Goodbye Baby Blue

Mary Ailes died today. She was one of the pioneers of Anglican blogging who was in the thick of things from Truro in Virginia, in the early days of CANA. To me it feels like yesterday but it is quickly fading into the past. I met her in person once and she was a kind soul. I am thankful for her work in proving that blogs could be a great source of news, something that we have gone backwards on I fear. Her blog is available at:

https://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/

and

https://babyblueonline.org/

In the midst of life we are in death…

C.S. Lewis on Prayer Book Revision

Source: Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

And that brings me back to my starting point. The business of us laymen is simply to endure and make the best of it. Any tendency to a passionate preference for one type of service must be regarded simply as a temptation. Partisan “Churchmanships” are my bête noire. And if we avoid them, may we not possibly perform a very useful function? The shepherds go off, “every one to his own way” and vanish over diverse points of the horizon. If the sheep huddle patiently together and go on bleating, might they finally recall the shepherds? (Haven’t English victories sometimes been won by the rank and file in spite of the generals?)

As to the words of the service—liturgy in the narrower sense—the question is rather different. If you have a vernacular liturgy you must have a changing liturgy; otherwise it will finally be vernacular only in name. The ideal of “timeless English” is sheer nonsense. No living language can be timeless. You might as well ask for a motionless river.

I think it would have been best, if it were possible, that necessary change should have occurred gradually and (to most people) imperceptibly; here a little and there a little; one obsolete word replaced 15 in a century—like the gradual change of spelling in successive editions of Shakespeare. As things are we must reconcile ourselves, if we can also reconcile government, to a new Book.

If we were—I thank my stars I’m not—in a position to give its authors advice, would you have any advice to give them? Mine could hardly go beyond unhelpful cautions: “Take care. It is so easy to break eggs without making omelettes.”

Already our liturgy is one of the very few remaining elements of unity in our hideously divided Church. The good to be done by revision needs to be very great and very certain before we throw that away. Can you imagine any new Book which will not be a source of new schism?

Most of those who press for revision seem to wish that it should serve two purposes: that of modernising the language in the interests of intelligibility, and that of doctrinal improvement. Ought the two operations—each painful and each dangerous—to be carried out at the same time? Will the patient survive?

What are the agreed doctrines which are to be embodied in the new Book and how long will agreement on them continue? I ask with trepidation because I read a man the other day who seemed to wish that everything in the old Book which was inconsistent with orthodox Freudianism should be deleted. 16

For whom are we to cater in revising the language? A country parson I know asked his sexton what he understood by indifferently in the phrase “truly and indifferently administer justice”. The man replied, “It means making no difference between one chap and another.” “And what would it mean if it said impartially?” asked the parson. “Don’t know. Never heard of it,” said the sexton. Here, you see, we have a change intended to make things easier. But it does so neither for the educated, who understand indifferently already, nor for the wholly uneducated, who don’t understand impartially. It helps only some middle area of the congregation which may not even be a majority. Let us hope the revisers will prepare for their work by a prolonged empirical study of popular speech as it actually is, not as we (a priori) assume it to be. How many scholars know (what I discovered by accident) that when uneducated people say impersonal they sometimes mean incorporeal?

What of expressions which are archaic but not unintelligible? (“Be ye lift up”). I find that people re-act to archaism most diversely. It antagonises some: makes what is said unreal. To others, not necessarily more learned, it is highly numinous and a real aid to devotion. We can’t please both.

I know there must be change. But is this the right moment? Two signs of the right moment occur to me. One would be a unity among us which enabled 17 the Church—not some momentarily triumphant party—to speak through the new work with a united voice. The other would be the manifest presence, somewhere in the Church, of the specifically literary talent needed for composing a good prayer. Prose needs to be not only very good but very good in a very special way, if it is to stand up to reiterated reading aloud. Cranmer may have his defects as a theologian; as a stylist, he can play all the moderns, and many of his predecessors, off the field. I don’t see either sign at the moment.

Yet we all want to be tinkering. Even I would gladly see “Let your light so shine before men” removed from the offertory. It sounds, in that context, so like an exhortation to do our alms that they may be seen by men.

LLDM history

I first heard of La Luz del Mundo (LLDM) in 2018 when someone told me about a group trying to buy land in Flowery Branch, Georgia, which was creating controversy. Knowing nothing about them, I started doing some research. One great source of information I found was Native Evangelism In Central Mexico by Hugo and Jean Nutini. The basic history of the sect is as follows.

The Spanish La Luz del Mundo means “the Light of the World” in English.[1] The sect was founded in 1926 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. The founder was a man named Eusebio Joaquín González.

Eusebio Joaquín González, aka Aarón

González was baptized by two Pentecostal prophets going by the names of Saulo and Silas, who had themselves converted to a sect founded by Carmen Valenzuela who became a Pentecostal while in Los Angeles. When González was baptized he was named Abraham, however, on April 6, 1926, “he heard God tell him, “Here is a man whose name will be Aarón.” The clamor made him tremble, and, being very disturbed by this, he awakened his wife, who said she had heard nothing. Eusebio Joaquín went back to sleep, and a thundering celestial vision told him, “Your name will be Aarón.” He saw a hand with the index finger pointing at him. With a great splash of brilliance, the celestial vision told him again, “Your name will be Aarón, and your blessed name will be known and famous throughout the world.”[2]

González/Abraham/Aarón moved to Guadalajara, Jalisco where he tried out the Baptist and Congregational churches but eventually moved on to start his own church. As the church grew, “…Eusebio Joaquín realized that he had not been properly baptized by Saulo and Silas, who had done so in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but not in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. On July 18, 1927, he baptized himself by total immersion and took the name of Aarón, as henceforth he was referred to by his followers.”[3]

Mary Puckett describes what happened next: “In 1954, Apostle Aarón, founder and first Apostle of the Luz del Mundo (LDM), was granted a tract of land from the government of Guadalajara to establish a colony reserved for LDM members. Securing this grant was made possible thanks to Aarón’s indigenous Mexican background and the church’s origins in Mexico. The LDM was posited as an authentically Mexican church in contrast to the Catholic Church, accused of participating in the widespread government corruption which had inspired the Mexican Revolution. In return for the grant, the LDM agreed to contribute to the development of Mexico’s infrastructure…”[4]

Aarón died in 1964, and his son Samuel Joaquín succeeded him as the next apostle.

References

1.The full name is the Church of the Living God, Foundation, and Support of the Truth (La Iglesia del Dios Vivo Columna y Apoyo de la Verdad), abbreviated to La Luz del Mundo.
2.Amatulli Valente 1989:7–8 cited in Nutini, Hugo G.. Native Evangelism in Central Mexico (pp. 74-75).
3.Nutini p. 75.
4.Puckett, p. 10.

Catholic corruption

The latest ongoing news out of the Roman Catholic Church about systemic sexual abuse have shattered any remaining good-will I had for that institution. On the theological front nothing has changed from the days of the Reformation and the critiques of the Reformers with regard to idolatry, superstition and justification. Sexual immorality amongst the clergy is not a new phenomenon, as Richard Sipe pointed out:

The first recorded church legislation about sex and sexual violations took place in 309 CE at a council of the Spanish churches in Elvira. (Laeuchli, 1972) It produced 81 canons; 38 had to do with sexual behavior. Priests and clerics, even if they were married, had to abstain from sex with their wives. A list of sexual sins of bishops, priests and clerics were enumerated—including sex with minor boys—and severe penalties were imposed.

Beginning with this document and continuing through every century up to our time, there is a continuous and uninterrupted pattern of legislation aimed at containing the scandal of sexual activity of priests—including sex with minors. (Doyle, et al. 2005)

Some of the documents that record the prevalence and scope of celibate violations are worth noting. The Book of Gomorrah by St. Peter Damian, (1051 CE) reported the sexual immorality of the clergy directly to the Pope. Peter strongly condemned the frequency of homosexual activity even with boys. In 1568 Pope Pius V wrote Horrendum in which he updated the legislation against clerical crimes where clerics solicit sex with men, women and young boys. Sacramentum Poenitentiae was an instruction that Pope Benedict XIV wrote in 1741 that addressed the problem of priests soliciting sex from people—including children—who came to them in confession. Between 1723 and 1820 CE, The Roman Tribunal recorded 3775 cases of clerical solicitation. Most prominent are the cases of seduction of young people in the confessional and in seminaries. (Haliczer, 1996)

Secret instructions have been sent regularly from the Vatican to Bishops around the world directing them in the correct procedures to process investigations and disciplinary actions against priests who sexually abuse. (1890, 1922, 1962, etc.) Church officials know and have known for centuries that some (a large proportion) of priests and bishops are sexually active, and some sexually abuse minors.

The historical record is obvious on this issue for those with eyes to see. The current situation makes sense of documents such as the Lollard’s Twelve Conclusions, the third of which says:

The Third Conclusion, sorrowful to hear, is: That the law of continence annexed to priesthood, that in prejudice of women was first ordained, induces sodomy in Holy Church; but we excuse us by the Bible, for the suspect decree that says we should not name it. Reason and experience prove this conclusion. For delicious meats and drinks of men of Holy Church will have needful purgation or worse. Experience for the privy assay of such men is that they like not women.

Many intelligent Protestants despair of the condition that they find in their local church and so they read of a splendid Roman institution, a dream-like place full of intellectuals, long history and beauty. I know because I have been down that road myself. Conjuring this fantasy church in their minds, they fly to Rome and make their peace with all kinds of theological errors. What they will find in Rome includes pitiful homilies, a lack of connection with local parishioners, and yes, the fear of sexual abuse for their children.

And yet I feel no sense of triumphalism in the Protestant world. I do not think we have the same size of institutional issues because we are smaller, more divided and do not possess the historical baggage of ingrained networks of perverts. However, there are examples too numerous to mention of predatory clergy, affairs, and abuse. 

In the case of Anglicanism, the continued silence in the face of complicity with wicked regimes in Africa is a grave evil. I see no movement on these issues from our leaders, if they are even aware of the problem. This will be shown to be a moral compromise as history unfolds, even though the church thinks it is fine now.

The effect of moral failures on the part of our institutions is to further isolate and atomize us. If I don’t trust the church, I stay home. Politics is a cesspool so why participate? Corporate environments are often full of cliques, injustice and foolishness, so we tolerate them at best. This leads to us withdrawing into a bubble of home, curated internet feeds and whatever else passes our time. I don’t have an answer for any of this, because it is so endemic, and I am sure nothing new either. In one sense we can thank the internet for shining more light than ever before on corruption in all walks of life, but it also hurts to be aware of it all!

The old “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” discussed our “circle of influence” and while it may seem hokey, I think it is true. All we can do is influence those around us by living an honest life ourselves, following the precepts of a wise life, and attempting to pass that on to the next generation. 

For Protestants who care about the loving God with our minds (which should be all of us) there are deep wells of intellectual material that are mostly untapped. I think most Protestants who convert to Rome are unaware of the historical intellectual resources available to them from the past four centuries. Places like the Davenant Institute and the Calvinist International provide books and articles about historic Protestant theology. Biblical resources abound in our day. Unfortunately, it is on you to do the work and not give up and erect a fantasy church in your mind.

A prayer for one in boot camp

UPDATE: If you want a PDF of this prayer and a prayer for those who go to sea, click here.

Our son just left for boot camp this week, and so we have been ransacking prayer books to find prayers for him. Although there are collects and prayers for the Armed Forces, branches of the same, wars, and remembrance days, we have not found much for someone in boot camp, which is arguably the hardest time for any new recruit.

I did find a good prayer on this website by Priscilla Carroll, but it wasn’t quite Anglican enough for us, so I have modified it a bit to bring it more in line with the Prayer Book tradition. I hope this helps others:

O Gracious Father, We bring to you name who you gave to us. How quickly the time has passed. He has grown up to be an adult. We thank you for choosing us as his parents and giving us the privilege of raising him under your watchful care.  Many prayers have been said for him  by us and others and we thank you, that you have heard them all and answered them according to your own wisdom and the direction that you have always had for him.

O Lord, our heavenly  Father, we come to you again in prayer, as name undergoes training in the Armed Forces of our country. You have guided him in pursuit of this goal and we pray that the good work you have begun in name will be overseen with your supervision and love of him as he completes this training.

We beseech  you to help him in every expectation the military has of him. We ask you to make all things possible for name as he faces the standards and goals that the military has for him.  If anything seems impossible to him, we beseech you to strengthen him with your power in order for him to achieve whatever is expected.

We pray you to  put name in the company of Godly influences who show him Your ways of excellence.  We ask that you will use these people to impress upon him the importance of following and obeying your blessed will to be successful as a member of the Armed Forces and as your child.

We ask you to place name into your protective custody so that he may finish all that is required without any delays. We pray that Your angels would be assigned to keep him in all the ways you have planned for him  to follow.

We turn name completely over to you for all of your good works in him to be secured.  We trust that our prayer  will be answered to your glory as we await name’s  graduation and his official recognition as a member of the Armed Forces in service to you and his country;  through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all glory and honor, world without end. Amen.

Mbanda interview

On November 1, 2015 Bishop Laurent Mbanda spoke to the Dean’s Class of the Cathedral Church of the Advent Birmingham Alabama. He provides some background on how he became a bishop (according to him):

(In) 2010 the church called me up and said, “can we put your name up for a possible candidate as bishop.” And we said, “Nobody know us, and uh, if God can close a door he will still have room to close the door, so, we let them take the name after prayer and getting God’s peace, and was traveling in the country of Ghana and while there I got a call to say, “yes you have been elected bishop of Shyria” and we were consecrated in 2010, March.”

Bishop Mbanda goes on to praise Rwandan dictator, Paul Kagame. Curiously, he does not use his name but refers to him simply as the President:

The country of Rwanda was reduced to ashes in 1994…and no one gave it a chance…but I believe because of good leadership, I believe because of a President who was then a Major in the army, actually he was the head of the army, who stopped the genocide. I think he made two choices that were crucial; one, he made a choice to, not to revenge. He could have led his army to revenge for the number of people who had been killed, over a million people. But he said “we won’t revenge we will instead forgive.” Number two, he was willing to be inclusive in bringing people who were actually fighting him into his government, and so a government of unity. And number three, the churches in Rwanda started talking about evangelism…

Bishop Mbanda does not appeal for help against a dictatorship that disappears people in the night, instead he peddles the false narrative of reconciliation:

And I think those initial decisions then started bringing people together. The reconciliation has taken place, the President, I believe in the leadership that he has, are people who are trying to fight corruption and umm, there are people also who have the country and the people at heart.

Christians in the West should be careful about who they are embracing when they do not realize the historical facts.

The Toronto Blessing and ACNA

ACNA’s Report of the Theological Task Force on Holy Orders (link) was made public in June, 2016. I haven’t seen much discussion of the report since it appeared, but I haven’t paid much attention either, so maybe I missed something. Different authors contributed to this report, reflecting the “three streams” makeup of the ACNA. That being the case, it is more of a descriptive document, outlining how each “stream” sees history and theology. Statements in the report should not be construed as endorsed by ACNA necessarily, but, they do show where different groups are coming from.

One stream of ACNA is the charismatic stream. (I am using the stream terminology under protest!) I grew up in a charismatic environment, but soured on the whole thing around 1997 given the crazy goings on of the Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville Revival. You can read a great summary of this time here. For example:

While he is happy to “marinate” Christians in the Holy Spirit, he complained when God began bringing “animal sounds” and “strange prophecy” to the party. When the Almighty allegedly asked, “Would you like Me to take it away?” Arnott quickly acquiesced.

Arnott’s assumption that God was more interested in evangelism than experiences led to another unexpected revelation as well. As he preached salvation messages, he began to sense a “quenching of the Spirit.” He went to the Lord in prayer and asked, “Well, why, why is this hard, like I would have thought you would have liked it if I’d have preached on that.” To his astonishment, the Lord replied, “It’s because you’re pushing Me.” And then God said, “Is it all right with you if I just love up on My church for a while?”

Better than reading about it, watch this:

I was therefore a bit surprised (but just a bit) to see the charismatic section of the ACNA report praising the Toronto Blessing (page 177):

The Toronto Airport Vineyard Church gave rise to a revival know as the Toronto Blessing in early 1994, which has been one of the most controversial movements in the Charismatic renewal. The press and associated media helped promote the impression that it was primarily characterized by such manifestations as laughing, falling, shaking and crying, earning it criticism that the movement was merely strange or even demonic. Such manifestations and the controversies they caused led to the fellowship and its leader, John Arnott, being released by the parent organization, the Vineyard under John Wimber. It is now known as the Toronto Airport Church Fellowship (TACF). Not all were critical though, citing similar manifestations mentioned in the Bible, credible sources like the journals of Jonathan Edwards and records of other revival movements. If a tree is judged by its fruit, one must consider over 9,000 new converts, marriages healed, bodies restored and lives transformed by the preaching and teaching of God’s word. There was also good measurable fruit in the area of mission, manifested in the ministries of those who participated like Heidi and Roland Baker, whose work with orphans in Mozambique is legendary. Recipients of the “Toronto Blessing” have planted over 10,000 churches, seen over a million conversions, and have expanded their work to include ten African countries. Over time, an estimated 55,000 churches have been affected by the “Blessing” as people visited Toronto and then returned to their home churches, many of which were Anglican or Episcopal, where similar renewal ensued.

The ACNA report should be analyzed by all interested parties in ACNA for a better understanding of where we are all coming from.

The Silence of Rwandan Religious Leaders

David Himbara served under Paul Kagame from 2006 to 2010 as the head of strategy and policy in the Office of the President and from 2000 to 2002 as the principal private secretary to the president. He since fled the country to preserve his life, as so many others have.

Himbara wrote a post this week, asking the same questions I have frequently asked. He says:

Rwanda is very religious nation in which 56.9% of population are said to be Roman Catholic; 26% is Protestant; 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist; 4.6% is Muslim; 1.7% with no religious affiliation; and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs. These numbers show why the church is a force to reckon with in Rwanda.

So where is Rwanda’s Bishop Tutu? Where are religious activists condemning dictatorship in our homeland? Even outside Rwanda, our church-going brothers and sisters are largely silent.

Rwandan churches have a long history of playing wrong politics. The Catholic Church in particular has almost always played ethnic politics. The church favored the Tutsi during the colonial period, then switching allegiance to the Hutu after 1959. Church leaders were to develop even closer ties with political leaders, especially in the Juvenal Habyarimana dictatorship.

In the Kagame regime from 1994 onwards, the church seems to have become intimidated into silence like the rest of Rwandan society. Like other Rwandans, church leadership is resigned to a fear-driven life in which thoughts, decisions and actions are predominantly motivated by fear of what harm the current dictatorship can do.

I would broaden what he says to PEARUSA, a branch of the Rwandan Anglican Church that operates in the United States and never says a word about the totalitarian government of Rwanda. How can PEARUSA remain silent?

R.I.P. Patricia Crone

Patricia Crone, the co-author of the famous book “Hagarism” about the origins of Islam, passed away. I wrote Professor Crone in 2010 because I read that she had more or less refuted the premise of Hagarism.  She responded, “As regards the central thesis in part I, yes.”

I asked her what were the best modern works that advance her line of thinking from Hagarism and also if there are works that interact with Hagarism in an attempt to refute it? She replied:

I don’t think there is any of either type. The closest you get is Hawting’s book on Idolatry and the Quran.1

I pass this along in her memory.