Casey’s Ordination

March 24, 2013 at 2:16 am (Pilgrimage)

Casey's Ordination

Conferring the Diaconate upon Casey

Last Sunday (3/17) a good friend of mine was ordained to the order of deacon at First OPC in San Francisco, CA. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) is a very conservative denomination, based on the 1647  Westminster Confession. I was very happy for Casey’s calling, yet I had some unsettled feelings for my own ambitions to the permanent diaconate as well as my history with First OPC.

About five years ago I gave my first profession of faith as a member of an OPC at an East Bay mission. Casey and I were both attending POP chapel and gave our mutual professions at the same date. The Profession was pretty basic. It involved a belief in the Bible as God-inspired, the work and atonement of Christ applied to our own lives, and a vow to obey the elders (presbyters) over the congregation.  However, in the same month we became members, our mission-chapel collapsed due to an exodus of three or four families who left OPC over questions of paedo-communion. While disappointing, I was happy to be in a church that held high standards, namely, a strict adherence to the regulative principle and a favorable attitude to theonomy (OT civil law in modern society).

opc heads

women at 1st OPC wear head- coverings; elsewhere, this is a rarity

But it would also become a quick lesson about myself taking rash vows. A year later I became very uncomfortable with aspects of Calvinist theology, especially the damage Puritanism unleashed upon the Anglican Church upon the Civil Wars of 1642-51.   I studied the Solemn League and Covenant and learned the war was formally against the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. After obtaining a copy of the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer, I didn’t understand why the Presbyterian Covenantors (both English and Scottish) rebelled, thus, killing their sovereign and unleashing democratic forces that would eventually ruin a Christian commonwealth. After all, the prayer book was  thoroughly biblical.

It really looked like Presbyterianism, ironically, was to blame for liberal government. I wanted to do something to heal that past.  I began to visit Anglican churches that still used the traditional American prayer book.  My attendance at 1st OPC became spotty as I visited Anglican parishes until I finally asked the elders if  I could transfer. After about six months of meeting with the Session on weekday nights, they consented I depart upon the condition that I place them in touch with my Anglican rector in order to determine if I indeed landed in a safe congregation.


Abby also wears her cover

My journey in Anglicanism hasn’t been what I hoped. It took over three years to find an Anglican church that is possibly “safe”, i.e., comfortable with Protestant identity (not dismissing the 39 Articles). The rector of our current church (St. Paul’s, Los Altos), Bishop Ronald Johnson, is not presumptuous and a very kind man . Bishop Johnson has blessed both my family, our unborn child (Amanda is in her second trimester with a baby), and he has given the rites and burial of my dear Father last December  Like 1st OPC, the women at St. Paul’s also wear head-coverings during public worship. Nor are the women at St. Paul’s socially liberal like so many Anglican churches.  So, I guess we finally found a home-church, after three to four years of looking.

Readers might notice St. Paul’s is our third Anglican church we’ve attended since 2009. We left the other two churches either over maltreatment of the 39 articles or neglect in male holy orders. But St. Paul’s is good on both marks…Maybe it’s time to let the 1st OPC elders to talk with Bishop Johnson, finally conferring a letter of transfer? I’ve been hesitant up to this point because I’ve learned how rash vows and commitments can cause problems. Consequently, we’ve become increasingly hesitant about full-membership. But, most of my pain has, sadly, been with Anglican not Presbyterian churches. Orthodox Presbyterians know how to stick to standards.


Abby having a blast. Sunday School is not the worst..

There was another thing at this Ordination ceremony that impacted my thinking. First, I had a very hard time sitting down with Abby. Amanda didn’t come with me because she was cooking food for St. Paul’s. Abby was very antsy, running up and down the stairs almost the entire service. When all was over, we went to the nursery in the basement area. Abby had terrific time there, and she absolutely loved the toys and kids. We’ve visited other churches with Sunday Schools and Nursery’s, etc., and have always turned them down for reasons very similar to paedo-communion, namely, that the baptized child is part of the congregation.

But, I have to ask, ‘does a person become fully endowed in the church upon their baptism’ (with all rights & privileges, both sacramental and political, conferred in a singular moment), or ‘is baptism itself the beginning of a longer process or journey toward holiness’? I think it’s the latter, and where we sit and what we do in church can reflect that gradual process and approach to holiness in the course of our life. I certainly view my marriage with Amanda this way. Also, my profession of faith. Perhaps I see a theological (and not just expedient) reason for placing unconfirmed children in closed galleries or outside the nave? I think I’d be favorable to a partial or half-way approach to integrated-family worship, at this point. Here is an example of what I’m considering at Christ’s Church in NYC, a thoroughly Reformed Anglican congregation:

“Children begin worship with their families, and after the first portion of the service, head to their programs.  In this way, they begin to become familiar with the liturgy and your family has an opportunity to worship together.  Then there is appropriate teaching from the Bible for adults upstairs in the main sanctuary, and learning and laughter for little ones downstairs.”

I also remembered why I left OPC. It wasn’t because people were unfaithful. They are extraordinary in their faith and holiness. 1st OPC has Godly discipline, strictly following their canons and confession. I left OPC because, like Casey, I felt “called” to the Lord’s diaconate. However, unlike Casey, I knew I couldn’t subscribe to the key points in the Westminster Confession or anything iconoclastic like Puritanism. If I was to leave presbyterianism, it seemed to make sense to go ‘back’ a rung in terms of the Reformation; in other words, go back to the Anglican church. Casey’s ordination required a deeper Profession of faith than what is asked from the laity. The elders asked Casey to publicly assent  to the Westminster Standards and OPC canons. I respect Casey’s call and oath, but I couldn’t conform to such standards, as pious as they are. I am more of a tee-totaler than a Puritan, I guess.


Casey’s Ordination on Mothers’ (aka. Rose) Sunday. Casey’s mother was there too.

Anyway, Casey has been a very good friend of mine, and I know he’ll make a fantastic Deacon. He has both the faith and heart for such, and he authentically wants to serve and build others by prayer and service. As I look back over the last half-decade or so, it’s just weird that all my ‘kin-and-kith’ are so mixed in their Religion. My mother identifies with her family’s German-immigrant Lutheranism. My dad’s faith was formed in a Methodist boarding school while in North Dakota. My brother recently became a Mormon, and Casey (probably my best friend) is a loyal Presbyterian, while I moved away to Anglicanism. It’s just weird, and I’ve been harping about it too much. The ordination was in Mid-Lent, so I thought a photograph of a rose might be appropriate. Sorry for the pink. Wanted white. The Rose symbolizes mystery, and our Journey with Christ is infinitely that.


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