members: -7% & -11%
4.      % of Congregations growing 10%+ in past five years: 28% & 25%
5.      % of Congregations declining 10%+ in past five years: 41% & 42%
6.      Total Average Sunday Attendance (ASA): 765,326 & 657,831
7.      Five Year % Change in ASA: -11% & -16%
8.      % of Churches growing 10%+ in ASA in the past five years: 17%
9.      % of Churches declining 10%+ in ASA in the past five years: 57%
10.  Median Active Baptized Members: 158
11.  Median Average Sunday Worship Attendance: 65
Note ASA is calculated on Saturday evening services and all Sunday services, including Easter Vigil and Christmas Eve (when it falls on Saturday, as it will this year).

I know it is a lot to take in, so I should let the numbers speak for themselves, but I will not.  The stats do not look good, and what we have to do is realize that we have a “burning oil platform” problem in the church.

If you are on an oil platform that catches fire, you have only two options: get off, or put the fire out.  You cannot run around and say it will all be ok, or it is all going to plan.  Agreed?  Mixed messages will not do, and that is what we seem to be getting from our leadership.  “Membership and attendance may be down, but we’re doing mission so it’s all ok!”  I am sorry, but healthy organizations grow, and well…

I am not getting off this oil platform, I love it and I pray for it.  It is burning, but I am not leaving.  Despite the challenges, I have great hope for the future.  God has revived the Church and can do so again. Therefore, I guess I am part of the fire brigade.

There may be (and are) many reasons why this platform is burning and decline is occurring, and of course, these will be debated based on which wing of the church one chooses.  However, I think that is one of the problems, while we are denying, debating, investigating, and fighting over where it began and what hoses to use, we forget to turn on the water to put the fire out.

So what are we to do?  The first thing necessary is to recover a belief that the Gospel truly transforms lives and is the best we have to offer to our friends, neighbors, countrymen, and the world. The second is to be faithful in our prayers, study, and attendance on the Sacraments. The third is to recognize the state in which we find ourselves.  The fourth is to recognize that the old structures may not hold, that culturally more people are not Christian than are.  The fifth, is to develop a passion for those not in the faith.  All of this comes from a recovery of the centrality of the Crucified and Risen Christ, a prophetic vision for the Church, and her place in God’s economy.

Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

This is why I was enthralled with Bishop Daniel’s vision address at our Diocesan Synod.  It is a challenging vision of hope with a passion for the Gospel, all while realistically looking at the current state of the church and our culture.  It delineates a clear clarion call to put out the fire, to rethink our structures, and empower us to bring the Gospel to all corners of our Diocese. 

It starts with us.  Will we be among the number who are passionate for Christ and formed for the ministries necessary?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Bishop's Address

I will be posting my thoughts about this, and Synod, over the next couple of days, but until then here is a link to the Bishop's Address:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To Speak or Not to Speak...

that is the question.

This coming Friday and Saturday, I will be attending the Diocesan Synod.  The question before me is to whether or not I should speak on the Title IV revisions.
For those who may not know, at General Convention 2009 a new set of Disciplinary Canons (Title IV) was passed with only 15 minutes of debate, and we are voting on bringing our Diocesan Canons into line with these changes.

In some quarters there are concerns about the constitutionality of these canons that revolve around whether or not a sitting Presiding Bishop has metropolitical authority over the Bishops of the Church.  Metropolitical authority means that a Presiding Bishop has the same power as a bishop diocesan in matters pertaining to Title IV violations.  It is the authority that is wielded by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy and the Eastern Orthodox Hierarchy.  Lest you think that these concerns are only due to the current occupant of the Office, ask whether you would agree to these changes if a member of the “other party” were to hold that Office.   While a lot of digital ink has been spilled in the debate over the constitutionality of these canons, I am less concerned with that on a Diocesan level. 
My concern revolves around the application of the new canons.  Will all the possible infractions be enforced equally?  Will any breach of the standards of conduct be treated with equal gravity as stipulated by the canons?  Will such breaches as failure to, “conform to the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer;” or “holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly, any Doctrine contrary to that held by the Church”, or “knowingly violating or attempting to violate, directly or through the acts of another person, the Constitution or Canons of the Church or of any Diocese”, be prosecuted with equal fervor as are violations of professional ethics and/or crimes?

One other major change makes a cleric accountable for not reporting an offense (either self-reporting or reporting on others).  In other words, if a priest observes a colleague doing anything that could land them in trouble, and does not report it, the first cleric is just as liable as the offender.  I am guessing that the civil legal idea is “accessory after the fact.”  Do we really like the sound of that, regardless of our respective church “wings”?  In addition, will this be enforced across the board, or will some rule violations be more actionable than others?

So, does anyone know of a cleric that openly espouses, or practices, Communion without Baptism?  Denying the Resurrection? Not using, or using a creed different from, the Nicene at the Eucharist?  Changing the Baptismal Liturgy? Using different prefaces, even if published by Church Publishing? Adding to, or changing, the Eucharistic Prayers?  Using alternative texts at the principal Sunday Eucharist?  Saying “Alleluia!” during Lent?  Having a different lesson than those appointed at a marriage?  It is easy to move from the sublime to the ridiculous, but all these are violations.  Anyone else wish to play informants, or is this designed to keep folk quiet lest dust is found in their houses?

One more question, since Communion without Baptism (it is against the Canons) is practiced openly, or at least is an open secret, in some places, where are the charges for those who allow it?  Alternatively, where are the charges for those who know it happens, but have not reported?  Or, does that answer my questions above?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Feast of St. Luke

"Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."  (Book of Common Prayer 1979)

"Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed."  (Luke 1:1-4 NRSV)

Two thoughts.  The first is that the "book" of Luke seems to have been written as a sort of manual for continued formation and discipleship after catechism. It is the "Want to Know More?" link. This does not mean that it has no use in evangelism, but rather expounds on the basics taught in catechism.  If that is so, why do we expect to give people a book and then expect them to come to faith after reading it?  Reading is the supportive act, but for evangelism to occur we must have book of our life, we need to be ready with the words and witness of faith.  In short, we need to have our "elevator speeches" ready and understand them to be important elements in catechesis/evangelism, as the two are inextricably linked.

Secondly, as the preface to Luke makes abundantly clear, Christianity is a religion of "facts" requiring investigation and decision. It seems to me the three primary facts with which Luke is concerned are: The Incarnation, The Crucifixion, and The Resurrection.  Without these we have no Christianity, and in the words of St. Paul, "are most to be pitied."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back in Black

No, not AC/DC (although I was disappointed I couldn't download some of their stuff on iTunes (R)  as it would have come in helpful whilst calling Liam's football games).

No, it's back to making this thingy a regular/semi-regular thing. 

I hope.

We'll see.