Monday, August 25, 2008

The Creed

In the August edition of Episcopal Life, Fr. Butcher, I will try to avoid the easy joke, says the Nicene Creed compromises the flow of the eucharistic liturgy. He suggests deleting it from the celebration. Creedal Christian has all the details and some well-reasoned commentary.

Yesterday at services, we heard a very good sermon from Fr. Ned Mulligan, the new chaplain at the St. George's School and a Priest Associate at St. Columba’s. The sermon started with a careful analysis of the “who do you say that I am” text. It then flowed into the need, we have, to know God through the scriptures. Fr. Mulligan also pointed to the Nicene Creed as a place to know God. Through the Creed, we find God, as revealed in the Bible. The Creed tells us who God is. From there, we seek understanding, belief and shift to proclamation.

I have in no way done justice to a very fine sermon.

But, I really like the notion that the Nicene Creed illustrates, for the eucharistic community, the identity of God. I mean this in no limited, container like sense, but in a way that points to the revealed nature of God. After we hear a sermon focused on a piece of scripture, it is important to hear the Creed and reflect on the bigger picture of God, as Trinity. If we parse the lines of the Creed, we find them rich with meaning. I think we are better served by examining the Nicene Creed for meaning, than calling it clunky and tossing it away. It is time for some teaching on the Creed.

Fr. Butcher, I wish you the best. Don’t carve up the liturgy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Real Christian President of the United States?

Andrew Sullivan gives us some food for thought. The question reminds me of Jon Meacham’s book, American Gospel.

Jon Meacham

Sullivan blog

Thursday, August 14, 2008


What is the Ultimate Authority in Matters of Faith


Bottom line is that Christians should submit to the leadership of their local church in so far as they are submitted to the word of God. That is why there should be a plurality of godly elders and not one sole “leader of the church.” One man can be easier led astray than a group of men. Once the elders begin to stray from the authority of the word of God, then it is up to the church body to rebuke their elders. It’s as simple as this: The word of God is inerrant and infallible. God’s word does not lie, nor when rightly understood does it lead astray. Men can, and often do, err. We make mistakes; we are neither inerrant nor infallible. Which would you rather have to be the rule for Christian living, fallible men or the infallible word of God? The choice is quite simple.


Inerrant and infallible are not terribly helpful terms, when considering the scriptures. The “doctrinal” arguments surrounding these terms are only a couple of hundred years old. They, probably, are more bound to the perceived threat of the Enlightenment and Modernism, than anything truly theological.

That said, the Bible is the ultimate authority in matters of faith, but not in a vacuum. It contains the revelation of God throughout history. The Bible is a record of God’s desire to be in a relationship with all facets of the created order, and the ups and downs in the unfolding process. The Bible communicates the love of God, most fully expressed, in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

It is the purview of the Church to interpret the scriptures. Often, the meaning of a text is quite clear. Sometimes, the truth within a passage is more obscure. Communities of faith, throughout history, have sought God through engagement with the scriptures. The Bible portrays witnesses that serve as examples of faithfulness and dedication to God. We see how the first followers of Jesus sought to proceed, in light of their experience and transformation, by virtue of his presence in their lives.

The scriptures provide a picture of the Christian life. We use the biblical witness to shape ours. Discussions of rules seem to be more about existential reassurance, to me. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a proper Christian person. There are boundaries, but isn’t the Christian enterprise about putting your life and hope in the hands of the living God?

I love the Bible, but it is not to be used as an infallible, inerrant rule. The Bible points beyond itself to the “real” ultimate authority, the living God.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Reuters Text

The Lead, an Episcopal blog, posted a story about Yale hosting a dialogue between Muslims and Christian scholars. The dialogue is intended to promote mutual understanding and peace. The conversation was initiated by mainstream Muslim Scholars. The link above contains all the details. I find it a hopeful development in the relationship between Muslims and Christians. I am surprised so little attention has been devoted to the gathering. It is a big deal, the first of this type. I often hear how we don’t hear from mainstream Islam. The lack of media attention to this very positive development in Muslim-Christian relations makes me wonder, what else we might have missed from mainstream Islam?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bishop Howe Writes His Clergy

This strikes me as sage advice. A document rarely conveys the sense of a gathering. Frankly, I don’t often publish sermon texts. A text loses so much from the moment of delivery.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Fourteenth Lambeth Conference has come to an end. The "Reflections Paper" I described to you yesterday has been released (all 44 pages of it!), and the Archbishop of Canterbury has just concluded his Third and Final Presidential Address, stating unambiguously that Jesus Christ is, indeed, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," and that we find our unity in him.

Shortly the "Reflections Paper" will be available online (Anglican Communion web site, also the Episcopal News Service web site).

In our Indaba group this morning we discussed our discomfort at the thought that this Paper might be read as if it had the character and (moral) authority of the Reports and Resolutions of previous Lambeth Conferences. We drafted a brief Introductory Statement that we wish to be attached to the Paper. (Note: this is the Statement of OUR group of 40 Bishops, not that of the Conference as a whole.)

Nevertheless, if you download (or otherwise receive) the "Reflections Paper" it would be my hope, personally, that you read it in the light of the following Introduction:

"The statement which follows cannot hope to capture the mood and experience of the Lambeth Conference 2008.

"Cold words are inadequate to express the quality and passion of the journey we have shared. We have listened intently to one another, we have laughed together and wept together. We have discovered in our Bible Study and Indaba Groups the kind of friendship and fellowship which is life-changing.

"This statement represents a distillation of insights and opinions, not from a single group but from 16 Indaba Groups and it therefore takes the form of a patchwork which no editorial process can make seamless without creating a garment that never existed.

"In order to read this document with appreciation you must allow yourself to imagine that you are in a safe space with others whom you have come to love and whose opinions you have grown to respect at the deepest level. Only the reader can breathe love, humor, tears, admiration, urgency and imagination into this document so that it can truly live, and so that the experiences that gave it birth can be seen to have animated our renewed relationships."

Again, my profound thanks to all of you for your prayerful support of the Bishops gathered here in Canterbury for the past three weeks.

Warmest regards in our Lord,

The Right Rev. John W. Howe
Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida