Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rector's Study December 2010

There are some good things about the possibility that Christianity and faith in God are now less the cultural norms than they once were, as recently as fifty years ago. It means that Christianity is increasingly a counter-culture. It means that faiths in God, and in God’s goodness in Christ Jesus, are counter-cultural. Christians don’t find today the cultural supports and validations that perhaps Christians did in an early time. It means that Christian faith and practice are no longer the cultural assumptions that they once might have been, so Christians today must increasingly be Christians because they mean to be.

One of the truly counter-cultural aspects of Christian faith is the anticipation that Christians have around the coming of Christ. Yes, the secularized culture of apathy toward questions about God will, of course, has similar disinterest in Christ Jesus and his coming into the world. Still further, though, still more counter-cultural, is the presence of anticipation at all.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Failure of 'Covenant' progress

As is evident from the Episcopal/Anglican media, the fantastic juxtaposition of the Archbishop of Canterbury's efforts to force the proposed 'Anglican Covenant" through the Church of England's synod with the GAFCON statement of rejection of same is rattling the comfort cages of a lot of people who have invested themselves in the thing's passage.  This is, I suggest, a good and healthy rattling.  Some continue to assume that the autonomous and autocephalous Churches should take their disagreements to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Where, one wonders, does this bizarre ecclesiology originate?  The Episcopal Church has never, ever, been a subject of the Church of England.  To the contrary, its existence is predicated on its rejection of Canterbury's claim to have authority over it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Propoganda for the "Covenant"

Regarding the proposal for an 'Anglican Covenant, I recently witnessed a presentation by the Rev. Robert Pritchard of Virginia Theological Seminary. The presentation rightly noted that there was no such thing as the Anglican Communion, or even hints thereof, until the early to mid-twentieth century, since the Churches deriving from the Church of England were almost all colonial appendages of the Church of the Empire (C of E). Mr. Pritchard's presentation, though, was skewed toward presenting the history of the Episcopal Church as though our history has basically always assumed a world-wide 'Anglican Church.' In fact, Mr. Pritchard used the term frequently in his presentation, even though there is no such thing as 'the Anglican Church.'

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Consumerism - the wrong approach

Probably the single most destructive influence in the Church of modernity and of the West is that of consumerism. Today, membership in the Church on all levels, from that of the individual in the parish or mission, to that of the Province in the Anglican Communion, resembles more an entitlement than a privilege and responsibility. The member in the parish, the parish in the diocese, the diocese in the Province, the Province in the Communion, all are using techniques of the enlightened consumer in holding the larger organization hostage to the particular wishes of the customer. It's the approach by which the client threatens to take his or her business elsewhere if the company or franchise fails to accede to his or her wishes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rector's Study November 2010

Rector’s Study ~

I recently read the suggestion that one thing that all people have in common with one another is the universal capacity for God. I like this idea. Bernard of Clairvaux , 12th century monastic and theologian, wrote frequently of humanity’s capacity for love and of how any increase in this capacity is purely a gift from God. Bernard nearly equates love with God. Bernard is credited with introducing the idea of humanity’s capacity for love, and so is credited also with introducing the concept of humanity’s capacity for God.
His theory was that awe in wonder, pain in need, and joy in abundance or victory were all potential avenues by which people can meet and know God. The sudden need for God in a distressing situation, or the meeting of God in speechless awe can move a person to transcend himself or herself. In this moment, the person finds the inner capacity for God and for loving God is increased. It is in these moments, in these events, hat people are able to love others, and even to love themselves either in ways that are new to them or in ways that they have forgotten.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who pays and who prays

The Diocese of Texas has long chosen not to pay its full asking to the 'National Church. It is well-known here in the Diocese of Texas, that the main, if not the sole, reason for this is that the diocese has long accommodated and nursed an animosity toward the 'National Church' and about 15 years ago adopted a 'local option' that invited congregations to designate that their diocesan missionary asking would be directed toward specific agencies, thus away from the 'National Church.'

Despite claims to the contrary, there has been little if any discussion among leader lay and clergy about specific misgivings about the way the 'National Church' spends it resources.  It simply has been here in the DoT an official response to the so-called 'liberalism' of the 'National Church,' and nothing else.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rector's Study October 2010

From the Rector's Study ~
Relationship is what it’s all about. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles describes the zealous and explosive birth of the Church; the Book of the Revelation describes the early Church’s fear of demise in the face of tremendous challenge. I’ve been reading through and studying both of these rather concurrently, and I come to the conclusion that opportunity for relationship with fellow followers of Christ is what gives birth to the Church and is also the source of energy that sustains it. Relationship with God in Jesus and in the body of Christ, the Church, is what Christianity all about.
One of my favorite reflections on God’s creation is the suggestion that before creates anything – stars, seas, sun, moon, plants, animals, people – God first creates a void which is not filled with God’s presence. God deliberately makes room for that which is not God, even before that which is not God is brought into existence. God chooses not to crowd out the possibility of anything else. Instead, God opts to create a space that creation and creatures can fill. It is a grace that people seldom ponder, the grace that God chooses to bring into being something other than God’s self.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Weaker Brother - NOT

I agree with those who claim that the Church has much to consider, but the . We do indeed have much more to consider than LGBT persons. We have the gospel itself to think about, pray about, and live it out. Exclusion today of fellow Christians because they raise 'the ick' factor in some is as offensive to the gospel as it was in the days when the early Church struggled with equalizing Hellenized Jews or, later, equalizing Gentile members of the fellowship. But despite those who continue call it into play, the 'weaker brother' argument simply is not analogous to any of this. This is why the Church, in its wisdom and providence, did not delay inclusion of fellow children of God until to do so somehow became acceptable to those who raised objection. Those claiming the status of the weaker brother are over-using and mis-using the analogy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rector's Study September 2010

From the Rector’s Study ~
I think everyone will agree that our responsibility and desire is to be the people of God in the way we can best do so. For our community here at ECR, our collective vocation is the do this as best we can as this particular community in this particular place and time. Just yesterday I met with our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Andy Doyle, to discuss in detail our desire and intention to do so. He agrees that all of this involves our campus makeover project; and that it involves far more, as well.
I’m pleased to find that the bishop is highly supportive of our intentions, and very impressed with the commitment that we are bringing to its accomplishment. And again, this involves far more than the installation of additional parking lots and driveways, and the erection of a new Family Life Center, as important as these are. We need to be ever vigilant and ever honest about where our expression of God’s Love for all needs to be improved so that we can be ourselves at our best.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rector's Study August 2010

At the basis of humanity’s engagement with religion is humanity’s experience of God. It may seem an absurdly simple observation. It describes the plain fact that an aesthetic experience of God is determinative of a people’s or a person’s relationship with God. Yet, it is, I suggest a powerful insight. It indicates that for all the attempts at rational proofs for God’s existence, an endeavor stimulated by the intellectual and philosophical developments that characterize the period in western history known as the Enlightenment, are not determinatively persuasive on their own.
Western culture, of which our own is a part, overtly claims to assign definitive authority to rational thought and intellectual reason; however, in practice the collective culture can be found rather superstitiously idolizing the systems and the persons upon whom it projects its cultural valuations of reason and rational thought. In a sense, professors, physicians, and attorneys are the modern era’s shaman, wizards, and priests. Envy does not lie at the root of this observation; rather inspiration does.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rector's Study July 2010

With Fr. Jim away for vacation, this edition of the Radiant Cross provides a good opportunity to help our members and friends know a little more about our rector. Here is an updated biography of Fr. Jim.
Fr. Jim and his wife Lee Elena are recently celebrating their twenty-second year together. They met in St. Louis, Missouri where Jim was born and raised, and near Lee Elena’s hometown of Monticello, Illinois. Lee Elena is a Nurse Practitioner working at a clinic in Elgin. Their three children are Valerie, soon to be 20, Emily, 18, and Melanie, 15. Fr. Jim attended a Lutheran elementary school and credits his early education in this Christian environment as formative of his faith in God. It was there that he began to sense a vocation from God to Holy Orders.
Before attending college, Jim worked variously as a self-defense instructor (earning a black belt in Chinese Kenpo), as a carpenter building custom homes, then as a laborer and/or department supervisor at a variety of manufacturing companies. Responding to a re-emerging sense of call, Fr. Jim returned to church life in his mid-twenties. Having drifted from the Lutheran Church of his childhood, he looked up “Church” in the white pages of the phone book. There he found a local Church of Christ congregation listed and began attending worship services. It was at this congregation that he was blessed to meet Lee Elena Mathis, his wife-to-be.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Marriage and the BCP

As the Church's discussion around marriage and same-sex unions now becomes determinative, it bears remembering that it is our Constitution and Canons, not the Book of Common Prayer, the determine the Church's theology of Holy Matrimony. The Prayer gives this theology expression, yes; but it does not determine it. Further, while it may be true, perhaps, that weddings have been celebrated religiously for thousands of years, yet even the most conservative estimate holds that Holy Matrimony is identified by any authoritative Christian voice as a sacrament no sooner than the sixth century, not defined papally as such until Innocent IV in the the early 1200's, and not is declared as such conciliarly until the Council of Florence in 1438. While some weddings may certainly would have been celebrated religiously before this time, many if not most were not. Certainly many if not most weddings throughout human history were not celebrated according to the Christian religion. So, the religious practice surrounding weddings either in history or today can hardly be leaned upon too heavily as determinative of the Church's current theological reflection and practice.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rector's Study June 2010

From the Rector's Study ~
As a season in the cycle of the Church’s annual life, Pentecost reminds Christians that we are living in a distinct era. Different from the age in which people lived in hope and anticipation of a promised, but not yet arrived, Messiah; different from the short period of time when Jesus lived among the people of Galilee and Judean; ours is the era of post-resurrection and post ascension. To understand this era as well as possible in body, mind, and spirit is to give this era fuller meaning for us. To understand this era as fully as possible helps us to appreciate more fully both the blessing and the responsibility of living in it.
Some refer to Pentecost as the birth of the Church. On Pentecost Sunday, someone wished me ‘Happy Birthday’ as a reminder of this fact. The Spirit is God become present to humanity more intimately than any could ask or imagine. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost certainly makes this ‘the age of the Holy Spirit.’ “The Spirit of Jesus indwells Christian consciousness. It animates the community of faith and leads to a deeper appreciation of the life and message of Jesus. That is clear.” So observes author and theologian Anthony H. Kelly in his book The Resurrection Effect: Transforming Christian Life and Thought. And while this is a fine concept, I find that I still have reservations that we Christians tend to move rather more quickly than we ought past Jesus’ resurrection. Author Kelly has his own reservations, noting that “the event of the resurrection as something happening to him [i.e. to Jesus] can be bypassed, a more or less mythic expression of the origin of a new spiritual awareness.”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More Letters from Lambeth

More Letters!

These letters from Lambeth are ticking time-bombs that threaten the life of the Communion. Yet, despite appearances to the contrary, it is not too late to rescue ourselves. We will, however, need to do the hard work ourselves. No 'Holy Father' is going to do this for us. And, as protestants and Anglicans, we would have it no other way.

The so-titled 'Secretary General of the Anglican Communion' has now announced his own letters, and the bizarre paradigm that Rowan Williams is attempting to create amongst the Churches of the Anglican Communion comes into greater focus. Canon Kearon's remarks are uncharacteristically brief, so one wonders if he himself is a bit dubious of the ABC's new affection for autocracy. However, inasmuch as Kearon bears the sweeping title of Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, and despite the fact that he serves merely as a bureaucrat in the hierarchy of the Church of England, he is compliant. Whether he will remain happily complicit is another question. Is it a divine paradox, one wonders, that this Archbishop who has been terribly preoccupied with fears of the dissolution of the Anglican Communion is now himself the greatest threat to his own Office?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Archbishop's Summons to Silence

The Archbishop's Pentecost summons to silence -

One expects that it is abundantly clear now for even the most generously optimistic that the Archbishop of Canterbury has gone well beyond the jurisdiction of his Office in his pursuit of ecclesiastical authority. Rowan Williams' Pentecost Letter represents his first unilateral attempts to reduce punitively the participation of those Churches who have dared to ignore the recommendations of the 'Windsor Report' and have instead chosen to follow the governing Constitution and Canons of their respective Churches. This shows his continued disdain for and impatience with the fact that the Churches of the Anglican Communion are autonomous and autocephalous. He demonstrates very clearly here his desire and intention to punish those Churches who dare to honor the limitations of the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the boundaries of the English Church.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rector's Study May 2010

From the Rector’s Study ~

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” as the familiar saying goes. One misses a friend or loved one all the more when that person is not present. Sometimes, we don’t even realize how much the other person means to us until we experience his or her absence. This is important for you and me to recognize and is especially important for the community of Christians, for this community of ECR. When you are here, it may seem on rare occasion that the rest of us are taking for granted that fact that you are present. However, you need to know that when you are not here, you are missed, missed very much. And there’s something also that you yourself are missing in being away, in not being here at ECR.
I am here every Sunday. True, someone may say, I get paid to be here. But it’s also true that when I’m away on vacation, I miss being here and my heart grows fonder for you and all this community. It’s also true that when a parishioner is missing from worship and fellowship, especially on Sunday mornings, his or absence makes a difference in the lives of many people. It’s not just my presence as rector that makes ECR the community that it is. In fact, my presence cannot determine this community. Yours can. Yours does. And so does the presence or absence of every other person of this community. So, I’m inviting and urging all of us at ECR to make a decided commitment to being here on Sunday’s regularly even more than usual; to be here ‘religiously!’

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Matrix of Immigration

I will suggest that in the conversation around  immigration, we recognize that it is a complex matrix of interests and concerns.  Just a for instance: we'll do well to avoid a simplistic scriptural approach.  While Jesus directs his followers to love neighbor as oneself, he also directs them to be shrewd as snakes while remaining innocent as doves.  Human traffickers ruthlessly prey upon victims on both sides of the border.  To pretend that all who cross borders illegally are innocents is a  dangerous denial of the truth of the matter.  This denial costs human lives  of a variety of national origin. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Absence of unanimity is a blessed thing

There is no unanimity among the autonomous and autocephalous Churches of the Anglican Communion. As each of these Churches is by definition a Protestant denomination, not a church, but denomination, there should be no expectation of unanimity. The very recent expectation of same is an anomaly to the history of the development of what has become the Anglican Communion. Only since people have begun to speak of the Anglican Communion as though it were 'the Anglican Church' have people been steered into thinking of these Churches as though they all comprised a Roman Catholic Church writ small; i.e. a single world-wide Church with a single authoritative head in the Archbishop of Canterbury. Reminder to all: the ABC is not our Pope. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rector's Study April 2010

From the Rector’s Study ~
Following a season of introspection come this season of Easter. It is a season as well as a day. And it is a way of life as well as a season. Scholar and author John MacQuarrie observes in his book The Faith of the People of God that, “Most important of all the events in the life Christ was its end – his sufferings and death.” He rightly notes that, “All the Gospels devote much of their space to a detailed account of his last days and hours.” But he goes on to observe that, “The death of Jesus is an impressive and significant event, but according to the testimony of the Gospels, it was not the end of the story. They go on to tell of the resurrection of Christ. This last event…differs from the preceding ones because it is much more difficult to say what the historical fact was.” Whatever those facts may be, as MacQuarrie notes, “it does seem quite certain that there never would have been any rise of the people of God [i.e. Christians] if that people has not been convinced that Jesus was risen.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Education for clergy

I think the question is: What does the Church wish to sustain as the norm for the education and preparation of its clergy? There are always exceptional persons with exceptional circumstance who follow a path outside what seems to be the norm. Those of us who have attended seminaries or divinity schools know well that most of the people attending have come there in routes there were more circuitous than linear. There really is no norm in practical experience. However, the Church needs to be clear about its expectations for the normal preparations and education for clergy. Otherwise, who is to say?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Short cuts around Semiary

While I understand and appreciate the financial restrictions on seminary education, I would suggest the Church respond cautiously rather than react hastily in turning to alternative methods of training of clergy. My understanding is that clergy are to be educated more than than trained. I think the distinction is meaningful.

I was fortunate to attend a university for an undergraduate degree in biblical studies, with a biblical and classical Greek emphasis, cramming the equivalent of five years instruction into three and half. I received a fine education. I then attended another university for my M.Div. with the permission of the bishop of the diocese at that time. I took classes at a local Episcopal Church seminary as well, along with classes at a Jesuit theological school and personal studies at a Greek Orthodox seminary. In addition, I benefited from the fact that all the Divinity School classes were university classes, spread across many of the schools of the university. This way, most of the classes were open to and usually attended by university students, not only those of us preparing for ordained ministry. In addition, students from the consortium of theological schools in the area, a total of eight at the time, were able to take many of the classes being offered at each of the schools respectively. It all made the experience much richer.

Friday, March 19, 2010

When people leave...

I would respectfully disagree with the claim that many are making that we are all diminished when someone makes the choice to depart. Who was diminished when the English Church decided to depart Rome? Who was strengthened and liberated? Who was diminished when those departed who could not or would not abide clergy who are women? And which fellowship was strengthened, broadened, and liberated?

I am quite weary of people telling the Church that it should accommodate the prejudices of the day. To those who say the Church should make room for those who disagree with the inclusion of LGBT persons who refuse to apologize for being LGBT, I ask this question: should we not, then also accommodate racial prejudices that still linger? Should we not also accommodate sexism? Should we not also accommodate bias and prejudice toward persons with disabilities, persons who at 'too old' or who are 'too young'? Why should the Church refuse to accommodate bigotry when bigotry is wrapped up in race or gender, but behave toward bigotry bound to hatred of LGBT people?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rector's Study March 2010

From the Rector’s Study ~

I pray each of us here at ECR has an enjoyable Lent. The progress of Jesus through his time of trial is consonant with the journey through relationship with God. A Christian’s relationship with God and with the community of his or her fellow Christians cannot be a static thing. Yes, these relationships may be stable and steadfast. However, they also grow and change. This is what makes them like a journey. The focus of the season of Lent is a reflection of this journey, particularly the journey inward.
The journey is an inward examination, but not so much an examination of oneself per se. Otherwise, we can find ourselves on a needlessly narcissistic and circuitous journey to nowhere. Rather, the inward Lenten journey is an examination of the relationship that exists between oneself and God and of the relationship between oneself and the Church. It is a journey of prayer, reflection, study, and labor. Its goal is to discern more clearly one’s place and one’s role as they are this time and in this place. It is to rediscover the fact that even these most holy relationships are evolving, and the fact that this evolution is itself a gift of God.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rector's Study February 2010

Rector’s Annual Report for 2009
The Rev. James V. Stockton
Annual Meeting January 17, 2010

Our community rediscovered our strength last year. ECR was blessed last year with the gift of stability in a larger social context of uncertainty while this community continued to look forward to our future. We enjoyed this blessed combination gifts, and we shared these with the wider community and world around us. Here at ECR, as the saying has it, ‘life goes on.’ ‘In the sure and certain hope of the eternity of life, we bid loving farewell last year to James Baker, Evelyn Welborn, Tommy Stinson, Mike Stout, and Jim Webb. Each of these saints brought his or her gifts to the community of ECR over our collective history. Each will be appreciated into the future here. We grow from the nurture to our worship of God and fellowship in Christ that each entrusts to us all. We who were blessed to work with Tommy and with Mike over the many years of service that each provided will sense, I think, that their passing marks a particular era in our history. It will, of course, require more time for us to appreciate fully the impact that their lives had, and that their deaths in startlingly quick succession last year, had on our community. I invite you to browse by the video memorial that has been set up in the southeast corner of the hall today.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rector's Study January 2010

From the Rector’s Study ~

Manifesting God’s Love – this is the meaning behind our celebration of this season called Epiphany. If Advent recalls humanity’s anticipation of the coming in of God’s presence, Epiphany recognizes the fulfillment of that anticipation. What comes into our lives, what God manifests before us in the birth of Christ, God incarnate, is the Love of God.

God’s Love is not necessarily what people are anticipating when they look forward to the drawing near of God. If there is some fear, some bit of worry, Epiphany recognizes that God is not to be feared but loved, that God’s presence is a loving one, and only people who fear divine love for humanity need have fear toward God. Whether it is what we anticipated or not, what is manifest before us as God comes to us in person is the Love of God for all.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bad Fruit From a Bad Tree

It is a given, I think, that most Episcopalians view the proposed “Anglican Covenant” as the fruit of a bad tree. It derives from the envy of a small number of emerging-world primates and the homophobia of some influential North Americans. The effective disturbance they raised together as far back as 1998 at the Lambeth Conference planted the seeds of conflict and caught the primates by surprise, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, and our own Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold. The surprise that these primates’ highly un-Anglican behavior achieved enabled their effort to gain momentum. While the Churches of the Communion continued to work and pray in accordance with Anglican norms, the ‘family’ of a few primates and their North American sponsors continued to work in a manner that owes more to guerrilla politics than to Christ-like or apostolic fellowship.