Patriarch’s 4th of July Message

Letter to the Bishops and
Clergy of the CEC in North America on the Fourth of July 2019

I know some of you who will receive this letter are not citizens
of the United States of America However, to save someone the task of taking
names off a mailing list for this one letter, you are included.  I hope you enjoy it and that some of my
thoughts will minister to you as well.

During the development of Cable News and the beginning of the internet,
especially social media, we are all assaulted with news and information.  Some are true, and some are false.  Social media and the internet have given rise
to the validation of the “tabloid” press and, for better or worse, has given
everyone a place to express their opinions or ideas without the necessity of
facts or concern for truth.

I love reading history.  I love
reading historical novels (if you know of a good one let me know).  I would have focused more on studying history,
except that it meant remembering dates. 
Dates meant “numbers” and for some reason, anything that involves
“numbers” escapes me.  If I can get
things in the right century, I am okay with myself.

I love, however, reading about the characters who made history
and being able to hear the stories of those involved.  I like to have things clarified as to the
reasons things happened, how thing evolved, how things got settled, and the
implications of those events on modern history. 
It is one of the reasons I can watch the PBS documentary on the Civil
War repeatedly. 

When it comes to the Revolutionary War, I grew up understanding
the war with the limited information I was told in school.  I thought that there was the “big bad
British” who took the freedoms away from the “good and wonderful people of
colonies.”  When there was a tax imposed
on the people, a group of colonists “threw tea” in the Boston Harbor, provoking
a “shoot out” in Lexington & Concord with the “shot heard around the world.”  The colonist signed a Declaration of
Independence (which I had to memorize in high school).  Then the British sent more “Red Coats.” Until
finally, ALL the colonists came to arms, endured great suffering (especially in
Valley Forge), and finally in Virginia defeated the English (after the French
showed up).  

Of course, there was much more. 
But what I knew and what my environment reinforced, made me proud to be
an American. I still am.  Plus, growing
up in metro-Philadelphia, where the Declaration was signed, the Fourth of July,
was a major feast day and a source of pride.

The point of this rambling is that much of what I knew about the
Revolution was through filters.  One of
those filters is that every colonist supported the Revolution.  The fact is that they didn’t.  As many as 20% of Americans remained
loyalists to the crown.  Further,
somewhere between 20% to 30% were considered “patriots” and wanted to break
with England.  Surprisingly, 50% plus
just wanted to live in peace and didn’t take sides.  American was divided.  It was divided even after the war.  There was a lot more work to unite and form a
Union. 

Perhaps the election and re-election of George Washington were
the only uncontested elections in US History. 
From the time George Washington retired, every election reflected a
division in the nation.  Often a very
serious division.  Campaigns involved
name-calling, false accusations, and even threats of death.

The compromises of the first Constitution, particularly regarding
slavery, barely held the nation together. 
Hence, the nation fell into the great Civil War.  Certainly, slavery was a major issue but
underneath or behind that issue were concerns, attitudes, and beliefs about the
nature of government and man’s relationship to that government.  So much so that many in the Confederate
states called the civil war, ‘the second revolution.” 

Reconstruction divided the nation.  Segregation divided the nation.  The nation was divided about entering World
War I.  In the years before World War II;
the nation was divided about entering into the war in Europe. Pearl Harbor
united us for a moment as we came against the evil in Europe and the
Pacific.  But after we returned, we remained
a divided nation.  I remember the
election of 1960 when the nation was divided. 
My father, normally not a political type, worked for Richard Nixon
because he believed that if John Kennedy were elected, the United States would
be ruled by the Pope.  The election was
one of the closest.  There were
accusations of voter fraud with some claiming that even the “dead” came out to
vote.

The 1960s saw even more division. We watched on television not
only the horror of racism and segregation but the horror of war.  The nation again was divided, and we every
night the media showed us the division. 
We saw that “hatred” and “rage” that one side expressed towards the
other side.  There was violence in the
streets as some believed the only solution was the overthrow of the government
and the establishment of a new social state. 
College campus were centers of revolution and groups like Students for a
Democratic Society, or Young Socialist Alliance captured the minds of the
youth.

Out of this division and turmoil, the country moved forward, and
we talk about a new order.  The evil of
legal segregation ended.  There was a new
South.  The Civil Rights Act and the
Voter Rights Act changed forever the way Americans thought about each
other.  The War in Vietnam (not unlike
Korea) has made us more cautious about entering battles overseas.  Perhaps a lesson we are still trying to
learn. They also brought about a renewed respect for our military. 

I could go on and on, but history shows us that the American
Experiment of a free people forming a Republic that governs “by and for the
people” has always existed in tension and at times on the verge of
collapse.  The good, old days were not
always that good, but as a country, America has normally come back to the
values that have fueled the Experiment since the signing of that Declaration
two hundred and forty-three years ago (a short time in light of world history).

We are still, as a people, trying to apply the core values of our
nation to a host of problems.  Do we have
a strong federal government or is the best government that which governs least?  Are we going to address, finally, the
systemic racism that keeps one group from obtaining the same advantages as the
majority?  Or, have we already addressed
these issues and are now living in a post-racist society?  What about immigration?  Is it open borders with Lady Liberty inviting
all, or do we close our borders to protect ourselves from crime and drugs?  What is the balance of power?  What about the right to bear arms versus the
protection of our children in the schools? 

Not only is there division, but merely suggesting a position on
your Facebook page can result in a long “sophomoric” chain of rantings, name-calling,
labeling, and judgment.  It is amazing to
me thatwe even attempt to resolve extremely
complex issues and do a theological inquiry on a medium that is designed to share what you had
for dinner, your recent vacation, your plans for the summer, or an occasional
joke.     

There remains one issue that is exposing more than any other the
division that exists in America.  ST.
Teresa of Calcutta said, “the nation that will abort its young has lost its
soul.”  Is America losing her soul, or
has it lost her soul?  In either case,
the redemption of a nation, a nation, and homeland I love, is not a political
solution or a judicial solution.  Men
without a soul will not bring about an end to a holocaust. We see troubling
things in our past and future like genocide, slavery, segregation, sex trade
industry, the abuse of women, systemic racism, and the other great causes.
Seeing this, one sees a call for social justice with a Church in leadership as
a voice for the oppressed, the disenfranchised, and the poor.  But, abortion is by far the greatest evil
ever to happen in America and world-wide. 
It is not millions of babies that have been burned alive or butchered in
the womb since 1973; it is billions world-wide. 
One hundred and fifty thousand babies are murdered in the womb every
day.

I rejoice at the great victory in Alabama and other states that
have made abortion all but illegal with criminal penalties for so-called
doctors, nurses, or other persons who abort babies for profit.  I am sickened to live in a State where a baby
who survives an abortion can be left to die or be euthanized.  Whether or not it is rare or never used at
all, the fact that it is legal and possible is abhorrent.  The Governor, who claims to be a Roman
Catholic yet lives with his mistress, along with legislators applauded and
cheered with joy at the signing of this bill into law.  Are we losing our soul, or have we lost our soul? 

I am an American because I was born in America.  I was born into a family that loved America,
and to parents who survived the Great Depression, served in World War II, and
taught me to love America.  My parents
were Republicans because Eisenhower was a Republican.  My grandfather was a Republican because he
believed Franklin Roosevelt was a communist. 
We were Episcopalians and were proud that the government of the United
States and the Episcopal Church complimented each other.  We were proud that the majority of Presidents
were Episcopalians.  While at the same
time, I think my mother would have been a loyalist during the Revolution
because she loved Queen Elizabeth and everything British.  She was proud that we had a relative that fought
in the Revolutionary War.  My father was
proud that we had a great uncle that died at Gettysburg fighting for the
Union.  He also supported States Rights
and segregation.  At the same time, he
was proud of my civil rights activism and my anti-war activities.  I was taught to vote because we were free,
and we were Americans.  I have voted in
every election (even local) since I became voting age.

I was raised and surrounded by men (and women) who saw evil and
believed that the Church had an obligation, in fact, a mandate, to speak
against injustice. This was to be done in the tradition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
William Wilberforce, John Wesley, William Temple, Jonathan Daniels, Martin
Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, Paul Moore, and several clergies who would not be
silent in the light of evil.  I learned
that the Church had a role in the streets and the market place when it came to
injustice.  It had to be a voice,
resisting violent solutions to social problems and was to make visible Christ’s
love even if it meant martyrdom.  When
the world had engulfed itself in hatred and violence, the Church was to be
light. 

I was taught that we engaged in social ministry (Matthew 25)
because we did it unto Jesus.  The image
of Jesus was being formed in us through the Eucharist, Scripture, Prayer,
Service, Fellowship, and especially in surrender to the Holy Spirit.

I believe things in America might become more divided.  America refuses to recognize that if we
continue to kill our innocent children in the womb, we will keep open the doors
for the destruction of the family, the dehumanizing of human sexuality, gun
violence on the streets, prolonged wars. It will also add to the using of
people in groups for political ends, the abuse of women, and even the increase
of opiate addiction to numb the emptiness that our culture offers in the name
of freedom.  It is no wonder that we want
to legalize marijuana. 

As a Bishop, a Priest, and a Deacon, my place is to minister at
the Table of the Lord.  I am first and
foremost called to preside at the Eucharist, where Christ is made present among
us.  Christ is the only one who can
redeem and restore our soul.  It is in
Christ that we have our freedom, that no one can take away.  It is in Christ that we find our eternity and
the eternal destiny of all creation.  It
is at the Eucharist that we enter not only into the redemption of the world and
every soul but also the great eschatological banquet, which is the source of
hope for all humanity.

My diaconate reminds me that not only am I to wash the feet of
those who have become weary from the world, but to wash them, equip them and
send them forth into the world with the Good News.  It is the Good News, not political platforms
or Supreme Court rulings that are going to give us back our souls. My diaconate
reminds me that the Church needs schools, emergency housing programs, ministry
to the dying, outreach to the homeless, street counselors outside of abortion
clinics, Christians in the halls of Congress, programs that offer help to
single mothers and fatherless children. 
We must be engaged in social justice because Christ Jesus has a heart
for the broken, the least, the lost, and the lonely.

In the Eucharist and the poor, we will find our soul.  Whether times get worse or better, let us
call out for a revival that is found in Jesus, and sustained in the Eucharist,
and the poor;  2 Chronicles 7.14.  Jesus is the One who brings healing and
deliverance not only individually but to entire nations as we immerse them in
the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey. 

God bless America.  America
bless God.  I am thankful for the freedom
that those men and women proclaimed and shed their blood for over two hundred
years ago and throughout two hundred and forty-three years.  I will continue to pray for our country and
our leaders and teach others to do so. No matter what the outcome of an
election.  I will continue to work for
the advancement of the Kingdom, thankful that it is much easier here in the
United States than other places.  And, I
hope that this Fourth of July, we can stop for a day and celebrate us without
damning, hating, and railing against those who disagree with us.

Under His mercy,

+Craig, Patriarch

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