Leadership in the Church of England

May 20th, 2019

I’m just back from a week in London and, as usual, I had many conversations with church people there.

And also, as usual, I heard many comments on the present Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. Both leaders are relatively new in their positions. Both had secular careers before being ordained later in life. Both have Evangelical backgrounds.

And it must also be said that neither the Archbishop nor the Bishop come off in person as particularly attractive or exciting. Bureaucratic might be more accurate.

They don’t seem to have come up with stimulating new programs that would be likely to inspire the church. Nor have they impressed the high-powered businesspeople in the ancient City of London, where Incarnation’s sister parish is located.

While this is regrettable, the church will have both leaders in place for some years to come. All the more reason to pray that other, Spirit-filled persons will also be raised up to share the governance of our mother Church. —J. Douglas Ousley


Maximum Security

May 6th, 2019

Despite the title, this post is not about the Kentucky Derby result–a matter I leave to the equestrian experts.

We on the Vestry have had several discussions about security during our worship services. Yesterday, we reiterated our current procedures and discussed other options. The local police precinct knows our church and sends officers quickly if we call them.

Our main threat is not an active shooter but someone with mental problems who wishes to disrupt the service by yelling or walking around. This is a genuine concern in our city with increasing numbers of homeless persons–though the matter is also tricky, since we almost always have homeless or recently homeless persons worshiping with us peacefully and happily.

The challenge is to provide a place of prayer that is both welcoming and safe. That said, we live in a fallen world and we are unlikely to find maximum security this side of heaven. —J. Douglas Ousley


Christians in the Arena

April 29th, 2019

Christians worldwide reacted in horror to the news of the bombing of Sri Lankan churches on Easter Sunday. More than 250 persons were killed and hundreds more were maimed or injured.

A prominent Wall Street Journal columnist, Gerald Baker, chided the Anglican Archbishop of York for not being more forthright in his expression of solidarity with the Sri Lankan Christians. Baker was concerned that Archbishop John Sentamu emphasized that he was against all forms of anti-religious violence. For Baker, this seemed to undermine the support the Archbishop should have expressed for the recently martyred.

This is a very tricky issue. Christians are “people of the Book ” but so are Jews and Muslims Especially given the secularization of Western culture, we Christians shouldn’t find ourselves blaming all Muslims for the crimes of a few. Faithful people have to stick together.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of Easter Sunday was all Christian. May the Sri Lankans be uplifted by the prayers and witness of all their fellow Christians–and by observant Muslims as well. —J. Douglas Ousley


Our Lady of Paris

April 23rd, 2019

When I served as canon pastor of the American Cathedral in Paris, I was invited to worship on several memorable occasions at what will now be known as the “old” Notre Dame Cathedral.

One evening, I was included in a group of French priests who had gathered to hear Pope John Paul II. On two occasions, I participated in joint Anglican-Roman Catholic baptisms of the children of French-American couples. The baptisms took place at the high altar; I’ll never forget the extraordinary view looking outwards down the length of the immense cathedral.

The French Roman Catholic Church of that era was particularly welcoming to Anglicans. If you were in France and there was no Anglican chapel near by, you could receive communion in the local Catholic church. The same “eucharistic courtesy” was extended to French Catholics visiting England.

Parisian Catholics are now extending openness is to all the people of France, and the French are responding in kind–and with amazing financial generosity. Let us hope that the spiritual generosity also abides, especially between French Catholics and Anglicans. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Great Fifty Days

April 15th, 2019

The Church season provides for 50 days of celebration of the feast of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead–known as “the Great Fifty Days.”

Unfortunately, the Easter flowers don’t last that long, and people begin to head for the parks or the country on Sundays, and Easter is soon forgotten. Ironically, the 40 days of Lent seem more likely to be observed faithfully!

And yet the tradition is a good one. We need to be reminded that Christ always gives us new life, and we need that reminder as much as we need to acknowledge our sins during Lent.

We have no trouble remembering to celebrate Christmas time. Let’s celebrate Easter time as well. —J. Douglas Ousley


Sinking or Swimming

April 8th, 2019

At his meeting with our Vestry yesterday, the Bishop of New York was asked what his personal priorities were in his work in the diocese. He replied that he was particularly concerned about churches that were in serious decline.

Bishop Andrew Dietsche told a hopeful story of a parish upstate that was down to 12 members and weren’t able to support a full-time rector. He warned the remaining parishioners that they were at the point where they could either sink or swim. They decided to swim.

That meant that each of the members gave sacrificially of their time and money. They found a new part-time rector, and following a fortuitous influx of weekend residents from Manhattan, the church now has a full-time rector and plenty of members.

Most Episcopal parishes need to make this choice at one time or another. May we resolve to swim! —J. Douglas Ousley


Miserable Offenders

April 3rd, 2019

Lent has 16 more days to run and, as usual, I find this penitential season to be a worse experience than I expected it to be. I always feel the same. I just can’t wait for Easter.

I suppose that’s the way penitential seasons are supposed to go; otherwise, they wouldn’t be penitential. They wouldn’t make us feel sorry for our manifold sins and offenses and negligences. Or, as the old Prayer Book put it, we wouldn’t feel like the “miserable offenders” we are.

Of course, that’s not all we are, thank God. We are saved by the Cross of Christ. Baptized in Christ, we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

With that promise in store, perhaps I am kvetching just a little too much about Lent. —J. Douglas Ousley


Confirming the Faith

March 26th, 2019

As our latest Confirmation/Inquirers’ Class draws to a conclusion, I happily notice that once again we have a highly diverse group of adults eager to be confirmed at Episcopalians, to be received from the Roman Catholic Church, or to reaffirm their baptismal vows.

They range in age from the thirties to near-seventy. We have a psychiatrist and an architect and a martial arts instructor among other occupations. They come from very different religious backgrounds and from unique spiritual journeys.

But it is the latter quality that they have in common. For their spiritual journeys have led them to the Church of the Incarnation. They have all come to profess their decision to follow the same Savior.

Together, by the grace of God, they are taking their first steps on a new journey in Christ. —J. Douglas Ousley


On the Side of the Muslims

March 16th, 2019

My last post might have been interpreted as being anti-Muslim. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that prejudice against Islam is somehow acceptable. Prominent Muslim leaders are often the target of such prejudice, and we Christians should defend them against such attacks.

Which brings us tragically to New Zealand, and how a climate of anti-Muslim sentiment can breed horrendous violence. Of course, there was just one fanatic who killed. But it took a village to raise him up, and a culture and social media that freely allow hate speech can’t escape blame.

Christians have to stand up against this anti-religious speech, however mild or casual or common it might be. And we also have to denounce anti-religious speech that is also racist and supremacist.

It’s often hard to determine “what would Jesus do.” In this case–in this Western culture–it isn’t. —J. Douglas Ousley


On the Side of the Jews

March 11th, 2019

Antisemitism, as many have noted, is on the rise world-wide. Perennially confused with anti-Israel sentiment, it is increasing throughout Europe, especially in the UK, France, and Germany–countries with supposedly liberal democratic values.

The remarks by the Michigan congresswoman recently would never have been countenanced, had they been about African-Americans–or about Muslims, for that matter.

Let it be said without equivocation: prejudice against Jews is morally abhorrent. This is true whatever political views one has about the State of Israel.

For Christians, there is only one side for us to choose: the side of the Jews. —J. Douglas Ousley