Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Follow Up to "Why I Will No Longer Sign Charleston County Marriage Licenses"

My post of 8 October regarding why I won't sign marriage licenses in Charleston County, where my current parish, The Church of the Atonement, is located has gotten more hits than anything I've ever posted here and was reprinted by The Aquila Report and has received circulation elsewhere. I don't necessarily think that anything that I wrote there was profound but it was the thoughts of one parish priest as I tried to sort out how to respond to the unilateral actions of a local judge.

Earlier today two women were united in legal "marriage" after being granted a license by Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon, a Republican, by the way. This was further unilateral action by the Judge as a stay had been granted on the granting of same-sex marriage licenses until noon tomorrow in South Carolina at the request of South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson; later in the day that stay was lifted but that was done so after Judge Condon unilaterally violated the very Constitution that he took an oath to uphold. Barring further action, it appears that same-sex "marriage" licenses will be granted across South Carolina beginning at noon tomorrow, and, as a result, my days of signing South Carolina marriage licenses will be over.

Two Episcopal priests who are members of the faculty at Wycliffe College, Toronto, have produced The Marriage Pledge, taking essentially the same action that I announced in my blog post. I've signed it and would encourage other members of the clergy to consider doing so as this is an issue that isn't going to go away.


I would encourage Christians, ordained or lay, to consider signing the Manhattan Declaration: A Call to Christian Conscience which deals with a number of crucial issues for the times in which we live. I was signatory number 4177 a couple of days after it was released in 2009 and it now has more than a half-million signatories.

Finally, for those in South Carolina who support General Wilson's efforts to uphold the Constitution of South Carolina and an Amendment that received the support of 96% of the Legislature and 78% of the voters, please sign Palmetto Family's petition to that effect.



Friday, November 7, 2014

Does Anybody Really Know What an Anglican Is? Does Anybody Really Care? (with apologies to Chicago)

     Since beginning his papacy some 18 months ago, Pope Francis has gained a reputation for lively interviews that are sometimes occasions for misinterpretation. Some of that can be attributed to factors of language – although conversant in Latin, Italian, German, French, Portuguese, English, Ukrainian, with some understanding of Piedmontese and some Genoese in addition to his native Spanish, there seems to have been some misunderstanding on the part of certain reporters, some of whom may have been seeking to hear the Pontiff say things he may not have intended to say.

     The Most Rev'd and Rt. Hon. Justin Welby, the current Archbishop ofCanterbury, didn't have that language barrier recently when he gave an interview to the Rev'd Canon Ian Ellis, Editor of TheChurch of Ireland Gazette. In the interview, the Archbishop, a graduate of Eton, Cambridge, and St. John's College, Durham, was asked about the standing of the Anglican Church in North America and answered that the ACNA was not a member of the Anglican Communion but are viewed as an ecumenical partner, with whom as with all ecumenical partners reconciliation is sought. When asked about his appointment earlier this year of the Rev'd Dr. Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, a parish that had left the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia some seven years ago who had also personally left The Episcopal Church, as one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral (a designation dating back to 1541) – an appointment seen by many as validation for the ACNA – the Archbishop said that Dr. Baucum's prior status as a priest in The Episcopal Church was the basis for his appointment.

     While he didn't explicitly so phrase it, the Archbishop's comments were taken by many to mean that the ACNA is un-Anglican. Indeed, in an online exchange with the Episcopal Bishop of Springfield – one of the more conservative bishops still in The Episcopal Church – this author, noting that he had been ordained a deacon in October 2001 by the late Rt. Rev'd James West, a bishop in apostolic succession, ordained a priest in August 2003 by Bishop West and the Rt. Rev'd Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison, XII Bishop of South Carolina, also in apostolic succession, and a number of other presbyters, unreservedly believes, subscribes to, and teaches in accordance with the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, endeavors to pray the Daily Offices from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer daily, and celebrates Holy Communion at least weekly using the Book of Common Prayer asked if he is an Anglican. The Bishop allowed that the author is faithful Christian and validly ordained priest but did not consider him an Anglican. When asked if the author is misrepresenting himself by answering the he is an Anglican priest when people ask him what kind of clergyman he is, the Bishop declined to give an answer.

     But then a funny thing happened in Atlanta. On the evening of October 9, the Most Rev'd Dr. Foley Beach, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the South, was invested as the second Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America in a service held at the Church of the Apostles in Georgia's capitol city. In attendance were a number of bishops including the Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Archbishop and Primate of Kenya, the Archbishop, Primate, and Metropolitan of All Nigeria, the Archbishop and Primate of Uganda, the Archbishop and Primate of Rwanda, the Archbishop of Myanmar, and the Archbishop of the SouthernCone – representing among them more than two-thirds of the Anglican Communion. While praying over Archbishop Beach the primates went off script and received him as an Archbishop and Primate in the Anglican Communion. They also followed it up with a written statement similarly clarifying their understanding and intent as to what they had done, namely, receiving and recognizing Archbishop Beach as a fellow Primate in the Anglican Communion. This is of interest to those in the Diocese of South Carolina – at this time not a part of the ACNA – because those same Primates have repeatedly stated that they consider the Rt. Rev'd Mark Joseph Lawrence to be the Bishop of South Carolina.

     Clearly those Primates consider some to be Anglican whom the Archbishop of Canterbury may not yet be ready to so acknowledge. Hopefully he will reconsider where the mind of the Communion is if he wishes to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion. Whether he will do so remains to be seen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Put No Confidence in Princes

I was born into a Republican family, the grandson of a businessman who had voted -- as did nearly every other white man in the South -- for FDR in 1932 and, upon seeing the creeping socialism of the New Deal never did so again at the national level and lived to see being a Republican become acceptable at the local level; his son, my father, viewed voting a nearly if not exclusively straight Republican ticket as being a duty (something that hadn't changed when I spoke to him this afternoon). When I was 14 I volunteered for the re-election campaign of Ronald Reagan and the associated races (I've said, not completely jokingly, that every Presidential election has been downhill since then) and was involved with Republican Party politics to a greater or lesser extent until last year when the ease with which my fellow Republicans gave the vote to Mark Sanford in returning him to Congress following his ending his gubernatorial term in scandal made me uncomfortable with continuing to so identify myself, although as a Conservative I predominately vote Republican.

Twenty years ago tonight -- give or take a couple of days -- I was in my junior (first) year at Erskine Theological Seminary and sitting in my apartment in Abbeville, South Carolina, as I watched the Republicans do what they have just done tonight -- take control of both houses of Congress for the first time in my lifetime, turning back the tide of Bill Clinton, whom I was sure represented all that was evil and bad in the country. I was sure that this was a great move of God, after all, the G.O.P. was "God's Own Party", right?

I walked across the street from my apartment to the Abbeville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church  (I knew where the key was, and likely still is, hidden) and thanked God for his goodness. I took a copy of Bible Songs, the green-bound quasi-Psalter then used in many ARP churches (now much less so, as they've been replaced by a Psalter that is a marked improvement) and sang number 313 "Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah" (based upon Psalm 148) in celebration of this sea change. It is perhaps unfortunate that I didn't sing the more traditional albeit slightly less textually accurate version from The Psalter, 1912 which includes the injunction to "Put no confidence in princes, Nor for help on man depend; He shall die, to dust returning, And his purposes shall end."

And so, 20 years later, I find myself sitting at home, watching the news as the Republicans control both houses of Congress while a Democrat occupies the White House, albeit at the end of his tenure and not at the beginning. I hope that this will stem the tide of his liberal agenda that promotes many things that I am convinced are antithetical to a Christian world and life view and protect the preborn and, seemingly impossibly, reverse the trend toward the Federal redefinition of marriage, but I'm not nearly as exultant as I was 20 years ago.

Elections are important -- very important -- but even more important is that the Church faithfully proclaim the whole counsel of God, that Christian parents disciple their children and that individually and corporately Christians live transformed lives that will have far more impact than the results of any election.

Friday, October 10, 2014

An ivy curtain descending upon academe?

From the October 2014 Charleston Mercury

By Charles A. Collins, Jr.
During my teenage years — while the Cold War was still on and the Soviet Union was still intact — I remember reading of Andrew van der Bijl, better known in the English-speaking world as “Brother Andrew,” whose daring missions to take the Bible into countries where it was forbidden or severely restricted were chronicled in his 1967 autobiography God’s Smuggler. One of the phenomena that surprised van der Bijl during his first visits behind the Iron Curtain was that almost all of the churches able to openly operate were those approved by and monitored by the state, proclaiming a message that the government approved. When I read that I found it troubling at the time and it remains a disturbing concept.
Unfortunately a similar trend seems to be growing on college campuses across the United States. In the 2011-2012 school year Vanderbilt University required all campus groups, including campus ministries, to accept all students and forbid them to require that their officers share the “beliefs, goals and values” of the respective groups or risk losing official recognition, which brings many privileges and benefits such as listing with student activities and free meeting space. Among the groups that refused to sign were the Roman Catholic ministry, which moved off campus in a processional and rebranded as “University Catholic” since they were forbidden to use the school's name in their own. More than a dozen Protestant groups, including the Graduate Christian Fellowship, which operated under the auspices of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship — an international evangelical organization that has been in existence for more than seventy years — were also forced off campus
In an essay in the September issue of Christianity Today, Trish Harrison Warren, who had worked with the Graduate Student Fellowship, said that she thought she was the “right kind of Evangelical” in the context of Vanderbilt but that the refusal to remove the requirement that those in leadership — all students were welcome to participate in the group — actually profess the creedal statements of the organization branded her as discriminatory. Indeed the vice chancellor told her that “Creedal discrimination is still discrimination.” She further observed: “I began to realize that inside the church, the territory between Augustine of Hippo and Jerry Falwell seems vast and miles lie between Ron Sider and Pat Robertson. But in the eyes of the university (and much of the press), subscribers to broad Christian orthodoxy occupy the same square foot of cultural space.
“The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad — not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.”
Simply put: Accept the doctrine-less orthodoxy of political correctness or you’re no longer welcome.
Nor is the pressure only felt at Vanderbilt — a university that ironically includes a divinity school with historic ties to the United Methodist Church. This summer the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship at Bowdoin College in Maine — a private college with historic ties to Congregationalism — found itself kicked off campus due to its refusal to abandon the requirement that leaders affirm core Christian beliefs. InterVarsity Chrisitian Fellowship also found itself removed from official recognition on all 23 campuses of the California State University System for the same reason.
This writer contacted three friends involved in campus ministry in the local area, Willis Webber, the area director of InterVarsity for South Carolina, the Reverend Greg Smith, director of St. Alban’s Chapel at The Citadel and the Reverend Jonathan Williams, a chaplain in the Army Reserve and minister in the Presbyterian Church in America who also ministers at The Citadel. Happily all three reported that they have not faced pressures locally (or, in the case of Mr. Webber, statewide).
South Carolinians can be proud that the politically correct religious discrimination experienced in other places does not seem to be making inroads in the Palmetto State yet, but we should also be vigilant in defending religious liberty on campus from those who seek to water down the faith that groups profess as they seek what the late Reverend Richard John Neuhaus referred to as a naked public square where robust expressions of faith are marginalized or eliminated entirely.
The Reverend Charles A. Collins, Jr., currently serves as vicar of the Church of the Atonement, a Reformed Episcopal Parish in the Anglican Church in North America, in Mount Pleasant. He may be contacted at drew.collins at gmail.com

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why I Will No Longer Sign Charleston County Marriage Licenses

With the news today that Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, I have decided that I will no longer sign marriage licenses issued by his office. Although I actually live in Berkeley County, where the authorities are not unilaterally defying the Constitution of South Carolina , the parish that I serve is located in Charleston County. 

When I read of his decision I seriously considered engaging in civil disobedience -- of officiating at weddings regardless of whether or not the couple had a license or not. While some clergy will include phrases like "By the authority vested in me by the State of South Carolina..." when pronouncing a new couple man and wife, I've never done so in the marriages at which I have officiated in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Texas, for several reasons, among them: 1. I am a Minister of the Gospel and get my authority from the Church, not from the State; and 2. Those words are not contained in the Book of Common Prayer . A cursory check of the Book of Common Prayer and the various Constitutions and Canons to which I am accountable revealed the following:.
The Book of Common Prayer of the Reformed Episcopal Church contains the following, identical to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
¶ The laws respecting Matrimony, whether by publishing the Banns in
churches, or by License, being different in the several States, every
Minister is left to the direction of those laws, in every thing that
regards the civil contract between the parties.
¶ And when the Banns are published, it shall be in the following form:
I publish the Banns of Marriage between N. of ___, and N. of ___. If any
of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not
be joined together in holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first
(second or third) time of asking. -- Rubrics at the end of the form for the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony
Ministers of this Church shall be careful to observe the law of the State or Province governing the civil
contract of marriage in the place where the service shall be performed, and they shall conform to the laws of this
Church governing the solemnization of HolyMatrimony.-- Canon 34, Section 1
The Clergy shall ascertain that the man and woman, parties to the marriage, have a valid marriage license. -- Title III, Canon 7, Section 3, Article 4
I am a priest under authority and while the extent to which I care whether or not the government of Charleston County has licensed a marriage that I officiate has been dramatically diminished by this foolhardiness, I have to respect the law of the Church. It's worth noting that even if I were inclined to conduct a same-sex union -- and I'm not -- I am forbidden to do so by the Canons of both the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America and, in fact, my Diocese unanimously passed a resolution clarifying that just last month.


I won't sign licenses issued by Charleston County because of what happens when a clergyman does so -- something of which few people are aware. When I officiate a wedding I do so as an officer of the Church, but when the service is over and I gather with the newly married couple and witnesses and sign the license I have actually taken off my clerical hat (my Canterbury cap?) and donned that of an ex officio marriage registrar, performing duties authorized as a courtesy by the State. My fear -- and I don't think it unreasonable in light of some court decisions in recent litigation -- is that I could potentially be opening myself up to action if I refused to perform that duty for same-sex couples. Because of that, I'll require couples in Charleston County and any other jurisdictions that have granted same-sex marriage licences to provide me a copy of a license signed by a judge, notary public, or some other civil official before I'll officiate at the religious service.

Alan Wilson, the Attorney General of South Carolina has announced his intentions to seek a stay from the South Carolina Supreme Court  to prevent Judge Condon from issuing these licences; I hope that he is successful -- the coming days will certainly be interesting to watch as this plays out.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An Enjoyable Read, Despite the Unfortunate Title


"Families are mysterious things." So muses Teddy Wilmot, one of the characters in John Updike's 1996 novel In the Beauty of the Lillies near the conclusion of this chronicle of four generations of the fictional Wilmot family. Although I enjoy a good novel, most of my reading is focused on non-fiction and I'd not read any of the late Mr. Updike's work before Fr. Bill Smith blogged about the loss of faith of the Rev'd Clarence Arthur Wilmot, the account of which introduces the reader to the clan. Fr. Smith's comments intrigued me because of the account of the conversation that took place between Wilmot and the Moderator of his presbytery when the former met with him to resign his ministry (Mr. Updike took a bit of artistic license there transforming the Moderator into a bishop-like character -- in reality Wilmot's interchange would've taken place with a committee, but that would've been harder to convey) in which the Moderator tells the Princetonian Wilmot, who'd studied at the feet of the Hodges and Warfield, that the robust Calvinism to which he was exposed was largely responsible for his crisis of faith; the Moderator had studied at Union Seminary in New York, then, as now, a bastion of theological liberalism, and having been trained in skepticism he adjudges his training to have inoculated him against crises of faith largely because his education had been based upon so much doubt disguised as new thought. In a act of ecclesiastical malpractice the Moderator requires Wilmot to serve out his probationary year before demitting his office, which Wilmot eventually does before, not being able to find any better suitable secular employment, becoming a salesman for cut-rate encyclopedias.

Upon reading Fr. Smith's post I was intrigued and ran out to buy a copy of the novel, which took its title from "The Battlehymn of the Republic," a heterodox Yankee hymn about which Fr. Smith has also written a scathing analysis. The book didn't disappoint as it followed the fortunes of the Wilmot family through the 1990s while simultaneously chronicling the decline of the Christian faith and the rise of Hollywood in the 20th Century. Mr. Updike, who underwent a period of doubt in the 1950s and then returned to the Christian faith until his death in 2009, is perceptive in telling the story of a family that largely (but not exclusively) remains estranged from the faith departed at the book's beginning; Christianity is always there, lurking in the background as the reader is transported to Hollywood and then finally to a Branch Davidian-style compound in the Colorado mountains dealing with two World Wars, a Depression, the Red Scare, and the upheaval of the sixties along the way. In examining Mr. Updike's work following his death New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani wrote:

Mr. Updike’s stunning and much underestimated 1996 epic, In the Beauty of the Lilies, tackled an even wider swath of history [than his Rabbit Tetralogy]. In charting the fortunes of an American family through some 80 years, the author showed how dreams, habits and predilections are handed down generation to generation, parent to child, even as he created a kaleidoscopic portrait of this country from its nervous entry into the 20th century to its stumbling approach to the millennium.

I would have to share her assessment. This is a book that is well worth reading. One word of caution, though, while Mr. Updike was a Christian and wrote  with an understanding and an appreciation for Christianity, this is not the genre known as "Christian fiction" and there are some racy passages. With that word of warning, though, this is an important book and well worth the reader's time and I am grateful to Fr. Smith for directing me to it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

R. Marion Canfield, R.I.P.

In the spring of 1994 I was a senior in college who had just come under care of Catwaba Presbytery of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and was preparing to enter Erskine Theological Seminary in the fall. I was also then serving as a platoon leader in Detachment 1, Troop B, 202d Cavalry, which was in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Learning of what was then known as the Hardeeville Presbyterian Church nearby I stopped by the minister's house one Sunday afternoon and introduced myself to the Rev'd Marion Canfield, who was serving as the mission developer for that small work. It was officially a mission -- a new church being planted by the presbytery -- and being rather off the beaten path from the rest of their congregations Marion appreciated the visit and the interaction. We sat on some chairs on his back lawn and had a very pleasant visit getting to know each other and discussing the trials of ministry and how God's Providence had brought us to our respective stages of out lives.

During the years that I was under care of and later licensed by Catawba Presbytery, I always enjoyed seeing Marion at presbytery meetings and other gatherings. He was a gentle soul and an encourager -- I remember the day I was licensed and, having to preach from a manuscript (something I don't usually do) preached roughly a twelve minute sermon he told me that no presbytery in the world would reject a candidate who preached that brief a sermon --who used his love for photography and knowledge of cameras to supplement the modest income that the church was able to pay him. His love for his people was evident. Sometime in the late 90s the congregation was organized as a churchand renamed the First Presbyterian Church of Hardeeville,  but it remained small and he remained its pastor. After I moved to the Reformed Episcopal Church and Anglicanism, I saw less of Marion, although I did stop by Hardeeville one evening in 2005 and enjoyed my visit with him.

Early this morning I learned of Marion's death yesterday. He was still serving as the Minister of First Church. I give thanks for his friendship, his example of steady shepherding and love for his flock and for Christ's Church. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.