I hope you are experiencing a fruitful time of reflection and anticipation as we move from the Christmas season and into Epiphany. This coming Sunday (January 20), as always during the Epiphany season, we will celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lord the Giver of Life. This Feast Day is unique to our own Communion, a day set aside to celebrate and stand in wonder at the gift of Life bestowed upon us by our loving Father. It is a joy and an honor to celebrate such a day with each of you.
As all of you know, I was raised in the Anglican Communion. Hence, for all of my youth and for a significant part of my ministry, the Episcopal Hymnal was a deep part of my spiritual discipline. I grew up under a Pastor who was a retired Ensign in the United States Navy. Like every male adult I knew as a youth, he served in World War II. He was also deeply influenced by the ministry and writing of Dietrich Bonheoffer. As a result, so were all the members of his congregation.
Dietrich Bonheoffer had to confront directly the moral issue of his day - the rise of fascism, particularly National Socialism. It was the moral issue of my father’s generation and so, as a youth, I also heard a clear message that there really was such a thing as evil, and that it incarnated itself in the men, particularly Hitler, who attempted to rule Europe and enslave millions of people. In that War it is estimated that somewhere between 62 and 78 million people died either in military service, civilian casualties, or in the concentration camps. One hundred and thirty-five thousand, five hundred and six American military personnel were killed in action between D-Day and V-E Day.
My father and every veteran I knew talked of the horrors of war and their desire was that their sons would never have to go to war. Yet, they knew there was evil, and that evil was to be confronted, even if it meant giving your life - the greatest sacrifice.
My Pastor and my father also taught me that there was good and righteousness. There was right and there was wrong. They believed that virtue and all that was good was found in Christ Jesus and so, we, along with all the kids I grew up with, went to Church.
Today, the battle we face between good and evil is no longer contained within some foreign land; it is across the globe and against a very prevalent culture of death. Whether we live in America or Africa, the battle for freedom, religious liberty, the inalienable rights of all persons, and the traditional and God-ordained pattern of marriage and family is being fought in our own back yards.
There can be no compromise on these issues. There can be no compromise on the right to life for all people - born and preborn. The murder of preborn children at the rate of 115,000 a day worldwide is wicked, and those involved in this holocaust are wicked. This is not a political issue, it is a battle between good and evil, light and darkness, righteousness and wickedness, and life and death.
In 1845, James R. Lowell wrote a poem protesting America’s war with Mexico. It was set to music by Thomas J. Williams and placed in the Episcopal Hymnal, until it was removed in 1982, along with “Onward Christian Soldiers”, for questionable theology. My Pastor had us sing this song at least once a month to teach us the importance of not remaining silent in the face of evil.
“Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
“Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
“By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, They bleeding feet we track,
Tolling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns
not back; New occasions teach new duties, time make ancient
good uncouth, They must upward still and onward, who would
keep abreast of truth.
“Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is
strong; Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the
throne be wrong; Yet that scaffold sways the future, and
behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow,
keeping watch above His own.”
We will be victorious in the fight to end abortion. I believe a generation of young people is being raised up in the international communion of the CEC who are not only committed to ending abortion in their own nations, but are Pro Life because they have a radical and passionate love for the Risen Lord Jesus.
We can and should give to all types of Pro Life activities, from Pregnancy Centers to Post Abortive Counseling. We should also be Pro Life from conception to natural death, which means we need to support ministries to the homeless, single mothers, fatherless children, and drug/alcohol victims. The Lord loves a cheerful and, might I add, generous giver. Yet the Lord, from the founding of the Charismatic Episcopal Church and through consensus of the Bishops and Patriarch’s Council, established CEC for Life as our voice in the Pro Life Ministry.
We agreed, in consensus, that every year Parishes, Missions, and Clergy should renew their memberships for CEC for Life. We agreed, in consensus, that we should encourage all of our parishioners to give annually to CEC for Life. We also agreed that the Lord directed us to establish the Feast Day of Our Lord the Giver of Life, to be celebrated every January with a special Sunday service during which each parish would take up a special offering to be given to CEC For Life. This year that Feast Day will take place on Sunday, January 20th.
Times are tough. Many of our nations are currently facing extreme economic crises, even here in America. Some see this as a reason for cutting back on giving; I see it as a time to increase my giving.
We can give lip service to being Pro Life. We can even vote Pro Life. But the end to abortion will not happen until the Church is mobilized and called to apostolic action. And any mobilization will require the sacrificial giving of time, talent, and treasure.
On Sunday, January 20, please encourage your clergy to take part in this important offering. Bishops must take the lead. Your voice has influence in the lives of your sons in the Lord.
Be assured of my prayer and affections.
Under His mercy,
The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates,
For more information on the Feast Day of Our Lord the Giver of Life, please contact Fr. Terry Gensemer through the Office of the Patriarch at email@example.com.