Papa Z's Views and Comments

Location: Wisconsin, United States

I am a convert to the Catholic Church after serving in ordained ministry for more than nine years in another denomination. I hold a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in historical theology, and another in systematic theology, and am currently working (very slowly) on my doctorate. I work in Christian Education and Formation and teach at the University level. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and eight great kids! When I'm not studying, reading, or blogging, I enjoy eating and drinking! Like Bilbo Baggins, I have been specializing in food for many years, and my table has a high reputation!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


The Finger of God

I'm sure that virtually all readers are still reeling at the horrific events which took place yesterday at Virginia Tech. Such mindless evil is dreadfully hard to contemplate. There are no easy answers to difficult questions.

And yet . . .

And yet . . .

Like we have seen so often before, during times of immense tragedy; amid all the suffering and pain; amid all the questions and the anger -- there are also miracles. There are those who "were supposed to be somewhere, but weren't" -- and later realize that they have been spared. There are those who, in moments of unspeakable horror, act with incredible courage. There are those who "rise to the occasion", when the need is greatest.

We see the Finger of God.

I see the Finger of God in the heroic sacrifice of a professor, who literally blockaded a classroom door with his body -- so that his students could escape. Greater love hath no man.

I see the Finger of God in the presence of an Eagle Scout in one classroom, who was able to render emergency first-aid to those around him -- and was never touched by a bullet.

I see the Finger of God on the life of a young man who decided to have a quick coffee with his girlfriend, rather than rush off. They are both alive today.

I see the Finger of God on the life of a young woman who, although always early, was, for some reason running late.

I see the Finger of God in the very fact that these tragedies are so rare; that this sort of wanton evil remains, for the most part, checked.

It was St. Thomas Aquinas who pointed out that if God wanted to destroy the Universe -- He would not have to do anything -- He would have to STOP doing something. It is His Finger on the pulse of the Universe which keeps everything going.

I grieve with all those who have lost friends and loved ones. I grieve for the loss of life -- and for the loss of innocence. And I am filled with wonder and great gratitude at the little miracles -- those actions by the Finger of God -- which kept this terrible, terrible tragedy from being infinitely worse.

May the souls of the victims -- and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Papa Z

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Monday, April 16, 2007


Further Thoughts on the CEC

It's been awhile since I've posted on this blog. Much of my time has been spent moderating several sections of the Ancient-Future Catholic forum, owned by fellow blogger David Bennett. Some months ago, we decided mutually that the time had come to shut down discussions of the CEC on that forum, and overall, I believe that this has been a wise move. Some CEC discussion has continued on the On Our Way Home forum, but at a much slower, and less frenetic pace than before.

Now that the dust has cleared somewhat, we can perhaps have a better picture as to what has actually happened, and what is still going on.

Total Episcopal Departures from the CEC since May 2006:

Bishop Philip Zampino, formerly Bishop of the Mid-Atlantic Diocese and Abbot General; now Prelate of the Communion of Corpus Christi.

Bishop Fred Fick, formerly Bishop of the Great Lakes Diocese; now a bishop in the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.

Bishop Don Miles, formerly assistant Bishop of the Great Lakes Diocese; now a bishop in the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.

Bishop Rich Lipka, formerly Bishop of Delmarva Diocese; now the President of the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.

Bishop Phil Weeks, formerly Missionary Bishop for the CEC; now a bishop in the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.

Bishop Ken Myers, formerly Bishop of the South-Central Diocese; now Vice-President of the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.

Bishop Rick Painter, formerly Bishop in Arizona; now the Secretary-Treasurer of the Communion of Christ the Redeemer.

Archbishop Randy Sly, formerly Archbishop of the Eastern Province; now a layman in the Roman Catholic Church.

In addition, there have been dozens, if not hundreds of priests and deacons who have left for other bodies, dozens of churches who have left for other bodies, and thousands of laity which have left for other bodies.

The "Exodus" continues, but has been slowed to a trickle. I do expect more losses, but not nearly at the rate we've seen over the last 9 months or so.

Is, then, my earlier post on the demise of the CEC incorrect? To paraphrase Mark Twain: "Are the rumors of the death of the CEC greatly exaggerated?"

No, I don't think so. It may still be possible for the CEC to survive as a meaningful entity -- but I would not bet the rent on it.

What has happened positively:

There have been some positives.

1) The CEC is finally being honest about its own numbers here in the United States. For many years, those in the CEC (including those in ministry) were treated to enormous exaggerations as to churches and parishoners. In the United States, the CEC is now admitting to about 4,000 souls.

2) The CEC is finally taking a stand on doctrinal issues (like the Canon of Scripture). Lack of clarity on fundamental points of doctrine has always been a shortcoming of the denomination. It appears that this is beginning to change.

3) The CEC is finally taking a stand on a unified liturgy. This has also been a shortcoming, as not only styles of worship would vary around the country, but so also would fundamental and theological aspects of the liturgy. It is difficult to have a unified doctrine if there is no uniform liturgical worship. The CEC is finally coming to grips with this.

4) The CEC seems to be making at least a minimal attempt to regularize its reporting, both with regard to parish records and with regard to financial accountability. This may be "too little, too late" -- but, nevertheless a start is being made.

HOWEVER -- the NEGATIVES certainly outweigh the positives:

1) Honesty about numbers is a good thing. The numbers themselves look very bad -- and when analyzed, look much worse. 4,000 persons -- 90 churches. That adds up to about 45 persons per church. Not very viable. But there's more. 6 of those congregations are cathedral parishes, which tend to be much larger than the typical CEC congregation. If we assume an average membership of 150 for those six congregations (which is conservative indeed) we're left with about 3,100 persons in 84 parishes/missions. That adds up to about to about 37 members per congregation. But it gets worse than that. Among those 4,000 people, are between 300 and 350 clergy! For 90 churches! Most members of the CEC clergy have families, and many of those families are quite large. Just assuming an average of 4.5 members per clergy family (which again is conservative indeed) and we see between 1,800 and 2,000 members of CEC churches who are either clergy, or families of clergy. That number approaches 50%. This is not viable denominational growth!

2) Taking a stand on doctrine and on liturgy is also a good thing. However, in the case of the CEC, the stand taken is essentially "We have decided that we are a Protestant denomination". If that is truly what they want to be, that's fine and dandy. But that is not the song which was being sung EVEN ONE YEAR AGO, much less from the beginning of the denomination. Yet the current leadership is pretending that this is not the case. One immediately thinks of the "doublespeak" talked about in 1984. Those of us who remember how it was at the beginning cannot be fooled.

3) The beginnings of accountability are not enough. The current leadership of the CEC has still not "come clean" about the events of the past year (and honestly, much further back than that!) Clergy and laity who still ask questions are being insulted by bishops. The cries of the literally thousands who have asked for information, and yes, for justice, have been mocked and ridiculed. Attacks have been made against forums and blogs (including this one) yet certain leaders have no hesitancy in printing their own views and opinions. Lies have been told, and continue to be told. Reputations have been tarnished, and continue to be tarnished. Relationships have been broken, and continue to be broken.

In other words, in spite of the loss of 8 bishops, dozens to hundreds of clergy, and (depending on which set of figures you read) up to 75% percent of the laity in the United States, a certain cadre within the remaining leadership is still continuing "business as usual".

I pray for those left in the CEC. I pray for healing and for reconciliation. But I also pray that "the truth will out".

Papa Z

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