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Thursday, September 25, 2003

Moving on

So, let's continue the story from my last personal missive. Let's see, where were we? Oh yes, I was safely ecsconced as a Minister in the United Methodist Church, newly married and about to be "fully ordained", as the Methodists say, meaning ordained an elder or presbyter.

After our marriage, we continued in the four church circuit for another year. After that, however, it was time to move again and this time we moved to a small "station" church (just one church in the "charge") located in the northern end of a fastly growing county. It was at this time my charismatic "impulses", that had been, if not dormant, then subdued for a time, starting springing back to full bloom. I wanted a fully charismatic Church, one that would break out of the dull, lifeless, tradition bound shackles and reach the community for Christ. And deep down, to be honest, I also wanted to be recognized! Maybe it has to do with how I was raised (middle of five boys) or maybe it's simply a failing I developed on my own, but recognition has always been a strong motivation and something that I recognize now that pushed me in directions better left not gone in. Whatever the case, I began to push for more "charismatic" practices at the Church; praise choruses, raising your hands during prayer and song, and even Sunday evening healing services. I had charismatic guest preachers and even a charismatic revival. Unfortunately, it didn't accomplish much more than alienate half the church.

Throughout all of this I was finding my own spiritual nourishment not in Church or personal study and prayer, but from the Televison set and books and tapes. Somehow I had started watching Robert Tilton early every morning in '85 or '86 . As an ambitious young man without much "success", his message of guranteed success was heady stuff indeed. I sent off for some tapes, started buying books, and pretty soon was sucked head over heels into the whole Word of Faith movement. I may not have believed everything listed in the link, but just about. I started sharing this stuff with my wife and pretty soon we were both studying, listening and trying to enter into this "walk of faith" that we were learning about. We even took a trip out to Tulsa, Oklahoma! Little did we know that just down the street from our little Methodist Church was a thriving "Word" Church. Having gotten back from a vacation early, we looked in the Yellow Pages and actually found this Church and, since we had the Sunday "off", decided to visit. That was the beginning of a relationship that dramatically changed our lives.

Becoming more and more disatisfied with the Methodist Church and ministry, we began "believing God" for a "finanacial miracle" that would enable us to leave and join the Word Church we had started visiting on a regular basis. We had gotten close with the Pastor and his family and believed God was making a way for us to work together. The Church needed a Youth Pastor (having recently fired the one it had) and I was certain the Pastor would ask me to do it. So certain, in fact, that I told our Pastor/Parish Relations Committee and my Church that we didn't want to be back the next year. My wife and I started packing and awaited an invitation to join in this exciting new ministry. Due to events that I would not find out about for more than a year, that invitation never came. So, instead of moving into an exciting new ministry with people we thought loved and cared about us, we were off to the Appalachian foothills in North Georgia to pastor another small Methodist Church.

While we were discouraged, we did not give up. We continued our relationship with the Word Church as best we could from 90 miles away, often travelling Sunday evenings and spending the night with the Pastor and his family. Numerous telephone calls, conversations, prayers were had between us. He was considering starting a Christian school and thought I was the right man ("God's man") for to head it up. I had never considered heading up a school before, but who was I to argue with God and the "man of God"? I was certainly willing, but the more we talked the less definite the plans seem to get. I finally decided to force God's hand. I had been taught that one had to "step out" in faith, to declare what one wanted and act as if it was, to "declare that which be not as though it were". In March or April of 1988, after just one year at the Church, I once again informed a Pastor/Parish relations committee I did not want to return the coming year. In fact, that I was leaving the United Methodist ministry to pursue ministry elsewhere. I also wrote a letter to my District Superintendent resigning from the Conference and renouncing my ordination. There would be no turning back, no safety net, no window left often to crawl back through - I was stepping out in faith! It was an exciting time, an exhirlirating time, and tremendously scary time. For not only was I taking my own future in my hands, but that of my wife of only four years and our recently turned one year old daughter's! If only I could have seen what was coming! But God uses all manner of things to finally bring us to where we belong. (To be continued...)

Clark no Savior!

Many Democrats seem to be looking to Wesley Clark as their savior from the 8 candidates of dwarf-like stature and Howard Dean, who threatens to take the party to new McGovernesque lows.

But is Clark the savior the Dems are looking for? How will he hold up once the spotlight of a real examination hits him? If retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. H. Hugh Shelton's opinion is anything to go by, not too well. According to Gen. Shelton, Clark has issues with integrity and character. Is it any wonder that Clark is the Clinton's hand picked man? Bird's of a feather, as they say.

Does America really want another President with "character" issues in the White House? Not to mention one who, according to this report, lacks judgement and, even in his field of supposed expertise (military and foreign affairs), was more a failure than a success. Do we really need a man who, if not for a British General, would have plunged us into WWIII in the White House? God have mercy on us all!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Lutherans and the Eastern Church

After the seventh century and the rise of Islam, the Orthodox East became increasingly isolated from the Roman Catholic West. Large sections of Eastern Orthodox Christianity existed for centuries under Muslim and later under Ottoman rule – all hostile in varying degrees to Christianity. These historical, cultural, political and economic experiences have formed the Orthodox Churches in ways that are difficult for Western Christians to comprehend. Conversely, the Orthodox had little first-hand experience with the distinctive religious and theological concerns of the Reformation of the sixteenth century since it took place only in Western Christendom. Thus, it is extremely noteworthy that a group of Lutheran theologians from the University of Tübingen in Germany during the last quarter of the sixteenth century would initiate a dialogue with – and even seek approval from – the Patriarch of Constantinople, leader of the Orthodox Christians under Ottoman oppression in the East.

The correspondence between the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremias II and the Tübingen theologians are ecumenical documents of great importance and interest, representing the first systematic exchange of theological views between the Orthodox East and the new Protestant West. The tone was friendly, personal, polite and irenic in nature. There was sincerity and open-mindedness, especially in the beginning. The true reasons which initiated and perpetuated the exchange can only be speculated upon. Was the motive purely a theological exchange of an ecumenical nature or were other factors involved? What adds a note of intrigue to this speculation is that the Greek version of the Augsburg Confession which accompanied the initial Lutheran letters was itself a very unusual document - no mere translation but a significant re-working of the Confession, with extensive additions in the Byzantine Liturgical language with which the Orthodox East would be most familiar. While the questions of motive will never be fully answered, the most significant impact of the correspondence was surely ecumenical – friendly contact had at least been made. This paper will briefly explore the religious climate in which the first seed of this contact was planted, and a background for understanding how this unique Greek Augsburg Confession and the correspondence are considered to be a very important framework for contemporary Lutheran-Orthodox ecumenical dialogues.

From the Introduction of Eve Tibbs' 16th Century Lutheran & Orthodox Exchange.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

What, Another Change?

That's pretty much the reaction my wife had to my inquiry into Eastern Orthodox Christianity. And I couldn't really blame her. When you marry a minister, I suppose you expect a certain amount of stability, at least career wise. Our life together had been anything but. Not that I was wild, crazy, or inordinately fond of changing jobs, residences or religious affiliations, after all, the previous 8 years had been relatively calm. But let me back up a bit. In fact, let me go way back!

In the evangelical parlance of our day, I was "saved" back when I was just about 17 after having grown up in the Methodist Church. At least I had had an experience that had energized my faith and made it a matter of more than simply Sunday mornings. It was exciting and from almost the first I sought out additional, exciting experiences. And in the early to mid 70s there were a lot of them to be had. From Catholic Charismatic prayer meetings to Church of God mid-week services, I went wherever the "spirit" was "moving" and wherever friends said God could be encountered. In no time at all I was a full blown charismatic.

Once in college I continued to seek out charismatic or Pentecostal fellowship groups. Eventually I wound up in a group called Maranatha Campus ministries. They were on the radical fringe of the Charismatic movement and purported to be "green berets for God". Exciting? You bet! Especially for a 20 year old hungering for greater, deeper, spiritual experiences. I jumped in with both feet, winding up living in a "dorm" with three or four other of the "brothers" in the group. After graduation I wound up working as a local deacon and elder at a couple different locations and even running a bookstore. Six months of this started me re-examining some of beliefs and practices of this group and I finally decided they were off the wall.

So, in the winter of 1979, I packed up all my belongings and headed 500 miles back home, back to the Methodist Church where I had gotten "saved". I would return to an earlier determination to become a Methodist minister and so I did. In the fall of that same year I enrolled in the Candler School of Theology, one of the most liberal seminaries (or "cemetaries" as us evangelicals called them then) in the country. A year later I was pastoring my own "charge", a Methodist term for a pastorate, often comprising more than one church on what is called a "circuit".

I graduated Candler on time and, shortly thereafter, moved to another "charge", this one with four churches! I had been ordained a "deacon" (the first level of ordination in the United Methodist Church) and was well on my path to becoming an "elder" (or "presbyter"). Thanksgiving of 1982 I met the woman who would, 18 months later, become my wife. Quite a committment for any woman to marry and minister. Little did she know what she was getting into!

More later...

Raison d'être

I am starting this blog site to detail my journey into the ancient Orthodox Christian faith.

Along the way I will also add comments and observations concerning the events of the day, religious, political and social. I don't claim to have all truth, but I am certainly looking for it!


Who am I?

At least in the sense of biographical detail. I was born in 1956 (which, for the math challenged, makes me in my late forties), graduated high school in 1973, college in 1978 (the University of Georgia - Go Dawgs!!!) and seminary with an M.Div. in 1982. I was ordained an "elder" (minister, presbyter, etc.) in the United Methodist Church in 1984. I was married in 1984 as well. My first daughter, Stephanie (pray unto God for her, holy God pleaser St. Stephanaida), was born in 1987. In 1988 I renounced my ministerial orders and became part of a "Full Gospel" Word of Faith church. In 1990 my second daughter, Mary Elizabeth (don't you love God! - Oh most Holy Theotokos, pray for her), was born. In 1992 we bought our first (and only) house - still live there, longest I've lived in any one dwelling in my whole life. In 1994, disillusioned and disgusted, we left the "Full Gospel" Word of Faith church we had been a part of. After brief periods in other Charismatic or Pentecostal churches we spent the next 5 years basically being unchurched (and totally opposed to Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostalism in all its various forms). In 1999 we started attending a Christian Church (Restoration Movement). In the spring of 2001 I "discovered" Eastern Orthodoxy. By August of 2001 my heart was set, I couldn't stand attending where communion was passing out wafers and individual cups of grape juice to people sitting in pews. However, the rest of my family did not (and does not) share my enthusiasm. You can read the blog to find out my current status.

I've worked for the State of Georgia for the past 15 years in the Division of Family and Children Services. I currently am in curriculum development specializing in Internet training.