There were several things that scandalized me about the “old church” and that lead to my departure in 2006. One of them was the day in 2006 I learned that the Episcopal Church actively promoted abortion and even lobbied for it through their funding of the “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.” What? Since when is the taking of life a religious choice?
One of the things I am deeply grateful for in the Anglican Church in North America is the fact that we are founded upon biblical standards of morality that are reflected in our church’s canons or rules. These standards are found in Canon 8 sections 3 and 41:
God, and not man, is the creator of human life. The unjustified taking of life is sinful. Therefore, all members and clergy are called to promote and respect the sanctity of every human life from conception to natural death.
The Church is called upon to show Christ-like compassion to those who have fallen into sin, encouraging them to repent and receive forgiveness, and offering the ministry of healing to all who suffer physically or emotionally as a result of such sin.
As a result of this, our church makes a stand in opposition to immoral actions like abortion and euthanasia that go against the sanctity of life, but we are also called to do it in a way that shows compassion to those who have sinned and encourage repentance.
Contrary to what many in the world may think, this is not a new position of the Church. Jesus never specifically mentions abortion, but that’s because it was assumed abortion went against the commandment to love your neighbor, and even further back to the prohibition on murder in the Ten Commandments. The Didache, one of the church’s oldest documents from the second century clarifies this teaching by saying, “do not murder a child by abortion nor kill a newborn infant.2” Athenagoras, a Christian philosopher from Greece defended Christianity against accusations of immorality by writing to Emperor Marcus Aurelius and saying, “What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God?3” While the Jews forbid abortion, the practice in many parts of the Roman Empire was not only to abort babies but also to kill newborns through abandonment and exposure.
The church from the very beginning came out strongly against both of these practices. The fascinating thing is that the Christians didn’t confront these actions with words but with their own actions driven by their faith and love. Christians often rescued the children Romans had left outside to die of exposure. Romans were also quick to abandon children born deformed from failed abortions, and the early Christians brought these children into their homes and raised them as part of loving families. Christians didn’t push back against abortion in a hateful way, they did it in a way that was loving and affirmed how valuable all human life is.4
There were some changes in the church’s teaching after Christianity became legalized in the Roman Empire. Some theologians no longer saw abortion as the same thing as murder, but all agreed that abortion was an evil act. This continued through the Reformation with Martin Luther saying, “The God who declares that we are to be fruitful and multiply regards it as a great evil when human beings destroy their offspring.”5
This moral stand against abortion continued in the church, and was reflected in the 1930 Lambeth Conference when the Anglican bishops passed a resolution stating, “The Conference further records its abhorrence of the sinful practice of abortion.”6 The 1978 Lambeth Conference called for training for both men and women at the diocesan level, “to emphasize the sacredness of all human life, the moral issues inherent in clinical abortion.”7 Those teachings have never been overturned by Anglicans on a global level. At a national level the Episcopal Church in the United States diverged from Anglicanism in 1967 by advocating, “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them.”8 It was right before that decision in 1966 that Anglicans for Life was founded in order to advocate for pro-life positions in the Anglican Church. So while some may claim diversity of opinion exists in Christianity regarding abortion, that diversity has only existed since the 1960s and positions allowing abortion are clearly against the historic teaching of the church.
As Anglican Christians, we should stand up against abortion. We need to remember to do this not only in a loving and compassionate way but through our actions in addition to our words. There are a number of pregnancy care centers located throughout our diocese that support women during their pregnancies and would appreciate volunteers. From now until November 3 there are also pro-life groups participating in 40 Days for Life, an opportunity to pray and fast near abortion clinics for an end to abortion. These are both great opportunities to act in support of life and to do it in a loving and compassionate way.
All of us as Christians should at the minimum be praying for an end to abortion in our country. I ask you during this time to join me in praying for it to end and also for the women who have had abortions to know they have a loving God who is ready and able to forgive them for all the wrongs they may have done.
Lord God, thank You for creating human life in Your image. Thank You for my life and the lives of those I love. Thank You for teaching us through Scripture the value You place on life. Help me to uphold the sanctity of life in my church and community. Give me the strength to stand up to those forces that seek to destroy the lives of those most vulnerable, the unborn, the infirm and the elderly. Today I commit myself never to be silent, never to be passive, never to be forgetful of respecting life. I commit myself to protecting and defending the sacredness of life according to Your will, through Christ our Lord.
To: Clergy of the Diocese of San Joaquin From Bishop Eric Menees Re: 40 Days for Life
Blessings and peace to you in the mighty name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Today is Holy Cross Day, you may have prayed this collect: “Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the Cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.”
In our society today through the legalization of abortion untold numbers of children have perished because they were unwanted or would be an inconvenience. These unborn children are the least in our society and this tragedy should affect us and lead us to prayer. We have an opportunity to come together with others in that prayer next month as 40 Days for Life begins in cities across our diocese. 40 Days for Life is a 40-day long period of prayer and fasting outside abortion clinics from September 25 to November 3.
I want to encourage all of you to join me and support 40 Days for Life, in going and praying yourselves and in encouraging parishioners to join. If you don’t have a 40- days for Life location near you please take some time during the 40 days to pray on your own that God may strengthen the witness of those involved with 40 Days for Life and help stop abortion in our country. May we heed the call of Jesus to take up our cross, follow him, and shed our tears as we pray to God for his saving help that more children shall never perish.
Your Servant and Bishop,
The Rt. Rev. Eric Vawter Menees
Companion Relationship with Ugandan Diocese
This past summer the Diocese of San Joaquin entered into a Companion Relationship with the Diocese of Kigezi in the Church of Uganda. This is a very exciting opportunity for us to explore ministry with our brothers and sisters in Uganda. The Diocese of Kigezi is the birthplace of the East African Revival and the diocese of Kigezi still bares much fruit from this revival.
The bishop of Kigezi, the Rt. Rev. George Bagamuhunda will be joining Bp. Menees and several other bishops from around the world at the Bishops Leadership Summit in Colorado and immediately following that meeting he will ac-company Bishop Menees back to the Central Valley for a week of visitations. Currently, the bishops will be visiting the diocese on the following schedule.
October 19 Standing Committee Meeting
October 20 Visitation to St. Luke’s, Merced and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fresno
October 21 Day of Rest
October 22 Visitation with clergy and lay leaders in the southern end of the diocese in person at a luncheon at Trinity, Bakersfield and with the clergy and lay leaders unable to attend via a video conference call that evening.
October 23 Visitation with clergy and lay leaders in the central part of the diocese with a luncheon at St. Columba, Fresno.
October 24 Visitation with clergy and lay leaders in the northern part of the diocese with a luncheon at St. Francis, Stockton.
October 25 Bishop Bagamuhunda will fly home to Uganda.
In June of 2020, Bishop Menees will visit the Diocese of Kigezi for a similar tour.
Please keep Bishop Bagamuhunda and the Diocese of Kigezi in your prayers and specifically ask the Lord to move you and your congregation in ways to partner with this very exciting ministry!
It’s been wonderful being back in Jordan with my team. My apartment feels like home. We are growing in Amman, where we have a new city team of people studying Arabic, and an office space for us to work in.
My home office sent me on a quick trip to Vietnam to help our SE Asia teams develop safety and risk management.
I’ve started a language exchange with a Jordanian university student—she teaches me Arabic and I teach her Spanish! So funny! I don’t consider myself very qualified, but her Spanish is very basic, so I can help a bit.
My Arabic Grandma neighbor is doing well. Every time I leave to go somewhere, when I come back and see her she says, “Where have you been?? What did you bring me?”
Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!
Christina -- Security and Risk Manager, MENA Region
Reflections from the former archdeacon
By The Ven. Donald A. Seeks
A REFLECTION ON HEAVEN
“Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with God’s glory and grace. I’m goin’ to see my Savior’s face; heaven is a wonderful place, I wanna tell ya.” These are some of the words to a song our youth group in Southern California used to sing. The theology of the song is accurate, for although many of the over 650 references to heaven in the Scriptures do not identify the final home where God reveals Himself., it is the “place” from where the Son of God came to earth, and it is the “place” to which He ascended. It is where the holy angels dwell and it is the everlasting future for those who call Jesus as Lord and Savior, and those whose sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus.
Although we speak of heaven as “up” and hell or Hades as “down,” we understand that these are merely figures of speech. We tend to think we are “up” when our attitude is happy or joyful, and “down” when we are in the dumps. More importantly the disciples witnessed Jesus ascend up into the clouds to heaven where He now resides at the right hand of the Father. And the prophecies of His return seem to say He will come from above with His angels to bring to a close this age. St. Paul declares that the faithful will be caught up in the air to meet our Lord when He comes. At the same time Jesus and His disciples were teaching a local Heaven and a local Hell, without defining where they were. The rest of the New Testament deals in spatial terms. Heaven is above and Hades or Gehenna is below. The story of the rich man and Lazarus is a good example of a spatial description.
In that parable, each is depicted as being in a particular place with an immense void in between, over which no one is permitted to pass (St. Luke 16:22-26). The Psalmist speaks of descending into the Pit.
Places occupy space and in the-world-to-come both time and space will be irrelevant. Yet Jesus used a spatial concept when He said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions (or rooms). If it were not so I would have told you.”
Jesus never would have described anything in such a way as to bring about confusion or disbelief. Jesus also knows we humans are limited in our thinking to time and space; He experienced that for Himself. It seems logical, then, that God’s revelation and His Son’s teaching puts things in terms of what we can comprehend, for our finite nature does not permit us to examine the infinite Godhead. We must depend upon His revelation. A famous Anglican theologian has written, “To be somewhere appears an inescapable condition of this existence – for both our body and our spirit; there is no reason to suppose that any change which leaves us finite can reverse this … For we all know a billion light-years of space can be travelled in twinkling of an eye under the condition of life beyond the grave.”
We can see evidence of God’s omnipresence. He is everywhere – in nature, in morals and ethics, and in the fact that we can love. But in the end, we can only receive what He chooses to reveal to us. And of course, the ultimate Revelation has come through the Word made flesh, Jesus His Son and our Lord.
Ancient tradition was that there were seven heavens. St. Paul spoke of being carried up “into the third Heaven”. Jesus promised to the penitent thief on his cross that, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Some early Christians identified Paradise as a waiting place before entering Heaven, while others called that intermediate station Purgatory. Many of the early writers held that no one except martyrs could enter Heaven until the Final Judgment took place. Others, myself included, believe that the faithful come immediately into the Presence of Jesus, although our final fulfillment and the infinite joy He has promised will be completed only after our bodies have been resurrected. Purgatory is mostly a western concept; the Orthodox churches have not embraced the idea. Some maintain that after our physical bodies dies, our spirit remains in a kind of unconscious slumber until the Day of Resurrection. This seems to me to be at our Lord’s declaration to the thief. Yet what did Jesus mean when He said, “Today”? From His words we also know that Paradise is where Christ is, and certainly that promise is for all those who believe as well.
Additionally, our Lord reveals very clearly that no one can come to the Father except by Jesus Himself, and only by claiming Him as Lord and Savior.
The great tragedy is there will be no hope of salvation for those who have rejected Jesus as the single pathway. C.S. Lewis once said it makes Jesus a madman, a liar, or God. His words leave no other choice for those who want to be saved.
It is believed from Scripture that Jesus did preach to the dead who had not known Him, so I conclude there is hope for many who accept His Lordship in the spiritual state. For God the Father desires that all might be saved (I Tim. 2:4). Those who ignore His call or willfully reject it have little hope. He will not force Himself on anyone. That is the motive for our freedom.
There are several places in the New Testament where the departed seem to recognize one another and communicate with each other. Jesus surely would not have to descend to preach to the departed spirits if they had no ability to hear Him and to respond. I believe that those who have gone before, whom we call the Church Triumphant, have a means, by the Father’s love and grace, to be aware of what we do in order that they might offer prayers of intercession for us. That the righteous pray for us is the essence of what we call the communion of the saints.
The splendor that is Heaven is described at least partially in terms we can understand: the Holy City of Jerusalem with “its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal,” and the foundations adorned with precious stones and golden avenues. But the most glorious is the Temple, for the Temple is the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, with the water of Life flowing forth from the Throne.
Part of the essence of Heaven will be an unending revelation as we see before us perfect love. I believe love is the life of Heaven. God is love, and God is life. His love will complete and crown our relationship, to the Father, and to the Son, and to one another. Paul wrote that he coveted the idea of being “at home with the Lord,” for the ideal home is a place of security, of fellowship, of trust, love, and acceptance just as we are. St. Augustine summed up his experience by declaring, “Thou hast made us unto Thyself and our heart finds no rest until it rests in Thee.” “Our commonwealth is in Heaven.” No phrase better describes or illustrates the gap that now exists between the Cross and present secular society. Truly the distance between Heaven and Earth is immeasurable.
One writer declares, “In essence, Heaven is not a place; it is a characteristic mode of life, a kind of being.” We as Christians have been set apart by God’s grace so we may delight in that essence. We are destined for holiness by His grace. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and anointed you that you should go and bear fruit…” What an honor!
Heaven is the presence of Almighty God; hell is His absence. St. Paul says we now see through a darkened glass, meaning we have just a foretaste of what is to come. We wait eagerly for full adoption as His sons. Heaven is a fulfillment of that which never could be achieved without our blessed Lord and Savior.
60th Annual convention, november 8th, 2019
9:30 am—Mass at St. Luke’s Anglican Church (which meets at Our Lady of Mercy), 459 W. 21st St., Merced, CA 95340 11:15 am—Convening at the Hoffmeister Center for business (at Central Presbyterian Church), 1920 Canal St., Merced, CA 95340
The Bishop's Note
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