Sunday, February 29, 2004

Speaking of *that* issue, things are heating up even more among the Primates of the Anglican Communion. Thanks to titusonenine for bringing the following Daily Telegraph story to my attention.

Whatever you think of the Anglican Primate of Nigeria, he is making it dern clear that a committee issuing nice words will not do in keeping the Anglican Communion together.

(How do you like my mix of Texan and English?)
The collect (a type of prayer) for today, the first Sunday in Lent:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be
tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted
by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of
each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through
Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

And the Gospel reading for today is Luke 4:1-13, the temptation of Christ.

These remind us that there is a difference between temptation and sin. Jesus was tempted as we are (and in some ways much more), yet without sin.

I think sometimes we lay false guilt on ourselves and on others not because of sin, but simply because of temptation. But temptation is not sin, nor an occasion for guilt. Instead, if we resist temptation, that is cause to be glad. For to resist temptation is Christ-like.

And, yes, I think that is important to remember when discussing *that* issue.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

On the front page of most U. S. newspapers this morning is the latest report on past clerical sexual abuse of children and youth in the Catholic Church. The numbers are outrageous. As the report says, the bishops are without excuse.

I was going to write a lengthy piece here, but I’m at a loss just what to write. It’s not only the gross negligence of bishops and seminaries that’s disturbing. It’s not only the pain the victims went through and often still are going through. It’s the poisoning of the environment for both leaders and kids in youth and children’s ministry that troubles me. That keeps on harming kids and ministry to them.

I don’t like even talking about this. That’s all I’m going to post for now.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The other day, Bishop Gene Robinson trotted out that tired line of equating gay liberation with the civil rights struggle.

It didn't go over very well.

Michael Eisner’s days as chairman of Disney may be numbered. Large shareholders have finally had enough of him. Heck, I almost wish I owned Disney shares so I could help vote him and his board out. But Disney shares have been money losers for a while, so…

Eisner has dragged Disney down in both finances and content. That’s not to mention Gay Days at Disneyworld and the like. The only thing bad about canning Eisner is his butt-kissing board has voted him golden parachutes – heck, diamond-encrusted golden parachutes. It’s ridiculous. He not only has looted the company; he has guaranteed himself future piles of loot.

I would boot the little sleaze out and take away all his benefits. Let the slime sue. Then, in open court, all would get to see what a sorry corporate lowlife he’s been.

Once he’s fired, there will be a good position ready for him anyway -- with “The Family.�
John Kerry has made a pronouncement about The Passion.

After reading this, I was tempted to call Kerry a poofy-haired weasel or a Massachusetts masoliberal. But I refuse to give in to those temptations. It’s Lent, you know.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I watched The Passion last night. My youth group rented out, and filled, two screenings.

There’s been any number of reviews, so I won’t add yet another. But the review in First Things has it right: “it certainly is the best movie ever made about Jesus Christ.�

But even after all I had read about the movie, I was surprised at the response of the audience, including me. I expected lots of crying, loud crying. I expected to cry. But I didn’t. And I heard almost no audible crying. I thought at least the teenage girls would be wailing, but no. The most noticeable response? Silence.

As the lights went up in the theater after the movie and almost everyone was leaving, I looked around to see if there was someone I should go talk to. (I’m one of the leaders for the youth group.) Up in the back row, I saw three guys still sitting, all football player types. The oldest of them had his head in his hands. I walked up and sat with them. They weren’t saying a word, and I wasn’t either. Two of them eventually left, leaving the oldest, a high school Senior I’ve known since he was in 4th grade.

He was clearly deeply moved, pained. I sat there quiet with him. I didn’t want to interrupt his thoughts. I felt it best to just be there for him.

We were there a while after all the others had left. After the cleaning crew came in, we finally got up and slowly walked out. Still, neither of us said a word. Finally, in the lobby, I simply invited him to get ahold of me if he wanted to talk sometime. And that was all we said the whole time.

The Passion makes words woefully inadequate. Afterwards, although the devotion of my heart is strengthened, the words of my prayers are weak. They have always been weak, of course. Now the depths of His Passion expose my frail words as nothing else can. We do not know how to pray… What can one say in light of what Christ willingly went through for us?

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend?. . .
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

As promised, I went to my first Ash Wednesday service ever at lunchtime at a traditional Episcopal church here in Denton. I was a little nervous going in, but I liked it. It was very simple, yet formal with just a priest and an assistant doing the service with no music. (This is the first time I can remember going to any service with no music.). I think that’s appropriate for the beginning of Lent.

The small narrow brick sanctuary was surprisingly full.

Both the quiet and the words of the service helped me to pray, to meditate on my own sin and the sacrifice of Christ for it, and to have a humble, grateful attitude before God. It’s hard to put it into words as such things usually are.
The comments are back now. I think the Haloscan server was down for a bit.

As I've mentioned before, today is a big day for me. I go to my first Ash Wednesday service. And I go to The Passion with my youth group. I'm praying a lot. I'm sure I'll say more later.
I don't know why the comments disappeared. I will get that fixed. I doubt I can get the old comments back though.

Someone has some explainin' to do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

cheesy soap opera music

We now return to Church Searches of Mark’s Life.

As I began a new search for a church ten years ago, after feeling compelled to leave Big Dallas Bible largely because of authority and freedom issues, I had the following requirements:

1. I wanted a church where I would have the freedom to follow God’s leading in ministry.

2. I did not want the staff of the church to have too much power. I especially did not want there to be an attitude that a staffer had to have their thumb on every ministry.

3. I required that singles not be treated with “a differing measure.�

4. See numbers 1, 2, and 3.

Nah, I did have other requirements similar to my last search. But these new requirements were by far the biggest priorities. And in this transition, I was frankly quite sensitive in these areas, almost painfully so.

There were some other small changes from my previous requirements though. I still wanted a good Bible teacher, but that wasn’t as important to me this time. And I didn’t require a big singles group from my home church. I had been going to other church’s singles groups for some time now anyway. Also, I no longer required a church be close to Dallas. I had gained attachments closer to home.

I decided to check out Denton Bible Church first. Their pastor, Tommy Nelson, taught the Metro Singles Bible study on Monday nights down at Prestonwood Baptist. It was huge, growing to about 2000 singles while I was there. I went to Metro a lot and really liked Tommy’s teaching. (Well, I was checking out the girls, too. But anyway.…) And God had definitely been using his teaching in my life during trying times.

The first service I went to at Denton Bible was a bit of shock though. There was singing, maybe a couple announcements, then Tommy’s sermon. It was excellent, talking about how to find God’s will – very timely for me. But then almost as soon as he was through, he announced, “You’re dismissed.� And that was it. I was a bit startled. They didn’t even pass the plate!

I’m not from a liturgical background, but even I found this service simple to an extreme. That didn’t bother me much though. As long as a service wasn’t obnoxious or too hard on my attention span, I was fine with it. And Tommy could hold my attention with his excellent teaching for a long time.

But the first service was not as surprising as the things I found out next about Denton Bible . . . as we’ll see in the next episode of [swelling melodramatic music] Church Searches of Mark’s Life.
Today is St. Matthias Day on the Episcopal Church calendar. The collect (a type of prayer) for today is timely:

Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful
servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that
your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always
be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through
Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the
unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In addition to praying for The Passion during Lent, I’m praying for the Anglican Communion and have joined this effort.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Am I the only one who thinks it a bit strange that most of those who attack Bush for supposedly lying . . . voted for Bill Clinton?
“Why don’t you just leave so our church could be inclusive?�

–A woman to an Episcopal priest at the Minneapolis General Convention.

(Thanks to the titusonenine blog for posting this. When I saw it, I thought it might be a joke. But a woman really said this – which makes it even funnier/sadder.)
Lent? I’m glad you ashed!

Wednesday will be quite a red letter day for me. Before I attend The Passion with my youth group, I intend to go to an Ash Wednesday service nearby.

This will be the first time I’ve observed Ash Wednesday or Lent at all. In fact, until very recently, Lent was something I cleaned out of my dryer.

But I’ve read a little (admittedly very little) about it the past few days. And Ash Wednesday and Lent seem to me excellent traditions grounded in practices of the early church. (Now, not to be a killjoy, but Mardi Gras is another matter altogether. I don’t think the early church did that and I won’t be either, in case you were wondering.)

Like many Protestants, I used to have a negative attitude toward tradition. But I’m beginning to think many of our Reformist forebears went overboard in throwing out traditions that had the faintest scent of “Popery.� A lot of traditions of the Catholic and Anglican churches have their roots in the early church, are not unbiblical, contain wonderful Christian symbolism, and help focus worship. Plus, some of them are just fun.

Some Protestants past and present reject just about any tradition that wasn’t spelled out in the Bible. If I ever was one of them, I am no longer. Why I’ve changed, I really don’t know just yet. But for me, church traditions that don’t distract from or disobey God’s word are fine with me. Ones like Ash Wednesday and Lent that help focus on the importance of repentance and of what Jesus did for us are more than fine with me.

But now I still don’t think that Lent and other traditions are things that all “good Christians� do. If someone wants to do Lent, that’s fine. If not, that’s fine, too.

Another reason I’ll be observing Lent: I want to pray in a special way that God would use the Passion movie in people’s lives. I think it could have quite an impact, and I’m praying for that.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

There was a revealing article in yesterday's Dallas Morning News. (Be aware there's an obnoxious registration process.) It seems some people's real problem with the Passion movie is that the Gospel offends them. Well imagine that. Here's one take on that.

I found the DMN article a bit one-sided though. Most of it focused on "Christians" who denied the Atonement. And the whole premise of the article begged the question: Can you deny the Gospel and still be a Christian? The article made that unspoken assumption.

I do not.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

This week the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas voted and took strong stands against the consecration of Gene Robinson and against same-sex marriages. They also gave parishes the option of withholding funds from the national church. This is good news. I didn’t think that diocese was that conservative.

Of course, I’m paying special attention to the Diocese of West Texas because that’s the diocese I’m moving into. Although it’s still unlikely I’ll join the ECUSA, the diocese’s stand leaves the door slightly open for my possibly joining an ECUSA church down there.

Friday, February 20, 2004

We return now to Church Searches of Mark’s Life. But I’m dispensing with the soap opera music. And after a lot of thought, I’m going to dispense with a lot of details, too. For what comes next is one of those tangled stories where it’s very difficult to be fair. If I tell you one thing, then to be fair, I would need to tell something else, which would require more explanation. And before long, you’d have a tell-all that opens old wounds and is beyond the purposes of this blog. And things are cool now between me and Big Dallas Bible, and I want to keep it that way.

And be aware that this episode occurred ten years ago. I’m confident that God has been working at Big Dallas Bible, as He has in changing me. Given the opportunity, I would do things differently. I’m confident my protagonists would as well.

Still, this episode has had a big effect on my view of what makes a good church. So sticking to only relevant and necessary facts, here goes:

Big Dallas Bible Church (This and all names in this entry are changed.) slowly but surely changed while I was there, more than I realized at the time. It became bigger and more like a business. I only noticed subtle changes at first. The pastor wore coat and tie more. And there was a corporate pyramid chart of all the staff in the church directory. I don’t know when they began that chart indicating the flow of authority. But it got bigger every year. Some people changed, too. Bob, who had been easy to volunteer under and became a friend, rose up the pyramid and became harder to please.

The once-healthy Singles group went through its ups and downs. I started going to a large singles group at another church while BDBC’s group shrank to nothing, literally, before restarting and growing again.

But I still enjoyed being involved at BDBC, even if it wasn’t quite as good a fit as when I joined it.

But then, there was a sudden exercise of power against me by Bob and another staffer. As part of that, I was restricted as to what ministry I could do. They did this in spite of the fact that, by their own admission, I was faithful and teachable in my involvement at BDBC and had done nothing wrong.

Guessing their motives would be pointless and speculative. Their explanations at the time didn’t hold much water with me. They said my life was out of balance, but whose isn’t? And it wasn’t like I wasn’t making efforts, with some progress, to get my life more in balance.

It did eventually become clear that my singleness was held against me. Even the fact that I lived alone out in the country was held against me.

This all hit me during probably the weakest part of my adult life. Singleness continuing into my thirties had dragged me down into frequent depression. My involvement in ministry was an important bright point in my life that kept me going. Having that taken away, even partly, was devastating. And the conflict was hard for me to handle as well. Certainly, my weakness made it difficult for me to handle myself well in this situation. Thank God that He acted to affirm and strengthen me in the midst of this.

Still, this was burning me out so much I once took about a week off from spending time in prayer and Bible study, as well as any church activity. I told God I needed a vacation from Him and would be back. He was gracious and the time did me good. But this is the only time I’ve skipped more than a day of my quiet times from age 14 until now.

Soon, the big bone of contention was that I supposedly wasn’t submitting enough to them. The fact is I was submitting to them. They just didn’t like me telling them they were wrong, even when God worked in ways to back me up. I bent over backwards trying to work things out. And I made it as clear as I could that I was doing my best to submit to them, but I had to submit to God first. I pleaded with Bob not to force me to choose between his authority and God’s. No, he didn’t appreciate me saying that, either. But then I wasn’t Mr. Tact.

In fact, I struggled for six months to work out a resolution, perhaps too long in hindsight and with too many words from me, too. My view was that it would be wrong to leave my local church unless there were compelling reasons. I had never left a church for reasons other than moving. (My views have since moderated on this.)

As friends helped me through this, I became aware that my situation wasn’t so isolated. I became aware of past staff power plays against people much more godly than I.

It eventually became clear that I could not stay in peace. So I finally went to the elders and asked that I could leave in peace. Their response was to ask me to stay, which I appreciated. But they agreed to my request.

(I should add here that one elder was especially helpful. Even after I left, he met with me to give me good instruction that helped me become a more together guy. I suspect he agreed with me in the dispute although he wouldn’t say so, which is proper and understandable.)

I came one last Sunday to say goodbye to friends. I remember as I was driving home that I felt free, that a weight had been lifted off me.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

In those trying months, this verse had gotten a grip on me. Now I sought a church where I could be free to follow Christ wherever He led me.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Yeaaaa! My Commentary on the American Prayer Book came in the mail today!

..... O. K. I'm weird.

As part of my pointy-headed weirdness, I also get excited when First Things comes in the mail. For those who haven't read it, here is an interesting article from last year on the ECUSA: The Episcolpalian Preference by Philip Turner.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

soft soap opera music

We now return to Church Searches of Mark’s Life.

Even though I checked out a church every Sunday, it took me two or three months after I moved back to Texas before I found any church I felt I could join. Given my exacting requirements set forth earlier, that’s no wonder, even in the buckle of the Bible Belt. But I didn’t realize it would be that difficult at the time.

Before my move, I had some contact with the Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative offshoot from the mainline Presbyterians, and I liked what I saw. So that’s what I investigated first.

I visited the exiles from the church of my teen years, Casa Linda Pres. They were now a small PCA congregation with different name. It was great seeing old faces. But that was a problem as well. There were very few people my age. And it was just too long a drive it turned out.

I also visited a new PCA church in Lewisville, Texas – Christ Presbyterian. It just so happened they were led by a fellow Dukie InterVarsity friend, Dave Sherwood. I’m not sure why I didn’t consider them much afterward. In hindsight, I probably should have. I think I wanted something bigger with more women, I mean, singles. Dave’s pastorate continued on until very recently. I enjoyed a recent visit there and their traditional Reformed style of worship.

Still, it soon became clear there were no PCA churches that would do, even though at least these two were good churches.

Then there was another church. I think it was PCA. It met in a high school. The people were friendly. The very first impressions were good.

But as I sat during the service, I looked at the bulletin. And I couldn’t help but notice all the leadership positions were held by Mr. and Mrs. This and Mr. and Mrs. That. I searched the bulletin further for any sign that singles had any role there – and could find none.

Now, in hindsight, the church probably didn’t have that bad of an attitude toward singles. They were probably just clueless about how they might come across. And, yeah, being single was a big sore spot for me.

Still, it was the first time I can remember a church making me feel marginalized because of my singleness.

It wouldn’t be the last.

Restraining my emotions as best I could, I high-tailed it out of there as soon as the service was over.

I can’t remember all the churches I checked out. But one lady suggested I visit Big Dallas Bible Church (name changed, obviously), a non-denominational church. So I did.

Not knowing their strange service times, I arrived during a service and looked quite lost in the empty lobby I’m sure. But a man who seemed to be a leader was very helpful and went out of his way to answer questions and make me feel at home. Others seemed friendly as well, without being overbearing. And I liked the casual atmosphere. Even the pastor didn’t seem to be a coat-and-tie guy.

I was very impressed with the pastor. I quickly saw he was an excellent teacher, and he seemed a nice guy, too.

Oh yes, the Singles group was sizable. Hey, I had my priorities.

I attended orientation and was in agreement with almost everything. I did have issues with how they chose elders. They were appointed by the other elders, not elected. I felt this wasn’t very democratic and would tend to perpetuate any error among the elders. But after reflection, I saw it wasn’t very unbiblical, at least, and that there is no perfect church government.

Big Dallas Bible met all my criteria and I liked what I saw. I still didn’t know of any other churches meeting my requirements. So it wasn’t long before I joined and dived right in and got involved. And BDB was more or less a good church for me -- for five years.

And this, of course, is where I leave you hanging in [ swelling music ] Church Searches of Mark’s Life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

cheesy soap opera music in background

When we left you last time in Church Searches of Mark’s Life, I was moving back to Texas. Not much thought went into joining Casa Linda and then Blacknall Presbyterian Churches. I pretty much just fell into them. This time was different. Influenced in part by my difficult post-Duke years, I had very exacting criteria for a new church:

1. I required any new church to hold to inerrancy. My readings and church experiences had convinced me of the necessity of that.

2. Churches in mainline denominations were immediately ruled out. (See the 2-14 entry.)

2 1/2. Denominations not exercising adequate church discipline were ruled out. That’s important as that ruled out the Southern Baptist Convention for me at the time. I know that may shock some readers. But at that time, the SBC took no action against pastors and congregations I found very objectionable.

The first such congregation that came to my attention back in North Carolina was Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. I tongue-partly-in-cheek called it a Communist Baptist Church. Among other things, its pastor never missed an opportunity to get in front of the t.v. cameras and spout the communist line during the Cold War. And they ordained a rabidly pro-abortion woman. I was shocked that this went on in the SBC. I felt that if an otherwise Biblical denomination was going to allow such things, then what’s the point of being a denomination?

(The SBC has since changed for the better I think. And Pullen has been disciplined and pushed out of the SBC.)

I know -- I was a hard man. In any case, ruling out the SBC was important as there are more Baptist churches in Texas than there are people.

3. At the same time, I didn’t want a legalistic church. I’ll probably rant about this later, but legalism has always been a turn-off for me.

4. I wanted a good teacher as pastor. I felt starved of good Bible teaching, and I knew I needed it.

5. I wanted a big singles group with plenty of women in their twenties. I felt starved of good . . . O.K., I know that sounds crass. But I was in my late twenties by now and didn’t want to be single much longer, to put it mildly. So this wasn’t anything predatory. I wanted an excellent Christian wife.

6. Although my new home was a ways north of Dallas, I wanted to be involved in the Dallas area. I grew up there, and my heart was there. So I wanted a church down there, but one that didn’t take too long to drive to.

7. Oh. I nearly didn’t mention this because it was such a given. The church had to be Protestant.

I found out that, even in the buckle of the Bible Belt, these requirements dramatically narrowed my options. My search was not easy as you’ll see.

Monday, February 16, 2004

There’s a huge issue that’s impossible to avoid as we ponder churchly and worldly things, particularly in Anglicanism: gay marriage. I’m not going to share my every thought on it. But I do have an unusual perspective that’s being overlooked, and the issue can hardly be avoided, so here goes.

I know this is going to sound mean, but hear me out. I’m weary of gays saying they are being deprived of marriage. If anyone is being deprived of marriage out there, hey, join the club.

You see, for most of my life, I wanted to be married in the worst way. But it never came close to happening. And I became discouraged and depressed. I felt marriage was something I wanted and needed . . . that happened to other people.

Finally, at 33 if I recall correctly, I saw I needed to radically trust God in this area, so I gritted my teeth and did so.

And I came to see that I was overrating marriage. Don’t get me wrong – marriage is a great institution made by God. But I saw that I wouldn’t want most marriages and that, as Paul wrote, singleness really does have its advantages.

In any case, almost ten years later, marriage looks even less likely for me (And I want it a lot less.). And, yeah, sometimes I wish I didn’t have to sleep alone.

But there are a lot of non-gay people like me for whom marriage just isn’t going to happen for various reasons. Do we march in the streets and demand God and the world and the church and the laws change for us? (Actually, I practically marched on God asking for marriage, but anyway…)

There are lots of reasons people who desire marriage don’t get that desire met. Being gay is only one of them. And, yeah, lifelong singleness is not easy. (Neither is marriage.)

But does that mean the state and the church should change the definition of marriage after thousands of years?

If that makes some gays feel deprived of marriage, then, like I said, join the club. There’re lots of us here. Sit down and have a drink.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Conservative Episcopalians are pondering whether and/or when they should pull out of the ECUSA. And they are not of one mind. Here is an argument for staying in. And here is an argument for getting out. Both are scholarly. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both are saturated in scripture. Both raise difficult issues relevant to all Christians committed to orthodoxy.

I like where I live, right above one of the best used book and music stores in the nation. Last night, I decided to get with it, go downstairs and see if they have any good Anglican books.

To my surprise (and that of an employee's, too. The place is that big.), they had an Anglican section. I scored a 1953 edition of the 1928 BCP in very good condition (Pages still stick together even.), The Anglican Spiritual Traditions by Moorman, a lectionary, and the History of the Episcopal Church by Prichard.

They also had the Canons of the ECUSA for $50 and a New Zealand BCP, but I passed on those. I think I’ll go back and get the NZ BCP.

They also had a lot of Spong. Maybe it's for the same reason they have a lot of KISS in the CD section -- people outgrow it.

I’m already digging in. Bishop Moorman’s book is well written and engaging so far.

I’ve also ordered a Commentary on the American Prayer Book. And I’m very open to further suggestions.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Well it did snow here in Texas, about 5 inches worth. Now, in our last episode, we were about to enter my later Presbyterian years after I graduated from Duke.

(And sorry if I seem to be telling my life story. All this background will become more relevant when I get into discussing issues relating to the Anglican Communion and my search for a church.)

At that point, I shed the Dukish propensity toward benign neglect of everything outside the Duke campus. I became more active in Blacknall Presbyterian and more aware of goings-on in the denomination and affiliated organizations.

It didn’t take me long to become quite provoked by actions of the denomination (the southern Presbyterian Church in the U. S., which merged with the United Presbyterian Church toward the end of my Blacknall years. I think I got the names right.). Their support of abortion really infuriated me, as did the affiliated National Council of Churches’ support of pro-Communist organizations. (The Cold War was very warm during the 80’s although, unknown to almost anyone, it was close to ending. And, yes, I was very anti-Communist. I still am, but I don’t foam at the mouth quite as much.)

Now Blacknall itself was quite evangelical, but I gradually became more disturbed by what I saw there. For one thing, I thought we were a bit sloppy about who we affiliated with and supported. We supported the CROP Walk run by Church World Service, an arm (at least at the time) of the NCC with the same propensity for giving aid to Communists. Then there was a Sunday when a visiting preacher said something like, “We don’t believe the Bible; we believe the Jesus behind the Bible.� I gave her an ear full about that afterwards.

More importantly, I became aware that the pastor and some other leaders did not have the same view on Biblical authority as I. I believe in inerrancy. He did not and had no problem saying so. I saw this as a problem for Blacknall in the long run. I shared Francis Schaeffer’s view that inerrancy is a watershed issue. (I’m still an inerrantist, but my views have moderated slightly, which I’ll discuss in due time.)

After a few years, I did not think my participation in Blacknall was adequately appreciated. I know, I know -- sounds like whining. But it got ridiculous at times. One summer, I was to help teach 4th – 6th grade Sunday School. The education director at the time got on my case before the summer even started. Among other things, she lectured that I was to be under the authority of the woman leading it. I said, fine – I had no problem with that. (I had issues with women in certain other leadership roles, as you’ll see. She didn’t like that, and I suspect that’s why she brought it up.)

Well, it turned out the alleged Sunday School leader never showed up on Sunday. So I started taking my plans to the non-leading leader beforehand for her approval and then led the kids myself. This went on all summer. And it was fun, and the kids were great. Thinking about it, I kinda miss them, dang it. Still, it was a bit of work to lead without the authority to lead. You might say I was leading from behind. But I did a good job, doggonit!

Yet at the end of the year, there was a thank you list in the church bulletin of supposedly all the people who helped with Sunday School. My name wasn’t on the list. And I never got a thank you (much less an apology) from the education director. That hurt. And it had a corrosive effect on my attachment to Blacknall. In hindsight, maybe I should have chalked it down to one education director who was clueless on how to handle volunteers and not let it bother me so much. But I didn’t, and it did bother me. Yeah, I was more sensitive about such things back then than now.

Then there was the biggest dispute during my time at Blacknall – women elders. We had never had women elders, and I opposed having them. The elder board wanted them, however.

My biggest concern, though, was that if we had women elders, that it be by consensus. And I recommended that the election be structured that way. (In the Presbyterian Church, the congregation elects elders.) Yet the opposite was done. My memory is a little fuzzy, and I want to be careful what I say. But the election was structured in such a way that it would have been highly unlikely for a woman not to be elected elder.

In any case, a woman whom I highly respected was elected. But the episode was much more a power play by her backers than it was consensus building, or at least I saw it that way. Some pillars of the church left afterward. (I didn’t. And woman elders are even less of an issue to me now.)

Well, all those areas combined led me to consider finding another church and leaving Blacknall after eight years there. But at about the same time, I decided to move back to Texas, so it became a moot issue. I think I would have left Blacknall if I stayed in North Carolina.

And when I moved to Texas, I swore (or the Biblical equivalent) I would never join another mainline Presbyterian church again, nor a church belonging to any mainline denomination, no matter how evangelical the local church was. I was sick of my own denomination using the name of Christ to support evil, such as abortion.

No, not a happy ending. But I have no hard feelings toward Blacknall. And it’s still quite evangelical, if not more so. My expectations that it would go downhill were mistaken. And their services are excellent. I have no problem recommending a visit to it, one reason I’ve mentioned it by name. When I visit the Durham area, I go to either Duke Chapel (I love the stained glass and cranking organ) or Blacknall.

Soon, I’ll tell of my search for a church in the Dallas area in 1988. It was very different than my current search.

Friday, February 13, 2004

I wasn't expecting to post yet again today (and don't expect me to post everyday), but I find this news story from Australia absolutely hilarious. The punch line for me is this:

[Anglican Primate of Australia] Dr Carnley writes that given Australia's diversity, "inter-faith dialogue seems inevitable". But the Sydney diocese [led by Bishop Jensen] was quite cold on recognition of other faiths.
The Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen, had denounced other faiths as false. "This is certainly not the most helpful approach," Dr Carnley said.

Well! So Bishop Jensen of Sydney should "recognize" other faiths as not false. Well, I think Dr. Carnley should do a little talking to Jesus about that narrow-minded mean Bishop Jensen.

But Jesus just might talk back: "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father by me."
I saw over on titusonenine (an excellent blog, btw) that there are rumblings that the Eames Commission set up to recommend structural ways for the Anglican Communion to stay together might not be able to meet its Fall deadline to report.

Even this WannabeAnglican can see that if they can't see by then that (at the very least) alternative episcopal oversight is necessary . . . well it just would not be good or hopeful. We'll see. *sigh*
There's been a request for my background, so I might as well get started. Today: the Presbyterian years.

I got my head wet as a baby in First Presbyterian Church in Midland, Texas, the city of my birth. I don't remember it and don't think it took. I do remember that my Grandma called it a "christening." I think normal people call it "baptism," of the infant variety. So began my volatile Presbyterian phase.

Now I know that some might think "volatile" and "Presbyterian" don't belong in the same sentence. But anyway . . .

My childhood church experiences are significant, but I'll skip those for now and come back to them someday. I became a Christian (loaded words, I know) at Casa Linda Presbyterian in Dallas shortly before I turned 14. In fact, my first communion was on Maundy Thursday, March 27th, 1975 -- my 14th birthday.

I was happy with my church during my teen years. I put more effort and priority, however, into my personal time with God. I read the Bible and prayed every day. No one told me to do that or even suggested it beforehand. I just wanted to. It was like instinct. Then, of course, was school, homework, and running. (I was quite the distance runner.) That took up most of my time.

I was, at for the most part, blissfully unaware of any difficulties Casa Linda was having with the denomination. But I found out later that, after high school and moving on to Duke, the local presbytery and like-minded people in the congregation (a minority if I recall rightly) took over the church building and drove off most of the Christians (Yes, I am using that word pointedly.). There was ugliness -- locked doors and the like.

Once at Duke, I fell in easily with InterVarsity on campus and Blacknall Presbyterian off campus. I don't remember any big search. I think new friends led me to them, and the two groups seemed to be a good fit, so I went with it. My focus was on campus, so, for a while, my involvement at Blacknall was pretty much just attending on Sundays. InterVarsity was more important to me. And I still don't recall denominational issues being much on my radar screen.

I guess I should stop here and address why I was Presbyterian. I really don't have a profound answer. I wasn't very denominationally minded at all. Once I trusted in Christ, I thought of myself as a Christian, not a Presbyterian. But it's what I grew up with, was comfortable with, and I saw no reason to go elsewhere.

I did find other Christian traditions interesting, but more on that in due time.

Now, I did reject my infant baptism. So when I was 18, I accepted the late Brother Eldred Thomas's (president of KVTT-FM, where I interned) invitation for him to baptize me. So he baptized me in a swimming pool with a couple witnesses. Yeah, not very churchy.

Baptism is not a big issue with me. But for me, believer's baptism was, and is, in line with my beliefs and the thing to do. I wish I had invited a bunch of friends and had it be more of a ceremony. But other than that, I still think I did the right thing.

After Duke, denominational issues and church politics became much more important in my experience and made my later Presbyterian years volatile indeed. But this post is long already. So I'll save it for later.

I might be snowed in tomorrow. Yes, here in Texas. If so, I'll probably post tomorrow.

And remember, tomorrow is Valentines Day -- wear black.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I have some explainin' to do, so I might as well get started.

What the hey is a "WannabeAnglican"?

It's something I made up.
You see, I've never been an Anglican. In fact, I didn't even pay much attention to Anglicans until recent years. But now I find myself attracted to Anglicanism while at the same time there are issues that would complicate my becoming an Anglican. You'll hear a lot about those issues in due time. But some of those issues have to do with me being a square peg. You'll hear about that, too.

So why are you doing this blog and why should I spend my valuable internet time here?

Where I am in my strange life puts me at a number of cross currents in the church today. For one thing, I'm a conservative Christian who finds himself attracted to worldwide Anglicanism at the very time when it's questionable whether the Anglican Communion can stick together.
And that's just for starters. I feel like Forrest Gump sometimes. I keep unwittingly finding myself in interesting times. It started even in high school, when I asked a question about the Panama Canal Treaty of George Bush the elder when he was U.N. Ambassador. In high school, I also got to ask Francis Schaeffer a question in a very large forum. Later on, I was right smack in the middle of what was then the most expensive U.S. Senate campaign ever, Helms-Hunt in 1984. Still later, I found myself joking with Oliver North and laughing at his dead-on Ross Perot imitation. I could go on and on. I don't say this to brag, because there's nothing to brag about. For some reason, God in his wisdom (and humor?) keeps putting me in interesting places.

And now, it's happening again, as I search for a church and find myself attracted to Anglicanism at the very time that the Anglican Communion is in crisis.
Greetings. I'm Mark, a WannabeAnglican.

("Hi, Mark.")

I'm starting this blog to rant, I mean, document my thoughts as I observe a pivotal time in the Anglican Communion and search for a new church.

This could get interesting.