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Archive for the ‘Contemporary Issues’ Category


confession-drawing-01

 

Apart from a vigorous renewal of catechesis at all levels, what our Church needs in clergy and laity is a real deepening of the spiritual life. We become so intermingled with the world as to lose the fresh enthusiasm of the early martyrs and confessors. We are lacking in that zeal and self-sacrifice which won, in early times, England and Europe to the Faith.

Many Clergy perform their duties in a perfunctory way. To preach Christ effectually the priest  must preach of the Cross from the pulpit of the cross.

We need Communities whose life enables them to study and practice the mysteries of the spiritual life. How far below most of us come from the standard of that “fulness of God” revealed in the New Testament! How comparatively little is known of the science of prayer, as developed by the great teachers and saints!

Some lay people say a morning or evening prayer and some clergy make meditation.  But, in a truly religious home or rectory, those who dwell there should practice a life of devotion through regular daily offices and their prayers would bring a blessing upon the Church and thus especially enrich it.

-Adapted from The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 5),  edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914

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faith-and-politics

On Tuesday, November 8th, we will go to the polls in a national and local elections.  I have been repeatedly asked to address the question of the election and the candidates. Up  to today,  I have not done so from the pulpit, but have simply urged you to remember that one doesn’t take off one’s faith at the door of the polling place.  However, simply urging people to “vote their conscience” is neither helpful, nor very brave.  It is merely a lukewarm approach that, in the end, says nothing. After much prayer and thought on the matter, I feel that I must say something more to the parish given the matters at stake in the life of our nation this year.

In 2010, I began to rewrite an old and not well-known book The Kingdom of God and American Life.  One day, it may be completed, if not published. However, I would share with you a portion of a manuscript I pray will be helpful in this mean season.

Our politics for the past several years are a thing few of us in America can be proud of. While one may still cherish faith in American citizenship, the people have become weary of mere politics and “business as usual”. A quickened conscience among many has recognized that, even under democratic forms and methods, there have somehow arisen conditions that are palpably undemocratic, and is manifesting a push in some quarters toward the control of “human well-being”, or at least a particular notion of what may constitute human well-being.

Meanwhile, masses of our people are stirring in vague unrest and striving often aimlessly after they know not what—they know only that something is wrong and they are angry. On the other hand, many persons are only bewildered spectators.

We are wise to face the fact that the social question is ultimately a moral question. It is time to recognize that its solution lies not in biological analogies, not in the exaltation of the State at the expense of the individual, nor again in the destruction of government, but in that Gospel of the Kingdom of God which means the realization of certain ideals through the highest and fullest development of our Christian personality.  There are straightforward answers and approaches open to us.

As traditional Anglican Catholics, our movement was established with, and adheres to, the Affirmation of St. Louis. In 1977 an international congress of nearly 2000 Anglican bishops, clergy, and lay people met in St. Louis, Missouri in response to actions taken by the Episcopal Church (USA), that represented a move away from the apostolic faith as understood within the Anglican tradition. The object of this Congress was to determine the actions necessary to establish an orthodox jurisdiction in which traditional Anglicanism would be maintained. Indeed, we are privileged to have as a member of St Alban’s Dr. Robert Strippy, one of the drafters of the Affirmation. The Anglican Catholic Church, along with other “continuing” Anglican bodies uphold and maintain the belief and practice set out in this important document.

Of particular importance in the upcoming election is Article III of the Affirmation setting forth Principles of Morality.  I, as a priest, can offer you nothing more succinct or useful than to reiterate the language of this section, albeit with some emphasis here and there.

First, “[t] he conscience, as the inherent knowledge of right and wrong, cannot stand alone as a sovereign arbiter of morals. Every Christian is obligated to form his conscience by the Divine Moral Law and the Mind of Christ as revealed in Holy Scriptures, and by the teaching and Tradition of the Church. We hold that when the Christian conscience is thus properly informed and ruled, it must affirm the following moral principles:

Accordingly, from the perspective of individual responsibility, “All people, individually and collectively, are responsible to their Creator for their acts, motives, thoughts and words, since ‘we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ . . .’” This is inescapable truth.

Next, we are to uphold the Sanctity of Human Life. As the Affirmation notes, “Every human being, from the time of his conception, is a creature and child of God, made in His image and likeness, an infinitely precious soul; and that the unjustifiable or inexcusable taking of life is always sinful.”  In this and all other regards, [a]All people are bound by the dictates of the Natural Law and by the revealed Will of God, insofar as they can discern them.” There can be no compromise.

These principles carry over into all aspects of family life, the family being the cornerstone of our community and nation.  There can be nothing clearer than the statement that, “The God-given sacramental bond in marriage between one man and one woman is God’s loving provision for procreation and family life, and sexual activity is to be practiced only within the bonds of Holy Matrimony.” Again, there can be no compromise.

Do we fall short?  Of course we do. “We recognize that man, as inheritor of original sin, is ‘very far gone from original righteousness,’ and as a rebel against God’s authority is liable to His righteous judgment.”  We also recognize, though, “that God loves His children and particularly has shown it forth in the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that man cannot be saved by any effort of his own, but by the Grace of God, through repentance and acceptance of God’s forgiveness.”

Ultimately, it is the Christian’s abiding duty to be moral.  “We believe, therefore, it is the duty of the Church and her members to bear witness to Christian Morality, to follow it in their lives, and to reject the false standards of the world.”

Beloved in Christ, nothing could be more straightforward than this.  Are economic issues of importance?  Of course they are.  However, for far too many years we have, as a nation, been led to focus on the aphorism, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  In fact, it is not.  Rather, “It is the morality.”  Without a good, decent and moral people, there can be no just political and economic system.

Personalities are personalities, and people come ant they go.  That is the nature of the human condition, private and civil.  They cannot, and must not be our guide. I can only urge you to examine the moral principles set forth in the Affirmation, to examine your hearts, and to pray.  We must ask an honest question of any candidate for political office and any political party. Do they stand for or against those principles? Let that be the end of inquiry.

I believe that there are singular and great destinies awaiting our country if, in the face of any and every doubt, difficulty and discouragement, our people return and remain true to the ideals and purposes of the Kingdom of God.

In Christ,

Canon Charles H. Nalls

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Here is a little something that can be copied and put into larger form.  It is derived from a notice in an English parish circa 1950, so the more things change, the more they stay the same.

On Entering Church

This is church where the Faith once-delivered is taught, and where the Sacraments of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church are administered according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Anglican Catholic Church.

The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in this church for the needs of the Faithful.  You will see a white light burning in the place of Reservation.  There Jesus Christ, God and Man, is sacramentally present, and therefore you will see others reverence and say their prayers before Mass or other services.  So we ask that you behave with great reverence here.

On entering the church before services, please use a low voice and converse only as necessary.  Many are at prayer before the liturgy, and we ask that all be mindful of undue noise.

Please turn off mobile phones.  If your occupation requires that you maintain contact, please silence your mobile device.

During the service, please refrain from conversation. We make every effort to keep our services beautiful and dignified, particularly because of the Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar and for benefit of all who join together here in as a community and in the Body of the Church.

If you are a visitor, welcome and blessings! Please sign the register and join us for fellowship after the service.  If you have any questions, please contact the Rector at 804-262-6100 or through the church website http://www.stalbansacc.org

 

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statsAmid the election uproar, an important economic study issued quietly concerning the “value” of faith expressed in cash terms.  Those leading the jihad against Christianity would do well to read it and then figure out how they will replace the more than USD 1 trillion plus in economic benefits currently provided by the faithful.

Of course, the statist solution would be to continue the economic plunder of the nation and simply adding to the staggering deficit.  After all, what’s another trillion dollars, right?

I have reproduced the press release below and, I hope, the links to the study.  It is free for the viewing over at the website of the authors’ foundation-Faith Counts.

New study values faith in America at over one trillion dollars

–First-ever national research highlighting the impact of religion on U.S. economy– National Press Club, Washington, D.C. — In a panel today, Dr. Brian Grim and Melissa Grim, J.D., unveiled their groundbreaking new study: “The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis.” The first-of-its-kind study analyzed the economic impact of 344,000 religious congregations around the country, in addition to quantifying the economic impact of religious institutions and religion-related businesses. Through this study, Dr. Grim found the total economic contribution of religion in America to be nearly $1.2 trillion, equal to the world’s 15th largest economy.

 

Dr. Grim presented his research at a panel event at the National Press Club. The panel included Dr. William Galston, Senior Fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, and Dr. Ram Cnaan, Professor and Program Director of the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania. “For the first time, we have been able to quantify what religious institutions, faith-based charities, and even businesses inspired by faith contribute to our country,” said Dr. Grim. He continued: “In an age where there’s a growing belief that religion is not a positive for American society, adding up the numbers is a tangible reminder of the impact of religion. Every single day individuals and organizations of faith quietly serve their communities as part of religious congregations, faith-based charities, and businesses inspired by religion.”   Despite prolonged economic hardship in many communities, the amount of money spent annually by religious congregations on social programs has tripled in the past 15 years. Some examples of the social issues addressed by these congregations and religiously-oriented charity groups include:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse recovery—130,000 programs
  • Veteran and veterans’ families support—94,000 programs
  • Prevention or support for people with HIV/AIDS—26,000 programs
  • Support or skills training for unemployed adults—121,000 programs

Operating alongside these charity groups and religious institutions sit faith-based and inspired businesses, which employ people in every field and industry. This fills the marketplace with goods and services used by people of all faiths, plus those with no faith at all.  At the same time, religious schools educate millions of students from pre-K to the post-graduate level. The study is sponsored in part by Faith Counts, a multi-faith campaign aimed at promoting the value of faith.  Kerry Troup, spokeswoman for Faith Counts, states, “From our work with diverse faith communities across the U.S., we know that despite differences among individual religions, there are many more things that bring us together. This study shows that faith is still a cornerstone of our economy and society, and we’re actively working together to celebrate and promote its value.”

For more information, including the full study and a video summary of the research, please visit www.FaithCounts.com/Report.

About Faith Counts   Faith Counts is a nonprofit, nondenominational organization comprised of many religious communities who represent nearly 80 million Americans.  The mission of Faith Counts is simple:  to promote the value of faith.  The centerpiece of Faith Counts is a social media campaign that tells powerful stories about how faith counts—how it inspires, empowers, motivates, and comforts billions of people.

Data from: “The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis”, a 2016 study by Brian J. Grim (Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project) and Melissa E. Grim (Newseum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center), published in the peer-reviewed journal, Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Volume 12, Article 3.

 

 

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BenedictFrom a Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 2015, (Given at St. Alban’s, Richmond, Virginia)

“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  -Romans 8:18

Friday, June 26th, in the year of our Lord 2015, creation groaned.  A man-made court issued a pronouncement on that which is not main-made but is ordained of God.  That Friday, God’s creation groaned as a man-made institution made a proclamation on marriage that is directly contrary to the law of God.  Against the law of the Constitution, too, perhaps, but more importantly for us as orthodox, traditional Christians it defied the law of God.  Creation groaned under its weight.

The ground under our feet has shifted fundamentally. “Discerning the meaning of the present moment requires sobriety, precisely because its radicalism requires of us as Christians a realistic sense of how weak our position is in post-Christian America.”

“It is now clear that extremism in the pursuit of the Sexual Revolution’s goals is no vice.” True, the Court gave a nod and a wink at the First Amendment in an attempt to calm those who might find themselves just a wee bit worried about religious liberty. But when a court is willing to invent rights out of nothing, it is impossible to have faith that the First Amendment will offer any but the most minimal protection to religious dissenters from homosexualist orthodoxy.  As Mr. Justice Alito warned, the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” and will be used to oppress the faithful “by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

Of course, the next goal of homosexualist activists will be a long-term campaign to remove tax-exempt status from religious institutions and faith-communities who will not submit. However, the more immediate goal will be the shunning, then the vilification and, finally, the persecution of dissenters within civil society. This already is happening in a number of venues ranging from wedding-cake bakers, to photographers who refuse to be party to homosexual “marriages”. As orthodox Christians, beloved in Christ, we must understand that this situation is going to get much more difficult for us.

As commentator Rod Dreher put it aptly, “We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution.” And, so we are going to be called to suffer for our faith. We are going to have to change the way we practice our faith and teach it to our children.  To do this we are going to have to build resilient communities in the face of suffering.

We may look for easy answers, but there aren’t any.  Suffering is complex, but you know it is a part of love, real love—particularly of loving others as Christ loves us.  “The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.” (Thomas Merton)

And so we come to the question of suffering which is treated straight on in the Epistle for the Fourth Sunday in Trinity.  Romans 8 is in a sense a unique passage in that it brings before us one of the most interesting and mysterious questions of human life: our fellowship in suffering with the world in which we live-a world that seemingly has taken leave of its senses-and the common redemption which awaits all creation.  This is the direction in which we must live, and work and teach.

Saint Paul’s main thought in this passage is that suffering is the pathway to glory.  Let’s say that again.  Suffering is the pathway to glory. And, since in that suffering it is not man alone, but all creation is involved, so all creation awaits and expects a redemption which shall be revealed through man when he reaches the goal of his life and enters upon the glories of eternity.  That’s a big theme.  That’s real comfort for us in times of suffering.

Saint Paul begins by comparing the sufferings of earth with the glories of heaven. Beloved in Christ, our sufferings are not light.  We know this in many ways. From the viewpoint of our broader Christian experience, the dreariest thing we can do is read or listen to the news, particularly in the last several days. In truth it has become a season of groaning, and the present one seems to be full of turbulence and distress.

St. Paul speaks of all creation groaning and travailing in pain. But here is the hope: so overwhelming is the glory to which they lead, that St. Paul deliberately reaches the conclusion that no real comparison is possible. We find the same thought expressed elsewhere in the words, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”(2 Cor.)

How can he say this?  Well, my beloved, anyone who has only superficially studied Saint Paul’s life could fall into the error of believing that he had an easy go, a free ride, that he was unacquainted with sorrow and trial.  However, few people ever suffered more than he; but so clear is his conception of the glory to which these sufferings lead, that he speaks of them as “light,” as “but for a moment,” as “not to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.”

So, then what are we to do, you and I?   As a third-order Benedictine, I have often said that a monastic type of life will be our future. This was echoed by Mr.  Dreher and others in the wake of Friday’s events.  We are called to what Mr. Dreher has identified as “the Benedict Option”.

In his 1982 book After Virtue, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new and doubtless very different St. Benedict,” while we await a new and different creation.

Throughout the early Middle Ages, St. Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped re-found civilization.

I believe that we orthodox Christians are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. So, how do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions and suffering?

We can begin with fervent, regular prayer in community, of the sort that goes on in St. Alban’s every weekday morning at eight o’clock.  We must study as the Benedictines, and genuinely work at learning our faith in a deep and profound way.  We must teach as have the Benedictines in their renowned abbey schools. We must work tirelessly as do the Benedictines and be hospitable to the stranger and sojourner so that we can bring them inside the community to teach. I am not certain if there are other ways, but we had better figure this out together, and soon, as the hour have grown very late.

“The actions of our Supreme Court on Friday last are signs of the times for those with eyes to see. This isn’t the view of wild-eyed prophets wearing animal skins and shouting in the desert” or preaching repentance while chained to the top of a column in the village square. No. “This is the view of four Supreme Court justices, in effect declaring from the bench the decline and fall of the traditional American social, political, and legal order” and the concomitant impending suffering of the traditional Christian order.

St. Paul would remind us though that these pains and sufferings, which wring a groan not just from the faithful, but from all of nature, are but the travail pains which lead to birth into a better world. If we allow it, these sufferings will carry us up, up into a higher state than we now know. This is the hope which St. Paul sets before us.  This is the hope of all creation-to be delivered from the bondage of our present state, and to be born into a new world wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Now? Now we have sorrow in the experience of the birth pains which precede that deliverance. But, beloved in Christ, morning is coming.  Morning is coming and all nature will share with us in the glories of this deliverance.  Amen.

-With profound thanks to Mr. Rod Dreher, Orthodox Christian, whose Time article I have “borrowed” liberally throughout this sermon.

 

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I am away from the parish this week and am just in from the opening of the first In Defense of Christians Summit www.idcsummit.org in Washington, D.C., where I am attending as the Canon Law Institute’s representative and occasional executive director.  As the incredibly brave Canon Andrew White (aka the Vicar of Baghdad) was taken ill, I might have been the only Anglican about.  I was honored to have been one of the six priests selected to bear the torches to lead the procession into the joint prayer service.

The service, which used ancient forms, was the first joint Catholic-Orthodox-Coptic (and an Anglo-Catholic) since 1987.  Dedicated to Our Lady, it was a remarkable moment pf penitance and prayer as the incense ascended before her holy icon. It was very powerful to have all of these groups and evangelical Protestant Christians in worship together.  It was a little bit of heaven

I had a chance to speak with some remarkable men of the Church Universal, albeit too briefly, as we prepared for the procession.  Cardinal Wuerl was very gracious and even remembered a wandering priest who was way out of his depth.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft was in good form, referring to the conflict between Islam and Christianity as one of liberty against forced religion.  A good, middle weight speech that didn’t fire things up.  Yet, it caused me to miss having an honest, Christian A-G who was not an Alinsky-Marxist.

The keynote by Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Oriental Churches, was disappointingly bureaucratic and rife with “social justice” metaphor.  With apologies to his Eminence, ISIS is not a problem rooted in “economic disparity” and “disproportionate wealth” as his speech seemed to suggest. As well, quotes from the documents of Vatican II and appeals to the U.N. weren’t seeming to resonate with the Orthodox side of the house or some of the uniates who have folks on the ground.

I think it might be difficult to appeal to the international ecclesiastical or legal bureaucracy when the “junior varsity” is sawing the heads off the faithful.  It appears that the church’s bureaucrats in Rome and those of  secular Washington are similarly detached from the reality of Islam.  Of course, he just might have been being cautious to keep more heads from rolling, although the Neville Chamberlain method doesn’t seem to work with ISIS any more than with Herr Hitler.  The post-opening reception was extraordinary-an embarassment of food and drink in the face of the sufferings of those say, on a mountainside in Iraq waiting for airdropped food.  But, gang, this is Washington, and you have to make a splash to get attention.  I just pray that I am not witnessing the birth of yet another faith-based lobbying group to employ out of work political science majors.  Too darned many of them already.

More to come after the first big session tomorrow.  Meantime, pray for Christians persecuted throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East.

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For those of supporting the restoration of a culture of life in America, we can be depressed about this woeful turn of events and turn turtle, or we can undrestand what it means. No more sloth in teaching traditional American values, history, and the original intent of the Constitution. No longer can parents and grandparents hand our youth over to television, internet and secularist teachers while pursuing their childish interests. Above all, no more can we sit in our churches and wait for someone else to raise up a new generation. We must embrace a new evangelism to restore Christian faith and morality amongst the people. After all, Christ never promised us this would be easy.

Today, let us begin to teach. The task has become too important to leave to those hostile to the faith and Christian values, too vital to allow us to abandon children and grandchildren to the poisonous babysitter of the media. The hour is late, and the situation difficult.

Difficult?  We sew on hard ground.  Why, though, should we have it easier than our early Christian fathers and mothers? Why should we get a pass when the Apostles, martyrs and saints do not? Ora et labora! Pray and work.

And, please, no fear anymore.  No fear that we will be ridiculed or might lose some “pledge units” offended by the true teachings of the Church!  No fear from secularists and purported “conservatives” who cannot or will not see that the moral imperative must come first and that all else proceeds from it, particularly material well-being.  We have cause for nothing but joy, and it is time to share it with others.  Tor worst that can happen is that some will turn away.

Today we lay down anger, fear and sadness and begin to practice persevance. Today is the day to commit to developing the parallel economy of ideas, of the truly good things, and teach them at the local level. Today is the day we are called to reclaim a nation.

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