Friday, August 20, 2010

Episcopal Identity for Episcopal Schools

Click on the link to hear the audio presentation.  This was preached at St. Mark's Episcopal School, Houston, Texas at the installation of the new head of school Gahrett Wagers.

At the inaugural session of the Continental Congress – with the weight of war and the hope of freedom on their minds, on Wednesday, September 7, 1774, Mr. Duché an Episcopal Clergyman was invited to read prayers to the Congress. As it happened the 35th psalm was appointed for Episcopalians as a part of Morning Prayer. So Mr. Duché began, “Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.” (American Gospel, Jon Meacham, p.65)

June 28, 1836, it was an Episcopal service that accompanied James Madison, our 4th president and founding father, to his grave. (p.230) And it was Episcopal prayers that accompanied the mourners in their grief.

It was an Episcopal Service of Morning Prayer with hymns that inaugurated the Atlantic Charter between Churchill and Roosevelt on the deck of the HMS Prince Charles on the eve of World War II. (p.160)

April 13, 1943, the Episcopal Presiding Bishop Henry St. George Tucker joined the president and five thousand people to dedicate the Jefferson Memorial with an Episcopal Prayer thanking God for raising leaders up among us. (p.248)

March 4, 1944, it was an Episcopal prayer that was said in which we prayed for our enemies and prayed for peace at Roosevelt’s service commemorating his first inauguration in the midst of a nation at war. (p.167)

Jonathan M. Daniels found his strength in the vision of God preached and prayed in the Episcopal and as an Episcopal seminarian on August 20, 1965 gave his life following the call of Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Selma, Alabama. It was there that Daniels lived with an African American family, and helped integrate the local Episcopal church.

Three years later in the heart of the Country, Washington D.C., and in the heart of the Jonathan Daniels’ Episcopal Church, the National Cathedral, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. climbed the thirteen steps into the pulpit during an Episcopal service and said:

“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.” (p203)

On January 14, 2009, then president elect, Barack Obama attended an Episcopal prayer service at St. Johns Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, prior to being sworn in as our 44th president of the United States. After the inauguration he would attend a national prayer service in the same Cathedral and stand were Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed his dream.

From this nation’s very inception, our leaders have from time to time called upon the wisdom found within our Episcopal heritage of prayers and scripture to buoy the people to mission, service, action, and vision.

In times of great discernment…In times of celebration…In times of peace…In times of justice…In times of war…and, in times of civil struggle…our leaders, those whose names we know and those whose names we do not know have called upon the strength of daily prayers found in our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

Through regular chapel, and Episcopal Prayer, Episcopal Schools, and specifically St. Mark’s Episcopal School, seeks to provide students with a solid foundation of wisdom (which is quite different from knowledge). We combine this foundation of wisdom with a foundation of prayer. Together they combine to set a bedrock upon which our students may build a good and virtuous citizenship.

Episcopal schools strive to offer academic rigor combined with a spiritual discipline that strengthens the Episcopal student for a journey of continued religious life and public service.

For the non-Episcopalian we hope that we have provided an environment, a community, where the individual student and family may find a spiritual home.

We want all students to find here the possibility and hope of a healthy relationship with God. For the Christian and Episcopalian we want a deepening of relationship. We desire to form an understanding about all of God’s creation and our particular and unique witness to a loving and caring God in Jesus Christ. We hope that those of you of every other denomination, creed, or faith background will find us to be a faithful and partnering family and that you have a sure and certain knowledge of our friendship with all believers.

We do all of this for one reason. We offer this Episcopal heritage to you in order that together we might improve the lives of our neighbors. This is the work of virtue. To understand clearly that we as citizens of the kingdom of God have a very real role in the kingdoms and realms of this world. We are called by our baptism and through Christ’s own love to work for the betterment of all humanity.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The real field of rivalry among and between the creeds comes in the rivalry of the endeavor to see which can render best service to mankind.”

We wish to form Episcopal Students who outdo one another in benevolent leadership which seeks not personal glory but the glory of God in serving others.

We provide the foundations upon which individuals may become honest, moral, and upright members of society; outdoing one another in kindness and in compassion to our fellow human beings.

We seek to provide for you an Episcopal Foundation of Faith.
 A foundation that can be drawn upon at times of discernment and when you are unsure of a course of action.
 A foundation that can be drawn upon for your celebratory events as in marriages and baptisms.

 A foundation that you can draw upon when you are in trouble, fearful, or in pain.
 A foundation upon which you may find resources for the daily living of life.
 A foundation upon which you may with others reshape and make the world a better place tomorrow than it is today.

Our expectation is that each student entrusted to us will be a leader, in their homes and within their families, they will be leaders in academia, sports, and in the arts, they will be leaders in the marketplace and within our governments.

There will come a time for each one of our students when every word will matter, every prayer spoken or silently prayed will count, every thought a necessary component of what comes next, every action an opportunity for change. Into these moments let the wisdom of our worship and prayer and scripture be present for you, uphold you, and sustain you.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I never told my religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert nor wish to change another’s creed. I have ever judged the religion of others by their lives. For it is in our lives and not from our words, that our religion must be read.” (p. 34)

We expect our students to act so others may see in them what we see in them every day– a great and noble future. We expect our students to act so that others may see in them the best parts of our faith imparted and the blessings of your formation lived out.

This is how people will know their true religion, their true faith. This is how they will know they were formed at St. Mark’s Episcopal School.

 So to you Garhett, you are given a sacred trust as headmaster. To run the school well. Yes.

 To lead in development: working on endowment and debt reduction. Yes.

 To hire the very best educators who can form students and are devoted to the Episcopal culture of education. Yes.

 To lead in recruiting students of a diverse population that we may send forward to excel in the very best Episcopal schools and other schools in Houston. Yes.

 To increase the awareness of the gift of St. Mark’s School within the wider Episcopal and Houston community. Yes.
You are to do these things and many more.

But most of all you are to remember the sacred work of formation given to you as the head of an Episcopal school.

You are to form students with the tools of wisdom and Episcopal prayer that they may understand and live out their mission of virtuous citizenship.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our Story, Their Story, Christ's Story

When Peter stands and addresses the men and women gathered in Jerusalem, he is addressing a crowd of Parthians, Medes, Elamites, the residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and many parts of Libya, Romans, Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs. It is quite the collection of people and languages. It is a diverse collection of stories.

Peter tells them the one story of the family of God. He tells them the dueteronomistic story of the family of God, which culminates not in the resurrection, but the coming of the Holy Spirit that the entire world may hear of the Messiah, the Christ. When they heard this they were cut to the heart, awe came upon everyone and there were many wonders and signs. (Acts 2)

Christianity is a story - a particular story. It is the story of God who is glorified through creation. When creation falls away from its ultimate purpose, thanks to the work of humanity, our sacred story tells us of the Messiah who comes to reorient and lead us to our eternal place within the family of God. Our sacred story leads us to undertake the work of glorifying God in all things.

This story is told and retold through the experience of people, the diverse spiritual journeys, cultures and languages. Many different people, more diverse than the first Pentecost gathering, tell and retell the story of Christ as they have come to know him and love him and worship him.

In telling the one story of the family of God, the strength of its truth is that missionaries have found the story alive over the centuries within the cultures and peoples who do not yet know Christ. The strength of the family of God, rooted in the Holy Spirit, comes because for centuries Christians have engaged in a conversation with their neighbors, listening to their stories, and seeing (as if for the first time) the story of Christ alive in the "other." Christians leave their world of comfortable symbols and journey to foreign places to discover and rediscover Christ at work in the world.

We might think of the biblical image of Paul speaking to the people of Athens about the "unknown God" (Acts 17.22ff). Paul, a missionary of Christ was able to see in the lives, even in the local worship of idols, the revelation of Jesus Christ. After listening and seeing how they believed, he used this as an opportunity to witness to his own belief.

For the church's mission to be healthy it must exist as a group of people who are dedicated to proclaiming the story of God in Jesus Christ, people who can listen, see and discover Christ at work in the world in the lives of others. The mission of Christ will die if all we do is say there is one way. Get on board! We must be at work in the world helping people to understand, in the words of Rascall Flatts, God blesses the broken road that leads to Christ. Faithful Christians make room for the story telling and for the listening. Christians make room so that those who do not yet believe may come to believe that their lives have been leading them to Christ.

For me, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. As a Christian missionary I have to be willing to listen to people and to discover how Christ is bringing them along the way, to the truth, that they might live the life of virtue. Christians must be willing to touch the lives of others, to listen to their stories of their journeys and see the revelation of Christ so that we can retell the ancient story again and again.

As I reflect upon the work of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Texas this summer I relish in the news of churches who have undertaken mission trips in their own back yards and around the world. Engaging, listening and discovering Christ in the midst of diverse cultures and peoples is our work. These stories beckon to us to renew our missionary commitment at home. We must return to our congregations with the news that Christ is alive in the world about us, God is truly at work in and beyond our churches and we all we have to do is step outside to see the manifest opportunities for transformation. Our missions abroad help form us in the knowledge that we are to be missionaries locally.

Unfortunately, just as we are sure of our one story of Christ, we are sure of the one story about the people who live in the neighborhoods and communities that surround our churches in the Diocese of Texas. We tell ourselves, they already go to church, they don't want to hear from us, they aren't like us, they are unbelievers, they are … they are … they are … As your bishop I would remind you of the missionary knowledge that they are Christ's and we are called to minister to them, reach out to them and to discover Christ already at work in their lives.

Our next issue of the Episcopalian is a celebration of the good work we are doing in Galveston, in Belize, in Honduras, in Uganda, at Camp Allen and in South Africa. I hope it will be a reminder that we have the opportunity to change the world across the street and across the world. Moreover, our own transformation may lie within the work of listening to the stories of our neighbors and witnessing God already at work in their lives.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stewardship: The Divine Economy: Make our Life the Vision of Thee

Summer is coming to an end. I have just returned from some time off. I fished, worked on some genealogy, listened, read, and listened some more. I also enjoyed listening to a lot of music while I was relaxing. As I prepared for this talk on stewardship I was reminded of a hymn that is somewhat like a summer prayer. The song is by Rascal Flatts and it is called, “Backwards.”

You get your house back

You get your dog back

You get your best friend Jack back

You get your truck back

You get your hair back

You get your first and second wives back

Your front porch swing

your pretty little thing

Your bling bling bling and a diamond ring

Your get your farm and the barn and the boat and the Harley

That old black cat named Charlie

You get your mind back

And your nerves back

Your achy breaky heart back

You get your pride back

You get your life back

You get your first real love back

ohh big screen TV, DVD and a washing machine

You get the pond and the lawn and the rake and the mower

You go back when life was slower

It sounds a little crazy, a little scattered and absurd

But that's what you get

When you play a country song backwards

The economic culture that we live in is economy based upon the loosing of things and the gaining of things; the selling and the purchasing of things.

Sometimes, our church economy is based upon the increase or the decrease of things as well: people, pledges, and plate.

So I thought we should begin at the beginning. We must begin with a sense of the “Divine Economy.”

The poet, author, and Dean of York beginning in 1941, Eric Milner-White, wrote a poem called Thy God, Thy Glory. Here is the last stanza:

O God, most glorious,
Make our life the vision of thee

To the praise of thy glory;

that we all as a mirror may reflect it,

and be transformed into the same image

from glory to glory,

world without end.

Excerpt from: Thy God, Thy Glory

Eric Milner-White, 1884-1963

So we begin as our ancient texts tell us, in the beginning was the Word and the word was with God. (John 1.1)

God looks upon God, and in this looking has a perfect image of God’s self, the perfect and beautiful idea of God’s self. God looks and sees God perfectly, wholly, and corporately. And, in this looking in this perfect beholding of God’s self God is both Father and Son. There is God and there is God’s perfect self the Son.

Our human language cannot incorporate or speak adequately of the eternal, whole, and incorruptible nature of God and God’s self; so we say in our Creed, “God is Father, almighty,” and we also say, “God is Lord, Christ, only Son of God, eternally begotten,” and we say: “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.”

God looks upon God and perfectly sees God’s self.

In seeing God, God perfectly loves God’s self. God perfectly is bound to God the son. So perfect, so unblemished is God’s love for God’s self that it, too, is actualized and repeats the perfect and beautiful and manifest glory which is God…This perfect love is that than which no greater can be thought.

Once again our human language fails to capture the movement and work of God or the perfection of God who we proclaim as love, so we say in our Creed that we believe in God who is “Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” And, we recognize this God of three and three in one as eternally present in community one to another.

So perfect is God’s love for God, the Father for the Son, that God’s beauty and perfection and glory overflows, spilling out in the action of creation. God is creator of heaven and earth, God creates through God’s self (the son), through him all things were made. And the creative power and force is itself the very spirit of God, the hands of God at work in the world about us, the Holy Spirit. So it is that all things come to be and are given shape and form. Out of nothing they were created, but for the pleasure of God they were created and God saw all of God’s creation and the reflection of God’s image in its watery forms and green canopies, and creatures and saw that it was “good.”

All of creation is formed out of the divine imagination reflecting to God the glory of God’s self eternally united in a Holy Community we call the Trinity.

This is our sacred Truth.

This community of mutual affection and perfected friendship and undivided unity by its very nature, its very being creates all that we see, all that we have, all that we are for the pleasure and enjoyment and reflection that it provides. It’s as if to say, God creates out of the love for the Son and offers it to God saying, you are my son, see the love I have for you and I give to you in this creation which I hold in the palm of my hand, and offer to you. See in this creation formed out of nothing and given life by me the reflection of our beauty.

This is what we are made for. This is the purpose of all creation. We are made, formed, and given the breath of life for the purpose of glorifying God.

This is what we are made for…this is the divine economy.

We are created out of nothing as a gift to the Son from God the Father so that we might as a whole creation, not just human beings, not just one individual, not just the human self – the whole of humanity in conjunction with all of creation, reflect the dignity of God.

The glory of God is the ultimate purpose of creation.

Our story of beginnings, our heritage of community tells us of our all-to-human and all-to-imperfect attempts to do this work, to make this our ultimate concern. In fact, not only is God’s glory not our ultimate concern or our primary undertaking, it is the opposite of our human willfulness. Through all of history we have perpetrated the primary work of self-glorification, self-preservation, and self-manifestation making us the Gods of creation. This is the lie we live.

So tragic, so pervasive, so broken is this understanding of creation that we – on our own – outside of community only see imperfectly the shape of the world intended by God. So it is God who comes into the world, to possess the world which is a gift, to participate, to undo the powers of this world, by reorienting, refocusing, and drawing our eyes to the greater work of God. They asked Jesus, “Why did you come into this world?” He answers us clearly, “To glorify God.” This is his answer and he is our teacher in the life of holiness – in the divine economy.

Jesus’ death on the cross purchases, redeems for us the freedom from the bonds of self-service that we may follow him along the way, imitating our teacher, and undertaking the glorification of God. We are given by the cross freedom from sin which is nothing less than freedom from avarice, the insatiable desire of a God like self-preservation above all else – the root of all sinful desires and actions.

God not only enters and claims creation as God’s own, but also redeems it, providing a missional map to the work of creation, and breathing, loosing on all creation the ever present Holy Spirit, God with us, to strengthen us for the work of glorifying and magnifying God. The lens is polished that we may see more clearly, with the help of the Holy Spirit, our work and the work of community.

The Holy Spirit, the empowering agent of Godly life, transforms and binds individual sinners into virtuous community. This is the family of God, the community called the Church, with the primary working outwardly, on a daily basis, the inner life of the Holy Trinity. The mission of true virtue, co-creating with God, the community of God, the reign of God, the kingdom of God, on earth and in this moment.

We are as the family of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, enlarging and actualizing God’s Holy vision in creation.

If these themes of “glorification of God” and “building virtuous community” are our work, what then? (And it is most certainly the orthodox view of creation and redemption rooted deeply in our Anglican theology and tradition.) If this glorification of God is our ultimate created purpose as community and our penultimate work is the perfecting of human relationships one to another in undivided unity – the building of the virtuous community at work in the world -- then stewardship is at the center of our life and our ministry. In fact, we might say, our life and our ministry is stewardship.

Virtuous life, a life lived to benefit God, is a life of stewardship the essential ingredient in the divine economy.

We are created for stewardship of the eternal.

We cannot look upon creation, our use or abuse of it, without the knowledge of its ultimate purpose and our fallen desire to manage it for our own benefit rather than for God’s glory.

We cannot look upon our communities, our towns our cities, without acknowledging the brokenness of human interrelations, and the collateral casualties of economy of wealth, power, and authority which benefit human aggrandizement and not the divine economy.

We cannot look upon our families, our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and children and not acknowledge how we live out our relationships into horizontal alignment along competing self-indulging sibling relationships. The cost of this economy is broken families, record divorces, bankruptcy, astronomical debt, and abuse. God rather intends the family of God to be one of caring and support with roles ordered out of virtuous care for the “other” in our midst.

We cannot look upon our church without recognizing the result of ego driven communities, with mob mentalities, conflicted loyalties, political maneuvering, and argument measured in electronic sound bytes, followers, and power rather than in discerned corporate stewardship of the divine economy.

When we stop, when we pause, when we take a moment to recalibrate and measure our journey along the way – we see clearly that our priorities may indeed be out of sync.

Our ultimate concern may not be God’s. Our primary interest may not be what has been intended all along.

All of this is to say that what we intend to do when we say we are engaged in stewardship is of the most radical transformative work before the church.

Christian stewardship, which is Anglican and uniquely Episcopalian, recognizes the radical work of creature-li-ness: to glorify God and co-create a virtuous community in mission.

And, when we speak of being stewards we are speaking of a radical faith in God who is Trinity, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who is at work in the world as creator, redeemer, and prophetic missioner. We are saying that “we believe in God,” a particular kind of God -- a God who has brought into being creation for the purpose of his glory and his beauty.

We are saying that we care about the earth and its health in reflecting God’s glory.

We are saying we care about our farms, and communities, and towns, and cities and neighbors and how we are relating and care taking of the land, resources, and our relationships.

We are saying that we believe and so we act in our lives, private and public, for the good and in a way revealing and reflecting the goodness of the one who gives us form and breath.

We are saying we believe and as a community we give in accordance with our thanksgivings. We give not 10%, because we know God has given us all that we have, all that we are, our friends, our family, our neighbors, our gifts for ministry, our vocations, our work, our lives, our very lives God has given. We give out of the abundance of what we receive – God in Jesus yes, but moreover, out of the glorious generosity of beauty which is God’s creation all around us. We give, we make a difference, we restore, we co-create, and we design.

As Christian stewards, we understand that we are artists who are intimately engaged in the beautiful things, the beatitudes, in the blessings of neighbors and creatures and creation.

To be a Christian steward at work within the economy of God is a most life changing, and mission altering notion. To glorify God as our primary witness and concern in our lives, with one another, in our relationships, and in our affiliation to God and God’s community is life’s work of stewardship.  So we pray:

O God, most glorious,

Make our life the vision of thee

To the praise of thy glory;

that we all as a mirror may reflect it,

and be transformed into the same image

from glory to glory,

world without end. Amen.

Stewardship: The Divine Economy

Stewardship Conference
Episcopal Diocese of Texas 2010
by the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle

Friday, August 6, 2010

Following my weekly thoughts on the Gospel?

Every week I am publishing thoughts on the upcoming Gospel lesson. Find those thoughts, and resources for running your own bible study on the Gospel here:


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball