Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Pray and Let Your Voice be Heard for Andrew Brunson

by Charles A. Collins, Jr.
(Published in the July 2018 edition of the Carolina Compass section of the Charleston Mercury .)
     If he has not been released by July 1 the Rev'd Dr. Andrew C. Brunson, a missionary of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Turkey, will have been imprisoned in that country for 632 days. Dr. Brunson, who grew up as the son of an Associate Reformed Presbyterian missionary family that served in Mexico, Pakistan, and Russia and whose father also taught at Montreat College in North Carolina, is a graduate of Wheaton College who received the Master of Arts from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the Master of Divinity from Erskine Theological Seminary, and later competed the Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Aberdeen and has served as a missionary in Turkey since 1993, first under the auspices of World Witness, the Foreign Missions Board of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and later with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He and his wife Norine, who was originally arrested with him but was released after thirteen days, raised their three children there and at the time of his arrest had applied for permanent resident status; he was serving as the Pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, a small congregation in Turkey's third-largest city. He has also been involved with theological education in that country.

     So what gives? Why has the missionary pastor of a small congregation been detained for so long by the Turkish government in a country that, while overwhelmingly Muslim, is officially secularized and is a longstanding member of NATO? His detention is part of a much larger purge following an attempted July 2106 failed coup d'état in which an estimated 160,000 Turkish military personnel, civil servants, and private citizens have been detained. Specifically he has been accused of being related to the Gülen movement, which has been alleged to have played a role in the coup.

    For his part, Dr. Brunson has denied any connection to to movement, stating “I am not a member of an Islamic movement. I have never seen any member of FETO (the Gülen movement) in my life.” In April he had a court appearance that was attended by Ambassador Sam Brownback, the United States' Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) (Dr. Brunson's hometown is Black Mountain, North Carolina) in which he stated in Turkish that “I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I wouldn't do anything against Turkey.” If convicted, he faces the possibility of a sentence ranging anywhere from 35 years to life. Both the Ambassador and the Senator expressed their belief (in Ambassador Brownback's case shared by the Trump Administration) in Dr. Brunson's innocence. The charges against him are based on accusations from two unnamed sources and evidence reportedly procured from his telephone.

     The Turkish government has repeatedly offered to free Dr. Brunson in exchange for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, for whom the movement is named, who current resides in Pennsylvania and has lived in the United States since 1999. That offer raises serious doubts about whether there is any validity in the charges or if the missionary is being used by the Turkish government as a political pawn.

Andrew Brunson's next scheduled court appearance is on July 18. What can readers do to assist him?
–First and foremost, lift him and his family up the the Lord in prayer.
– If one is led, contact your Senators and Congressmen and ask them to support Dr. ```````` Brunson's release.
– The American Center for Law andJustice has been active in working for his release
and has prepared a petiton to that end. It may be accessed and signed at:
-- Finally, readers can keep apprised of the latest developments in the case by following the online resource developed by his mission board at:
     Hopefully, by God's grace, Andrew Brunson will soon be reunited with his family and a free man.

The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. is an Anglican priest currently serving as a hospice chaplain in the Charleston area. He may be contacted at drew.collins [at] gmail.com

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Billy Graham's Lasting and Far-reaching Legacy

by Charles A. Collins, Jr.
Published in the March 2018 issue of the Carolina Compass section of the Charleston Mercury
.The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty....” – Psalm 90:10 (ESV) In light of the Psalmist's observation, the death of Billy Graham on the morning of Wednesday, February 21, was not entirely surprising as he had attained the age of 99 – a matter of months shy of five score years – but for those of slightly less than my age and older it marked the passing from life's stage of someone who had always been prominent and respected and who had preached the Gospel to more people than any other individual in the history of the Church.

William Franklin Graham, Jr., was born on November 7, 1918 in Charlotte, North Carolina. While hard to imagine in light of Charlotte's present image as a New-South metropolis, the Queen City in those days was a much smaller city of some 46,000 in his youth and he grew up on a working dairy farm, milking his father's cows each morning and evening. The Scotch-Irish Grahams were members of Chalmers Memorial Associate Reformed Presbyterian Meeting House (a church to which the mother of Bishop John Shelby Spong – whose theology markedly differed from Graham – also had family connections) in his youth and later joined the BiblePresbyterian Church. As a teenager Graham was turned down for membership in a youth group for being “too worldly,” and at the behest of one of the workers on his father's farm went to hear revivalist Mordecai Ham. He underwent a profound conversion at age 16 and sensed a call to preach the Gospel.

After graduation from Sharon High School Graham first attended Bob Jones College, then located in Cleveland, Tennessee. He found the college too legalistic and, Bob Jones, Sr. wasn't terribly impressed with him either, warning him not to throw his life away and famously telling him “At best, all you could amount to would be a poor Baptist preacher somewhere out in the sticks.... You have a voice that pulls. God can use that voice of yours. He can use it mightily.” Graham later transferred to FloridaBible Institute and finally to Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

Far more significant than the education that he received at Wheaton was his experience in meeting the pretty daughter of a Presbyterian medical missionary to China, Ruth Bell, whom he married in 1943. Upon graduation he served briefly as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Western Springs, Illinois (along with a church that he had served while a student at Wheaton, the only two pastorates that he ever held), and then became President of Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis – at the age of 30, he was the youngest college president in the country.

In 1949, while still President of Northwestern Bible College, Graham conducted a series of revivals in the circus tent in Los Angeles that attracted national attention, aided by newspaperman William Randolph Hearst who famously told his reporters to “puff Graham.” The crusade ran for eight weeks – five longer than planned – and while not the first of more than 400 that he was to conduct in more than 185 countries on six continents it attracted national attention. His preaching was simple – he often stated that he preached the same message over and over again for 60 years – calling sinners to repent and believe on Jesus Christ.

In the Spring of 1954 Billy Graham preached an extended crusade in London, England. The then-Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher participated and he attracted the attention of a young Queen Elizabeth, who met with him and invited him to preach in her private chapel. The most recent season of The Crown (an excellent series, by the way), dramatizes their meeting with Her Majesty's desire to be “a simple Chrisitian.” Their friendship lasted for the rest of his life and in 2001 he was made an honourary Knight of the British Empire. The effects of that crusade were far-reaching – Michael Baughen, who later became the Bishop of Chester, described it as “divine adrenalin for a jaded church” and a number of Evangelical clergy and lay leaders in the Church of England and other churches noted the profound impact of those gatherings in their lives.

Billy Graham was also a trendsetter in civil rights. While not actively participating in marches he integrated his crusades at a time when doing so was a-typical. He was also a leader in the Laussanne Covenant, which challenged Christians to world evangelization. Known as the “Pastor to Presidents,” he advised every U.S. President from Harry Truman to Barrack Obama.

He lived more than 60 years in the public eye and managed to avoid personal or financial scandal in doing so. One of the ways in which he did so was his practice of not spending time alone with any woman except for his wife, the so-called “Billy Graham Rule” that was recently in the press when it was revealed that Vice President Mike Pence follows the same practice.

This writer never had the privilege of meeting Billy Graham but did spend the first six and a half years of his life in Black Mountain, North Carolina, near Graham's longtime residence in Montreat. Ruth Graham occasionally shopped in the Collins Department Store in Black Mountain, managed by my father, and Billy Graham came into the store on at least one occasion. In the autumn of 1994 Billy Graham conducted a crusade in Atlanta and since the evangelist was then 75 years old I, in my first year at ErskineTheological Seminary, figured that it might be my last chance to see him so I headed off to Atlanta on a Wednesday afternoon after Greek class and got to see him in the Georgiadome. He would, of course, go on to live nearly another quarter century.

I give thanks for the life and monumental ministry of the Rev'd Dr. Billy Graham, KBE.

The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., is an Anglican priest currently serving as Chaplain for a local hospice. He may be contacted at drew.collins [at] gmail.com

Sunday, February 11, 2018

In Thanksgiving and Remembrance for R.C. Sproul

by Charles A. Collins, Jr.
Published in the February 2018 issue of the Carolina Compass, a publication of the Charleston Mercury.

St. Paul charged his disciple Timothy to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV) Christians are to be growing and learning more about the faith as they deepen their faith and that is accomplished in a variety of ways – catechesis (a practice that had fallen into neglect but is happily undergoing a bit of a revival of late) and in many churches confirmation (of which catechesis should form a part). Most clergy and some other people are sent to seminary or theological college, but a Presbyterian minister named R.C. Sproul, who died on December 14, 2017, sought to bridge the gap “between Sunday School and seminary” and did so masterfully.

Robert Charles Sproul was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1939 and is so often the case with Pittsburghers (and even some friends who have gone to school in the area), was a passionate fan of the PittsburghSteelers and the Pittsburgh Pirates as well as being an accomplished athlete himself in his youth before dropping out of high school athletics at the age of fifteen to help support his family (although he remained an enthusiastic and skilled golfer for much of his life [playing with, among others, Rock and Roll legend Alice Cooper who, despite his on-stage persona shares Sproul's commitment to Christ). He was educated at Westminster College (B.A.), Pittsburgh-XenaTheological Seminary (B.D.), the Free University of Amsterdam (Drs), and Whitfield Theological Seminary (Ph.D.). While in seminary he was deeply influenced by the late John Gerstner, a Jonathan Edwards specialist and commited Evangelical on a faculty that did not share those convictions. He taught at a number of seminaries including the Jackson, Mississippi, and Orlando, Florida, campuses of ReformedTheological Seminary and at Knox Theological Seminary, and lectured at countless other seminaries and colleges. The academy, however, was not where he left his deepest mark.

In 1971 he founded the Ligonier Study Center, which had as its stated goal “"to awaken as many people as possible to the holiness of God by proclaiming, teaching, and defending God’s holiness in all its fullness” and it was through that ministry that he accomplished his greatest work through a magazine Tabletalk, a daily radio broadcast, RenewingYour Mind, a multitude of taped lectures and teaching series, an undergraduate institution, Reformation Bible College, and several hundred books. He was a popularizer of theology and had a gift for making deep theology understandable for the common man – not unlike the stated goal of fourteenth century Bible translator John Wycliffe to make the common plowboy able to read the Scriptures for himself.

Sproul was an unapologetic Calvinist who was well-versed in the ancient Church and had a deep sense of the holiness of God – one of his best-known works was in fact entitled The Holiness of God– and was deeply reverential in his worship; that was reflected in St. Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Florida, where he served as Co-Pastor in his latter years. His works and lectures are deep but eminently readable and this writer deeply benefited from reading and listening to him through the years and continues to do so to this day.
Although I'd befriended his son and namesake, R.C. Sproul, Jr., when we were both Associate Reformed Presbyterians, I only got to meet Sproul the elder once. In 2013 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, in which Dr. Sproul held his ministerial credentials, met in Greenville, South Carolina, and my friend the Most Rev'd Dr. Ray R. Sutton brought greetings on behalf of the Anglican Church in North America and the Reformed Episcopal Church. My friend the Rev'd Charlie Carlberg, Rector of All Saints' Anglican Church in Greenville, and I went to hear Bishop Sutton's greetings and to visit the copious book tables in the exhibit hall. As we were walking up a flight of stairs we saw Dr. Sproul sitting there in a wheelchair and on oxygen and we were able to briefly converse with a gentleman that we'd both admired and from whom we'd learned much. Shortly after that I contacted his son and learned that he was suffering from COPD; despite that burden he continued an active ministry until shortly before his death.

I give thanks for the life, ministry, and influence of the Rev'd Dr. R.C. Sproul. Despite the fact that he has departed this life he has left a legacy that will continue for many years to come. If you have not read his works or listened to his lectures I urge you to do so – you will be richly blessed.

The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., is an Anglican priest who serves as a chaplain for an area hospice. He may be contacted at drew.collins (at) gmail.com

Sunday, August 20, 2017

An Unofficial Cycle of Prayer for the Anglican Church in North America

Provided as a service to facilitate prayer for the Province. You may view the cycle here.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

More Musings From the Mutt

by Charles A. Collins, Jr.
Published in the December 2016 issue of the 
Carolina Compass Faith supplement to the 

     In last month's Carolina Compass I recalled the twelve year relationship that I had with my late Black-Lab/Beagle mix, Sabrina, who died in October, discussed the adoption of Bee, my Black-Lab/Pit Bull mix who had previously been abused, and noted how her period of our getting used to each other had progressed up until that point. While I don't intend to produce a monthly journal of how things are progressing, Bee succeeded in providing another teachable moment since my last entry.
     It wasn't long after I brought Bee home that I noticed that she needed to be put on a leash to be moved upstairs and downstairs even within my house; furthermore, when letting her out in the yard I would have to go out, put her on the leash, and bring her back into the house on the leash (when she decided to hide out in some shrubbery that included some thorns late one night I ended up donning my gore-tex parka and heavy gloves and diving into the shrubbery to retrieve her). I suspect that this behavior is less a result of her abuse than her extended stay at the SPCA for the healing of her burn and other health issues – they lead animals to various points in their facility on leashes and I believe she became institutionalized. Curiously, she's mellowed a bit and will now go upstairs unleashed but has to be led back downstairs.
     With the cooler weather I've taken to taking her to ride along with me on Fridays as I go to visit my patients – I wouldn't want to leave her in the car in warm weather but on cool days that's not an issue. It seems to assist in our bonding and gets her out of the house. She doesn't stay under my feet at home but at my office she invariably stays close to me if I go to the copier or likewise move about. A couple of weeks ago I was driving with her making visits when I heard an unusual chewing noise and upon further investigation noticed that she'd chewed through the leather leash that I had bought before getting her. To the pet store we went that evening to procure a new, nylon, leash. Shortly after that, confident that I had acted as a wise and responsible master, I took her for a walk around the neighborhood; something startled her and she got out of the leather collar that I'd purchased in preparation for her adoption and run down the street taking cover under a neighbor's pickup truck. There I was, lying on the ground in the dark beside the truck when the neighbor and his wife returned home – prompting him to wonder what the strange man was doing to his truck. Fortunately they were both understanding and helpful in loaning me some dog treats to prod her out. At the suggestion of some friends I purchased a Martingale collar, which has a much more secure fit, and that's no longer an issue.
     By now you may be thinking, “Well, that's nice, but this is in the faith section so where's the faith application?” Simply put, it occurred to me that Bee's tenuous relationships with her collars and leashes are not unlike the errors that people fall into regarding God's Law.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
     reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
     making wise the simple;
 the precepts of the Lord are right,
     rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
     enlightening the eyes;
  the fear of the Lord is clean,
     enduring forever;
the rules[ of the Lord are true,
     and righteous altogether.
  More to be desired are they than gold,
     even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb. – Psalm 19 7-10 (ESV)

God's Law is good – indeed perfect – given to us so that we might know how to live but we in our sinful nature rebel against it and resist it. At times it may feel constraining, as Bee's leash might, but the licentiousness that passes for freedom often comes at our detriment. She may have felt free when she wiggled out of her collar and was able to run down the street as she wished but she could've easily been hit (thankfully the traffic was light where I was walking her). As my friend the Rev'd Dr. Mark Ross, Professor of Theology at Erskine TheologicalSeminary, has noted, you cannot cut across the grain of the sovereign creator of the universe without getting cosmic splinters. While a locomotive may be limited by the tracks on which it runs it only works properly on those tracks.
     At the same time, there are misuses of God's Law. Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law perfectly and as a Southerner, who enjoys barbecue and shrimp, I am thankful that He did. Legalism can hinder us from enjoying the liberty that we have in Christ. I look forward to the day that Bee realizes that she can wander throughout my house at will but right now she's limiting herself. We also misuse God's Law when we turn to it, and to our own efforts, rather than relying on God's Grace: “ For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9 [ESV]). We must never loose sight of the fact that we don't earn our salvation and right relationship with God by being good enough, rather it is all of grace.
     Bee will, I trust, come to terms with her leash when being on it is in her best interests while feeling free to roam about her home when she may do so. Likewise, I hope that we as Christians embrace God's Law not out of drudgery or bargaining Him but our of gratitude for the grace and mercy He has shown us through Christ Jesus.

     The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. is an Anglican priest who currently serves as Chaplain for a local hospice. He may be contacted at drew.collins [at] gmail.com 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sweet Bee and Sanctification

by Charles A. Collins, Jr.
Published in the December 2016 issue of the 
Carolina Compass Faith supplement to the 
Charleston Mercury

On July 22, 2204, a black lab-mix (probably with beagle) of around 18-months to two years old (the SPCA said two years but her veterinarian, looking at her teeth [like horses, the most reliable way to age dogs] said 18 months) named Sabrina entered my home and my life. She was a great dog and saw me though good times and bad, triumphs and loss (to include the death of my mother) and I was blessed to have her in my life. Sadly, on October 20, after a brief period of having a reduced appetite, she died suddenly – while I was prepared to have her put down when I loaded her into my car to go to the vet that morning her peaceful death enroute precluded me from having to make that painful decision. While she had lived a good and remarkably healthy life until her very last days, she was a member of the family (and as a childless bachelor it could be argued that she was my immediate family) and the sorrow was profound.
Friends and some family (particularly my Dad) suggested immediately getting another dog. I had to wait a brief while to mourn Sabrina's loss but I had glanced at the Doc Williams SPCA website to see what dogs were available and had noticed another black lab-mix named Bee (that my paternal grandmother was named Beatrice and known to many as “Bea” [granted, a different spelling, but the dog doesn't know] didn't hurt). I stopped by their office not to look at dogs but to thank them for the happiness that Sabrina had brought into my life (it occurred to me that they see the front end of adoptions but not the final outcome) and hadn't planned to look at dogs but they had them in runs right beside the parking lot – brilliant marketing in my opinion. I asked which one was Bee and they pointed me to a dog that, while having a good deal of black lab in her also unmistakably had some pit bull in her as well – I have described her as looking like someone cut the head off of a pit bull and stuck it on a lab's body. I also noticed a hairless scar running down her back where someone had burned her, most likely by pouring lye onto her. The thought of the abuse that that dog had endured pulled at my heartstrings.
I didn't adopt her that day but on a Saturday, November 5, after cleaning out the dog crate and buying a new leash, lead, and bowls (those things being kind of individual items) I went to the SPCA and reasoned that if Bee had been adopted that would mean that God didn't want me to have her. Well, she was there, albeit a bit skittish. The staff thought that she had been abused by a man and had noted that while she was tentative around both men and women she was moreso with men but that she had warmed to staff of both sexes. After talking to them and being observed by them to try to read how she'd interact with me the fee was paid, the paperwork was completed, and I brought her home.
It's been a learning experience for us both and it has occurred to me that the process has been similar in many ways to the sanctification – the putting off of our old selves and the putting on of our new selves in Christ (Colossians 3:9, 10) – which is a lifelong process for us as Christians. It is hard for me to get into the mind of someone who would abuse a dog but I'm pretty sure that whomever the person was that hurt Bee didn't just wake up one day and decide to pour lye or whatever burned her back onto her. That scar is obvious, but I'm sure that she has other, invisible and non-physical wounds. So it is with my own sinfulness – “there is no health in us [and me]” as the Prayer of Confession from Morning and Evening Prayer in the historic Book of Common Prayer reads. While the external may be a model of respectability, “...the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b ESV).
As we have gotten to know one another the building of trust has been crucial. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV) At first she was tentative in trusting me. At the suggestion of the SPCA staff I give her dog treats frequently while working, watching television, or reading and she has begun to trust me but that's still a work in progress (they estimated that it may take a month and in some ways things have happened quicker than I hoped – Bee sleeps on my bed and unlike Sabrina, who preferred to curl up at my feet, she prefers to curl up near my shoulder). One day, hopefully, she'll gaze upon me with a look of uninhibited trust. In much the same way, I need to learn to trust in God – the big difference being that He will never fail me.
Sometimes she is stubborn – I've joked that I've figured out what the “bull” in “pit bull” means: bull headed. Likewise I am far too frequently stubborn and resistant to where God is leading me. Again, the difference being that His leadership and His love, unlike mine, are perfect.
I'm enjoying building a relationship with Bee. She has a genuinely sweet countenance (I've yet to hear her growl or even bark and most of the time is responsive to my leading) and I often call her “Sweet Bee.” I hope that as we grow closer I grow ever closer to God as I am conformed to His image and renewed by His grace.

The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., is an Anglican priest who serves as a chaplain for a local hospice. He may be contacted at drew.collins [at] gmail.com