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


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

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor


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.









“Everything Else Is Commentary.”–Hillel   1 comment

Above:  A Torah Scroll

Image Source = Merlin


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Romans 2:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

You have no defence, then, whoever you may be, when you sit in judgement–for in judging others you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, are equally guilty.  We all know that God’s judgement on those who commit such crimes is just; and do you imagine–you that pass judgement on the guilty while committing the same crimes yourself–do you imagine that you, any more than they, will escape the judgement of God?  Or do you despise the the wealth of kindness and tolerance and patience, failing to see that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  In the obstinate impenitence of your heart you are laying up for yourself a store of retribution against the day of retribution, when God’s just judgement will be revealed, and he will pay everyone for what he has done.  To those who pursue glory, honour, and immortality by steady persistence in well-doing, he will give eternal life; but the retribution of his wrath awaits those who are governed by selfish ambition, who refuse obedience to truth and take evil for their guide.  There will be affliction and distress for every human being who is a wrongdoer, for the Jew first and the Greek also; but for everyone who does right there will be glory, honour, and peace, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  God has no favourites.

Psalm 62:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

from him comes my salvation.

2  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

3  How long will you assail me to crush me,

all of you together,

as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?

4  They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor;

lies are their chief delight.

5  They bless with their lips,

but in their hearts they curse.

6  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

Luke 11:42-46 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and rue and every garden herb, but neglect justice and the love of God.  It is these you should have practised, without overlooking the others.

Alas for you Pharisees!  You love to have the chief seats in synagogues, and to be greeted respectfully in the street.

Alas, alas, you who are like unmarked graves, which people walk over unawares.

At this one of the lawyers said,

Teacher, when you say things like this you are insulting us too.

Jesus rejoined,

Alas for you lawyers also!  You load men with intolerable burdens, and will not lift a finger to lighten the load.


The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Numbers 19:16 reads:

In the open, anyone who touches someone killed with a weapon or someone killed with a weapon or touches a human bone or a grave, is unclean for seven days.

This applied especially to those who did this accidentally.  This detail matters because Jesus refers to it in Luke 11:44, the verse about walking over an unmarked grave.  The Pharisees and their accompanying experts in the Law of Moses were bad influences even if they did not wake up each day plotting how to be bad influences, Jesus said.  They were certainly sincere, but they were sincerely wrong and destructive.

They were so because they became and remained lost in the details.  They had reduced morality to a checklist when it is more a matter of proper attitudes.  The details tend to fall into place when one has proper priorities.  If I say, for example, that I will endeavor, with the help of God, to do unto others as I would want them to do unto me, I do not need to carry a checklist of forbidden and acceptable actions.  ”Is it lawful?” is not a question on which I need to spend much time when love of my neighbor defines my actions.

This is a profoundly Jewish attitude.  The great Rabbi Hillel, who died when Jesus was a young man, once fielded a question from a scoffer who demanded a very brief summary of the Torah–one he could listen to in its entirely while standing on one foot.  Hillel’s replied with the Golden Rule, to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.  He continued,

Everything else is commentary.  Now, if you’re really interested, to and study the commentary.

It is vital that, when studying the commentary, one ought not forget the main idea, which is the Golden Rule.  One can be a wrongdoer while trying to do that which is moral.  I think of many of my Antebellum Southern forebears in the Christian faith, who used the Bible to defend chattel slavery, a dehumanizing institution.  Then, after the Civil War and through the Civil Rights Movement, many professing Christians used many old pro-slavery arguments to support de jure segregation.  They looked at the details–the commentary–but did not stay focused on the main idea, the Golden Rule.  The commentary contains many useful ideas about how to observe the Golden Rule, but one can pervert and twist the commentary and contradict the Golden Rule easily and without trying to do so.

Sometimes our cultural, subcultural, and religious programming blinds us to our sins.  Other times we blind ourselves to our sins out of selfish interests.  Yet the guiding principle, which is the Golden Rule, remains clear and succinct.  Why are so many of us so confused so much of the time?

Yet, as James 1:27 reads,

A pure and faultless religion in the sight of God the Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in trouble and to keep oneself untarnished by the world.

This is all the checklist I need.  ”Is it lawful?” If it cares effectively for the vulnerable, it is.  If not, it is not.  If it values people more than possessions and other forms of wealth, it is lawful.  If it does not, it is not.  As Saint Laurence of Rome understood well, the poor are treasure of the Church.








Adapted from this post:


The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities I   2 comments

Above:  Clouds at Sunset

Image Source = Fir0002



Isaiah 40:21-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to live in;

who brings princes to naught,

and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,

scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

when he blows upon them, and they wither,

and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me?

or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

My way is hidden from the LORD,

and my right is disregarded by my God?

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 147:1-12, 21c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hallelujah!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!

how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2  The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;

he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3  He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

4  He counts the number of the stars

and call s them all by their names.

5  Great is our LORD and mighty in power;

there is no limit to his wisdom.

6  The LORD lifts up the lowly,

but casts the wicked to the ground.

7  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;

make music to our God upon the harp.

8  He covers the heavens with clouds

and prepares the rain for the earth;

9  He makes grass to grow upon the mountains

and green plants to serve mankind.

10  He provides food for flocks and herds

and for the young ravens when they cry.

11  He is not impressed by the might of a horse;

he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12  But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who await his gracious favor.

21c  Hallelujah!

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this on my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  When then is my reward?  Just this:  that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free if charge, as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Mark 1:29-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.  Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered around the door.  And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  When they found him, they said to him,

Everyone is searching for you.

He answered,

Let us go on to the neighboring towns , so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.

And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

Isaiah 40:

Mark 1:


In the Autumn of 1991, during my first quarter at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, my father was the newly appointed pastor the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  I did not know it yet, but I was on the cusp of converting to The Episcopal Church, which I did at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, on December 22, 1991.  (  In the meantime, however, I was still a United Methodist.  One Sunday morning, while teaching adult Sunday School, I offended someone by accident.

You, O reader, might wonder what terrible thing I said, what utterly offensive comment I made.  I will tell you.  I was discussing grace, especially the prevenient variety, by which God brings us into the Christian fold.  God does beckon us, after all.  I offered a scenario:  God is beckoning a non-Christian man, who responds favorably and obediently to God’s prevenient grace yet dies before making a profession of faith.  Does the man go to Heaven or to Hell?  In other words, will God be faithful to this man, who had responded favorably to him?  Most people said that the man would go to Heaven.  But two visitors, a daughter and son-in-law of a member, said that he would go to Hell, for he had not made a profession of faith and been baptized yet.  I made clear in a polite and civilized way, in a pleasant and conversational tone, and free of any insult or hint thereof, that I disagreed.

That was my offense.  I disagreed.  I learned after the fact that the visitors had taken offense.  I was unapologetic then, as I remain, for another person’s thin theological skin is not my responsibility.

And I remain convinced that we human beings ought to admit that the only limits on grace and divine forgiveness are those God imposes on them, and that only God knows what those limits are.  Or, as David said in 2 Samuel 24:14,

…let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.  (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Grace is of the essence.  With that summary, let us work through the readings for this Sunday.

The lesson from Isaiah 40 predicts the liberation of Jews from the Babylonian Exile.  This is a chapter of comfort, as it begins with these words:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

(Isaiah 40:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

The God of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 147 is the Creator, the judge who also shows mercy, looks favorably upon the faithful, and is infinitely wise.  The chapter, which begins with “…comfort my people,” ends with the promise that God will grant “power to the faint.”

That power enabled Paul the Apostle to persist faithfully through death threats, beatings, imprisonments, and a shipwreck, all the way until an employee of the Roman Empire cut his head off.  Grace moved Paul from the “right side of the law” and placed him in risky situations.  This was not cheap grace, that which demands nothing of one and is therefore useless.  No, it was costly grace–free in so far as Paul received it freely–but costly in terms of what it demanded of him.  The restrictions of Torah law no longer applied to him, but the law of the love of Christ demanded his all.

Jesus, of course, was perfect as well as fully human and fully divine.  Yet even he needed to get away, find quiet time, and pray.  A day full of healing will take a great deal out of a Messiah, I suppose.  He was grace incarnate.  It was Christ whom Paul preached and followed from his conversion to his execution.  It is Jesus whom we ought to follow, if we are not doing so already, and to whom God beckons people.

And if even Jesus needed to be quiet and to pray, how much more do we need to do these?  I live in a technology-soaked society, where many people are never really “away from it all” (except when sleeping) because somebody can contact them the rest of the time.  This is not healthy.  We need to nourish ourselves with peace, quiet, and God.  Otherwise, we will nothing constructive to offer anyone else.

Paul had a vocation as an evangelist and ultimately a martyr.  I have my vocation, and you, O reader, have yours.  The details of our vocations will vary according to various factors, but the principle is the same:  to glorify God, to be a light of God to others, to encourage our fellow Christians in their discipleship, to attract others to our Lord and Savior, to understand that there is no distinction between evangelism and positive social action.  As Shirwood Eliot Wirt, a close associate of Billy Graham wrote in the final chapter of The Social Conscience of the Evangelical (1968):

James was not wrong when he demanded that Christians show their faith by their works.  Jesus Christ was not wrong when he told his listeners in effect to stop sitting on their hands and to get to work doing God’s will.  He did not come to earth to split theological hairs, but to minister to a world in need and to save men out of it for eternity.  It is time the air is cleared.  To pit social action against evangelism is to raise a phony issue, one that Jesus would have spiked in a sentence.  He commanded his disciples to spread the Good News, and to let their social concern be made manifest through the changed lives of persons of ultimate worth.  (Page 154)

If I love my neighbor as I love myself, I cannot say honestly that I do not care about the injustice he or she endures, that he or she does not earn a living wage, that a flawed justice system convicted and sent him or her to prison unjustly, that he or she suffers under the weight of undue stigma, et cetera.  Grace demands me to care about all this and to act accordingly as well as whether my neighbor has a positive, growing relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. These are some of my responsibilities.  They are also yours.

God’s hands are my hands–and yours.  God’s voice is my voice–and yours.  May they be useful and eloquent, respectively.





Adapted from this post:


Reflections Upon the Eighteenth Anniversary of My Confirmation   1 comment

On December 22, 1991, at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, Georgia, I entered The Episcopal Church.

St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, Georgia

(Image from the former website of the parish)

This confirmation would have surprised me even six months previous, when I was a contented United Methodist.  Yet the passage of time can bring surprises, as it did to me in 1991, the year I graduated from high school, began my first quarter of college, and chose the denomination to which I wanted to belong.

In June 1991 my family and I left the Alapaha United Methodist Church, Alapaha, Georgia (of which he was pastor in 1989-1991).  Alapaha UMC was where I had chosen which activities in which to participate–in other words, where I began to make mature choices about my religious life.  And I was content there.  The new appointment, the four-point Sumner Charge (Sumner, Damascus, Shingler, and Ty Ty) did not suit me, however, so I began to look elsewhere.

Alapaha United Methodist Church, Alapaha, Georgia, Easter Sunday, 1991

(Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor)

Growing up, I craved more frequent Holy Communion.  Also, having a Protestant upbringing yet possessing keen interests in Roman Catholicism and church history, The Episcopal Church was a natural fit.  And I have remained active and content within this denomination since.

As I look back after all these years (It does not feel like that many!), I recognize that I made a wise choice in 1991.  The Episcopal Church provides ample room to explore the best of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, the border of which Anglicanism straddles.  Over the years my Protestant-Roman Catholic balance has shifted several times.  Currently it is moving into the Lutheran-Reformed zone, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is my first back-up choice for an affiliation if I am ever unfortunate enough to find myself stuck in a reactionary corner of The Episcopal Church.  (There are fewer of them than there used to be, but some persist.)  Spending quality time with the Lutheran Book of Concord and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Confessions has convinced me of certain merits of Lutheran and Reformed Christianity.  I have come to accept Single Predestination, for example, so I can no longer be a Methodist, for Methodism rejects predestination.

(Yet, despite certain Protestant proclivities, I carry many Roman Catholic tendencies, as well.  I say the “Hail Mary,” for example.)

Another issue that attracted me to The Episcopal Church and keeps me there is liturgy.  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) orders worship reverently and beautifully.  One year sooner or later another BCP  will supercede it, and that will be fine.  Prayer books should be icons–through which we see God–not idols–which we worship in lieu of God.  A danger inherent in religion is the ossification of  traditions.  Thus, in the Episcopal context, Prayer Book revision becomes an occasion for many uncharitable comments, sentiments, and actions.  This in unfortunate and wrong.  Rather, I prefer living, flexible traditions that link us to the past yet can change to take us into the future.

As I complete these 18 years I look ahead to the future of my faith journey.  Where will it take me?  Time will tell, and I am optimistic.


DECEMBER 20, 2009