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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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The biggest issue is, what does it mean to be obedient to Christ? Before any specific issue is really the posture of the heart toward Christ, and how we encourage a spirit of obedience among 18-year-olds who perhaps up until this point, their experience of faith has been youth group.
All of the language of serious, committed faith is obedience language—take up the cross and follow. It's the cost of discipleship. It's not pretty stuff that you can make nice. It's pretty rugged stuff, but that's the gospel. Theologically, how do we convey that truth in a graceful way and not water it down? Then that has implications for all the other issues.
Of course every Christian college president is worried about this, but homosexuality is a very real issue for campuses. We have gay and lesbian students here. I have met with them. I have talked with them. They are Christians and they are trying to figure out, "What does this mean? How do I live?"
The Scripture that I need to be obedient to leads me to the conclusion that marriage is a relationship between man and woman, and sexuality is to be used in that context.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Religion & Culture Sexuality Young Adults * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)
Listen here if you wish.
Filed under: * By Kendall * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Ascension Pentecost Missions Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) Theology: Scripture
For decades Kathy and I have profited immensely from the pastoral wisdom of the converted slave trader John Newton. As an 18th century Anglican minister, Newton was a good preacher, but it was as a pastor, counselor, and advisor that he excelled. His pastoral letters are a treasure chest. In one of his letters (entitled “Some Blemishes on Christian Character”) Newton points out that while most Christians succeed in avoiding more gross sins, many do not actually experience much in the way of actual spiritual growth.
Newton lays out a very convicting and specific example of the kinds of Christian people who coast on their strengths but do nothing about their weaknesses and so rob themselves and others of joy and God of his glory. These blemishes are often seen by their bearers as mere “foibles.” Newton says they “may not seem to violate any express command of Scripture” and yet, they are “properly sinful” because they are the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit that believers are supposed to exhibit.
These “small faults” mean that large swaths of the Christian population have little influence on others for Christ....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Pastoral Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
In those few paragraphs, John Calvin succinctly sums up election and holiness for the Christian. While there are several themes that come out of this quote and this passage, the one theme that I think springs from this text is holiness. Holiness is the consequence and evidence of our election. We are not holy to be accepted by God, but because Jesus is holy we are holy. God says, “you shall be holy, for I am holy”.
The idea of holiness is almost a peculiar doctrine for the new Reformed movement. I know many young and old in this tradition who feel no obligation to actively and passionately with their entire being, to pursue a life of holiness. They wouldn’t explicitly say this, but their lives wouldn’t reflect otherwise.
Read it all.
At our convention last March I stressed two dimensions of our diocesan calling: Our vocation to make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age working in relationship with Anglican Provinces and dioceses around the world; and secondly our calling to make disciples by planting new congregations as well as growing and strengthening our existing parishes and missions in an era of sweeping institutional decline among almost all of the mainline denominations. These remain two constants for us today even while so much around us is in flux. You will be relieved to hear that it is not my intention in this address to retrace the road we have traveled in these intervening months since our Special Convention on November 17th. Suffice it to say that since these two dimensions of our common life and vocation remained unshaken when the tectonic plates of the diocese shifted, I remain convinced that they were God’s mandate for us then and they are God’s mandate for us now. The reason for this is two-fold: What is at stake in this theological and moral crisis that has swallowed up the Anglican Communion since the latter years of the 20th Century is first and foremost, “What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as this Church has received it?” We did not create it and we cannot change what we have received. So what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Anglicans have received it? There is nothing in Anglicanism that cannot be found elsewhere among the churches of Christendom. What is unique is how we have blended certain aspects of what other churches hold together. But we have received a Gospel. What is it?
The second thing is “What will Anglicanism in the 21st Century look like?” While the former is the more important, the latter is the more complex. Put another way, proclaiming the Good News, “the whole counsel of God” as St. Paul declared in his parting address to the presbyters of Ephesus in Acts 20:27, that should be our first concern. Proclaiming the good news – the whole counsel of God. But the charge to “care for the Church of God, which he obtained with his blood” (Acts 20:28) or as our text last evening put it, “which he obtained with the blood of his son.” was also part of St. Paul’s charge to the bishop-presbyters. If we apply this second charge to take care of the church of God, which he obtained, with the blood of his son, if we apply this charge to ourselves – those of us whose leadership is in this vineyard where the Lord has placed us – I believe this means caring for emerging Anglicanism in the 21st Century. Frankly, this caring for Anglicanism in the 21st century gets wearisome at times, painful almost daily, exhausting, but it is a charge we cannot relinquish without abandoning our vocation. What does this mean specifically for us here in this Diocese of South Carolina? Let me take up three aspects of this charge as it I believe it applies to us.
Read it all and a pdf version is available top right of the page.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care Youth Ministry * South Carolina * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
We were having lunch together and I was praying like mad. My friend had been in a committed same-sex relationship for about 15 years. He was interested in Jesus; attracted to his teaching and message. But he wanted to know what implications becoming a Christian might have on his practicing gay lifestyle.
I had explained, as carefully and graciously as I could, that Jesus upheld and expanded the wider biblical stance on sexuality: that the only context for sexual activity was heterosexual marriage. Following Jesus would mean seeking to live under his word, in this area as in any other.
He had been quiet for a moment, and then looked me in the eye and asked the billion-dollar question: ‘What could possibly be worth giving up my partner for?’
I held his gaze for a moment while my brain raced for the answer. There was eternity, of course. There was heaven and hell. But I was conscious that these realities would seem other-worldly and intangible to him. In any case, surely following Jesus is worth it even for this life. He was asking about life here-and-now, so I prayed for a here-and-now Bible verse to point to. I wanted him to know that following Jesus really is worth it – worth it in the life to come, but also worth it in this life now, no less so for those who have homosexual feelings. Yes, there would be a host of hardships and difficulties: unfulfilled longings, the distress of unwanted temptation, the struggles of long-term singleness.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XXVII (emphasis mine), also quoted by yours truly in yesterday's sermon
You seem to be doing very little good at present. The use of his "love" to distract his mind from the Enemy is, of course, obvious, but you reveal what poor use you are making of it when you say that the whole question of distraction and the wandering mind has now become one of the chief subjects of his prayers. That means you have largely failed. When this, or any other distraction, crosses his mind you ought to encourage him to thrust it away by sheer will power and to try to continue the normal prayer as if nothing had
happened; once he accepts the distraction as his present problem and lays that before the Enemy and makes it the main theme of his prayers and his endeavours, then, so far from doing good, you have done harm. Anything, even a sin, which has the total effect of moving him close up to the Enemy, makes against us in the long run....
Your affectionate uncle
A young boy was chosen, brought forward to the alter, then blindfolded. He then picked one of three pieces of paper from a jar. The paper was shown to the congregation. On it was the name of Bishop Tawadros, who will be the new Coptic pope. The congregation broke into spontaneous applause.
It might seem a strange way to choose a new leader for Egypt's eight to ten million Coptic Christians - and many more worldwide.
Yet Copts believe this is the way the hand of God was revealed. That is the view of Youssef Sidhom, editor of the Coptic Watani newspaper:
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Children Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Coptic Church * Theology Ecclesiology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
God always makes the first move. To know the God of the Bible is to trust the God who created everything out of nothing, not because more was needed to somehow complete the circle, but simply because it pleased God. There's nothing necessary about our existence, just as there's nothing we can do to force God's movement in the world. God always makes the first move. Faithful action, then, is always a response.
So, if you're a bishop of the church in the turmoil of the fourth century, there's nothing you can do to guarantee the future of the church. And if you're a passionate, thoughtful person at the beginning of the twenty-first century, eager to sort out the big questions about God and life, there's nowhere you can go to start figuring everything out for sure. However strong our desire, however fervent our initiative, it's never enough. God always makes the first move. The Spirit blows where it will. When it does, it often blows our minds.
But after you've been knocked off your feet—after the Spirit has hovered over the chaos of your life and hurled you forward into a future beyond the limits of your vision—the questions are still there. God's interruption doesn't answer our questions. It doesn't erase them either. It leaves us, rather, with a photo album full of pictures of hope.
Read it all.
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) met for its Standing Committee Meeting (SCM) at Cathedral Church of Emmanuel, Okesa, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, September 11-15, 2012.
The well-attended event had the theme: ‘Resist The Devil And He Will Flee From You’ (James 4v7)....
At the formal opening of the SCM on Thursday, September 14, while delivering his opening address to delegates, the Primate of All Nigeria, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, described the Devil as a spiritual being. Quoting John Piper, the Primate said: “Satan lies, and is the Father of lies (John 8:44); Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4); Satan masquerades in costumes of light and righteousness (II Cor. 11:13-15), and has disciples within the Church through whom he teaches doctrines of demons (I Tim. 4:1).
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Nigeria * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) Theology: Scripture
The Holy Spirit's distinctive new covenant role, then, is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit "was not yet" (John 7:29, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit's work of making men aware of Jesus' glory begin.--J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2nd rev. ed. 2005), pp. 57-58, quoted by yours truly in yesterday's sermon
I remember walking to church one winter evening to preach on the words, "He will glorify me" (John 16:14), seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are placed so thatyou do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and tomaximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. This perfectly illustrated the Spirit's new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.
Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirit's message to us is never, ‘Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me’, but always, ‘Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace.’ The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.”
A Marine is a best-practice warrior who models the highest levels of what military training can accomplish.
The Marines are by no means the only people who take such transformative experiences seriously. Colleges and seminaries talk a lot about this process, each claiming that it turns out world class leaders. There are businesses (Starbucks comes to mind) that believe that their profitability depends on turning employees into best-practice sales representatives.
How about churches and their goal of making of devoted followers of Jesus? What does the difference look like there?
Read it all.
Regrettably, "incarnational ministry" approaches fail to recognize key New Testament passages about union with Christ. The New Testament makes strong claims about the "missions" of the Son and Spirit in the world. This makes the "sending" of the church fundamentally derivative and subordinate. We are adopted into Christ by the Spirit; we do not have a divine nature, like the incarnate Christ, but only a human nature. The Spirit brings us into the benefits of Christ as ones who belong to him; fundamentally, the church is sent as witnesses to Christ and ambassadors of reconciliation in him. We are always to point beyond ourselves, as witnesses.
Christ lives in us by the Spirit. But a biblical account of union with Christ is clear that we are not Christ; we are not an "ongoing incarnation" in the world. While John's gospel speaks about how we are sent into the world (John 20:21), the gospel uses different language for the sending of the Son. As New Testament scholar Andreas Köstenberger points out, terms such as " 'coming into the world' or 'descending' or 'ascending' " are "reserved for Jesus." The way we are sent, he writes, is "not the way in which Jesus came into the world (i.e. the Incarnation), but the nature of Jesus' relationship with his sender (i.e., one of obedience and utter dependence)." We are not sent into the world to perform another incarnation, but as disciples who bear witness to Christ and his reign by the Spirit.
Read it all.
Right mission depends on power, and that power comes from the Holy Spirit.
At the Transfiguration they saw it. And they lived with it, in Jesus. And that power would be proclaimed, and lived. The mission of the church, from beginning to end, when done the way God wants it done, is accomplished through the power of God.
Lord God, empower our missionaries in the Holy Spirit as they go, and as they point to and proclaim Jesus. May each of us be open to the invitation to go ourselves. We pray that all of us may be empowered and living in the Holy Spirit that we will all live the mission no matter where we are, to the Glory of God and the building up of Your Kingdom. Amen.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Missions Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
The spirit blows where he wills, Jesus said, which means you cannot box God in.
We Anglicans have a particularly hard time with this since we are told to expect worship to be “decent and in order.” But—have you noticed--things don’t always work like that. Life is not so much a problem to be solved as a mystery to be lived. When God is in charge patterns can be broken, expectations can be shifted, and all heaven can break loose.
One biblical story which speaks to this is the tale of Eldad and Medad in Numbers 11. Moses and the people of God are in a dispute about misfortune and food and Moses is getting blamed and feeling burdened. God asks Moses to gather seventy men among Israel’s elders who would be enabled to share the burdens of the people. It had to be done, however, outside the camp at the tent of meeting.
Moses did his part, and God came through also: “the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to …[Moses], and took some of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied (Numbers 11:25).” So far, so good.
But there was a problem. Two other men named Eldad and Medad who were not chosen by Moses and not at the tent of meeting also prophesied. Wrong people, wrong place. Uh oh.
Joshua the son of Nun objected. This isn’t according to Hoyle! It isn’t in the Vestry handbook! Moses, put a stop to it, he says.
But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:29)
Moses is commendably open to letting God be God in a surprising way. Please note, too, that it is the younger Joshua who is unduly limited by the script and the older Moses who is willing to ad lib and go with the flow of the Holy Spirit.
I pray that all of us will learn to be less like Joshua and more like Moses in the days and years ahead, if our Lord doesn’t return first.
--The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina and the convenor of this blog
What is the deepest and surest assurance and intimation that the Holy Spirit is present in our world and Church today? The answer is: joy. If there is joy present you can bet that the Holy Spirit has something to do with this precious gift.
St. Augustine who was the most musically passionate of the Fathers of the Church memorably evokes the experience of this joy with these words: "Whenever people must labor hard they begin with songs whose words express their joy. But when joy brims over and words are not enough they abandon even this coherence and give themselves to the sheer sound of singing.
"What is this jubilation? What is this exultant song? It is the melody that means our hearts are bursting with feelings that cannot express themselves. And to whom does this jubilation most surely belong? Truly to God who is unutterable, if words will not come and may not remain silent what else can you do but let the melody soar? This is the song of the Holy Spirit."
On this great feast of the birth of the Church, let us ponder anew the whole reality of the Church, from the wide-angle view of its vastness and beauty, to the sometimes turbulent and complex surface, zooming in finally on hope, one of the deepest manifestations of the Spirit alive in the Church. In doing so, we can marvel once again at the mercy and generosity of God and give thanks to the Lord who continues to call us to fidelity and joy.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Pentecost * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ecclesiology Pastoral Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
A 400-page book on pneumatology (theology of the Holy Spirit) by a systematic theologian may sound like an unlikely candidate for international acclaim. But the Rev. Dr. Robert D. Hughes III, author of Beloved Dust: Tales of the Spirit in the Christian Life (Continuum, 2008), has already won the inaugural des Places-Libermann Award in Pneumatology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and the book has been shortlisted for the 2011 Michael Ramsey Prize.
Hughes is professor of systematic theology and Norma and Olan Mills Professor of Divinity at the University of the South’s School of Theology.
“I was very grateful for that kind of recognition,” Hughes said in an interview with The Living Church. “It meant someone was reading the book and getting it.”
Read it all.
The point is that the Presiding Bishop begins with the tendentious claim that TEC’s action accords with Scripture and represents a new work of the Holy Spirit. Here is the tail (TEC’s action) that she then uses in an attempt to wag the dog (the weight of Communion teaching, procedure, and opinion).
...What I mean is this. To sustain her position she launches an attack on the Archbishop’s response. She seeks to show not only that the Archbishop is acting to quench the Spirit, but also that he has taken a morally dubious course that violates longstanding Anglican tradition. A hallmark of Anglicanism, she says, is a form of “diversity in community” that manifests “willingness to live in tension.” This tolerance of diversity “recognizes that the Spirit may be speaking to all of us, in ways that do not at present seem to cohere or agree.”
I have already noted that her view of the Spirit’s leading seems incoherent. I will leave it to the historians among us to assess her claims about the tolerant character of the Elizabethan Settlement, but it has never seemed to me that the Act of Uniformity was meant to put up a big tent, or that the treatment of Anabaptists (they were burned) showed great openness to contrary views of the Christian’s relation to the state. The fact of the matter is that “Anglican inclusiveness” serves more as a charter myth for legitimizing contested issues than a solid historical precedent for innovation. Anglican history, though not overly confessional when it comes to doctrine, manifests extraordinary caution when it comes to changing practice. If anything, caution in respect to changing practice is a “hallmark of Anglicanism.”
The real issue, however, is not the claim about “diversity in community” or “willingness to live in tension.” The real issue is what Anglican’s are to do when the action of one Province, diocese, or person within the Communion takes an official action that others do not “recognize” as consonant with Christian belief and practice. The issue of “recognition” stands in the background of the first Lambeth Conference. There, the question of recognition centered on Bishop Colenso’s interpretation of Holy Scripture. Latterly, the question of recognition surfaced with the consecration by TEC of a partnered gay man. Now it has surfaced once more with the consecration of the Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) * Theology Ecclesiology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) Theology: Salvation (Soteriology) Theology: Scripture
* As always, there are hints that the fight is about more than sex. In the case of this showdown, it is clear that Williams is frantically trying to hold the communion together on a wide range of doctrinal issues, with sex as the issue that, alas, always grabs the headlines. Jefferts Schori, meanwhile, sees this through the lens of Romeaphobia and claims that Canterbury is trying to enforce an anti-Anglican form of creedal orthodoxy, with Williams playing the role of pope.
The irony, of course, is that Williams has already established himself as a progressive on sexuality. Williams knows, however, that there are other doctrinal issues at play that matter far more to traditionalists around the world. What might those issues be?
* So, if this ongoing spirit of Pentecost is leading the Episcopal Church to edit and update centuries of Christian doctrine on sex and marriage, what other doctrines are being affected by these Winds Of Change? That’s the big question.
Read the whole thing.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
We are grateful that the Presiding Bishop has sought to ground her appeal to diversity and new truth in a public message available for the Church’s evaluation and testing. It explains what kind of vision for the Episcopal Church she is seeking to defend. On the one hand, she believes the Holy Spirit has spoken in truthful and special (timely) ways to those who share this view in TEC. On the other hand, she believes diversity on this matter is equally a gifting warranted by the pentecostal event, explaining why the majority of the Anglican Communion and the vast preponderance of Christians worldwide (including the saints numbered on another shore) attended and attend to different Holy Spirit guidance and a different confession of God the Holy Spirit, “who spake by the prophets…who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.” Her remarks help frame the matter in clear ways, which we can only pray is itself a gift of God the Holy Spirit, whose vocation is to glorify Christ and convict the world in respect of him. St Paul reveals that appeals to the Spirit and the Spirit’s manifestation required testing in the earliest Christian Churches, especially those with large gentile numbers. Discerning the work and person of God the Holy Spirit was necessary and was an evangelical challenge.
John and Acts provide the record given to the church so that the Holy Spirit’s work might be recognised, adjudicated, and confessed. The Holy Spirit’s deliverances are those of the Risen and Ascended Christ, in agreement with the providential will of the Father as expressed in the Law and the Prophets, whose subject matter is Christ, latent and now patent (St Augustine). The Presiding Bishop’s account of the Spirit as bringing a truth without prior testimony or dominical warrant, which at the same time gives rise to diversity as a pentecostal gift, diverges in extreme ways from the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles. It is a teaching lacking continuity and agreement with the witness of Christians in our present day, in the worldwide body, and because without biblical warrant, it is also nowhere attested in the history of the church’s teaching.
We conclude this teaching comes from a conviction already held, independently of what is customarily sought in respect of a warrant of God the Holy Spirit (see the Catechism of the BCP), because of cultural assumptions about the intentions of sexual activity in our age and because TEC has already acted on these.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Ecclesiology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) Theology: Scripture
I realize I may be expressing latent colonialist tendencies and committing spiritual violence by imposing a singular understanding of basic logic on Bishop [Jefferts] Schori, but it appears that she is forcing us to choose between two alternatives:
#1. The Holy Spirit is telling some people that gays and lesbians can be ordained ministers while telling other people that such a move is contrary to God’s will. Ergo, the Spirit is a relativist who imposes moral requirements based on cultural norms rather than on a fixed, knowable standard.
#2. The Holy Spirit is consistent and has expressed his will on this issue to one group; the other group is mistaken in believing that the Spirit has spoken to them. The group that he has spoken to are therefore justified in attempting to apply this standard consistently throughout the communion.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Ecclesiology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
"It is the Spirit, in fact, who guides the Church in the way of all truth and unifies her in communion and in the works of ministry," the Holy Father said. "Unfortunately, the temptation to 'go it alone' persists.
"Some today portray their local community as somehow separate from the so-called institutional Church, by speaking of the former as flexible and open to the Spirit and the latter as rigid and devoid of the Spirit."
"Be watchful! Listen," he urged. "Through the dissonance and division of our world, can you hear the concordant voice of humanity? From the forlorn child in a Darfur camp, or a troubled teenager, or an anxious parent in any suburb, or perhaps even now from the depth of your own heart, there emerges the same human cry for recognition, for belonging, for unity."
The Pontiff reminded the young pilgrims that it is the Holy Spirit "who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, to be built up, to be led to truth."
"This is the Spirit’s role," he continued, "to bring Christ’s work to fulfillment. Enriched with the Spirit’s gifts, you will have the power to move beyond the piecemeal, the hollow utopia, the fleeting, to offer the consistency and certainty of Christian witness!"
Read it all.
In sum, then, it may be that the crisis of authority in the Christian churches is not so much a crisis but just another instance of the messes and confusions that are part of life in the pilgrim church. But we may be able to use this crisis constructively, to look for more apostolic ways of being the church that may help us grow together into a church that will look somewhat different from today. Desperate measures to counter what may appear to be the collapse of all that is good and holy in the church may actually be counter to the working of the Holy Spirit. We recall Gamaliel s advice to the Sanhedrin when it was considering what to do about the new Christian movement. If it is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to stop it (see Acts 5). If, indeed, we are faced with genuine sin and stupidity, they are not something that our measures, however desperate or systematic or fair, can necessarily cure. Rather, our task-which is not an easy one, perhaps much harder in many ways than getting excited, busily forming committees, and fortifying ramparts-is calmly and prayerfully to hope and trust in the promises of Christ and in the working of his Spirit, rather than to put our trust in something we have made. For our belief is that it is the triune God, and not we ourselves, who, from age to age, gathers a people together to be the church.
Read it all.
Benedict XVI's message for World Youth Day 2008 presents the Holy Spirit to young people and the world as the "great unknown."
The Pope's message is a reflection on the theme he chose for the event to be held in Sydney, Australia, next July: "You Will Receive Power When the Holy Spirit Has Come Upon You; and You Will Be My Witnesses."
"The common thread of the spiritual preparation for the appointment in Sydney is the Holy Spirit and mission," explains the papal message, published in Italian and French by the Vatican press office. Translations into other languages are forthcoming.
The message continues: "Therefore it is important that each one of you young people, in your communities and with your educators, reflect on this protagonist in the history of salvation which is the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Jesus.
"There are many Christians for whom he remains the 'great unknown.'"
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The Rev. Dennis J. Bennett, for one, is sure the explosion is on the way; last week he took up new duties in Seattle at St. Luke's Episcopal Church as the direct result of his interest in glossolalia. London-born Father Bennett, 42, a graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary (Congregational) who later became an Episcopalian, was assigned to St. Mark's Church in Van Nuys, Calif, in 1953. Last October he agreed to meet with some members of a fellow minister's church who had found themselves beginning to speak in tongues. First he was surprised to find that they were neither far-out types nor emotionally unbalanced; then he discovered that he had the "gift" himself and that the experience was "enriching."
Father Bennett brought the idea into his own parish—and began to run into trouble. Of his 2,000 parishioners, he says, some 700 developed a positive, sympathetic interest—"they included the junior warden and the chairman of the women's guild. They were about equally divided between men and women, and there was a large number of couples. The group included a Ph.D. and a brain surgeon." But conservative Episcopalians were shocked. In April the vestry asked Pastor Bennett for his resignation, and Bishop Francis Eric Bloy of Los Angeles sent St. Mark's a new priest and a pastoral letter banning any more speaking in tongues under church auspices.
Father Bennett has no plans to get glossolalia going again in his new post, a small missionary church, but he "mentions" it privately to people he thinks could benefit. "The gift of tongues is a freeing of the personality in expressing one's self more profoundly, particularly toward God, even though the symbols are not understood by the speaker. It does not happen in a trance. The person is releasing something deeper than the ordinary symbols of language."
Doyosi Ki-i-yeno. One evening last week, in an apartment motel in Van Nuys, seven Episcopalians of Father Bennett's former flock met together to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. Bursts of laughter from a television set across the courtyard invaded the reverent silence, but the two men and five women paid no attention, praying aloud from time to time for individuals in sickness or trouble and for "those who are resisting the out pouring of the Holy Spirit....
California's Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy dismisses the movement. "In the past there have been movements of this sort, but they never did the church any good." But Seventh Day Baptist Paul Henry, a lawyer of Fontana, Calif., speaks for many of the "spirit-filled" when he says: "It's only my guess, but I think it may be an outpouring just before the termination of this age."
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When the Holy Spirit gets hold of us, everything changes . . . our view of life, our value systems, our will toward our neighbor, our aims and goals in life, our perception of the world, our self-image, our "yeses" and our "noes," our appreciation for things that never caught our attention before . . . absolutely everything. For the Holy Spirit opens to us a vision of what ought to be even though it is not yet; a hope greater than that to which any earthly hope can give words even though it is a hope yet beyond sight; a foresight of eternity even though we are bound to time; a love yet to be realized in its fullness even while it is known in shadowy form in our present estate. It is, as Peter said, quoting the prophet Joel, "when he pours out his Spirit on all flesh your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:17, 18)
None of that can quite be put into words, yet it clearly speaks of being in the world in a new and different way; of seeing what is not yet as though it already were and living by that vision; of reaching beyond what can presently be reached as though it were already near enough to be touched; of speaking about things that sound like speaking in tongues while they are already understood in the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord to whom the Spirit is constantly pointing; to whom the Spirit is constantly drawing and binding us; to whom we are constantly praying for the life of the world and our own life; for whom all of creation "waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God." (Rom. 8:19)
Ah, what a vision the Holy Spirit gives us! He who first began the ordering of creation when he separated the light from the darkness and the waters above the earth from the waters under the earth as he "hovered over" that first creation (Genesis 1:2) still hovers over his creation, raising eyes to see what is yet unseen; filling hearts with a visionary hope in the midst of the darkness of this world; causing lives to be lived with boldness and confidence as though they were already beyond the reach of sin; who touches you and me through his revealing word, through water, bread and wine, and calls us ever so gently - although he is not above pressing on us when we resist - to trust the one who speaks in our text as though he were still with us.
We are not left as orphans! The Christ whom the disciples knew remains with us today as the Spirit of truth comes from the Father bearing Christ's presence among us.
We need to remember, as we celebrate Whitsun tomorrow, that progress in the Spirit is by fits and starts. The gift of the Holy Spirit is something we need to get used to, and the Holy Spirit needs to get used to us
The description St Luke gives of the Church in Jerusalem after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is one that has inspired many subsequent reform movements in the Church, and has been very influential in the foundation of many religious orders. It is not difficult to see why. It tells of the whole group of believers being of one heart and soul, with no one claiming private ownership of any possessions, but holding everything in common, and not a needy person among them (Acts 4:32-35).
Commentators describe this passage as a "summary", but it is a very curious kind of summary, for no sooner has Luke given it than he appears to contradict it, at every point. First we hear of a married couple who tried to deceive the community by presenting only part of the proceeds of the sale of their property as though it were the whole (Acts 5: 1-11). A little later we are told of dissension that divided this early Christian community, if not along racial lines, then certainly along linguistic ones. The Hellenists (Greek speakers) grumbled against the Hebrews (Hebrew or Aramaic speakers) because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of bread (Acts 6:1-6). Christians are not supposed to grumble, even when they have something to grumble about, as St Paul told the Corinthians in peremptory fashion (1 Corinthians 10:10). But here we find grumbling among those who have just been described as being "of one mind and one heart". How can these Hellenists have had anything to grumble about if the Jerusalem community held everything in common, and there was not a needy person among them?
The solution the Apostles found to this problem hardly allows them to be seen to best advantage as giving testimony to the Resurrection of the Lord with great power (Acts 4: 33). For whereas Jesus had characteristically attended to the physical and spiritual needs of the people, and had encouraged his disciples to do the same (cf. Mark 6:12-13), here we find the Apostles distinguishing between service to the Word and waiting on tables, and clearly regarding themselves as being too important to be involved in the latter. Nor did their solution address and heal the original division, for the seven they appointed to wait at tables all had Greek names: presumably there were separate soup kitchens for Hellenists and Hebrews thereafter.
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On a wave of emotion, the man at the front of the church broke into a language only he and his God could understand.
"Ah le ah ne al la ne," said Bill Siordia, a worshiper at The Pentecostals of Pleasanton, a small congregation in the San Francisco Bay Area. With closed eyes and palms raised skyward, he continued in a whispered rush. "Ma ne ah ne ta la ah ka wa."
Siordia, 44, a warehouse worker, was speaking in tongues, a form of verbal prayer scholars call glossolalia. For him — and a growing numbers of Christians worldwide — the experience is a direct means of communication with God that is a transcendent and crucial part of his faith.
"It is kind of a high," Siordia said later, describing the most common form of speaking in tongues as an indecipherable expression of personal prayer and praise. "It is like being with the Lord. I feel that sense that everything is OK."
This Sunday, Christians will celebrate Pentecost, when the Bible says God sent a "mighty wind" among Jesus' disciples and they prayed in unknown languages. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit," the Book of Acts says, "and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
Though all Christians mark the day, only some speak in tongues. Those who do describe an immediate, ecstatic and personal experience of God. Those who do not have called it phony, weird and even dangerous.
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The concept of the Holy Spirit would eventually be seen as equal with the Father and Son as manifestations of the Triune God – a monotheistic concept in which Christians attempt to explain three ways in which the single God is experienced by and revealed to believers. In modern times, the evangelical movement known as Pentecostalism places deep importance upon a personal experience with the Spirit, and especially upon being “baptized” by the Spirit in the model of the original Pentecost.
Outside of this and similar movements, however, the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian theology and worship is too often misunderstood and underemphasized. And indeed, with rare exception, Pentecost Sunday will go by once again like the crazy uncle at Christmas dinner – forgotten and ignored; it will go largely unnoticed by the global church it helped plant so many years ago.
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