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When I started this blog nearly a decade ago my purpose was to share my thoughts and experiences as I explored seminary and a future full of question marks… to toss ideas out there and to get insights from others. I’m thankful for the many folks who have encouraged and challenged me with your comments, both here or in person.

The Sea of Galilee

I’m now an ordained Deacon in the Anglican Church (ACNA) and am a regular preacher in local Methodist and Anglican churches, and Lord willing will be ordained Priest sometime within the next year or so.

By request of a number of friends, family, and parishioners, this blog has become a place to put sermons I’ve preached — but I’m hoping it won’t be limited to just that in the future. So hang in there, subscribers, there’s more to come!

In the meantime I’d like to invite everyone to check out a new blog some friends and I have put together. It’s called GoodNewsForAChange.  So many people I talk to these days feel dragged down by the constant bombardment of bad news in the media and in the world around us; and yet so many of my colleagues in ministry (professional or lay) see so much good news happening on a day-to-day basis, we decided we wanted to share it.

So if you’re hungry for a bit of good news come visit us at GoodNewsForAChange and say “hi”!

 

 

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My blog has picked up a cyber-stalker.  Nothing dangerous, mind you, just weird.

The cyber-stalker targets Christian blogs under the name Christians Anonymous, quoting entire blog posts and leaving pingbacks on the blogs it pilfers.  My blog is just one of thousands his pre-programmed bot “borrows” from.

The Christians Anonymous website looks like a blog but isn’t – there are no options to leave comments, chat, or contact the blogger. In fact the owner of the site stays hidden in the cyber-shadows.

The Christians Anonymous site’s masthead reads “There is no God, Nor Human Soul; There Will Be No Eternal Life.”  What I find weird is — for someone who seems to think he’s doing the world a favor by archiving the writings of religious folk, he (a) quotes only Christian writers (apparently Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu souls may actually exist), and (b) makes no distinction between Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, or Charismatic writers, or between scholarly or op-ed pieces. In fact there’s no categorization at all.

Why would someone go to all the trouble, I wondered?

So for fun I went out and did a little cyber-digging.  For any other Christian bloggers who may be experiencing this oddity, here’s background info on the guy behind it:

The Christians Anonymous site is owned and administered by Timothy Platt, representing the “Socialist Central Committee Ltd”, P.O. Box 2224, Indianapolis, IN.  The site is registered by GoDaddy.com.

Google ‘Socialist Central Committee Ltd’ and you’ll end up at the blog socialistagenda.wordpress.com on which Platt is the only author, and he hasn’t posted anything new in about two years.  The blog claims to represent “America’s Socialist Party” but a Google of this moniker turns up very little of substance.

Bottom line, from what I can see, Platt is on the fringe of a fringe of a fringe, essentially just one man obsessed with Christianity.

May God bless his obsession.

 

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A longtime friend and local pastor is leaving tomorrow morning on her first trip to Israel.  I can’t wait to read what she has to say!  It’s been almost a year since my pilgrimage (hard to believe) and it’s a life -changing experience I wish I could share with everyone I know.  I’m glad she’ll be blogging… reminder to self: check frequently.

Holy Land Pilgrimage

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Currently attending, and writing to you from, the Ancient Wisdom – Anglican Futures Conference at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA.  The conference continues all day today, tomorrow, and Saturday morning June 4-6.

If you’d like to follow along, join the Twitter Group at

http://twittgroups.com/group/awaf

This morning’s presenters:

  • Jason Clark, Emergent-U.K. and Vineyard Church pastor, Sutton, England
  • Holly Rankin Zaher, Director of Student Discipleship, St. George’s Episcopal Church, Nashville, TN
  • David Neff, Editor-in-Chief and VP, Christianity Today Media Group, Carol Stream, IL

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Unless things change, it looks like the Episcopal House of Bishops will be taking a vote this Thursday on the deposition of Bishop Robert Duncan.  The vote comes two weeks before the start of Pittsburgh’s Diocesan Convention, and the move is designed to prevent Bishop Duncan from presiding over it.  The breaking news hit the blogs this morning.

I despise politics.  In all its forms.  So I’ll leave it to others to discuss all the intricacies of this dispute, and all its legalities and illegalities.

Suffice to say I know most of the key players in Pittsburgh personally and have been friends with many of them for years.  What I’d like to write here are some facts that to my knowledge are a matter of public record but have never made it into the press.

#1 – The lawsuits and/or threats of lawsuits against conservative churches and clergy in the Pittsburgh Diocese by its own church hierarchy have been going on for over 25 years.   The current situation is not an overnight development.  The people’s wish to be placed under alternative leadership is legitimate — and requests to do so have been repeatedly denied.  Our people have spent an entire generation’s energy just trying to be heard and respected by the leadership of our own church.

#2 – One of the attorneys leading the legal assault against the Diocese of Pittsburgh has also threatened lawsuits against his own parish and against at least two of his own priests.  I’m an eyewitness to this one, and I can personally vouch for the integrity of the priests in question. I won’t name the lawyer-creep’s name here, but I will say — if he hates his parish so much that he has been threatening it for over two decades, why is he still a member?

#3 – The Episcopal Church’s team of lawyers is deliberately threatening harm to the poor and working class here in Western PA.  The national church promotes itself as “supporting the little people” and “giving a voice to those who have no voice”.  Well, we here in Western Pennsylvania ARE those little people.  We ARE the working poor.  We live in a region that has never recovered from the demise of the steel industry.  We are looked down on as ‘country hicks’ by the elite on the east coast (as a former Philadelphian I can vouch for this.)  The only things that are truly ours here are our homes and our churches.  Now we are faced with a church hierarchy that is telling us: “accept our teachings as gospel, never mind that what we say is not in your Bibles.  Believe what we tell you to, or lose your bishop and your churches”.

#4 – The vast majority of the churches at stake in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have fewer than 100 active members, and many of them are past retirement age.   Many of the buildings are made of stone, hand-cut and hand-built 100-150 years ago by the grandparents and great-grandparents of the current members: men and women who worked in the steel mills and the coal mines and saw action during the World Wars.  The current members want nothing more than to retire in peace after a life of hard work, and to raise their children and grandchildren in the faith they themselves were raised in.  Is that too much to ask?

When the Bishops take their vote on Thursday I hope they will keep one other thought in mind too.  If this can happen to Bishop Duncan, it can happen to YOU.

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To regular readers of this blog — thanks for your patience in waiting for new material, and I’ll be back on pace with writing very soon! In the meantime I’m pleased to say I have survived 8 weeks of intensive Greek, and passed the course, and am now preparing for the fall semester which starts in a couple short weeks. I’m very much looking forward to studying Evangelical Theology and Homiletics this semester.

I also wanted to give public thanks to the Episcopal Church Women of the Diocese of Pittsburgh who chose me to receive a generous scholarship this year. The confirmation of my call to ministry could not have come at a better time in so many ways.

Between now and the time school starts up again I’m reviewing new music for the band and choir for the upcoming year, and am trying to catch up on some of pleasure-reading (as opposed to required reading). Here are this week’s titles:

  • Just finished reading Jerry Falwell: An Unauthorized Profile by William Goodman Jr. and James Price. The book is somewhat dated (1981) but still raises important points about public ministry, honesty, and accountability in general and the book’s subject personality in particular. It confirms much of what I already suspected about Falwell and the Moral Majority movement and gives good resource quotes for future reference. That said, the authors themselves speak mostly in innuendo and don’t take the time to assert their own positions or to make constructive suggestions as to how ministries in future can avoid the sins of the late 20th century televangelists (which, unfortunately, continue to be seen in today’s mega-ministries, televised or otherwise).
  • From there I moved on to Stephen Colbert’s I Am America (And So Can You) which is as funny as the TV show and reads much like it. I’m about halfway through this one — will have a quote or two to share in upcoming posts.

Blessings to all and I look forward to regular posting soon!

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I meant to post this back on May 29th, which was the first-year anniversary of this blog, but the date got right past me.

So… a belated post to say “thank you” to friends, family, and readers who have supported this blog — and me — with encouragement throughout its first year. It’s been a blast and I plan to continue with it, and will be posting more as soon as Greek class is over.

For those interested in statistics, the blog averages over 1,000 visitors per month and had over 13,000 visits in its first year.

Cheers!

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The race is on.  Already.

The Spring semester just ended a couple weeks ago.  My first summer class, “The Anglican Way of Theology,” doesn’t start until June 9 but already I’ve read close to 200 pages and chosen topics for five papers, the last of which will be due mid-July.  Then “Summer Greek” — a crash course cramming two semesters into two months — begins June 23.

Which is a long way of saying to friends, family, and regular readers: I’ll do my best to keep on posting, but if my blog-writing slacks off for the next couple months, you’ll understand why.  And I’ll be back to regular posting around mid-August.

In the meantime, I will post interesting thoughts and ideas and quotations that come up in the required readings so you can share my journey through seminary — which in spite of the high number of pages is a total joy!

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The Evangelical Manifesto of Os Guinness et al was released during final exams so I didn’t get around to reading it — and the related news and commentary on the web — until last night.

Conclusion #1. This is a document that should be read slowly and given serious consideration by all who call themselves Christian, regardless of church affiliation. It has much to say to all of us. After reading, if you agree with what it has to say, I encourage you to join me in signing it.

“Our first task is to reaffirm who we are. Evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith, and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth. (Evangelical comes from the Greek word for good news, or gospel.) Believing that the Gospel of Jesus is God’s good news for the whole world, we affirm with the Apostle Paul that we are “not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” Contrary to widespread misunderstanding today, we Evangelicals should be defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally.”

Conclusion #2. They’re not listening.

The Manifesto, while addressed to the media and aimed at giving a working definition of the word “evangelical” to the general public — which it does — for the most part is intended for those who call themselves “evangelicals”. And the vast majority aren’t listening. (more…)

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I’m talking about WordPress’s dashboard. For a long time it has seemed to me that the blogs featured under “Religion” on the Dashboard are anything but religious, and are not an accurate cross-section of faith practices in American culture. (Granted the Internet and WordPress aren’t limited to America… I’m just guessing the majority of faith-related bloggers here are Americans.)

So during March of this year, every time I logged in — usually twice a day — I wrote down the name of the blog featured under “Religion”, visited the site long enough to determine where the blogger stands on questions of faith, and categorized the blog under a short list of broad categories. (more…)

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…is another search term by which people frequently find this blog.  Go figure.

Actually, I know what it is they’re looking for.  The sarcastic posters are not on this blog.  I know where to find them but I’m not telling because they’re not very nice, and besides, sarcasm is the lowest form of humor.   You should know better.   Do you feel properly scolded now?

It will do your heart and soul much better to look at something like these.

Go thy way and sin no more.

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What is it that keeps people without religious affiliation — one of the fastest-growing segments of the population — from understanding and accepting the Christian faith?

Some people don’t want to be bothered with religion but I think the vast majority of people simply aren’t satisfied with the options they see.  I think this post puts it well.   

Those of us who identify ourselves as Christians need to remember all we say and do is being watched and measured by the rest of society.  We need to know Jesus well and be sure we are representing Him accurately and compassionately.  Scripture calls us “ambassadors”, and ambassadors don’t have the luxury of speaking and acting on their own behalf; an ambassador’s job is to speak on behalf of the nation that sent him.  We are called to represent God’s kingdom to the world — which is an incredible joy but also an awesome responsibility.  Nothing less than our prayerful best will do.

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