Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Infected. Listen, I'm infected at home, on my laptop, and even at work, where we have some very tough firewalls. Accordingly, I've really cut back on e-mail and time on-line. I think I've got all three PC's worm and virus free, but I'm staying off the 'net for the most part to avoid catching and spreading.

If I haven't responded to an e-mail or note, that's why. I should be back by Friday.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Response I just received an e-mail response from Peter Lee, unfortunately in an obvious form letter, so I have no way of knowing whether he even read my letter, which was appended to his note, below.
August 14, 2003
Mr. William Patrick Sulik (a4)
Dear Mr. Sulik:
Your email reached me at the General Convention and I have not been able to
respond until now. I take your message as a sign of you concern for your
church and welcome it in that spirit. Of course I am saddened that my vote
to consent to Canon Robinson's consecration disappointed you. I can assure
you that I made the decision only after much prayer and believe it to have
been the correct decision for the good of the church.
The fact is that the Episcopal Church is divided over the place of gay and
lesbian persons in our common life.
My prayer is that we can remain united in Christ, whatever our differences,
and wrestle with these issues together in a spirit of compassion, mutual
respect and civility.
Thank you for writing.
Faithfully yours,
Peter James Lee
----- Original Message -----
From: Raider Raider
Sent: Monday, August 04, 2003 4:18 AM
Subject: Utterly Crushed

> Bishop Lee:
> Years ago, when you were a new Bishop, and I was a young man, you received
> me into the Episcopal Church. Many years after that, you baptized my
> born child into the faith of the Church. I have always admired you and
> appreciated your wisdom and balance. I was extremely disappointed when
> removed yourself from consideration to be Presiding Bishop because I
> believed you would bring a sense of balance needed to the ECUSA.
> Today, I was crushed to learn that the House of Deputies had voted
> the standards clearly set forth by the Anglican Communion, and indeed, by
> the totality of the Holy Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, not to
> mention the traditions handed down from generation to generation for as
> years before Jesus as there have been since.
> However, I was utterly crushed to learn that you had released a letter
> today, August 3, announcing that despite the clear teaching of Scripture
> the worldwide Anglican Communion (August 5, 1998, which "reject[ed]
> homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture"*) you would vote to
> elevate to bishop a man who was living in relationship contrary to these
> very clear standards.
> I feel that not only has my church turned its back on me and those like
> but you have turned your back on me. I thought that you meant what you
> when you voted for the Lambeth Resolution on Sexuality.
> In today's letter, you first pull a little lawyer's trick. I know about
> these things, being a lawyer myself. You try to downplay immutable
> standards by calling it a mere "policy." Moreover, you try to minimize
> fact that these standards are standards shared by the worldwide Anglican
> communion by saying it's just a *Virginia* policy.
> Secondly, you express your belief that "the Holy Spirit guides the church
> often through the decisions of lay people and clergy at diocesan
> conventions, councils and synods." Fair enough -- it is hard to discern
> move of the Holy Spirit sometimes. When I lived for awhile in Tulsa,
> Oklahoma, there was a televangelist there who said that the Holy Spirit
> going to kill him if not enough people sent him money. This person's
> was contrary to the clear teaching of the Holy Scriptures, therefore, I
> didn't need councils and synods to know it wasn't the Holy Spirit
> Similarly, if councils and synods issued decrees or take votes which run
> contrary to the clear teaching of the Holy Scriptures, I know it's not the
> Third Member of the Trinity speaking.
> But this is really a minor point; the major point is that the Holy Spirit
> does speak through councils and has done so throughout history: Jerusalem,
> Nicea, Ephesus, and so on to Lambeth. Yet, if a diocesan convention
> a resolution denying the divinity of Jesus (Arianism), you would certainly
> (and rightly) oppose this action as being contrary to the First Council of
> Nicaea.
> In short, I don't understand why you are willing to affirm a position that
> is contrary to what has been decided.
> While you and the majority of the ECUSA establishment have turned your
> on me and the worldwide Anglican communion, that is only a *feeling* of
> and rejection. What has me more alarmed is that you and the Diocese of
> Virginia have decided to endorse a postion that is clearly repugnant to
> teaching of the Church of Christ. Since you have decided to drive me away
> from the Episcopal Church, I must ensure that I, as well as my family and
> co-parishioners may remain in a Church which supports a Biblical ethic.
> Nevertheless, I can not begin to tell you how much your betrayal has
> me.
> William Patrick Sulik
> [address in the original, deleted here]
> "Let the reader, where we are equally confident, stride on with me; where
> are equally puzzled, pause to investigate with me; where he finds himself
> error, come to my side; where he finds me erring, call me to his side. So
> that we may keep to the path, in love, as we fare on toward Him, 'whose
> is ever to be sought.'"
> -- Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity 1.5
> -------
> * The Lambeth Conference Resolution on Human Sexuality, stated, in
> parts, "``This Conference . . .
> in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage
> between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence
> is right for those who are not called to marriage. . .
> while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, [A36]
> calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all
> irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of
> homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and
> commercialisation of sex;
> . . . cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions, nor
> ordination of those involved in same-gender unions. . .

Monday, August 18, 2003

Football! In particular, Blogger Bowl 2k4. The team that I owned last year has been forced out of left the quaint little town of Asylum, Pennsylvania, for the sunny shores of Makapu'u Beach, Hawai'i. Accordingly, we have switched team name, colors (no more puke green and pale pink), and uniforms -- so be sure to make your purchases early. We are now the Makapu'u Surfriders, with Aloha Blue and Sun Gold. In fact our uniforms look just like the Lions except we've got gold in place of silver. Yet, I need to stress here, especially in light of the Raiders lawsuit against the Bucs last year, there was no desire to emulate the Lions. I think the Lions record and performance for the past two years is proof enough of that.

Anyway, I've digressed enough. The purpose of this post was just to announce who the team would select with the second pick in the draft. Since we've not been able to come to early terms with Justin Fargas (the preseason rushing leader), we've decided to pick either Ricky Williams or LaDainian Tomlinson. It all depends on what number 1 does. If Mark Byron picks one, I'll go with the other. If both are available, I'll probably go with Ricky, but LaD was my main performer last year.
ECUSA(postate). I don't mean to keep flogging this story, the declared apostacy of the Episcopal Church in the US, but this is obviously important to me. Uwe Siemon-Netto, an ordained Lutheran and UPI religion correspondent, has an essay out -- apparently not on-line yet (when it is, I'll replace this and link) -- regarding the coming Primates meeting and the possibility of "one church" with "two opposing gospels coexist[ing] under one roof."

Here are the first few 'grafs:
The expanding crisis in the Episcopal Church USA and the worldwide Anglican Communion is about to reintroduce one of the most ancient dilemmas of Christianity: Can two opposing gospels coexist under one roof without doing damage to the Body of Christ?

The problem will presumably come up when in mid-October the world's Anglican primates meet in an emergency session to discuss the crisis caused by the approval by the ECUSA's General Convention of an openly homosexual priest as next bishop of New Hampshire.

Diane Knippers, president of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, predicts, "There is an excellent chance of 7 or 8 out of 10 that an alternative (ecclesial) province will emerge in North America." Many observers agree.
Diane is a wonderful Christian lady who is a fellow parishoner at Truro Church in Fairfax -- please pray for her, especially her health. She is very committed to believers in the third world, especially those in the persecuted Church -- What's happening with the ECUSA(postate) is obviously distracting the orthodox and evangelical believers from the true mission of the Church, and consuming an enormous amount of resources.

If an alternate province is created, it will cause an interesting dilemma for the so-called "centrist" Bishops, such as mine in Virginia, who made a great show of holding their nose and voting for Robinson or the 'blessing' of alternate relationships. Specifically, Peter the Apostate (or Bishop Lee, if you prefer) strongly emphasized local determination as the justifying his vote on both Robinson and locally developed liturgies. It will be interesting to see what he does when local congregations want to stay in the Anglican communion and separate from the Episcopal diocese. I imagine Peter Lee will want to stay in the ECUSA, even though it will be the province which abandoned the historical faith. Yet he professes to disagree with the issues that the ECUSA(postate) decided to stand on.

On a related point, it will be interesting to see what the courts do, if the ECUSA(postate) establishment decides that they don't want to let local congregations assemble under an alternate province. Generally, the Episcopal diocese would get all the property in such a split, but if the broader Anglican communion determines that the ECUSA is, in fact apostate, what will the courts do? I have no knowledge or insight about this -- I'd look to someone like Peter Sean Bradley who has represented local congregations against the evil empire.

Nevertheless, I can see that it is excellent legal counsel to hold tight, local congregations, until you have cover from the Anglican communion.

More. NPR did a fair and balanced (can I say that?) story on this issue on Monday (I'm doing this update on Tuesday). You can listen to it on the web, here.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Power. I don't suppose I should mention we lost power for 5 hours last night? Thunderstorms. Okay, didn't think so.
Local Church. Let's see, it's the second Sunday following the ECUSA General Convention. Our rector is out on vacation. Our assistant Rector preached an excellent sermon on interpreting Scripture, which I will post when it becomes available.

Following communion, we had a rousing chorus of "A Little Talk With Jesus." (midi) I told Debbie that if we do have to leave Truro, we're going to a gospel church.

There were two letters of interest, the first from our Rector to the Congregation:
August 14, 2003

Dear Friends,

We had an extraordinary parish meeting last Sunday in response to the actions of General Convention. A number of presentations were made and many questions were asked. I am very grateful for the more than 500 who were present, including a number of visitors from other area churches. The atmosphere was somber and concerned, with strong emotions of sadness and grief just below the surface.

Let me restate my opening comments:

• The policies and teaching of Truro Church will not be changed by the actions of this General Convention.

• Although we approach Bishop Lee with profound disagreement regarding his leadership on these issues, we will maintain respect for his office as we pursue considered responses to these actions.

• We will continue to be a church that welcomes and cares for all people, especially those who struggle faithfully with homosexual temptation.

• We strongly dissociate ourselves from the election of a non-celibate homosexual man as a Bishop in this church, and we reject the claim that celebrating and blessing same sex unions is within the “bounds of our common life.”

A statement of disassociation was distributed and signed by 504 people. Truro will continue to collect signatures until August 31, at which time we will deliver them in a communication to Bishop Lee, Presiding Bishop Griswold and Archbishop Rowan Williams.

Among the many concerns raised at the meeting was the question of how to communicate with our children. I have responded to those concerns in my article in this week’s Truro Family News. Questions were also asked about the faithful stewardship of our finances. The offering on Sunday included a significant number of checks marked “for Truro Only,” or otherwise indicating that money was not to be passed on to the Diocese or National Church. At the Vestry meeting held later that afternoon we established a restricted fund to make this possible, and we also agreed to hold in escrow any future payments of our 2003 Diocesan pledge to allow time for further reflection. More information about the vestry’s actions will be available at the Vestry table after services in the coming Sundays.

I also reminded those gathered of our “Anglican Strategic Initiatives”—an initiative to support the work of those international leaders within the wider Anglican Communion who are standing with us. We took up an offering of more than $12,000 to further that mission.

What next? Pray! Pray for the Anglican Primates as they prepare to meet in October. Pray for the gathering of church leaders in Plano which will also be in October. Pray that we will not be divided or prideful as we seek to remain faithful to our Heavenly Father. Pray that in all this Christ will be glorified and His Church strengthened.
The second letter was from our Vestry to Peter Lee (and was much more gracious than I could ever be):
August 12, 2003

The Right Reverend Peter James Lee
Bishop of Virginia
Mayo House
110 W. Franklin Street
Richmond, Virginia 23220

Dear Bishop Lee:

In the words of the Apostle Paul, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

As brothers in Christ, we are writing you on behalf of the Vestry of Truro Episcopal Church to convey to you the depth of our grief over the consent vote to approve the election of Canon Gene Robinson to be the next bishop of New Hampshire and over the recognition of the legitimacy of blessing same sex unions, as expressed in the 5th clause of Resolution C051 of the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The Truro Vestry is dismayed that you chose to support these actions. Many at our Sunday Vestry meeting expressed a strong sense of betrayal that the leaders of our Church showed such singular disregard for the consistent teaching of the universal Church regarding human sexuality based on clear biblical principles.

Our Rector, Martyn Minns, called a special parish meeting at 3:00 p.m. this past Sunday, August 10, in pastoral response to the confusion and anger caused by the actions of the General Convention. Our parishioners had an opportunity to hear directly from Martyn and others who were present at the Convention and to ask questions of him. At the conclusion of the meeting, 504 of those present signed the attached statement dissociating themselves from the unconstitutional actions by the 74th General Convention cited above.

Afterwards, the Vestry met to respond to the concerns expressed by our parishioners. The fifteen Vestry members present unanimously approved the following resolutions:

In response to the unconstitutional actions by the 74th General Convention of the ECUSA and the pastoral needs of our congregation, and as a matter of conscience, our diocesan pledge will be held in escrow, pending a review of the situation in November. The diocesan pledge amount will be adjusted to reflect any changes in the amounts donated to unrestricted funds.
We will immediately create a restricted “Truro Only” fund for the exclusive use of Truro missions and ministries, not to be used to support the diocesan or general church budgets. The restricted fund would be under the direction of the Vestry.
In your August 3, 2003, letter to the Diocese defending your decision to consent to the election of Canon Robinson, you said “We must look to the cross of Christ, which embraces us in unity and not to peripheral matters of sexuality where we differ.” While we agree that it is only at the foot of the cross that we can find unity, we profoundly disagree that matters of human sexuality are peripheral. In Genesis 1:27 we learn God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

The issue of how human sexuality is to be expressed is central to who we are as human beings made in God’s image and likeness. This is why such passions are brought to bear on these issues. Each one of us needs love, and needs to know what ways are appropriate or not appropriate for the expression of that love. Children and youth growing up need practical guidance for their daily interaction with others. The Judeo-Christian tradition has upheld as a clear standard expressed in the Old and New Testaments that the proper place for sexual love is between a man and a woman in a faithful marriage. The election of an actively homosexual bishop and the legitimizing of same-sex blessings effectively changes the doctrine of the Episcopal Church. It is precisely this unilateral alteration of the standards for sexual conduct that is seen by many in the Anglican Communion as not peripheral but a significant and divisive departure from established doctrine.

For a Church that deeply knows the power of symbolic action, this change is a profoundly troubling one. It signifies to our permissive culture that the Episcopal Church has now abandoned over 3000 years of consistent teaching within the Judeo-Christian tradition on the standard for the expression of human sexuality. In this media age of sound-bite communication, the Episcopal Church will henceforth be known as a Church that says without distinction: “Homosexual behavior is OK!” Episcopal parents can no longer turn to the Church for guidance and example if they want their children to live by the traditional Christian standard for sexual expression.

Perhaps this is what many lay, clergy, and bishops wish for our Church—a fundamental change that impacts the practical ways in which Christians live and order their public life in society. There are many—perhaps a large majority in the Anglican Communion—who believe that such a change would be a tragedy that would undermine the truth of the gospel itself, by promoting destructive behavior that is neither good for the individuals involved or for our society, nor pleasing to God.

It is crucial that our Church find loving, compassionate, and just responses to those who see themselves as homosexual individuals. Those of us who articulate a conservative theological position on this bear a special responsibility to find appropriate ways that such individuals can truly be welcomed in our churches, where all are called to new and transformed life in Christ.

Christians are always called to act out of faith, hope, and love. That hope can only be realized as we stand together at the foot of the cross. Jesus prayed on the night before he died, that His followers “may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” For the sake of the gospel, that all may know the all-inclusive, transforming love of Christ, we respectfully call upon you to reconsider and repudiate the actions of the 74th General Convention, which have effectively separated the Episcopal Church from mainstream Anglicanism.

Yours in Christ,

Paul S. Julienne Warren A. Thrasher, Jr.
Senior Warden Junior Warden

More on Da Vinci Code. I received a note asking: "What does it mean that supposedly (I can't remember the source of that -- some columnist) this book is all the rage in the Bush White House?" If that's the case, I'd say it means that there's a fool born every minute and the White House is full of them. [BTW, I'm not able to confirm this -- I see that John Edwards just finished reading the book, but have not been able to link it to the White House.]

I have to say that I returned the Da Vinci Code audiobook to the library in a fit of pique. I was driving to the library to pick up the Clancy book while listening to this one and it just got to be too much for me. Part of it was the story telling was just getting so trite -- it reminded me of one of those really bad Christian novels: "So Skip, do you know the four spiritual laws?" "Why no, Chip, tell me?" The other is that it was blatently lying: "Every major scholar in the world knows that Mary Magdalene married Jesus and they had a child and the Roman Catholic Church has been suppressing it ever since." What a big fat one -- even heretical "Jesus scholars" such as John Dominic Crossan put no faith in the gnostic texts relied on by Holy Blood, Holy Grail (which finally got mentioned as a dusty old book that is the source of all this drivel -- descibed in such a way as to make it seem almost reputable). [And just for clarification -- Crossan does like the gnostic gospels, just not the HBHG ones.]

As for me, I'd rather spend time with Monty Python and the Holy Grail than the Da Vinci Code.