Archive for October, 2018

God-help

Monday, October 29th, 2018

As a parish, we are reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. The book has sold some 34 million copies–largely I suspect to evangelical Christians who know of Warren’s phenomenal success of Saddleback Church, Warren’s megachurch in Southern California.

The Purpose Driven Life is written in a light style, with short chapters and lists of suggestions and catchy phrases. But it makes one weighty point: we are to look to God for meaning and purpose in our lives.

Warren notes that self-help books tend to offer the same advice about believing in yourself and working hard, etc. By contrast, Christians are to look to the divine for support.

This is a crucial distinction between secular philosophies and Christianity. We depend on God rather than on ourselves. We know that self-help will only take us so far. We have a different if sometimes perplexing view of the universe–a view we can only live by with God’s help. —J. Douglas Ousley


Churchman

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

At the funeral of our Treasurer, last Saturday, I described Michael Linburn as “a good churchman.”

The term, “churchman” used to be common in Episcopal Church parlance; it referred to the way a person lived out his faith in the church community. So, for example, one would speak of an Episcopalian’s “churchmanship” in saying whether he preferred “high” or “low” ritual worship.

It’s too bad the word has gone out of fashion; it might have been made more acceptable by adding the variant, “churchwomanship.”

In any case, whatever word we use, we should be grateful for the churchmen and churchwomen who support the Body of Christ by their presence and their gifts. Especially those who support the Church through difficult times–who don’t give up when things don’t go their way, who prove to be the Church’s men and women. —J. Douglas Ousley


Remembering Eleanor

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Last week, I prefaced a panel discussion on the UN Declaration of Human Rights with a few remarks about Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mrs. Roosevelt was a member of Incarnation; she was confirmed here in 1903. She and her family attended Incarnation occasionally, and we have a ramp that was built to accommodate FDR’s wheelchair.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the guiding light and driving force behind the UN Declaration which was adopted in 1948, after much debate and many meetings. The panel discussion at the Roosevelt House on 65th Street included a United Nations official who worked for human rights. He made the interesting point that these rights were being increased in the years following the adoption of the Declaration–up until 9/11.

Since 2001, rights issues have taken a back seat to security issues. For example, a nation may ally with a dictatorship because this will help its own security; the rights of the ally’s citizens are ignored.

In my talk, I pointed out that Eleanor Roosevelt’s parish was founded as part of the Broad Church movement in the 19th Century. We may hope and pray that Incarnation’s tradition of concern for the freedom of all human beings, regardless of race or religion, will not be overshadowed by other concerns. —J. Douglas Ousley


Christians v. Christians

Friday, October 5th, 2018

Some years ago, I inherited a leather-bound set of the works of Sir Walter Scott. During a recent vacation, I read Scott’s most famous book, Rob Roy.

The novel includes interactions between the main character and the Robin Hood-like Scottish hero known as Rob Roy. But an on-going sub-text of the story is the 18th-century rivalry between rebellious Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants. Despite their common Christianity, the members of these groups are forever at each other’s throats–to the extent even of civil war.

Today’s intra-Church rivalries are happily less violent. But they remain highly significant. In liberal Christian circles, “evangelical” is a negative epithet. The same is true in evangelical churches of the word, “liberal.” As someone from an evangelical background who serves a traditionally Broad Church congregation, I think I’m particularly aware of the bitterness of this conflict.

Despite all the ecumenical work in the past half-century, we Christians have a way to go if we are going to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us…”–J. Douglas Ousley