The Episcopal Church 101

The Social Contract

Good afternoon everyone. I hope that this new year finds you healthy and hopeful. I would like to spend a few minutes talking about the social contract under which we live and the relationship of organized religion with that contract.


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God’s Preferential Option for the Poor

In a recent interview, actor George Clooney was asked what he hoped he would give to his children as a legacy. He said that he hoped they would stand up to and challenge those in power and help those who had no power. This desire strongly reflects God’s preferential option for the poor.


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St. John of the Cross

I thought it was odd today in Morning Prayer to read about the betrayal of Jesus when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then I read the “Commemoration” which is a day on the church calendar when we remember the lives and witnesses of various people ancient and modern. Today, we remember Juan de Ypres y Alvarez who was born in Spain in 1542 during a period when the Protestant Reformation was ramping up in northern Europe and England.


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New Church Plant on an Old Church

 
Today we commemorate the life of Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the Jesuits in the early 1500s. He was also an extraordinary missionary who by some estimates, converted and baptized hundreds of thousands of people. When I review his biography, I feel inspired and awed. He traveled to India, Ceylon, and Japan. He learned the language in each country, translated scripture and taught classes to convert people to Christianity. He turned Christian doctrines into jaunty jingles in the local languages that everybody loved and memorized like we know popular songs today.
 

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Wee Bookies

No, we are not talking about diminutive odds makers. These are short little books of the Church of England Eucharist as it was celebrated in Scotland by “nonjuring” Anglicans in the 17th and 18th century. Key portions of the Scottish “Wee Bookies” were included in the American Book of Common Prayer. How this happened is part of our heritage.


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Monasticism

A friend told me the other day that he was so isolated, he might as well join the monastery. So, perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on what is often called the “religious movement” or monasticism.


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Richard Hooker (d 3 Nov 1600) and the Three-Legged Stool

Every good Episcopal or Church of England seminarian is required, sooner or later, to read Richard Hooker’s five-volume series, “Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polite” (completed 1597). The prose is turgid, dense, and academic. The tomes pose a critique of the raging Puritanism at the time. His sermons and teachings offered reasoned, heavily informed reason against the Puritans with their doctrines of predestination and exclusionary notions of salvation. (Note that some of these controversies are still with us today.)


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The Office of Government Relations

The Episcopal Church occupies some pricey real estate. The “Church Center” of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America (PECUSA is our official name) is located at 815 Second Avenue, NY just behind the United Nations. We own the eleven-story building. Some of the floors are looking for new tenants as the church has shrunk since the building was built in 1963 at the peak of Episcopal Church membership nationwide. This is where the Presiding Bishop’s office is located.


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Martyrs

The Greek root of the English word “martyr” is “martyrion” or “witness” in the legal sense. Most Protestants shy away from the concept of martyrs, believing it is some kind of Roman Catholic heresy – it isn’t. Jerome and Gregory wrote about it in the fourth century, and an early, Irish homily (the “Cambrai Homily[1]”) from the seventh century divides martyrs into three colors – Red, White and Green.


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Shield the Joyous

The Book of Common Prayer includes seven daily prayer “offices.”  They are not really services because you can say them by yourself. They are spaced out during the day from the wee, dark hours before sunrise until bedtime. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions have similar cycles of daily prayer. Scholars have found that Jewish practice at the time of Jesus was like this as well. Interestingly, the Muslims are called to prayer five times each day.


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