Saturday, February 23, 2008

General Rule and Principles of the Community

The General Rule and Gospel Principles
of the
Community of Servant Disciples in Christ

As Proposed
10 February, 2008


We are called to be the Community of Servant Disciples in Christ.

We are called into Community, embracing the promise that we are created to live as children in the family of God our Father.[1] We are called to be Servants, learning from our Lord who came to serve rather than to be served, and who teaches us to do the same.[2] We are called to be Disciples who make disciples, longing to be transformed so that we may love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.[3] We are called to be In Christ, representing this era of the already even as we struggle with the not yet of the fullness of the Kingdom.[4]

And finally, we are called. We are called to the Father because God loves us so much that he gave his only son to reconcile us to Him.[5] We are called to receive, nurture, heal, equip and release; and thereby serve the devoted disciples of Jesus Christ in the hope that the kingdom of God may in fact one day be on earth as it is in heaven. We are called to follow and love Christ by observance and practice of His commands and teachings[6] as recorded in Holy Scripture and as modeled for us by His faithful people throughout the ages. We are called to promote unity among all the peoples of the mystical body of Christ, [7] as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church. We are called to make devoted disciples of the way of Christ for the purpose of transforming cultures and bringing reformation to the people of God.

Christ calls us to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds”[8] to follow this Way, so that he may send us, as He has done the saints who have gone before, to offer all that we have and all that we are[9] to the mission of God as fully and completely described in the Old and New Testaments[10]. We shall strive to be living witnesses among all nations to the great truth that in Christ there are no barriers to relationship with God because of gender, social status, race or nations in God's family. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus[11]. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”[12] We shall strive to live understanding that our hope …indeed the only hope of all humans…for peace and wholeness in this world is in God the Father who is able to transform the affections of the human heart and will, through Jesus Christ His Son, who with the Holy Spirit is living and reigning with Him now and forever. It is by His grace, His good will towards us, that we have been saved and are by that same grace being converted day by day[13]. For that reason our relationship with Him must be the very purpose for and happy end of our lives.

The Community consists of men and women, married or single, from any Christian denomination. These men and women, though following the ordinary professions of life, have responded to the drawing of the Holy Spirit to become a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ[14] in community with us. We seek this through our commitment to being transformed in Christ into His likeness[15] by the power and work of the Holy Spirit. To that end we joyfully and without reservation covenant together and do vow to observe and practice the teaching of Jesus fulfilling the measure of God’s grace received by each of us.We identify with the character, intent, passion and vision of the ancient monastic traditions and of their founders St. Benedict and later St. Francis. We are not called as they were to serve God in the literal practice of the traditional monastic values of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Nor do we attribute to their literal practice any salvific quality. We do, however, affirm the teaching of the spiritual truths contained in them as well as the Benedictine vows of Stability and Fidelity and we affirm the observance of these spiritual truths in the ordinary professions of life.

Gospel Principles

1. We covenant together to observe and practice the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ especially as it informs us as to our responsibility as servants to those whom God sends us.[16] We follow the example of the many remarkable Saints who went before us, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of their lives in their relationship with Him and with their neighbors.[17] We devote ourselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, including all that the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms say about Jesus.[18] We affirm the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God written and to contain all things necessary to salvation.[19]

2. We expect and do seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in our brothers and sisters in Christ and in our neighbors,[20] in Sacred Scripture,[21] in our worship,[22] in all the works of God’s hands and in the ‘Church’, the mystical body of Christ.[23]

3. We shall go forth as witnesses and instruments of God's mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by our life and words. As St Francis said, “Preach the gospel always and when necessary, use words.” We affirm the one holy catholic and apostolic church as the people of God gathered to Christ throughout time in the world. Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, we devote ourselves energetically to bring by our teaching and witness reform and conversion to the people of God, in spiritual fellowship with Christians everywhere.[24]

4. Motivated by our hope in the dynamic power of the gospel to change our lives, we will conform ourselves to the four step process of the cross; suffering, death, burial and resurrection. We do this so that by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, our thoughts and deeds will be transformed to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change[25] which the gospel calls "Conversion".[26] Our sincere recognition of our sinful human condition[27] insists that we honestly seek and embrace this conversion daily. We submit ourselves to the biblical principles of confessing our sins to one another and of intentional repentance from the works of the flesh that lead to spiritual death.

5. Following the example of Jesus, let prayer…that pleasing continual conversation that is nurtured by an intimate relationship with God…along with contemplation[28] and “the practice of the presence of God,” be the soul of all we are and all we do. We will participate in the sacramental life of the mystical body of Christ, above all the Eucharist.[29] We will regularly join in common prayer in one of the forms in use by the body of Christ.

6. The Order shall follow the historic example of the Saints of God by our imitation of their complete self-giving and by our perseverance and faithfulness to the one who has surely called us to follow Him.[30]

7. We shall faithfully fulfill the duties proper to our various circumstances of life. We shall follow the Christ who suffered, died, was buried and was raised from the dead by picking up our own cross daily as He himself instructed us[31] and we will witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.[32]

8. Christ chose for himself a poor and humble life.[33] In so doing He demonstrated that He valued God’s creation attentively and lovingly. We will seek a proper detachment from temporal goods[34] by consciously simplifying our own material needs.[35] We will be mindful that according to the gospel we are to be stewards and not owners of money and possessions[36] and as such they are not to be used by us according to our own whim but for God’s purposes, for the benefit of all God's children. We understand that the scriptural blessings of God are intended for the whole people of God, not only for the strong and the most capable. We shall strive to purify our hearts from every tendency and yearning for control, possession and power.

9. With a gentle and courteous spirit, we accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.[37] A sense of community will make us joyful and ready to place ourselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly, for whom we shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

10. Giving thanks for the Community of Servant Disciples in Christ, wherever they may be found, we will endeavor to show them such sacrificial love that the world will see in us the image of Christ,[38] who sacrificed himself out of his love for us. We will intentionally seek out relationship with our brother and sister disciples, offering comfort and companionship, rejoicing with them when they rejoice, and weeping with them when they weep.[39] If we are wronged in any way, we will always be ready to forgive and to forgive again.[40]

11. We shall individually and collectively be in the forefront of promoting justice by testimony of our human lives and by courageous initiatives. Especially in our public life, we will make definite choices in harmony with our faith.

12.We shall esteem work both as a gift from God and as a sharing with Him and with one another in the creation, redemption and service of the human community. We shall affirm all work that can appropriately be done in the presence of God as God given and we shall not further distinguish between ‘spiritual’ and ‘ordinary’ work. We shall thoroughly resist the temptation to separate our life into spiritual and ordinary activities and shall endeavor to bring every moment of our lives to integration and sanctification truly “in Christ”.

13. In our families, we shall cultivate the Gospel truths of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of them a sign of a world already renewed in Christ. We shall endeavor to live our lives fully submitted to one another’s wholeness and fullness eagerly anticipating the revelation of God’s best in one another.

14. We shall respect and enjoy all creatures, animate and inanimate, which bear the imprint of the Most High.[41] We shall strive to move from the temptation to exploit Creation for our own gain toward Biblical concepts, living as those who have been given the responsibility to “guard, tend, protect and keep”[42] all of the works of God’s hands so that God’s creation may fulfill the purposes for which God intended.

15. In obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, we are ambassadors of peace and reconciliation.[43] We are compelled to seek out ways of resolving conflict through non-violent means, trusting that all humans are created in the image of God their creator and in the transforming power of love and pardon.

16. Since we are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives the death of our physical bodies its true meaning, let us accept death serenely as an encounter with our God. We shall live joyfully in eager expectation of that day when we shall finally see Him no longer as in a mirror dimly but, face to face. We receive the words of our Lord Jesus to pick up our cross daily and to follow after Him[44] as His call to us toward resurrection freedom and we embrace our own cross as the sure means by which we shall be formed into the likeness of our Lord.[45]

17. We each covenant to draw up and live by a Personal Rule of Life based on the Rule of this Community and falling into these disciplines: Worship, Prayer, Relationship, Work, Lifestyle, Mission, Obedience, Community and Service. We understand the value of living a submitted life. We shall always be in relationship with a spiritual director whose purpose is to walk with us as we are discerning the will of God and in particular as their words inform our obedience to the will of God.

Admission into the Community of Servant Disciples in Christ is progressively attained through a time of orientation as a seeker of truth, followed by a period of formation of at least two years during which time the follower of Christ grows into living the fullness of the rule and Gospel principles of the Community, and finally a full profession of the Rule as a Servant. The entire community is engaged in this process of growth and formation. Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment. Disciples or, those who desire to be a disciple of Jesus, from any Christian denomination who are in good conscience able to affirm the Rule and Gospel principles are encouraged to belong to this Community.This Order is a Covenantal Christian Community whose members meet annually, and is governed by its Bishop, whose charge regarding the community is to “guard the faith once delivered to the Saints”,[46] and an Abbott who, in addition to interpreting the charge of the Bishop to the community shall maintain the spirit of the order and by the unanimous decision of an appointed board of Elders[47] selected from the community. These Elders shall make rules as they are informed by the Holy Spirit, in accordance with this General Rule and Gospel Principles and in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is revealed by the Canon of the old and new testaments.[48]

A Benediction

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

+Alan Morris
Deacon Rolin Bruno

End Notes:

[1] John 1:12-13, Romans 8:12-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:6b-8, 1 John 3:1-3.[2] John 13:1-17 (washing of feet), Matthew 25:31-46 (sheep and goats). There are few of the teachings of Jesus that are as clear and therefore for the disciple, unavoidable as are these two commands to serve our fellow humans.[3] Matthew 28:19. We fully affirm that humans were created to be able to fully live only in the continual presence of God who is our source of life. The Disciples of Jesus are humans who according to the grace given them, practice the presence of God for the sake of the Love of Him only and for no other reason than that He is truly lovely and worthy of our love.[4] Romans 12:4-5, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Galatians 3:26-29, Ephesians 2:11-13, We affirm that we are as redeemed disciples in Christ, and yet we recognize our reality—revealed by our brokenness as humans—that we must at once answer the Word of God who calls us to submit to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in order that we may be in Christ..[5] John 3:16.[6] John 14:15.[7] John 17:20-23, 2 Cor. 5:18-20.[8] Romans 12:2.[9] Mark 12:28-31.[10] 2 Timothy 3:15-17.[11] Paul is not attempting to say in these passages that there is no difference between the people groups that he contrasts in this passage. There are clearly genetic, gender, cultural and political differences that are obvious between each of the noted people groups. This is clearly a statement that in Christ despite these distinct differences we are equal heirs to the kingdom of God and to relationship with Him. There are no second class citizens or aristocracies in the Kingdom of God.[12] Galatians 3:26-29.[13] 2 Corinthians 3:18, Matthew 18:3.[14]We acknowledge three biblically recognizable progressions of the faithful disciple. While these in fact represent real stages in the growth of the servant they are understandably not quantifiable. The Seeker, John 1:39-the follower, Mark 1:16-18 and Matthew 4:18-20-the Abiding or the Remaining, John 15:1-11. We shall resist the temptation to foster opportunity at any time for the honest disciple to fall into spiritual pride through the practice of assigning titles in recognition of spiritual growth. We understand that the titles of “Bishop”, “Abbot”, “Elder” and “Spiritual Director” are descriptive of specific responsibilities within the community. While necessary and helpful these titles are potentially a snare and a temptation to sin for those who bear them and to those who may wrongfully revere them. Let us pray for one another.[15] Ephesians 4:13-15.[16] Luke 10:1-24.[17] Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-27. The First and Second greatest commandments.[18] Luke 24:27, 44-48.[19] 2 Timothy 3:16.[20] Matthew 25.[21] John 1:1-17.[22] Psalm 22:3, Matthew 18:20.[23] 1 Cor. 12:12-27.[24] While we recognize that our salvation is in fact personal and we have been invited into a personal relationship with God ; we understand further that our salvation is not individual but, corporate. God’s purposes from the beginning of time has been to create for Himself a unified people. We affirm the Family of God and we reject the popular cultural affirmations and the exaltation of individualism.[25] Romans 12:2.[26] Matthew 18:3, Acts 15:3.[27] Romans 3:10.[28] 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Recommended reading, “The Practice of the Presence of God”, Brother Lawrence.[29]Luke 22:19-20, Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, 1 Corinthians 11:23-30.[30] Matthew 10: 37-39, Mark 1:16-18.[31] Matthew 10:38, 39.[32] Mark 10:30, 2 Corinthians 12:10, 2 Timothy 3:10-12.[33] Matthew 4:8-10, Luke 4:5-8, Philippians 2:5-8.[34] John 14:30.[35] We affirm "An Evangelical Commitment to Simple Lifestyle", written and endorsed by the International Consultation on Simple Lifestyle, held at Hoddesdon, England on March 17-21, 1980. The Consultation was sponsored by the World Evangelical Fellowship Theological Commission’s Unit on Ethics and Society (Dr. Ronald Sider, chairman) and the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization's Lausanne Theology and Education Group (Rev. John Stott, chairman) as a reasonable beginning to a complete understanding of our call to live Godly lives as humble stewards of all of the gifts God has given us for the purpose of fulfilling His will in the earth.[36] Acts 4:32-37. “ no one said that anything they had was their own…nor was there anyone among them who lacked”[37] Matthew 25:40.[38] John 13:1-17 and 34–35; 1 John 3:16–18.[39] Romans 12:14.[40] Matthew 18:21–22; Luke 17:3–4[41] Romans 1:18-20.[42] Genesis 1:26-28, 2:15.[43] 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.[44]Matthew 10:37-39.[45] Galatians 2:20. With the Apostle Paul it is our humble hope to confess one day that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us.[46] Jude 3. We affirm decision-making based on Scripture, tradition, and Godly wisdom. The Holy Scriptures are self-attesting and the essence of Truth which require our unreserved submission in all areas of our lives. The trustworthy written Word of God is a complete and unified witness to God's redemptive acts which culminated in the incarnation of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Bible, uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority in matters of faith and life. The Word of God, Incarnate and written, provides the foundation we affirm along with Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.[47] Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-4.[48] We understand that the titles of “Abbot”, “Bishop”, “Elder” and “Spiritual Director” are descriptive of specific responsibilities within the community. While necessary and helpful these titles are potentially a snare and a temptation for those who bear them and to those who may wrongfully revere them to sin the sin of Spiritual Pride. Let us pray for one another.

+Alan Morris
Deacon Rolin Bruno

Friday, February 22, 2008

Car Chronicles #2

The Saga of the Dodge Dynasour

When the Ol' Faithful Mazda gave up the ghost (see Car Chronicles #1), I figured I'd just walk for a while. After all, I need the exercise.

Then I found out that I would be caring for a grade-school child. I needed a car, not the least to take him to school and pick him up. The purchase was rather hurried. I came up with the above dinosaur, a '91 Dynasty. Seemed to run ok. The dealer put a new radiator and water pump in it. And (the prime factor) it fit with the amount of money I had on hand.

But it needed a state inspection. That was attempted yesterday, and the outcome was not good. The car needs rear brakes rather badly, and along with an engine tune-up and the safety/smog inspection the fix-up costs would outpace the original purchase cost of the car.

Being a man of little faith, I was depressed.
Moan. Worry. Moan. What to do? What to do?

God, however, is faithful. Before long, help was showing up from unexpected quarters. I still don't know how the funds will appear to pay for a worthwhile vehicle (or whether, like the last two times, God will simply give me a car free and clear), but nevertheless, next month I will begin the search in earnest for a dependable vehicle.

God is Good.
All the Time.
When will I ever learn?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Death of Christianity

Christianity is dying.

No, it is not dying everywhere.
It is dying on the North American Continent.

It is dying because we have not become disciples to Christ.
It is dying because we preferred to keep our own selves alive;
...that is, we have not put our own selves to death.
Christ cannot live in our hearts until we do so.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."*

We don't want to die.
We want to preserve our own lives.
Leave everything and follow Jesus?
You've got to be kidding.
I've got a life, after all.
I can't leave that!

We don't want our institutions to die.
We want to preserve our own institutions:
—those institutions we call "churches."
If those institutions become moribund,
...we want to restart them with a few quick fixes.
A few quick fixes:
—some good Bible-based preaching, more small group ministries, etc.

Bill Hybels had a few quick fixes. He founded a megachurch.
But Bill Hybels failed. He failed to make disciples to Christ.
A few quick fixes are not going to cure Bill Hybels' church.

The Anglican Church in Canada has failed.
The Episcopal Church in the States has failed,
...and it is exporting its failure southward.
These failed because they did not make disciples to Christ.
"Ah," you say,
"But we Anglicans have a few quick fixes to get re-started!"

Good Bible-based preaching. Lambeth Quadrilateral. The 39 Articles. Etc.
The Lambeth Quadrilateral does not make disciples.
The Thirty-Nine Articles do not make disciples.
Pulpit ministry, however good and Bible-based, does not make disciples.
Only Disciples make Disciples.

And lastly, we don't want Christendom to die.
We want to preserve our "Christian" nation.
We want to serve our fellow-"Christians" living in our "Christian" nation.
We are doomed to failure.
"Ah," you say, "But we Bible-Believing Christians have a few quick fixes!"
A few quick fixes:
Vote for the right president. Oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.
But Christendom is our kingdom, inherited from Emperor Constantine.
It was never Christ's kingdom.

Educate! Educate!
If only we believe the right things, then we'll be Christians!
All the education in the world cannot make a disciple.
When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
After we become disciples, then is the time for education.
First, we must die to ourselves.

A few quick fixes will accomplish nothing, except to fool ourselves.
We must go back to the very basics.
We must go back to the beginning.
We must start over.

What are the basics?
It is so simple.
Jesus told us.
Love God.
Love God so much that there is no room for anything else in your life.
Everything else will follow.

Alan Morris and I are trying to start over.
In this space I will soon (perhaps today) publish a general Rule of Life.
A Rule of Life, taken by itself is just a quick fix.
But if we have died to our selves...
Then only, perhaps a Rule of Life will lead us into deeper discipleship.

"Follow me!" says Jesus. "Leave everything!"

Am I ready to be a disciple?
Are you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Home Life in Ambridge

Home Life: Alan and April graciously helped me pick out a lovely ground-floor apartment. However, after I moved in, I had no idea what to do with the spare room.
"I'll just block it off," I said, "the living room and kitchen are plenty of room for me!"

Then I found out that a grade school child was coming to live with me, at least for the current school term. More help was needed from Trinity seminary here, where they had a barn with furniture that I could borrow.

"But what will he do in a house with no television?"

No problem. He just logs into the internet, tracks down some online games, or watches a movie on the cartoon channel.

He was online before I knew it, and showed me a new way to access the internet. (Parental controls activation was my next task.)

Rolin's Study

"A wall to hang my diplomas! I've never had a chance to hang up my diplomas before," I exclaimed.

These are the fruit of the last 10 years, including Victory Outreach School of Ministry, Vanguard University (BA in Religion and MA in Bible) and ordination to the ancient order of Deacons.

This is part of my "Theological Library," collected over the last 10 years.

They no longer fit in the lovely bookshelf (above) that Ronnie built for me in Mississippi.

However, the apartment comes with a lovely glass-doored case with ample room for the overflow.

Snow Day

God is Good. All the Time.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

At Home in Ambridge

Welcome to my personal web log. I'll be using this site to record what God is doing in my life, and perhaps offer some reflections on what is going on in Christendom and the World.

Christendom. Ah, there's the rub. Christendom as a concept has failed. It had great promise, starting with Emperor Constantine, and renewed in the Reformation. The Reformers, contary to popular belief, were great believers in Christendom, supporting a "Church for All" in each country, supported by the Prince of that country. Mainline Christianity is built on those same assumptions: The job of the Church was to occupy the land in Christendom, and it assumed that each country was a Christian country.

Christendom failed. It failed because it did not make disciples for Christ. In the end, it failed to maintain even a nominally "Christian country." Here on the North American Continent, we live in a post-Christian society. Even the mainline churches are becoming post-Christian: their leaders no longer believe that Jesus is the only hope of the world, and maintain that all faiths lead to the deity.

It is time to return to the concepts of the pre-Constantine Church. We are strangers in a foreign land. We are missionaries in a pagan land. Our message is the only hope of a fallen and lost society. New approaches are needed. Old approaches are needed, that is, pre-Constantine approaches. Turning back the clock is neither desirable nor possible, yet we can learn much from the early church.

Alan Morris and I are approaching a final draft of a General Rule of life for Christian disciples. The ideas are all there. Next will be finding those who are ready to approach radical discipleship; such as that suggested by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship. I have waded about one-fourth of the way into his book, and I'm asking my Lord to help me finish and digest it before Lent has passed us by.

If you have landed on this web log by chance, and you are curious, you may find out what I've been doing for the last two years by checking out, where I was living in cramped quarters with a select few men who wanted to escape from the world of alcohol and drug addiction. That ministry came to an end in December, and I'm finding myself called to be here in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, being asked to edit a Rule of Life for a bishop, being asked to teach an over-the-road trucker how to read the Bible, and being asked to watch over a 9-year-old boy who needed a home and is interested in being baptised.

I find it a bit bewildering. What keeps me going is the solid history I have experienced over the last 12 years: Ever since I gave my whole life to God, it seems that He knows what I need better than I do. I'm no longer the God of my own life; not even Master of my own life. Yet He is faithful, He knows the plans he has for me, to give me hope and a future.

Thank you, Lord. I love you.