Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bits and Pieces

Item: This Day in History

On June 22, 1941, the forces of the Axis powers, led by the German Wehrmacht, invaded the Soviet Union, their erstwhile trading partners, with whom a non-aggression pact had been less than two years earlier. The treaty had divided Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union, and, with the swift victory of the Germans against Poland, secured Germany’s eastern frontier against attack, making possible the “blitzkrieg” in the west that led to the fall of Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. The fighting in this theater, which ended May 9, 1945, was unbelievably savage. More people fought and died on the Eastern Front than in all other theaters of World War II combined. Of the estimated 70 million killed in World War II, some 30 million, including civilians and those in the death camps of Nazi Germany, were killed on this front alone.

Other Events on this Day:

  1. 1633: Galileo is forced to recant his belief that the Sun, rather than the Earth, is the center of the solar system.

  2. 1848: The “June Days” uprising begins in Paris, France.

  3. 1898: U.S. Marines land in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

  4. 1969: The Cuyahoga River catches fire, due to oil pollution in the river.

  5. 1976: Canada abolishes the death penalty.

  6. 2009: The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) meets in Texas as it seeks to organize individuals, parishes, and dioceses who withdrew from the Episcopal Church over moral issues, and to be recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

This last entry is one that I have watched from the fringes, although I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t know a lot about what has been happening since we left the Episcopal Church for the Orthodox Church in November, 1995. There are at least three groups that I’ve heard of that withdrew from the Episcopal Church, plus one other body that withdrew back in the 19th century: the ACNA; the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA; the oldest of the 20th century groups, which was organizing itself during the last few years of our time in the Episcopal Church); the churches of the Southern Cone (if they have an acronym, I haven’t seen it!), who have aligned themselves with a number of the bishops and archbishops of dioceses in Africa; and the Reformed Episcopal Church, the group who left in 1873 in order to preserve its Protestant and evangelical beliefs in the face of the rising Anglo-Catholicism of the “Oxford Movement.” I have good friends and classmates who are caught up in what is taking place. One remains in the Episcopal Church; one has left it for one of the other groups (I’ve forgotten which); and some are in the diocese in which I served before resigning to be baptized and chrismated. Although there are a goodly number of priests and deacons who left the Episcopal Church for the Orthodox Church, I wish more would come our way.

Item: You Aren’t Serious – Are You?

The Church of England – the “mother ship” of the Anglican Communion – now has alternative worship services that feature disc jockeys, music by the Irish band, U2, video clips from YouTube, and offers prayers for Google, Walmart, and other large corporations, according to a report at the Telegraph.com website. The aim of this program, called, “Fresh Expressions,” is to reach young people who are otherwise uninterested in the church, boosting church attendance with what the article describes as “more relevant and exciting services.” Comment: Really? Of course, these are also the folks who have given the C of E “rave” services and other “relevant and exciting” programs. More than anything, this trend is disturbing to me; and I cannot fathom why those whom I know, and know of, who are fighting the good fight in defense of the Faith once delivered to the saints, and are involved with, or, at least, watching to see what happens to ACNA, want to be in communion with an Archbishop of Canterbury whose office is responsible for programs of this type…

Item: The UK Bureaucracy Allows No “Conscientious Objectors” for Same-Sex Marriages

Theresa Davies, who began working for the Islington Council 18 years ago as a receptionist, and who, over time, earned promotions to the position of registrar, was offered the choice of either being demoted to an entry-level position as a receptionist, or be fired, because she has religious objections to performing ceremonies for same-sex civil partnerships, according to a report at the Telegraph.com website. Apparently, while some councils allow those who object to shift the performance of these ceremonies to colleagues who do not share these objections, Islington has adopted a policy that all employees will perform these ceremonies. Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of Britain's Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said, "It is fine for people to hold opinions but you can't use views to discriminate against other people.”

Repeat after me: “It can’t happen here…”

Item: Why Didn’t I Think of this Strategy for Boosting Church Attendance?

The Telegraph.com website has been a great source for news that is both amusing (in a bizarre sort of way) and disturbing (in a very real and troubling way). Here’s the latest: Church Blesses Fathers with Beer website. That’s right: In an “alternative” blessing for Father’s Day, bottles of beer were given to the men in attendance at the Father’s Day services at St. Stephen’s Church in Barbourne, Worcester. The program has the support of the Right Reverend John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester.. The program drew objections from those working to help those whose lives have been negatively affected by alcohol, but these had no impact. The bottle of beer were given to fathers by the children of the congregation. Bishop Inge had this to say about the program: “Jesus created a lot more wine at a point in the party when some thought that there had already been enough drinking. He was all in favor of partying. We give wine away every Sunday, so giving away beer could be said to going down-market a bit, but it's an attempt to speak of God's generosity.” Comment: Saying that our Lord was “all in favor of partying” because of the miracle at the wedding in Cana? Equating the wine in the chalice that has been blessed to be the Blood of Christ with a bottle of beer? C’mon, y’all in the ACNA/AMiA/REC spectrum! Is that really the Church with whom y’all want to be in communion?

Item: Persecution and Martyrdom: The Future is the Present

According to a report by the Orthodox Christian Advocacy Institute (OCAI), some 176,000 Christians will be martyred this year; and the number is projected to increase to 210,000 martyred every year by 2025. This does NOT include those who are tortured, imprisoned, or otherwise persecuted for their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The OCAI reports that the worst offenders, according to the U.S. Department of State, are China and Saudi Arabia; followed by Turkey, and the situation in Kosovo. The last two affect Orthodox Christians directly. For example, in Turkey, there were approximately 200,000 Greek Orthodox Christians living in Turkey in 1923. Today, it is estimated that there are fewer than 2,500. In Kosovo, since the United States helped establish this region of Serbia as an independent state, the efforts to erase twelve centuries of Orthodoxy have been unrelenting. In the last ten years, 1,000 Christians have been killed, 250,000 forced from their homes, and 150 churches and monasteries have been destroyed – all under the watchful eye of 16,000 NATO “peacekeepers.” Each of the countries named in the OCAI report receive U.S. aid that reaches into the billions of dollars.

The author of the article asks three questions of the Christians living in the United States:
How do citizens, in a country that generally identifies itself as being Christian, reconcile the fact that their democratically elected government is facilitating the eradication of Christianity elsewhere? Why are they not protesting on behalf of their fellow Christians around the world? Why are they not demanding change in US Foreign Policy?
If we don’t act to speak out against the abuse and murder of our brothers and sisters in Christ, who will?

Item: Orthodoxy in America: Get a Grip…

Head on over to the blogsite of the American Orthodox Institute (AOI) and read the article, The Perplexing Problem of Obtaining an Accurate Census of Orthodox Faithful Living in America. Be sure to scroll down and look at the table with the number of parishes and people for each of the jurisdictions listed there. For ROCOR, it’s 128 parishes; while the Patriarchal parishes in the US add another 33. The largest group is the GOA, with 525 parishes; followed by the OCA, with 456 parishes. Also be sure to read through the analysis and insights offered in the report. We’ve got a lot of work to do, campers, before the Lord returns…

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