Friday, December 5, 2014

Resist the war on Advent

Published in the December 2014 Charleston Mercury.

by Charles A. Collins, Jr.
Late on the evening of October 31, I was headed home from a Halloween gathering with friends when I stopped off by a drug store near my house to pick up a few items. I run in there every few days and couldn’t help but notice that the copious Halloween goods that had been on display had now been replaced by Christmas goods — and it wasn’t quite November yet. At least one local radio station went to an around-the-clock Christmas music format just a few days later.
Much is made each year of the “war on Christmas.” Creeping political correctness seeks to marginalize the importance of Jesus’ birth to avoid offending those who may not celebrate the holiday; thus Christmas festivals are renamed “Winter Festivals” and the ACLU attacks nativity scenes on public property (some Christians even complain about the fairly innocuous abbreviation “X-mas,” although in the interest of full disclosure the Greek letter Chi has often been used as shorthand for “Christ” — and one examining the notes that I’ve written in the margin of my Bible would note that I use it myself). While those things concern me to some extent, I find that our culture is in danger of going to another extreme that is fraught with its own perils — that of rushing headlong into Christmas (sometimes from commercial motives) and forgetting the Advent season altogether.
Advent — that season that commences the church year preceding Christmastide — is an important gift, as Christians are reminded that Jesus will come again just as He did on that very first Christmas. It directs our attention to the consummation of the age when Christ will return in glory to judge the world. That’s a message that’s not nearly as appealing to many people as the babe in the manger that we celebrate at Christmas, but the fact that God the Son — the second Person of the Triune Godhead — condescended to earth, took on our form and was born of a woman to redeem His people who had gone astray only adds to the wonder of the season.
So resist the temptation to rush headlong into Christmas; savor Advent as we prepare to thank God for our Savior’s incarnation. Take seriously this call to prepare for His consummate return. Once Christmas has arrived, resist the culture’s rush to shudder it all until next … well, October apparently. Relish all 12 days of Christmas in celebration of Jesus’ incarnation.
The Rev’d Charles A. Collins, Jr. currently serves as vicar of the Church of the Atonement, a Reformed Episcopal Parish of the Anglican Church in North America, in Mount Pleasant. He may be contacted at drew.collins at

Thursday, November 27, 2014

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

Shortly before the Common Cause Partnership birthed the Anglican Church in North America a Cycle of Prayer was set up along with a prayer blog that enabled the members and parishes of the Common Cause Partners to pray for one another. It ran out just before the ACNA was founded and I missed it so several years ago while serving as Vicar of St. Thomas Church in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, I resurrected it and have continued to produce it periodically. Here is the latest installment.

Of Grand Juries and Ham Sandwiches

Having been a political junkie from an early age I registered to vote literally before my 18th Birthday (I turned 18 in an election year and South Carolina law permits 17 year-olds to vote in primaries for elections if they will be 18 by election day) and I have voted in every general and primary election since then with the possible exception of one primary (the absentee ballot may or may not have gotten to me at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in time), updating my address as I moved. Juries are culled from voter registration lists and I had gotten called to jury duty in South Carolina while a cadet at Georgia Military College and when I called the Clerk of Court's office to let them know I was going to school out of state they told me that I might be called that summer, but I wasn't;for twenty years I wondered why I somehow missed jury duty until a fateful night in early January 2009 when I received a summons to jury duty and a questionnaire related to the same, which I promptly returned.

I had people ask if I would be reporting in clericals and I told them that I would not. I don't try to trade on the collar in that way if, for instance, I go to traffic court and I wasn't about to start then so I reported for duty wearing a bow tie and a blazer. I figured that I didn't stand much of a chance of getting selected because  when I was asked what my occupation is and I said "priest" that the prosecution would rapidly strike me assuming that I'd be a bleeding heart; if I survived that I guessed that the defense would do the same when I answered the fairly standard question of whether or not I had any close associations with law enforcement officers by telling them that I was a Chaplain for the Sheriff's Department, presuming that I has biased toward law enforcement. When I arrived at the Courthouse I learned that after twenty years of no jury duty I'd made up for it big time by getting the jury duty that lasts a year (with an option to get extended for a second year), namely service on the grand jury. Furthermore the only questions that I was asked were those that I'd already answered on the questionnaire; when I was the first name drawn the die was cast.

And so it was that for the next twelve months (I didn't get picked up for a second year) I and roughly 18 of my fellow citizens reported to the courthouse monthly to deliberate and vote true bill or no bill on a large docket of cases (I would guess an average of 100 per month) for the princely sum of $10 a day (fortunately the hospice for which I served as a chaplain at the time paid me for jury duty, but employers are not required to do that, so it represented a real sacrifice for some of the jurors). I would guess that I was one of maybe two or three people with a bachelor's degree and am fairly certain that I was the only juror with a graduate degree. I can honestly say that we discharged our duty faithfully with a few of us recusing ourselves from time to time (I myself did I think three times, a couple of times because it was dealing with cases that I'd encountered while riding along with deputies [as I was instructed to do] and one other time that I realized the person charged was related to a hospice patient for whom I'd cared; at least one lady did so because the person being voted on was her ex-husband). As I recall I voted "no bill" a couple of times and we as a grand jury voted "no bill" a couple of times when more information was needed -- after it was clarified we voted "true bill."

I've thought back on that year quite a bit over the past few days in light of the decision and subsequent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Many people, including some friends of mine have suggested that the grand jurors didn't do their duty by not automatically vote to indict and send it to a "real jury" so that a "real trial" could take place. Such comments betray an ignorance of how our criminal justice system works. A grand jury is in fact a real jury, and it plays an important role in safeguarding our liberties and the notion that it only exists to rubber stamp whatever charges are leveled at citizens by the state is a dangerous one. I have a degree in criminal justice and within the first 15 minutes of the first criminal justice class that I ever took it was drilled into us that our criminal justice system is based upon discretion at all levels and the grand jury is one of those levels. Grand juries protect citizens from unjust charges and if they don't do their duty -- as some are suggesting that the St. Louis County grand jury shouldn't have done by merely rubber stamping the indictment and allowing a trial to take place for a crime that they didn't have probably cause to believe had been committed in pursuit of, ironically, justice, then some of the protections that we enjoy under the Constitution have been eroded. 

But aren't grand jury indictments so easy to obtain that you could indict a ham sandwich? Not really, and they're certainly not supposed to be. I'll grant that the process is weighted in favor of the prosecution but that doesn't mean that just anything can be slipped by a grand jury and it certainly doesn't mean that it should. The overwhelming majority of the cases result in a vote of "true bill," but in the majority of cases the information presented more than met the standard of probable cause. After reviewing the facts of the case in the shooting of Michael Brown in  excruciating detail (three autopsies and numerous witnesses) the St. Louis County grand jury determined that probable cause did not exist to believe that Officer Wilson violated the law in exercising deadly force (I'll not comment on the specifics of the case but would commend this article form a law enforcement site that goes into great detail).

Is there racial injustice in the United States in 2014? Yes, I'm sure that there is in places, but progress toward eradicating it is not made by looting and rioting, nor is it made by trying to short-circuit the process and make someone stand trial for a crime that they are not adjudged to commit for the sake of atoning for sins that the person did not specifically commit (if one goes down that road it is a very short trip to convicting people of crimes that they didn't commit to appease an angry mob... seems I recall a case similar to that somewhere). In point of fact grand juries are one of the safeguards that protect the rights of individual citizens and should be respected as such.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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

N.B. The Most Rev'd Dr. Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, has written his clergy and laity asking that we refrain from signing The Marriage Pledge  at this time until prayerful deliberation may take place. Out of respect for my godly Archbishop's request I have written First Things Dr. Radner, and Canon Seitz and asked that my name be removed at this time.

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

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. 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.

Friday, August 8, 2014

More sad news this week from the attack that killed MG Harold J.Greene.

Georgia Military College, my Alma mater whence I was commissioned, is not a large school -- it's one of five military junior colleges where one can receive an associate's degree and a commission in the Army Reserve through the Early Commissioning Program (all of the graduates of which are then naturally required to complete a bachelor's degree whether or not they will serve out their obligations on active duty or the the Army Reserve or National Guard) and while the commissioning classes are, as I understand it, among the larger ones in the Army ROTC program they are nowhere near as big as, for instance, a class at West Point, Texas A&M (which has a larger Corps of Cadets than the Service Academies) and I am fairly sure that they're smaller than the ones at The Citadel or VMI. Because of that it's fairly unusual for two graduates to run into each other out in the Army. In light of that, the following information about the attack that killed MG Greene earlier this week was unusual and sad:

Earlier today, LtGen William B. Caldwell, IV, President of Georgia Military College, was informed by CPT Aurlbrio Fennel (GMC Class of 2004) that two of Fennel’s classmates, CPT Jeremy Haynes and CPT Ibrahim Tantawi, were critically wounded in the attack that killed MG Harold J. Greene in Afghanistan on August 5, 2014.

CPT Haynes was the Aide de Camp to MG Greene and CPT Tantawi is the Aide de Camp to MG Kevin Wendel. Haynes and Tantawi are in stable but critical condition in Germany.

LtGen Caldwell said, “This was my command for two years, and where BG Curt Rauhut (GMC’s Chief Operating Officer) served for two years, so we do fully appreciate the challenges that are associated with this mission. We will unite in prayer for our young grads, and for their families, as well as for all who were wounded and their families, especially the Greene family.”

Fennel, Haynes and Tantawi, all 2004 graduates of GMC’s Early Commissioning Program, posed for this photo just a couple of weeks ago while all were together in Afghanistan. [End quote]

Of your mercy, pray for CPTs Haynes, and Tantawi.

From the Charleston Mercury, August 2014

Margaret Sanger, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

By Charles A. Collins, Jr.
Shortly after moving to Texas in early 2001, I needed a couple of diplomas and my diaconal ordination certificate framed. After consulting with some friends in the area, they were nearly unanimous in their recommendation of where I should get the work done — a place that I’d not heard of in South Carolina, but about which people were effusive in praise. I’m speaking, of course, of Hobby Lobby, a store that has followed me as I returned to S.C. — and has been much in the news of late.
In 1970, David Green, an Assemblies of God minister’s son from Oklahoma, took out a $600 loan and began assembling and selling miniature picture frames out of his garage. The family business grew quickly: within a couple of years he was shopping for retail space and soon after upgraded to a larger shop, by then using the name Hobby Lobby. More stores followed as the company expanded: it currently has some 575 stores nationwide (including one in Mount Pleasant). This has made Green a billionaire, but despite the growth the company hasn’t gone public — it’s privately held with the Green family owning a controlling share. In addition, the son of a preacher man has sought to remain true to his faith, not opening Hobby Lobby on Sundays and living out his beliefs in other ways: “We’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles,” Green explains.
Because of their Christian principles, the Greens were compelled to oppose the Affordable Care Act because of its requirement that the company provide coverage for forms of birth control that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. (The company had no opposition to funding the most commonly used forms of birth control such as most birth control pills, prophylactics, sponges and sterilization.) Hobby Lobby filed suit, and in the June 30 ruling of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 ruling that closely held corporations such as Hobby Lobby couldn’t be compelled to fund procedures that conflict with the religious convictions of their owners. Conservatives were, generally speaking, pleased; those on the left, less so.
Amid the hue and cry, this observer noticed two telling ads opposed to Hobby Lobby and the decision. The first, from the American Humanist Association, encouraged people to boycott businesses that unfairly impose their religion — Hobby Lobby is listed under the “crafts” category and Fox News is listed under the “news” category and Chick-Fil-A for “chicken.” The listing for “clothing,” however, was the Salvation Army. Perhaps, the American Humanists missed it, but, despite the fact that many think of the Salvation Army as a social service agency that has thrift stores, it is first, foremost, and always a church, with local congregations and clergy — and it should come as no surprise that a church would seek to influence others for their religion.
That listing betrays a larger agenda, namely the removal of faith from public discourse. In our culture today, it is perfectly fine to hold religious convictions provided they don't actually influence the way one lives. Such a privatized, marginalized faith is unlikely to bear much fruit.
The other ad was from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and prominently featured Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger noting with approbation her motto, “No gods — no masters.” This highlight of Mrs. Sanger reveals more that the FFRF might have wished. Mrs. Sanger was a staunch advocate of eugenics, a social philosophy aimed at improving the genetic quality of human beings, boldly proclaiming the goal of “more children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the goal of birth control,” and referring to blacks, immigrants, and indigents as “human weeds, reckless breeders, spawning human beings ... who should never have been born.” It is both telling and troubling that the Freedom From Religion Foundation seeks to make Sanger an exemplar.
I’m certainly not trying to demonize all who disagree with the ruling inBurwell v. Hobby Lobby. I have friends who take issue with it. I am encouraging readers to look at the world and life view undergirding some opposition to the ruling, and the demand for compliance with government programs and progressive social causes, that seeks to remove the voices of people of faith from public discourse.
            The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., is vicar of the Church of the Atonement, a Reformed Episcopal parish in the Anglican Church of North America in Mount Pleasant.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How Well Do We Know Bowe?

Yesterday morning I was sleeping in after a late night of riding along with a Sheriff's Deputy as part of my chaplaincy duties when a friend and former parishioner contacted me to tell me that the BBC was reporting that SGT Bowe Bergdahl had been released from Taliban captivity. She knew of my concern for his captivity, that I'd kept him in prayer, and that I'd done what I could to keep him within people's awareness -- until yesterday many people weren't aware of his existence and captivity. Much of the public's emotions seemed to go from joy (at the release of a U.S. soldier), to questions (about the prisoner swap), to in many cases anger and accusations that he is a traitor.

I had followed his case to one degree or another since shortly after learning of his capture in 2009. LTC Ralph Peters, a military analyst whose work I'd followed for a number of years, famously made some indelicate comments to Bill O'Reilly that caused controversy. Following that there wasn't much news other than occasional releases of film clips and a report -- later dismissed as Taliban propaganda --that he'd joined the Taliban. Then, in late 2011, there were reports that he had escaped captivity for several days before becoming re-captured. I was, quite frankly, convicted of having forgotten him; I added him to the "all military personnel and those currently deployed" section of my prayer list and purchased (and have since worn) a bracelet with his name on it (see below).

I will continue wearing it until he's back on U.S. soil, probably later this week.

Does this mean that I'm comfortable with the prisoner swap? No, I'm not. It almost certainly wasn't a wise move and may have serious ramifications for our security in the future; it also was a decision about which SGT Bergdahl, who was a Private First Class when captured (servicemen and women who are classified as prisoners of war or missing in action are automatically promoted up to the grade of Colonel or Navy or Coast Guard Captain), almost certainly wasn't consulted. Was his father's now-deleted tweet something I would've written? No, but neither was it particularly traitorous (a number of friends of mine, particularly of a Libertarian bent have expressed similar sentiments) nor do they indicate that he's secretly converted to Islam (for the record, the homeschooling family are members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church a quite conservative denomination that is unequivocal about the uniqueness of Christ), but, again, those comments weren't made by SGT Bergdahl.

The circumstances surrounding Bowe Bergdahl's disappearance and capture need to be examined and no doubt  they will. He remained under the Uniform Code of Military Justice throughout his captivity (and does to this day) and the United States Army will no-doubt examine and investigate his conduct and take appropriate action, which is as it should be. We as a country do not leave soldiers in the hands of our enemies. Period.

So give thanks for his safe return and hope for and demand a detailed accounting for what happened, but I would urge those reading this to withhold judgement until all of the facts are in.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Former Missionaries to France to Speak at the Church of the Atonement


     The Rev. Canon William S. Jerdan, Executive Secretary of the Reformed Episcopal Board of Foreign Missions, will preach at the Church of the Atonement, a Reformed Episcopal parish of the Anglican Church in North America, on April 6 at 10am; he will be accompanied by his wife Dianne. The Church of the Atonement is located at 324 Fifth Avenue in Mount Pleasant.
      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 and regions 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 the Church of the Atonement, at (843) 608-1796 or at drew.collins (at)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bishop Jefferts -Schori to Give Inaugural Beers Lecture

In a year that has seen her presented an honorary degree from Oxford University and invited to give the Second Annual C.S. Lewis Legacy Lecture at Westminster College, the first woman in the history of the United States Episcopal Church to become Presiding Bishop, Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori, will deliver the inaugural David Booth Beers Lecture on the Practice of Law at the University of California Hastings School of the Law in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 5.

Her 11am lecture on Litigation and Suing Traditional Christians will be held in the Louis B. Mayer Multipurpose Room in Snodgrass Hall and will be open to the public with seating on a first-come, first-served basis. Following the lecture, which was endowed by an anonymous donor in honor of Bishop Schori's Chancellor, David Booth Beers, both Bishop Schori and Mr. Beers, a 1960 graduate of the Hastings School of the Law, will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters and Law (Honoris Causa).

“We are quite honored that the Presiding Bishop has accepted our invitation to lecture,” said John Leshy, the Harry D. Sunderland Distinguished Professor of Real Property Law. “Neither her divinity degree nor her two graduate degrees in oceanography give her any expertise on this subject, but she more than makes up for it in real world experience suing both individuals and churches. Her track record is, quite simply, unparallelled.”

Bishop Jefferts-Schori was an oceanographer before being ordained in 1994 and has continued to use her knowledge of invertebrates in dealing with the House of Bishops. She remains an active, instrument-rated pilot. Before her election as Bishop she was a priest and university lecturer but remarkably never had charge of a parish.

The Presiding Bishop is the Chief Ecumenical Officer of the Church and Pastor and Primate of this national church with around 1.8 million members claimed in the United States alone. The Presiding Bishop is charged with responsibility for leadership in initiating, developing, and articulating policy and strategy, overseeing the administration of the national church staff, speaking for the church on issues of concern and interest, and putting a stick to them and making them jump.