Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Former Missionary to France to Speak at St. Thomas Church, Moncks Corner

N.B., the following press release about an upcoming speaker at St. Thomas Church , of which I am the Vicar, may be of interest. We'd love to have you join us. -- DC+)

Former Missionary to France to Speak at St. Thomas Church, Moncks Corner

Dianne and the Rev'd Canon William "Bill" Jerdan

      The Rev'd Canon William S. Jerdan, Executive Secretary of the Reformed Episcopal Board of Foreign Missions, will preach at St. Thomas Church, a Reformed Episcopal parish of the Anglican Church in North America, on September 16 at 11am. St. Thomas Church is located at 668 Murraysville Road in Moncks Corner.
     Canon Jerdan is no stranger to the South Carolina Lowcountry as his father, the late Rt. Rev. William H.S. Jerdan, came to South Carolina in 1958 to oversee what was then known as the Southern Missionary Jurisdiction of the Reformed Episcopal Church and led in its organization as the Diocese of the Southeast in 1973; Bishop Jerdan later served as Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church from 1987 to 1990. Canon Jerdan is a graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois) and Reformed Episcopal Seminary. Following pastoral ministry in Pennsylvania he and his wife Dianne went to France as missionaries in 1972 where he worked in church planting with the Evangelical Reformed Protestant Church of France, founding four congregations before returning to the United States in 2009. In conjunction with his current work with the Board of Foreign Missions, the Jerdans participate in missionary work in countries as diverse as Germany, Croatia, West Africa, Cambodia, and Nepal. They have four grown children and a number of grandchildren.
     For more information, contact the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., Vicar of St. Thomas, at (843) 608-1796 or visit the parish website at:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Politics, Peril, and Pastoral Integrity

The candidacy of Mitt Romney presents a unique challenge to conservative Christians in general and members of the clergy in particular. As a conservative who first got politically active during Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign (I was 14) and has followed politics and been active to various degrees since then, I do not want to see Barack Obama re-elected.  While not my first choice, Mitt Romney is the nominee and is the first Mormon become the candidate of a major party and as such, questions will be asked about his religion. I have no doubt that Romney is a good, moral, and decent man, a loving father, and a smart businessman. I'd be happy to have him as a next door neighbor -- the same is true of most Mormons whom I have known through the years -- many of whom I count as friends. I have used the Family Research Center at the Latter-day Saints church in Charleston and have found it full of information with a friendly and helpful staff.

Almost exactly two years ago Glenn Beck -- also a practitioner of the Mormon religion --  assembled his Restoring Honor Rally on the National Mall in Washington. The Rev'd Dr. Russell Moore wrote the best Christian response to that event, "God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck" and I wrote a couple of blog posts as well, which you can view here and here. Most of what Moore and I wrote about Beck also extends to Mitt Romney. Over the next few months the temptations to suggest that Mormonism and the orthodox Christianity are compatible will be great for conservative Christians who are inclined to support Romney -- one certainly doesn't want to stir up controversy about one's own candidate -- and those of us who are ordained will likely be asked about Mormonism. The temptation to portray them as just another branch of Christianity will be considerable.

It's imperative that Christians -- and especially clergy -- not yield to that temptation, even if we support Governor Romney. In a day when fuzzy theology dominates greater clarity is needed. This doesn't mean that a Christian ipso facto shouldn't support a Mormon candidate for President? No, but it does mean that when the subject arises we do not need to gloss over the very real differences that exist. Particularly as a priest, I will one day stand before God and give account as to how faithfully I proclaimed His Word and shepherded His flock; I will not be asked how faithfully I supported any party's nominee. Ultimately no election is worth compromising the Christian faith.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

2016 Obama's America

In the late Summer of 1994 I headed off to seminary in Due West, South Carolina, renting an apartment in nearby Abbevlle. Since I moved in several weeks before classes actually started I made use of the luxury of a nearby seminary library to do some reading; somewhere in the stacks -- possibly in the college section -- I stumbled across Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education. I'd heard of D'Souza before but this was my first serious exposure to his work and I was impressed with his analysis, thoughts, and cogency. I've followed him through the years with much approbation and not a little jealousy -- he did, after all, once date the lovely and brilliant Laura Ingraham, but I digress.

When I started hearing of the release of 2016: Obama's America last month on The Michael Berry Show I knew that I needed to see it when it came to the area. It opened in three South Carolina theaters on 17 August, but sadly the closest one is Columbia at present (there is a possibility that it may be coming to the Lowcountry at some point in the near future), so up I-26 I trekked this afternoon. 

This is an exceptionally well made movie. It's engaging, interesting, and profoundly disturbing.  Based on the premise that most people do not know exactly who the 44th President of the United States is, D'Souza sets out to discover exactly that and to gain an idea of what his formative influences were. Noting the uncanny similarities between himself and President Obama (they were born in the same year, Ivy League educated, spent part or all of their youths in Asia, were influenced by an anti-colonial mindset, graduated from college the same year, and were married the same year -- among others), D'Souza presents a not-unsympathic look at the forces that formed Obama.

Despite the fact that his first biography was entitled Dreams From My Father, it's clear that Barack Obama, Sr, was present in the life of his young son more as an idea than a true influence -- they had practically no contact save for a visit when he was roughly ten years of age and a brief period of correspondence after that, but yet in a very real way he was always there, held up as an idealized role model by his mother Stanley Ann Dunham -- the radical daughter of a radical father whose influence on his life cannot be underestimated. Following his parents' divorce and his mother's remarriage to Lolo Soetoro and a move to Indonesia, his mother was disappointed when his step-father turned out to be too establishment, happily accepting promotions and social invitations as his career advanced. This strained the relationship and young Barry was sent to live with his grandparents in Hawaii where a newspaperman and card-carrying Communist named Frank Marshall Davis was drafted by his grandfather as a role model for him.

D'Souza visits the places where Obama grew up, interviewing friends and family members to discern what the formative influences were on the man who currently sits behind the desk in the Oval Office. If you're looking for claims that Obama was born in Kenya, or that he's a Muslim, or that Frank Marshall Davis is actually his father, look on. If you're wanting to learn more about the "Choom Gang" and the President's youthful drug use, this won't fit the bill either. What D'Souza does accomplish is presenting a believable case for the anti-imperialistic, anti-colonial, far-left convictions of the father being transferred to the son, reflecting how he governs. Should President Obama win another four years in the White House, D'Souza is convinced that the country will look far different than it does today -- a weakened country where government redistribution of wealth has taken place on an unprecedentedly large scale -- when Obama speaks of the 1% and the 99% he doesn't mean within American society but worldwide, meaning that is is very intentionally weakening the position of the United States in a pursuit of what he perceives to be justice.

Regardless of what your thoughts are on Barack Obama -- whether you supported him in 2008 or not and regardless of whether you're planning to support him in November -- you will learn something from this movie. I encourage you to see it.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Of the Telephone Book

N.B., This post won't be that deep or profound and I make no pretense of it. It's just something I got to thinking about. -- DC+

Perhaps you remember the scene in the great 1979 film The Jerk where Navin R. Johnson is excited to see that his name is in print in the new telephone book. "Things are going to start happening to me now," he says in delight (and they do, but I'll not spoil the movie for you if you haven't seen it). 

Throughout my childhood, the phone book was always there -- one each, beside each of the telephones. When my family moved from Black Mountain, North Carolina, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we took a copy of the most recent phone book with us in case it was needed to keep in touch with friends. When I went off to college I took a Myrtle Beach telephone book with me for similar reasons. Twenty years ago my name appeared for the first time in the telephone book (I can't remember if it was at Fort Knox, Kentucky, or Myrtle Beach, where I had returned to finish my undergraduate work); while it wasn't as thrilling for me as it was for Navin Johnson, it was a sign of independence and a milestone as a young adult. 

As I moved through the years I often had a couple of other telephone books from other places for ready reference. I was always in it -- for a while as "Collins, Charles A., Jr." and as "Collins, Drew," to help in locating me. Later, after ordination, it became "Collins, Charles A., Jr. Rev." Then, a few years ago my name dropped out -- I had transitioned to using my cell phone for everything and no longer had a home telephone line. When the new telephone book would come it would gather dust. The numbers I had were the numbers I needed and if I needed any others I could look them up on my smart phone.

I mention all of this because when I arrived home this evening the new phone book had been delivered. It immediately went into the trash. I did so with a tinge of regret -- yet another familiar object from my youth rendered obsolete with the passage of time and improvements in technology. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chuck Colson and Me

When I prayed the evening office tonight I remembered Charles Colson, in extremis, for reports have been received that Colson -- better known to many as "Chuck" -- is near death after having fallen ill several weeks ago and undergoing emergency surgery for a blood clot. I owe him a debt of gratitude on a number of counts.

I was raised in a nominal Christian family in a nice respectable church that, quite frankly, didn't talk much about my sinfulness or need for redemption, but I did spend a good deal of time at the now-demolished Myrtle Square Mall because Collins Department Store, owned by the family and (in the case of that one) managed by my dad (it's gone now too -- we sold them in 1981). We'd go there shopping and I was let loose to roam at a fairly early age. The Word, a Christian Bookstore located right by Sears (people of a certain age who were raised in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, will know exactly where I'm talking about) was owned and operated by the Herdons, good folk whom I knew from church, and sold (among other things) Spire Christian Comics. They were simplistic but actually conveyed the stories that they intended to tell pretty well and one of them was an adaptation of Chuck Colson's autobiography, Born Again. While it wasn't high art it was the first time that I can remember hearing of my need for a saviour and the concept of new birth in Christ. I later read the book and saw the movie, but that comic book was the first clear presentation of the Gospel that I can remember and was used to bring me to faith in Christ. Really.

Some years later, after commissioning and while still in college, I began considering a vocation to ordained ministry and read a number of Colson's books including The Body. While not a scholarly tome it did impact how I viewed the Church and its mission in the world -- the first ecclesiology I read. It was through his works that I first learned of a Christian world and life view, and for that I'm very thankful; his thoughtful Breakpoint commentaries fleshed that out. Charles Colson was also one of the leaders in the Manhattan Declaration, a great statement of Christian conscience of which I was pleased to be the 4177th signer (if you've not done so I encourage you to sign it as well) and continued to promote Christian engagement with culture -- all of this, in addition to his primary work reaching men and women in prison with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In 1997 I got to hear Colson in person at the dedication of Reformed Theological Seminary's Charlotte Campus and I regret that I didn't meet him that night (the crowds were considerable). Barring the miraculous, I probably won't get a chance to thank him in person in this life but want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the impact that he's had on my life and the Church of Christ at large.