Tuesday, May 24, 2022

"Worship -- Still a Verb" Eleven Years Later

While looking for a quote in an email earlier I came across the following and thought I'd share and revisit it. -- DC

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Worship -- Still a Verb

This past Tuesday evening I found myself in downtown Charleston with some time to kill so, as I often enjoy doing, I took pipe and a book and stopped by The Smoking Lamp, my favorite tobacconist. While sitting there and visiting with a couple of hookah-smoking College of Charleston students the Rev'd Canon J. Michael Wright, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church came in and in the course of our conversation he mentioned that Dr. Richard Schori, husband of Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, would be speaking the next evening at Grace Church.  An accomplished photographer, Dr. Schori frequently takes his camera along while traveling with his wife (many of his photos have been used by Episcopal News Service) and was to speak on some of his observations and experiences). Canon Wright kindly invited me, but I wasn't sure if I could make it or not. After speaking later to a friend who wanted to go, I did indeed attend.

Dr. Schori spoke on "The Episcopal Church: Aspects of Breadth and Depth." Not surprisingly, his presentation was copiously illustrated and, in the main, non-polemic, focusing on the work that the Episcopal Church is doing around the world (it did have a bit of a company feel to it, but that wasn't surprising given who his wife is and the fact that Grace Church is a bastion of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, the local Via Media franchise -- one would hardly expect the man to come here and bash his wife). I'll not critique all of the presentation, but one comment, made toward the end when he gave his advice to new bishops, is worth of comment and, I believe, respectful disagreement.

The second of those rules was "practice your spirituality on your time," followed by an explanation that bishops (and one would assume other clergy as well) are "performing" during services and should keep that in mind so as to allow for a better presentation (and nicer photographs). Uh, no.

As I commented to my friend, if ever I am performing rather than worshiping, take my collar and send me out to sell insurance, used cars, fertilizer or something. As the late Robert Webber reminded us, worship is a verb and those who worship should be doing so in spirit and in truth. Don't get me wrong, I like liturgy (hence, my Anglicanism by choice) and I'm all for worship done well (agreeing completely with the Clergy Handbook for the Free Church of England that ". . . slovenliness or carelessness in deportment are not evidences of true Protestantism or of consecration of life."), but when staging a pretty picture becomes more important than worshiping, things have gotten horribly, horribly wrong.

I'm a priest, but I'm also a sinner. When I come to worship I need to confess my sins, receive absolution and assurance than my sins are forgiven in Christ, and I need to hear the comfortable words. Because the Christian life is hard, I need to hear God's Word preached and need to be sacramentally fed in Holy Communion. All of that is lost if it's only a pretty performance. From time to time people have told me that I read the prayers and lessons well ; they mean that as a compliment and I take it as such (although sometimes joking about them
having no idea how impressive that is for a graduate of the South Carolina Public Schools), but I was even more complimented when another priest with whom I served once told me that he could tell that I was not only reading the liturgy, but praying it. May it always be so.

The late Flannery O'Connor, devout Roman Catholic and Southern author, once responded to the Zwinglian view of Holy Communion, noted "Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it." That pretty much sums up my views of worship as a performance.

Eleven years have now passed. Canon Wright is now Dean Wright, Grace Church having become Grace Church Cathedral, the base of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina following the departure of the bulk of the former Diocese of South Carolina from The Episcopal Church in 2012 (it's now known as the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina and is part of the Anglican Church in North America).  The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina has closed up shop, having more or less accomplished what they were aiming for.  Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori stepped down from the office of Presiding Bishop in 2015, spent a couple of years assisting in the Diocese of San Diego, and now seems to be fully retired. Dr. Richard Schori is now Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, at Oregon State University and is presumably still taking pictures. I wasn't an enthusiast then and aren't one today, but I still focus on worshiping rather than performing and making a pretty picture.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Colin Powell, RIP

GEN Colin Luther Powell, U.S. Army (Retired), and former Secretary of State, has died at the age of 84. I first became aware of him as a student in high school when he was named Deputy National Security Advisor following the Iran-Contra affair and made the prediction to one of my teachers (who'd never heard from him at that point) that the first black President might be a Republican (and that was a bit of a shot in the dark as I didn't know his party affiliation) then serving as a Lieutenant General in the Army. With Operation Just Cause and the first Gulf War everyone soon became aware of Powell and that teacher later told my younger brother he couldn't believe how uncanny my prediction had been.

Powell wasn't the first black officer to rise to four-star rank in the U.S. military -- he was the fifth, and the first to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That's pretty remarkable for the son of Jamaican immigrants who couldn't use the front door in some of the restaurants outside of Fort Benning, Georgia, when he was a newly commissioned Lieutenant. He was, admittedly, a political General, spending more time than usual in Washington, D.C. and less than-typical time with troops as a senior officer, but he'd served two tours in Vietnam and received a Purple Heart for his wounds (he was also, interestingly, the first Ranger-qualified Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff).

Following retirement from the Army he flirted with a political run (earning me credibility with that former teacher) but ultimately never throwing his hat in the ring out of respect to his wife Alma, who reportedly feared that doing so might make him a target for assignation. He did serve as Secretary of State in the Bush Administration and was key in pushing the Iraq invasion, later backtracking on that, somewhat less that candidly in the opinion of many. He later endorsed a string of Democrats for President, for which many are castigating him today.

Colin Powell was fairly unabashed in describing himself as a "Rockefeller Republican." Nelson Rockefeller died over forty years ago so that term has little meaning today but it refers to the country club crowd who for many years controlled the Republican Party and despised Conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. They were largely indistinguishable from Democrats and, in fact, many of them later became Democrats except in places like my home state of South Carolina where many Democrat politicians have become Republicans (at least In Name Only) because it better serves their political interests for things like elections and committee chairmanships). Powell didn't do that but, rather, remained a Republican while often supporting Democrats in ways similar to some friends of mine from an earlier generation who will say that they're Southern Democrats but haven't actually supported a Democrat at the national level for decades.

In sum, I mourn the passing of a soldier who served his country long and well and achieved remarkable things as well as a man who described himself as an "old Prayer Book Episcopalian." I disagreed with many of his politics but still found much to admire and hope that he rests in peace and rises in glory and that God will comfort his family at this time. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Lines Drawn

by Charles A. Collins, Jr.

Published in the October 2021 issue of the Charleston Mercury.

        Owen Strachan, Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop It (Washington: Salem Books, 2021). 

           J. Gresham Machen was born in Baltimore at a time when that city was still a distinctly Southern city to an Episcopalian lawyer father and a Presbyterian mother with deep Georgia roots. He was raised attending Baltimore’s Franklin Street Presbyterian Church and trained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism by his mother. Machen attended John’s Hopkins University where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in classics, followed by a Master of Arts in philosophy at Princeton University while simultaneously attending Princeton Theological Seminary, including study in Germany under Wilhelm Herrmann, to whose Modernist theology he was attracted for a time. He ultimately rejected it and firmly embraced historical Reformed theology.

            In 1906 Machen joined the Princeton seminary faculty and after some hesitation he was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1914, at which time he became Assistant Professor of New Testament. He served as a YMCA Chaplain in World War I, where he witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by that conflict. Upon returning to Princeton he became increasingly concerned about the inroads he saw Modernism making into the Church, where key doctrines such as the person and work of Christ and his virgin birth, were considered to be up for debate. In 1923 he published his best-known work, Christianity and Liberalism, in which he noted that “In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.”

            He contended that at that time “. . . the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology.” While not finding either “modernism” or “liberalism” to be satisfactory names for this new religion, Machen reluctantly used the latter and deftly demonstrated that Christianity and liberalism are two different religions.

            Almost 100 years later, Dr. Owen Strachan, Provost and Professor of Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary, has obviously borrowed from both Machen’s title and his methodology in his new work Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop It. As Machen did with liberalism before him, he ultimately comes to the same conclusion that they constitute two distinct religions.

            Strachan begins his work by discussing how wokeness has entered and is entering the culture at large and the Church in particular, as it is often the need to be relevant that leads the church to adopt the tenets of the social justice movement. He then issues a fourteen point – seven points of which are theological and seven of which are primarily cultural and social – critique of “wokeness,” as the social justice movement has become known. Among them are the way in which it distorts the doctrine of humanity and divides the Church in ways that are unsound and a variance with Christian orthodoxy.  Also noted are ways in which the mindset mitigates against historic Christian teaching on human sexuality.

            The work than examines what Scripture teaches about identity and ethnicity in both the Old and New Testaments and then deals with had questions on American history and other hot topics. Strachan does not shy away from confronting genuine cases of historical sin and injustice while not falling prey to the errors so prevalent in social justice teaching. The book concludes with a glossary of terms – helpful in dealing with a topic that often requires learning a whole new vocabulary – as well as a list of works for further reading.

            Christianity of Wokeness is a readable and through introduction to the topic and amply supports the author’s thesis. Each chapter includes review questions and it would serve well for discussion groups concerning the subject. It is highly recommended.


        The Rev’d Charles A. Collins, Jr. is Rector of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Savannah, Georgia (https://www.saintandrewsanglican.net), and is a graduate of Erskine Theological Seminary, where he is currently a doctoral student. He may be contacted at drew.collins [at] gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Ironic Polity

'Tis the season for church meetings. Last week the Reformed Episcopal Church, in which I was ordained and to which I recently returned, had our 56th General Council last week via Zoom, a year late (thanks for nothing, COVID-19) -- on a related note, the Most Rev'd Dr. Ray R. Sutton's  Presiding Bishop's Report is well worth reading, particularly the comments found on page seven and following that deal with Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and so-called 'Side-B" homosexuality -- and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, in which I was licensed during my time in seminary, had their General Synod last week.  This week the Anglican Church in North America , of which the Reformed Episcopal Church is a sub-jurisdiction, held a meeting of their Assembly, this week and the Southern Baptist Convention met in Nashville. The Presbyterian Church in America's General Assembly will meet the week after next.

As a former Presbyterian (and still a Reformed Christian) I have a number of Presbyterian friends and a  concern that I often hear expressed by those in the PCA -- particularly the Rev'd Dr. Joseph A.Pipa, Jr. -- is that clergy (teaching elders) are over-represented at their General Assembly with many more of them than ruling elders. Although not-uniformly the case, clergy are often less conservative than are laity and in can usually attend such meetings more easily than can laymen, who must take time off from work and often incur considerable expense in doing so. An organization, MORE in the PCA, has been formed to encourage Ruling Elders to attend their General Assembly and to assist some from small churches toward that end while Dr. Pipa has advocated a delegated Assembly, which would reduce the number of those officially attending but would make the Ruling/Teaching Elder balance at least roughly equal.

As a Southerner I know no shortage of Southern Baptists and note that only seven percent of their congregations typically send messengers (delegates) to their annual convention (although registration was very high this year). Ministers don't automatically serve as messengers there, but can usually attend more easily.

Often my Baptist friends, who operate under a congregational polity, and my Presbyterian friends (who, obviously, operate under a presbyterian polity) will falsely assume that episcopal polity -- governance by bishops -- results in the laity being rendered powerless. At least in Anglicanism in the United States as represented by the ACNA and The Episcopal Church that's actually not the case. In many cases, and most particularly in the election of bishops, clergy and laity vote by order and a majority of votes from both must be achieved. The result is that the laity have a very real voice even if outnumbered by the clergy -- an ironic and important safeguard.  American episcopacy is far more representative than it is given credit for.

I have become a convinced episcopalian (as regards polity) but urge all Christian laymen to actively participate in their churches regardless of the polity under which they operate. The risks of not doing so are too high. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Fault Lines: A Review

Published in the May 2021 edition of the Charleston Mercury.

by Charles A,.Collins, Jr.

        Voddie T. Baucham, Jr., Fault Lines:The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe (Washington: Salem, 2021)

        Many years ago my caseload for the hospice that I was then serving took me to Walterboro once a 

week (usually Tuesdays) and I would typically eat lunch in the same restaurant as I liked their salad 

bar. Having become somewhat of a regular the waitresses had gotten to know me and one afternoon 

when business was slow one of them sat down to chat with and mentioned that she had recently moved 

to the Lowcountry from California and was somewhat anxious about the prospect of a hurricane 

although, she noted in passing, at least she didn’t have to worry about earthquakes. I had the 

unfortunate duty to inform her of the 1886 Charleston Earthquake and the fact that tremors are still felt 

in this area from time to time.

            Although South Carolina’s earthquake potential is not as well publicized as California’s, we do have fault lines in the area and the occasional tremors that we still occasionally experience serve as reminders of that. In his latest book the Rev’d Dr.Voddie T. Baucham, Jr., who has served as the Dean of the School of Divinity at African Christian University in Lukasa, Zambia, since 2015 but spent his life and ministry in the United States prior to that, uses the metaphor of geologic fault lines to examine the effects of the social justice movement, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality are having on the Church.

            Dr. Baucham writes out of his own experience as a black man, born in Los Angeles to a young couple whose brief marriage ended when his father abandoned his family to pursue acareer in professional football. As a child he found himself bussed out of the inner-city to attend an elementary school in Pacific Palisades as part of the court-ordered mandates of those times addressing segregation. He found himself in an environment where he was not wanted and at times experienced open hostility. Realizing that he faced a multitude of potential pitfalls in California his mother took him to live with her Marine brother in Beaufort (mis-identified in the book as “Beauford”), South Carolina. They stayed in Beaufort for only a year and a half, but the tough love that his uncle was able to provide was a needed course correction before relocating to his mother’s home state of Texas.

            He then went on to play football at New Mexico State University, where he became a Christian. Baucham notes; “I am a Christian because the grace of God found me when I wasn’t even looking. I am a Christian because of God’s miraculous intervention in my life.” (p. 23). From there he moved on to Houston Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, with a decidedly Afro-centric Christianity at the time. After involvement with Promise Keepers in the 1990s Baucham began to adopt an increasingly conciliatory stance and found himself and his family serving a predominately white congregation before a trip to Zambia convinced him that that is where he should serve.

After relocating to Zambia in 2015 he was tasked with teaching Introduction to Sociology, experience that allowed him to reacquaint himself with the discipline (he’d studied it as an undergraduate) and doing so was “. . . like diving into a pool of current affairs – only this pool was the fountainhead from which the ideas that drove current affairs sprang.” (p. 39).  Zambia has a history of police corruption and many of Baucham’s students began asking him about the corrupt police in the United States based on the news coverage that they had seen. The research and responses to their questions produced thereby laid the groundwork for this book.

Baucham engages in a though review of Critical Theory, which has its origins in the Frankfurt School and focuses on identifying and challenging power structures that are seen as inherently oppressive, as well as its offshoot, Critical Race Theory, that holds that systemic racism is the main affliction of minority communities as members of the hegemony – white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied males – seek to oppress them in order to maintain their positions of power. It is a school of thought that is built on conflict and calls for social justice are a key component of it.

Baucham notes “God clearly condemns injustice. He is also clear in His condemnation of falsehood and lies” (p.41). He explores several cases that have featured prominently in the news and with extensive citations demonstrates that the popular narrative often presents an inaccurate picture of what actually happened. He also discusses how the Social Justice gospel contrasts with the historic Christian Gospel – Rod Martin, a friend of Baucham, has succinctly defined Critical Race Theory as the belief that “. . . one group of people can never be forgiven of their sin and another group of people never needs to be,” which is antithetical to Scripture on both counts – as well as how this thinking has influenced the Evangelical Church.

Baucham is a Baptist who pastored a church in the Southern Baptist Convention and was active in the same prior to his move to Zambia and most of his attention but the Social Justice movement has also made inroads into other churches such as the Presbyterian Church in America and the Anglican Church in North America. He mentions specific cases and challenges them but he also notes:

I am not at war with the men, women, and ministries I have named in this

book. I love them. Some of them are actually long-time personal friends.

But I am at war with the ideology with which they have identified to one

degree or another. I see Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, Critical

Social Justice, and their antecedents –Marxism, Conflict Theory, and

Critical Theory – as “cosmic powers over this present darkness.” (p. 219)

He then proceeds to offer alternative solutions to this division that are based on grace, forgiveness, and the unity that is found in Christ.

            This is an important book that I hope receives a wide reading and a wide heeding in the Church.

            The Rev’d Charles A, Collins, Jr., has served as a chaplain for a hospice in the Charleston Area and has recently been elected Rector of St. Andrew’s AnglicanChurch in Savannah (saintandrewsanglican.net). He is a graduate of ErskineTheological Seminary where he is currently a doctoral student. He may be contacted at drew.collins@gmail.com

Friday, February 19, 2021

Podcast: Remembering Rush Liimbaugh

 Podcast thoughts on the life and legacy of Rush Liimbaugh.  


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Jay Edward Adams (1929—2020): A Competent Counselor and Faithful Pastor

 Published in the December 2020 edition of the  Charleston Mercury

by Charles A. Collins, Jr.

Although an Anglican for the past two decades by studied conviction I was raised a Presbyterian – first in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (the old “Southern Presbyterian Church”), later in the Presbyterian Church (USA) when the PCUS ceased to exist by merger in 1983, and later when I realized the the PC (USA) would not be a practical place for an Evangelical to minister, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was as an Associate Reformed Presbyterian, then, that I entered their seminary in the mid-1990s, a time that Providentially afforded me the opportunity to get to know and learn from the Rev'd Dr. Jay E Adams, who died on November 14 at the age of 91 as his family surrounded him singing hymns.

Jay Adams was born in Baltimore, Maryland, as the son of a police officer father and secretary mother, neither of whom were Christians (although he later had the opportunity to lead them both in making professions of faith) or took their son to church. He was a very intelligent child and graduated from high school at the age of 15. Also at the age of 15 a neighborhood friend – Milton Fisher, who was himself to later serve as a missionary to Ethiopia, Old Testament scholar, and seminary dean – was very concerned about an author who denied the Scriptures. Wondering what so unsettled his friend, Jay found a Gideon New Testament that his father had been given as a soldier in World War I and after reading the Gospel of John his heart was opened by God and he believed what he was reading.

He began attending church with his his friend and began to grow in his faith. After his early graduation from high school he asked his minister where he could study Scripture in greater detail; his minister pointed him to the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, where an exception had to be made to allow a 15 year-old with no undergraduate degree to enroll. Following his time there he attended Johns Hopkins University and in 1952 at the age of 23 he received the Bachelor of Arts in Classics from Johns Hopkins and the Bachelor of Divinity from Reformed Episcopal Seminary on the same day.

He was ordained in the United Presbyterian Church and served several churches while completing the Master of Theology at Temple University and later earned the Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, writing his dissertation on the noted preacher and scholar Andrew Blackwood, under whom he'd studied at Temple University.

By the early 1960s he'd become minister at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in New Jersey and was teaching homiletics (preaching) at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He was also assigned to teach pastoral care which included a section on pastoral counseling. With few resources from which to draw he began examining the various materials that were available on Christian Counseling and was less than impressed, discovering that many of them were written from the perspective of Sigmund Freud or Carl Rogers. He later had the opportunity to spend six weeks observing Dr. O. Hobart Mowrer, a former President of the American Psychological Association and atheist who had written a book that Jay had found provoking as it posed the question, “Has evangelical Christianity sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?” While not certainly not agreeing with Mowrer's presuppositions nor his methods he found the time stimulating.

In 1970 Dr. Adams published Competent to Counsel, in which he critiqued the then-standard psychological systems of Freud, Rogers, and John B. Rogers/B.F. Skinner and called for their rejection by pastors and encouraged them to counsel out of the Word of God. His work was revolutionary and his output – more than 100 books on counseling, pastoral care, preaching and ethics, followed. Though them and the Nouthetic Counseling (now more commonly known as Biblical Counseling) movement of which he was the acknowledged father as well as his teaching at several seminaries and numerous conferences he has influenced countless clergy and laity of various churches. Through that corpus of work he will continue to have influence for years to come.

In 1990 Jay had left Westminster Theological Seminary in California, where he had established an innovative Doctor of Ministry program in preaching, and moved to upstate South Carolina where he planted Harrison Bridge Road Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville. It was primarily as minister of that church that I came to know him, not well, but well enough to have spent time talking to him and seeing him from time to time. Harrison Bridge Road Church had a church bookstore (as an aside, I am a huge fan of churches having bookstores that can offer sound material) where many of his books and tapes were available.

Despite his impressive credentials Dr. Adams was an unassuming man. His infrequent wearing of neckties was a running joke (although he showed up at a church banquet in black tie on at least one occasion in response) and he could take good natured ribbing in the spirit in which it was intended, not taking himself too seriously because he took his Lord so seriously. He also had an abiding love for God's Word, producing his own translation of the New Testament in large part because he wanted to force himself to focus on each verse in detail in the original Greek. One time I stopped by the church to do some shopping in the book room and he was teaching a group of middle school youth in the congregation New Testament Greek.

I am very thankful for the life and work of Jay Edward Adams and exceedingly grateful that I had the opportunity to interact with him. Servant, well done.

The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., is an Anglican priest and graduate of Erskine Theological Seminary, where he is currently pursing doctoral work. He serves as chaplain for a local hospice and may be contacted at drew.collins [at]gmail.com Much of the biographical details for this article came from a reflection on Dr. Adams' life by the Rev'd Donn R. Arms that may be found at https://nouthetic.blog/2020/11/14/jay-e-adams-1929-2020/ and is gratefully acknowledged.