Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sermon: 29 March 2015 (Palm Sunday)

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 29 March 2015, Palm Sunday. The texts were Philippians 2:5-11 and St. Matthew 27:1-54.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sermon 22 March 2015

Sermon Preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., SBR., UE, at The Church of the Atonement, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 22 March 2015, The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Commonly Called Passion Sunday. The texts were Hebrews 9:11-5 and St. John 8:46-59.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On the PC(USA) and Ammendment 14f

Although I've been an Anglican since my entry into the Reformed Episcopal Church, in which I was ordained deacon in 2001 and priest in 2003, I was born and baptized into and joined the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old "Southern Presbyterian Church" which ceased to exist in 1983 when it participated in the merger that resulted in the creation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) . At least one line of my family tree has Presbyterian roots going back directly to Scotland with a number of other ancestors having stopped off in Ulster before coming to the New World. My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Makemie Wilson, was a scrappy Scotch-Irish kid from the Waxhaws (he had a boyhood friend named Andy Jackson you may have heard of) who entered the Presbyterian ministry and served as the Minister of Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Concord, North Carolina, for 30 years, where he also had a classical school where he taught some of the men who went on to found Davidson College; he and his wife had several sons enter the ministry including one who perished as a medical missionary. When to no one's surprise more than my own I began to discern a call to the ordained ministry I took the initial steps to do so in the Presbytery of New Harmony with the intention of attending Columbia Theological Seminary because, well, that's where the Presbyterian ministers whom I knew had pretty much gone -- I knew I'd tend toward the evangelical wing of the PC(USA) but honestly, with all of the vigor of an early twentysomething with a sense of vocation figured that things could be turned around, something that an interview with the then-admissions officer made pretty clear wasn't welcome (it was pretty much made clear that she'd rather not have my kind there) and resulted in my departure for the Associate Reformed Presbyterians and going to Erskine Theological Seminary instead. Despite not being a member of the PC(USA) since 1993 and not even being a Presbyterian any more I follow events there because many of my family and quite a few friends still in that body.

For that reason I was disappointed but not surprised when I learned that sufficient presbyteries had ratified Amendment 14f to their Book of Order which neutralized the definition of marriage to allow for same-sex unions. I had known it was coming as they trends were clear that that portion of the Church was following cultural trends rather than being grounded in Scripture and Sacred Tradition in standing against the culture (something that was made clear in a local news story where the Rev'd Deane Kemper, Stated Clerk of Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery, commented that the church had to follow the state in how it conducted marriage ceremonies and used a very simplistic example drawn from the Latter Day Saints' abandonment of polygamy in order to gain Utah's statehood [in point to fact some "Mormons," the term that Kemper used retained the practice]). The Church is called to bear witness to culture and transform it through the preaching of the Word, evangelism, discipleship, and works of charity, it is not called upon to follow the whims of culture and when it has done so the results have been negative.

I suspect that many in the leadership of the PC(USA) have vastly underestimated the fallout that they will experience from this. Although my father was raised in the Presbyterian Church he is only an occasional attender and doesn't really follow church news, When I spoke with him today he brought it up and noted that he might withhold any contributions from his own congregation as a result -- if he is sitting up and taking notice then I'm sure others are as well and with the recent South Carolina court decision regarding the ownership of property in The Episcopal Church (about which I wrote here), South Carolina presbyteries may find that they no longer can intimidate those congregations seeking to depart. Look for more conservative Presbyterian bodies like the Presbyterian Church in America, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and especially two options that allow for women officers (a practice long accepted in the PC[USA] and entrenched in most congregations at this point) -- the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians to make substantial gains in light of this.

Decisive times are no doubt ahead.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sermon: 15 March 2015

A sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., SBR, U.E., at The Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, 15 March 2015. The texts were Galatians 4:21-31 and St. John 6:1-14.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sermon: 8 March 2015

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 8 March 2015, the Third Sunday in Lent. The texts were Ephesians 5:1-14 and St. Luke 11:14-28.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sermon 1 March 2015

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., Vicar of the Church of the Atonement, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 1 March 2015, the Second Sunday in Lent. The Text was St. Matthew 15:21-28.

Religion of one’s choice: The liberty to leave

Published in the March 2015 Charleston Mercury.

By Charles A. Collins, Jr.
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.” So goes an anonymous quote that featured prominently in cheesy posters from the 1970s, but despite the indeterminate source and somewhat unusual context (at least in my mind), it contains at least a nugget of truth.
The ruling handed down by the Judge Dianne S. Goodstein of the First Judicial Circuit on February 3 has ramifications that go beyond Anglican Church or even religious issues. Citing a 1984 case, Robert v. United States Jaycees, Judge Goodstein asserted, “With the freedom to associate goes its corollary, the freedom to disassociate.” That seems elementary even to this (legal) layman — association and affection that is compelled may be many things, but it most certainly is not free.
For this Anglican who is one by conviction and studied choice — who entered seminary as a Presbyterian and was drawn to the Anglican Way in large part because of the Book of Common Prayer — the timing comes at a most precipitous time. My friend the Rev. Dr. Peter Moore has elsewhere in this issue done an excellent job tracing the decline of orthodoxy in The Episcopal Church that led to this point as only one who lived much of it as a priest and seminary dean could do. Although I may not look like it in comparison to the youthful and vigorous Dean Moore, I’m a bit younger with a more limited range of personal experience.
This decision comes at a precipitous time and not so much because of the inevitable appeals; rather, these things don’t happen in a vacuum. (A motion to reconsider was filed by TEC and its local representatives on February 13, but it was denied a few days before we went to press.) Indeed, let us consider church matters beyond the Episcopal/Anglican dispute. Note with care the theological revisionism evidenced in TEC, which has closely paralleled that taking place in other religious bodies belonging to what was largely known as the Protestant Mainline.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church, the largest Lutheran body in the nation, has undergone the largest church split in American history during the past few years with 500,000 members departing primarily for the North American Lutheran Church, which has parishes locally in North Charleston and Goose Creek and held their 2014 Convocation at The Citadel last July. The policies involving ownership of property among the Lutherans precluded the kind of court battles that occurred in TEC; that is not, however, the case with the Presbyterian Church (USA), in which presbyteries lay claim to the property held in trust by local congregations.
As was the case with the Lutherans and Episcopalians, issues surrounding human sexuality have been the area in which the symptoms of theological revisionism have been most evident. Those congregations wishing to depart the Presbyterian Church (USA) have typically had to pay some of the assessment that would be due had they not departed under a policy known as “gracious dismissal.” In at least one case a minister allowed the manse in which he and his family lived to be sold so that the congregation that he served could depart. Locally, Rockville Presbyterian Church on Wadmalaw Island departed Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church several years ago.
If Judge Goldstein’s ruling stands, it could have significant implications for mainline Presbyterians in South Carolina, possibly making it easier for congregations to depart with their property — something that is relevant as the two presbyteries that cover the coast of South Carolina will vote on whether or not to allow same-sex blessings in late February or early March.
Judge Goldstein’s ruling upholds the historic principle that free association cannot be coerced. It will be appealed and studied for years to come. Stay alert for breaking developments that will almost certainly have ramifications far beyond Episcopal/Anglican circles.
The Reverend Charles A. Collins, Jr., 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 atdrew.collins@gmail.com.