Showing posts from June, 2017

E Komo Mai – All Are Welcome

A new altar guild member couldn’t open the combination lock for the safe in which the parish stored its altar silver. So, she asked the rector for help. The rector started turning the dial of the combination lock, but stopped after the first two numbers, looked up serenely toward heaven, began moving her lips silently, then turned to the final number, and opened the lock. The altar guild member gasped, “I’m in awe of your faith.” “Really,” the priest said, “it’s nothing. The combination is taped to the ceiling.” [1] Analogously, outsiders can find Christianity incomprehensible or intimidating. However, in today’s gospel reading [2] Jesus throws the door to our community wide open. If he had been the first Episcopalian, he would have declared, “All are welcome!” And had he been Hawaiian, he would have said, “ E komo mai !” Jesus delineated four welcomes, four paths into the one community of God’s people. The first welcome or path depicts individuals who seek to connect with Go

Why go to church?

Someone recently suggested to me that the key question for understanding what is happening in a congregation is to ask attendees this simple question: “Why do you go to church?” Some answers are obvious and most applicable to long-term members: I attend out of habit. I attend because the Bible teaches Christians to attend worship. I attend because I think this is what Jesus wants me to do. I attend because my family attends. These are not bad reasons for attending, but they are reasons that will generally fail to persuade anyone else to attend. The morning after my conversation with the woman who posed the question, “Why do you go to church?” I came across this item, Stories – Your Website’s Secret Sauce , on the Lewis’ Center for Church Leadership’s website by Will Rice. The article was not what I had imagined from the title. However, the article put the question about church attendance in the correct perspective. People begin attending church either beca

Further thoughts on a digital BCP

My Ethical Musings’ blog post, For such a time as this … an electronic prayer book , had previously appeared as a contribution to the Episcopal Café. That article received twenty-five comments mostly dissenting from my proposal that The Episcopal Church (TEC) publish its next revision of the Book of Common Prayer exclusively in a digital format. This post responds to those comments even though they failed to address many of the issues I raised in support of TEC utilizing an exclusively electronic (digital) Book of Common Prayer. Revising the Book of Common Prayer will require at least ten years from today. If next year’s General Convention (GC) appoints a task force or tasks an existing body to draft a revision, the 2021 GC might forward that draft to dioceses for comment, asking the body that drafted the revision to carefully consider those comments; the 2024 GC could then debate the revised draft, probably amending sections and perhaps authorizing trial use; if the trial enjoye

Some ideas on how to improve biblical literacy

In a previous Ethical Musings post I lamented the increase of biblical illiteracy. I was therefore encouraged to read an article in the most recent edition of the Hawaiian Chronicle by the Bishop of Hawaii, Bob Fitzpatrick, who happens to be my bishop. His article offers some practical ideas on how to improve biblical literacy. He also sketches the approach to prayer that he finds personally fulfilling. His article, reachable by following this link , is well worth reading.

For such a time as this ... an electronic prayer book

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer badly needs revision: It is sexist, e.g., in its presumption that clergy and God are male; It is exclusionary, e.g., the marriage rite is only for heterosexual couples; It is limited, as evidenced by the proliferation and popularity of authorized alternative liturgies. Others may add additional theological and liturgical reasons to that list. Printing a revised Book of Common Prayer is inadvisable: Many small congregations already struggle financially. Their having to replace the 1979 Book of Common Prayer with a revised book will only compound pre-existing financial problems. Determining the contents of a new prayer book might prove impossible or even a catalyst for schism as individuals and groups fight over what to include in a volume that by its various nature is both limited (e.g., a 2000 page book would be unmanageable) and static. The pace of social change is accelerating. Creating another static volume would probably re

It's time to resurrect the ancient discipline of self-control

Donald Trump’s lack of self-control, evident in his Tweeting, prompted some thoughts about self-control. For many centuries, Christian spiritual adepts regarded self-control as an essential and basic step for those who traveled the Jesus path. A similar emphasis on self-control is found in other major religious traditions. During the last seventy-five years, Christian theologians and ethicists have tended to ignore or downplay the importance of self-control. In preparing this post, I reviewed what the Bible has to say about self-control: The wisdom literature is explicit. Self-control is a basic virtue: * Like a city breached, without walls, is one who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28) * And if anyone loves righteousness, her labors are virtues; for she teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage; nothing in life is more profitable for mortals than these. (Wisdom of Solomon 8:7) Self-control is also a theme in Sirach as well as several other books in t

The sad diminishing of biblical literacy

By all accounts, biblical literacy is diminishing. Polls show that Americans have scant knowledge of the Old Testament and rather limited knowledge of the New Testament. I hear fewer biblical allusions and phrases in preaching today. And in casual conversations when I insert a biblical phrase, sometimes with the acknowledgement that I read it somewhere, my conversation partners appear baffled as to the phrase’s source. Indeed, a growing number appear unaware that I’ve quoted the phrase rather than devised it myself. As many Ethical Musings readers know, I am not a biblical literalist. I oppose teaching children, youth, or adults the Bible’s contents without also emphasizing that the Bible is neither a history nor science textbook. Instead, the Bible is a collection of stories, poems, parables, and other materials intended to convey a deeper wisdom about how to live abundantly by loving God and one’s neighbor. How can we increase biblical literacy? Read the Bible, one book at a