Archive for the ‘United Methodist Church–South Georgia Conference’ Category

Repentance, Part IV   2 comments

Above:  Ash Wednesday Cross

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For Ash Wednesday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made,

and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:

create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we,

worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,

may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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2 Corinthians 7:2-10

Matthew 6:16-21

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Seasons exist in nature.  That they exist in liturgical calendars makes sense, too.  It is a pattern as old as antiquity and present in Judaism and Christianity.

The focus of Lent is repentance, or, literally, turning around.  Traditionally, one is supposed to give up a bad habit, a food one needs to avoid, et cetera, or to take up a good habit.  We human beings are creatures of habit, so may we nurture positive ones.

Advent and Lent are the two preparatory seasons in Western Christianity.  During Advent one is supposed to prepare for the twelve days of Christmas.  Some of us take Advent and Christmas so seriously that we wait until nearly Christmas Eve to say “Merry Christmas,” then say “Merry Christmas” through January 5.  During Lent we are supposed to prepare for the fifty days of Easter.  I, with my United Methodist background, and Episcopalian affiliation, take Lent seriously while not mistaking it for a time to wear a hairshirt.  (Asceticism is not my spiritual path.)  I also observe the Easter season, all the way through the Day of Pentecost.

I propose taking on a task for Lent.  The details of the task properly vary from person to person, but it should work toward building up treasure in Heaven.  Choose one task, O reader, and complete it diligently, faithfully, and well.  May you emerge from Lent as a better person in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GREGOR, FATHER OF MORAVIAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI GABRIELI AND HANS LEO HASSLER, COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI AND HEINRICH SCHUTZ, COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

THE FEAST OF THEOPHANE VENARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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The Tribe of Alleged Heretics and/or Apostates   Leave a comment

Above:  My Heretic Shirt

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Although some have accused me of apostasy, I am not an apostate.  And, despite allegations of heresy, I do not consider myself a heretic.

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) defines apostasy as

a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.

The same reference work, noting that “heresy” derives from Greek and Latin words for choosing, defines heresy as

opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, esp. of a church or religious system.

Doctrinal purity tests generally irk me.  One reason is that I fail them.  I know enough ecclesiastical history to state confidently that, within the Western Christian tradition alone, the Roman Catholic magisterium has redefined aspects of orthodoxy more than once.  One might point to the case of Origen (185-254), one of the Ante-Nicene Fathers.  He was orthodox, especially with regard to Trinitarian theology, during his lifetime.  After the First Council of Nicaea (325), however, he became a heretic of the ex post facto variety.  Furthermore, many of the items on doctrinal purity tests are not key to salvation.  My rejection of the Virgin Birth, therefore, should not marginalize me theologically.

I have always been intrinsically intellectual.  The dominant form of Christianity around me during my formative years was anti-intellectual, reactionary, Pietistic, and revivalistic Protestantism.  It never fit me.  I have also always been an introvert.  Thus the contemplative traditions of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have appealed to me.  Also, the extroversion typical of Evangelicalism has alienated me from Evangelicalism.  No, ritualism, contemplation, and dispassionate intellectualism have defined my spirituality.

Recently I have heard, in close quarters, condemnations of my “apostate” Episcopal Church.  I have rejected the adjective, of course.

If, however, the reasons for the allegation of apostasy are related to ecclesiastical support for social justice, I embrace the label of “apostate” as a badge of pride.  Yes, I support full civil rights for all human beings, including homosexuals.  I reject homophobia, for I recognize the image of God in people, many of whom are quite different from me.  Yes, I favor the ordination of women.  Equality via the Holy Spirit is a wonderful lesson to learn from many strands of Christian tradition.  I understand that these positions are, according to many of my fellow Christians, heretical, if not apostate.  So be it.  I can do no other.

Various mysteries of the universe perplex me.  One of these is why, in the name of Jesus Christ, so many self-defined conservative Christians adopt political positions that would make Atilla the Hun look like a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by comparison.  In this context I feel comfortable claiming the tribe of alleged heretics and/or apostates as my own.  In so doing I identify with Jesus, friend of outsiders.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NARCISSUS, ARGEUS, AND MARCELLINUS OF TOMI, ROMAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ODILO OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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A Question of Balance   Leave a comment

Above:  Balance Scale

Photographer = Andreas Praefcke

Image in the Public Domain

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[Jesus] called the people to him and said, “Listen, and understand.  What goes into the mouth does not make anyone unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes someone unclean.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

I remember a single-cell cartoon depicting a man standing before St. Simon Peter at the Pearly Gates.  The caption reads,

No, that is not a sin either.  You must have worried yourself to death.

Recently I have renewed my interest in Scandinavian-American Lutheran history.  I have therefore been reading in that field.  These volumes have covered topics including Pietism, complete with its condemnation of indulging appetites and engaging in “worldly amusements,” such as dancing, drinking tea, playing cards, playing chess, attending plays, attending fairs and circuses, and reading works of fiction.  I have remembered an old joke:

Q:  Why don’t fundamentalists have sex standing up?

A:  It might lead to dancing.

Pietism and Puritanism are two unfortunate -isms that overlap with regard to denunciations of “worldly amusements.”  Pietism, which originated within Lutheranism then spread beyond it, dates to the 1600s, as a reaction against excessively abstract theology in preaching.  Pietism rejects the definition of the church as the assembly of hose called by both word and sacraments and redefines the church as the gathering of the spiritually reborn.  Pietism also de-emphasizes doctrine and stresses deeds–many of them laudible acts of charity and general decency and honest piety.  Unfortunately, Pietism also bends toward legalism and de-emphasizes the sacraments and rituals (referring scornfully to “externals”), tends toward serial contrarianism with regard to “the world,” and is Donatistic.  A Pietist contrasts deeds and doctrines.  I rebut that deeds reveal doctrines.  As we think, so we are.  That which we are inside cannot help but be evident outside.

I affirm the following statements:

  1. What we do matters.
  2. What we do not do matters.
  3. What we believe (give intellectual assent to) matters.
  4. None of the above can save any of us from the consequences of our sins.
  5. Faithful response to God is vital.
  6. Legalism is spiritually detrimental.
  7. Salvation is a gift.  It is free, not cheap.

The allegation of works-based righteousness is a cudgel many Protestants use against Roman Catholicism.  This reality indicates a misapprehension of Roman Catholic theology.  Yes, many Roman Catholics have a sense of works-based righteousness, but so do many Protestants.  I, who grew up a United Methodist in the South Georgia Conference, recall some children’s sermons delivered by laypeople whose theology included works-based righteousness.  I know well that the doctrinal standards of that denomination reject works-based righteousness.  For many Protestants of various theological categories affirming orthodoxy becomes a means of salvation.  Salvation from damnation therefore becomes a matter of knowledge.  This is an error–a sort of Gnosticism, to be precise.  Furthermore, an obsession with personal peccadilloes becomes an excuse for giving short shrift to or ignoring collective responsibility for societal and social ills.  So yes, one might cheat one’s employees and oppose policies that would penalize one for doing so and prevent one from doing so, but one rarely uses profanity and never cheats on one’s spouse.  The Bible says more about the exploitation of people than about sexual activities, however, so such a one needs to rethink one’s priorities.  Anyhow, even the most moral life, measured by kindness, cannot save one from damnation.

In both Judaism and Christianity the law of love is paramount.  So, O reader, leave the world better than you found it.  God will save it, but your faithful response is to act positively.  Also, go ahead and enjoy your life.  Enjoy a good dance, if you wish.  Watch movies, from harmless popcorn flicks to profound art films.  (Italian Neorealism has enriched my life recently.)  Why not relish a well-written novel or short story?  Lose yourself in a symphony or other work of great music.

Finally, brothers, let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honourable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire–and whatever is good and praiseworthy.

–Philippians 4:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The “worldly” in “worldly amusements” is not necessarily negative.  Yes, one should avoid much that one can find to amuse oneself, but many of the options are laudable.  Playing chess is beneficial for one’s mind.  Antioxidents in tea are good for us.  Idle hands are not necessarily the Devil’s workshop, for we need to rest and play as well as work.  God has given us life;  may we enjoy it and thank God frequently.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Psalm 119:145-176   5 comments

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POST LII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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This is the last of five posts on Psalm 119 in this series.  The first is here.  The second is here.  The third is here.  The fourth is here.

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Let me live, that I may praise You;

may Your rules be my help.

–Psalm 119:175, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Interestingly, in verse 175 the psalmist does not pray,

may You be my help

or

You are my help.

No, the author of Psalm 119 emphasizes the rules, which he describes as worthy of learning (verse 7), delightful (verse 16), his intimate companions (verse 24), just and eternal (verse 160), et cetera.  Also, love of the torah replaces love of God in the psalm.  This use of torah is mystical; God’s words have saving power.  Yet the psalmist also seeks divine deliverance throughout the text, as in verse 176:

I have strayed like a  lost sheep;

search for Your servant,

for I have not neglected Your commandments.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

A note in The Jewish Study Bible suggests that I contrast 119:176 with Psalm 44:18:

All this has come upon us,

yet we have not forgotten You,

or been false to Your covenant.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Note, O reader, what the psalmists have not forgotten or neglected:  “You” (God), in the case of Psalm 44, and “Your commandments,” in the case of Psalm 119.

All of his is fascinating reading for me, an Episcopalian who grew up as a United Methodist.  The sentiment of Psalm 44:18 (“we have not forgotten You”) comes naturally to me.  However, the attachment to the rules in Psalm 119 does not.  Nevertheless, the legal emphasis of Psalm 119 makes sense in its postexilic setting, given the teaching that neglecting those commandments had led to two exiles and the lost of ten tribes.

As for the straying of the psalmist in 119:176, how has he strayed, if indeed he has not neglected divine commandments?  The text does not explain.  Somehow he finds himself lost, or more precise, perishing.  Those enemies to whom he has been referring remain.  The psalmist acknowledges that he and all faithful people find their deliverance via grace, not the keeping of the rules.

St. Paul the Apostle agreed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Humility, Community, and Christian Liberty   1 comment

Above:   The Parsonage of Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia, 1980-1982

Photograph by John Dodson Taylor, III

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Jeremiah 28:1-4, 10-17

Psalm 119:65-72

Romans 14:13-23

John 7:45-52

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The difference between a true prophet and a false one becomes evident after he or she has prophesied.  For example, if he or she states that X will happen and the opposite of X happens, he or she is a false prophet.  That is the standard Jeremiah cites in Jeremiah 28 with regard to Hananiah.  Jeremiah, however, does not judge Hananiah; God does that.

The theme of humility unites the assigned readings for this day.  Jeremiah is sufficiently humble to leave judgment to God.  The Psalmist is humble before God.  Certain Pharisees–Nicodemus excepted–manifest a lack of humility toward Jesus and the possibility of him being the Messiah and of God.  St. Paul the Apostle urges humility toward each other.

I recall that, in June 1980-June 1982, when my father was the pastor of the Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia, I was not to play in the yard on Sunday afternoons because, as my father said, someone might get the wrong idea.  That was ridiculous, of course.  God gave us the Sabbath as a blessing, not as a time to ponder dourly what we ought not to do.  Besides, anyone who would have taken offense at me getting exercise and fresh air in the yard on Sunday afternoons should have removed the pole from his or her rectum.  Doing so would have made siting down more comfortable for such a person.

If we permit others to prevent us from doing too much for the sake of avoiding causing offense, we will do little or nothing.  Then what good will we be?  Nevertheless, I understand the principle that we, living in community as we do, are responsible to and for each other.  We ought to live with some respect for certain responsibilities without losing the proper balance between self-restraint and Christian liberty.  Busy bodies should attend to their own business.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:   THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DELPHINUS OF BORDEAUX, AMANDUS OF BORDEAUX, SEVERINUS OF BORDEAUX, VENERIUS OF MILAN, AND CHROMATIUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ANSON DODGE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/devotion-for-proper-18-ackerman/

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Vindication, Part II   1 comment

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Vindication

JUNE 17, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 38:1-26

Psalm 35:19-25

Acts 5:1-11

Matthew 12:43-45

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In June 1996 my father became the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in rural Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading and discussing the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  I recall that, on the Sunday morning after they had read and discussed Chapter 37, the teacher skipped directly to Chapter 39.

Genesis 38 is a hot potato.  What are we to make of a story that approves of a childless widow pretending to be a pagan temple prostitute, seducing her father-in-law, and becoming pregnant with twins, his children?  Judah (the father-in-law) understands the deception by Tamar (the widow) as justified, per the rules governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  As Professor Amy-Jill Levine says, we must accept that people did things differently then.

The author of Psalm 35 prays for divine vindication against enemies.  Perhaps that mindset informs the treatment of the selfish people (struck dead by God) in Acts 5.  The sense of grievance certainly informs Matthew 12:43-45, which literally demonizes Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus.  One can reasonably imagine members of a marginalized Jewish Christian community demonizing the non-Christian Jews circa 85 C.E.

The desire for divine vindication can be legitimate.  Yet may we who seek vindication never surrender to hatred and thereby become as those who seek to harm us or otherwise deny us that which is rightfully ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-proper-6-ackerman/

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Reflections on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of My Confirmation   Leave a comment

bulletin-december-22-1991

Above:  Cover of the Bulletin, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, Georgia, December 22, 1991

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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On the morning of December 22, 1991, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, I became an Episcopalian.  The Right Reverend Harry Woolston Shipps (who died recently), then the Bishop of Georgia, confirmed me.  Officially I retained membership in The United Methodist Church until the following Autumn, on the occasion of the 1992 Charge Conference of the Sumner Charge (four congregations at the time).  Indeed, I remained substantially a Methodist for a long time, but I had begun to think of myself as an Episcopalian prior to my confirmation at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, Georgia.

I have become convinced that I was supposed to become an Episcopalian, for the affiliation is a natural fit for me.  I am, after all, somewhat Roman Catholic while retaining many Protestant influences. Ritual appeals to me strongly also.  Furthermore, The Episcopal Church grants me a wide berth to respect certain traditions, break with other traditions, bring my intellect to bear on my spiritual life, disagree peaceably with many people, and be an introvert without feeling out-of-place.  Evangelicalism, as I have experienced it, is relentlessly extroverted.  That is not an inherently negative characteristic, but the manner in which many extroverts fail to respect the value of introversion and therefore marginalize introverts is unfortunate.  Indeed, personality typing helps to explain why certain denominations and styles of prayer are preferable to some people but not others.  That which feeds one person starves another.

I have never looked back from my choice to become an Episcopalian.  As I have become more liberal in some ways, more conservative in others, and incorporated Lutheran theology into my thought, I have become a different type of Episcopalian than I was in 1991.  My faith life is a work in progress; I wonder how it will proceed as I continue from day to day.  The Episcopalian way of being simply makes sense to me.  Since I moved to Athens, Georgia, in August 2005, I have dwelt spiritually primarily at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  I have also frequented two university chaplaincies (Episcopalian and Presbyterian U.S.A.), attended services at First Presbyterian Church and Holy Cross Lutheran Church, engaged in community volunteering at one Presbyterian U.S.A. and two United Methodist congregations, participated in a performance of the first part off Handel’s Messiah at Oconee Presbyterian Church (Watkinsville), and attended community functions at four other churches (Disciples of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Assemblies of God, and non-denominational Charismatic) in the area.  Furthermore, I have attended a diocesan gathering at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, without ever entering a worship space there.  The fact that I seldom want to attend services in another denomination demonstrates the fact that I have found my niche.  Why should I seek another place?  Nevertheless, I am agreeable to ecumenical engagements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK AND WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, FIRST ANGLICAN NATIVE PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA; MISSIONARY TO THE CREE NATION

THE FEAST OF JAMES PRINCE LEE, BISHOP OF MANCHESTER

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