The Arthur Book: Where Things Stand

The manuscript for the Arthur Lough biography—an autobiographical novel called The Long Road from Highland Springs: A Faith Odyssey—is complete and ready to be printed. I started writing last August and finished the first draft in January. In early February, I Writer at Work (1)submitted that draft to a professional editor for evaluation. Based on suggestions and recommendations from that evaluation, I spent two months revising and rewriting the manuscript. (The excerpts from chapter one that I published last winter as posts to this blog were drawn from the first draft and do not reflect the later re-write, which includes a prologue and new chapters not in the first draft.)

In May, I sent the unedited manuscript to five beta readers. All of them liked the book and encouraged me to publish it. In late May, I began exploring a variety of publishing options, most of which were companies that required me to pay for their services and assume all risks related to sales and marketing of the book. During that process, I consulted a well-known writer who has published several titles using a variety of methods (trade publishers, self-publishers, etc.). In the course of our communications, he advised me to hire a professional copyeditor no matter which method of publishing I ultimately chose. Continue reading

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Here’s My Dilemma

This may surprise or even annoy some of my readers, especially those who are also bloggers, but I don’t read many blogs. I probably shouldn’t admit that, but I want to be absolutely forthright in what I communicate here.

There are two reasons why I don’t read blogs. First, I don’t have time. I know, I know. TheBlog concept vector illustration. more I write in this post, the more trouble I’m in, since I admit I don’t have time to read blogs, and yet I write one which I hope other people will read. Truth be told, I am amazed that anybody finds the time to read my blog. And believe me, I don’t take my readers for granted.

Second, most blogs are not very good. Good writing, like any proficiency, is a blend of innate ability and hard work. A combination of talent and sweat. A melding of gift and discipline. Let’s face it, few bloggers achieve that level of proficiency. If we did, our work would probably be picked up by a reputable publisher instead of being relegated to the internet.

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A Really, Really Practical Post

Of all the uses to which I have put this blog in the fifteen months I have been writing it, of all the things I have communicated in the previous one hundred thirty-three posts, what I am sharing in this post is the most difficult, most awkward, and most likely to be misinterpreted. Still, I have learned that, when an idea implants itself in my thought processes and intrudes repeatedly into my consciousness over several days, it is likely something I should heed. So, here goes.

For nearly five years, since the door closed on my fourteen years of ministry as an instructor in a small Bible college, I have been asking God to show me what new door He was opening. For a time, I thought I detected a sliver of light through a door slightly ajar. I painstakingly prepared for a ministry within the Anglican tradition. Following my ordination as a priest in May 2011, I spent a year and a half trying to force my way through a door which God was not opening, at least not at this time.

I have written much about my vision for a new church in Columbus, Ohio, near the campus of The Ohio State University. More than a year ago I located a small office for rent Grandview Officein Grandview Heights, the very community in which it seemed that God might be leading us to establish the new church. The circumstances surrounding my discovery of the office’s availability, along with the generosity of the people of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church in assuming the cost of renting the office for one year, led me to conclude that God was in the midst of that enterprise.

The church is not yet a reality. The office did not directly lead to an even greater presence in the community resulting in the formation of a congregation. The vision for the church still lives, but God’s timing, in that regard, is different from mine.

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Time To Reboot

What do cars, cell phones, and computers have in common? They are all products of technology which I use every day but with only the vaguest idea of how they work or how to fix them if they break. Generally speaking, when any of these items malfunctions, I need to turn to an expert in order to resolve the problem. With one exception.

On occasion in the past, when my computer started slowing down, freezing up, showing error messages, or doing other goofy things, I have been able to correct the problem by turning the machine off, waiting a few seconds, then turning it on again—what computer people call a reboot.

A reboot clears out the computer’s memory and otherwise restores the operating system to a condition in which it is free from extraneous data of various forms which accumulate during normal usage. It doesn’t create a blank slate, but it gets rid of “digital detritus” which can electronically gum up the works and prevent the machine from doing its job most effectively and efficiently.

I believe that, for the Anglican Church in North America, it is time for a reboot.

Not a major overhaul. The American Anglican community has experienced that already, beginning around 1999, when the Archbishop of Rwanda consecrated missionary bishops for ministry in the US, and culminating in 2009 with the formation of the ACNA and the investiture of Archbishop Robert Duncan. I applaud the courage and the vision which such a step of faith required. I am an Anglican today because God providentially brought me to this communion at this moment in its history. Had the Episcopal Church been the only portal into Anglicanism open to me, I would never have been confirmed (not to mention ordained) as an Anglican.

I love my new ecclesiastical home. I want to see it flourish and grow. I want others to find what I have found in Anglicanism. For that to happen on a grand scale, however, I believe we need to reboot—to clear out some old thinking which could (and I believe will) impede our progress and distract us from the goal of advancing the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Chiefly, we need to remind ourselves that we are not the Episcopal Church and that the “denominational realignment” of those parishes which were formerly part of TEC must involve more than merely a new name on the church sign. Unlike TEC, which is not known for aggressive church planting and is made up mainly of well-established parishes and a fairly affluent membership, the ACNA is a pioneer movement with a missionary impetus.

Archbishop Duncan has issued a challenge to plant 1000 new ACNA churches by 2014. It is a worthy goal and in the best interests of all of us orthodox Anglicans to see that goal accomplished and to do everything we can to make it a reality. Many new “church plants” have already been undertaken, but the only way those new plants, and others yet to come, will take root and grow into healthy, productive churches is for larger, older, more well-established parishes to help nourish and cultivate those infant churches until they achieve self-sufficiency. This will likely require a sense of stewardship which is willing to trim local aspirations in order to share resources in service to a higher goal, namely advancement of the Gospel.

The Archbishop’s vision will only become a reality when every ACNA diocese adopts a “missionary mindset” and every parish embraces a “growth by extension as well as expansion” ethos. The ACNA must be characterized by cooperation and sacrificial sharing, not by competition and turf wars. We’re all in this together to bring glory to God and to raise up communities of faith that proclaim and embody the grace, mercy, and love of Christ.

It is a new day for Anglicanism in America. The opportunities are great, but so are the challenges. This is not a time for “business as usual.” It’s time to reboot.

Talking Turkey About Giving Thanks

A friend who is very familiar with my pilgrimage of the past few years recently asked me, “Do you think your transition to Anglicanism has been worth all that it has cost… emotionally, socially, materially?” My immediate, less-than-thoughtful response was, “Not yet.” In this post, I want to consider that question a bit more carefully.

By almost every measure, our decision to identify with the Anglican communion has been costly. It cost me my job as a Bible college professor. It cost me relationships with friends and family who simply cannot understand why I exchanged the “simplicity” of faith in the Anabaptist tradition for the “complexity” of Anglican Christianity, especially the “smells and bells” of liturgical worship.

The process of preparing for Holy Orders (ordination) was costly in terms of both time (two years) and money (for tuition, books, and travel). And who knew that clerical shirts and liturgical vestments were so expensive? (Well, all my colleagues knew, but they never told me; they probably feared the shock would be too great.)

Not only did it cost a lot to become Anglican and to prepare for ministry in this communion, it all had to be undertaken with the knowledge that, even after I was ordained, I still would not likely have a “paying job” as a brand new priest in this brand new diocese of the brand new Anglican Church in North America. My new ecclesiastical home, I would soon discover, has tremendous potential but limited resources. If I were to find a context for using my gifts in ministry in this communion, I would likely need to “create” it.

So I shared with my Bishop a vision for planting a new Anglican church in a community just west of downtown Columbus and close enough to the OSU campus for students to be an important part of our ministry focus. With his blessing, I summarized my vision in writing and began sharing this Prospectus with anybody who expressed interest. Then I sat back to wait for the thunderous response. The silence was deafening.

Although it pains me to admit this, I confess that the situation left me neither gratified nor grateful. As recently as three weeks ago, I was up to my armpits in what John Bunyan called the “slough of despond.” In one really, really cynical moment I summarized my circumstances like this. “It seems that the Anglican communion is saying to me, ‘If you want to be part of us, come ahead. Bear the expense, take the risks, pay the price. If you can somehow generate sufficient interest in and support for what you want to do, and if it gains traction, takes root, or otherwise becomes a reality, then, despite the fact that we couldn’t underwrite the endeavor in any way, we’ll still let you be accountable to us.'” (Please note, I said this came out during one really, really cynical moment.)

And then, as He so often does, God intervened. The good people of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, a brand new work just getting started on the northeast side of Columbus, informed me that they sensed God telling them to underwrite the rental cost for a small office in Grandview Heights so that we can begin to have a presence in that community. Even as I type those words, my heart is so full of gratitude, to them and to God, that I cannot compose a sentence which adequately conveys what I am feeling.

It has been a very long time since a group of God’s people has reached out to Shirley and me in such a tangible, material, and sacrificial way. St. Augustine’s is a small congregation, just getting started. Their commitment to help us lay the foundation for St. Patrick’s Church represents an expenditure which they could readily, and justifiably, put to good use in their own situation, meeting their own needs. And yet they have chosen to make outreach and mission a part of their congregational ethos from the beginning. My admiration, and my gratitude, knows no bounds.

Kingdom Stewardship

During his earthly ministry, Jesus talked a lot about money. More than he talked about heaven and hell combined. Far more than he talked about sex or marriage or even love. More, in fact, than he talked about any other subject except for the Kingdom of God. And much of what he said was a warning about the sinister and subtle ways that money can distort our thinking, pervert our values, and impede our formation as citizens of the Kingdom.

Jesus made three things very clear. One, everything we have, including our money, comes from God. We are stewards, managers if you will, of the resources God puts at our disposal. The idea that we give God a tithe (technically 10%) of our money and the rest is ours to use however we want is simply inconsistent with Kingdom stewardship. Two, money is either our servant or our master. If we do not use it wisely (and for Christians that means in the interests of the kingdom), it controls us. And three, when Jesus referred to “rich” people, he meant not just people who have money, but people whose money has them, whatever their level of affluence. It is in this sense that Jesus used the term when he said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” And American Christians need to remember that, compared with the vast majority of people on earth, we are all wealthy.

I did not enter the Christian ministry “for the money,” and I have never been generously compensated for my ministry, nor have I expected to be.  Vocational ministry is not a profession.  I have tried to live according to the principle established by Paul in his instruction to Timothy: “If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1 Tim. 6:8)  In a culture obsessed with materialism, adopting a frugal lifestyle not only offers an opportunity to exhibit Christian values which counteract the prevailing culture, it also frees up resources which can be used for the work of the Kingdom in other ways.

I am trying to be faithful. God led me into Anglicanism, but it has cost a lot to follow that leading.  For one thing, I lost my job.  As I write this in the fall of 2011, it has been more than three years since I have drawn a paycheck.  During that time, I walked with my wife through her battle with breast cancer, and I completed the requirements leading to Holy Orders in ACNA. Were it not for the sacrificial generosity of some longtime friends, we would be destitute. As it is, my bank account is busted, but my credit rating is still strong, and my spirit, while bruised and downcast by times, remains unbroken. God, too, has been faithful.

I mention all of this for two reasons. First, I want to make it clear that I practice what I preach in this area. Second, God may have brought me to the Anglican communion “for such a time as this.” I believe that my experience and my perspective can be particularly helpful as the ACNA takes on the challenge of finding material resources to underwrite its spiritual vision.

More anon.