Category: News

FIFNA Bishops Write Primate of Kenya

The Most Reverend Jackson Ole Sapit
Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya


Your Grace,
We, the bishops and members of Forward in Faith North America, write to express our
profound sadness at the decision of the Anglican Church of Kenya to break two
thousand years of episcopal principle and practice, the great tradition in Anglicanism
since the English Reformation, as well as GAFCON protocol, and consecrate a female
bishop.
Your decision to act unilaterally in opposition to the expressed concerns and
agreements of the GAFCON Primates Council is a break in the fraternal love and
respect that has been a hallmark of GAFCON and witness to orthodox Anglicans
worldwide.
Sadly, the actions of your province directly harm Christ’s Church by failing to uphold the
“doctrine, sacraments and discipline of Christ, as the Lord has commanded and as this
Church has received them.” Specifically, this innovation directly harms the maintenance
of the historic episcopate, challenges our missional and ecumenical relationships
throughout the world, and opens the door for Satan to divide Christ’s One Holy Catholic
and Apostolic Church.

The Historic Episcopate

In a 2017 communique from the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), the
Primates noted: “It is our prime recommendation that the provinces of GAFCON should
retain the historic practice of the consecration only of men as bishops until and unless a
strong consensus to change emerges after prayer, consultation and continued study of
Scripture among the GAFCON fellowship.” The historic male episcopate provides the
Church a common assurance of sacramental validity. *

Ecumenical Relationships and Christian Mission

Recently the GAFCON Primates Council has reached out to the Roman Catholic and
Orthodox Churches, as well as Protestant denominations such as the Lutheran Church
Missouri Synod, in order to further our relationships and further our common mission in
fulfillment of our Lord’s prayer in John 17, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those
who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father,
are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that
you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21). Our ability to fulfill this prayer, heal division, and
carry out Gospel mission together will only be further impaired by breaking with the holy
Biblical tradition given by all male apostles to all male successors.

Doctrine, Discipline and Division

While the Anglican Church in Kenya currently maintains an orthodox understanding of
the Gospel, it should be noted that every province that has adopted women into the
episcopate has, in time, yielded to the pressures of the culture and left Biblical morality.
Listen to the words of Saint Paul to Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will
not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves
teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and
wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Lastly, your Grace, for the sake of the Gospel and our unity in Christ we call upon the
Anglican Church in Kenya to refrain from further actions of division and to repent of your
actions which have directly harmed your brother and sister Anglican Christians around
the world.
Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Eric Vawter Menees,
Ordinary of San Joaquin and President of Forward in Faith North America
The Rt. Rev. Richard Lipka
Ordinary of the Missionary Diocese of All Saints and Vice President of Forward in Faith
The Rt. Rev. Ray Sutton
Ordinary of the Diocese of Mid-America
The Rt. Rev. Walter Banek
Assisting Bishop of the Diocese of Mid-America
The Rt. Rev. Clark Lowenfield
Ordinary of the Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast
The Rt. Rev. Ryan Reed
Ordinary of the Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker
Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. Bill Wantland
Assisting Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. Alberto Morales, OSB
Ordinary of the Diocese of Quincy
The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman, SSC
Assisting Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth


*DECLARATION OF COMMON FAITH AND PURPOSE

In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity:
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We, the Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Religious, and Lay Members of the one, holy,
catholic and apostolic Church, and members of Forward in Faith North America,
affirm the following so that the faithful witness to apostolic Faith and catholic Order
may be continued within the Churches of Anglican heritage.

  1. We believe our Lord Jesus Christ has given His Church an Order which
    claims the loyalty of faithful Christians above and beyond any deviation
    sanctioned by any humanly-invented institution, whether secular or
    ecclesiastical.
  2. We accept the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as
    “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and
    ultimate standard of faith and morals.
  3. We accept the Apostles’ Creed as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed
    as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
  4. We accept the historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its
    administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God
    into the Unity of His Church. We affirm the Christian ministerial priesthood as
    male, and that the churches of the Anglican Communion have no authority to
    change the historic tradition of the male priesthood. We pray that God grants
    us the strength and ability to uphold the Church’s Order, both materially and
    spiritually as concerns the ministerial priesthood of His holy Church.
    Accordingly, we will reject any and all actions that might signify acceptance of
    a deviation from the Church’s Order regarding the Christian ministerial
    priesthood.
  5. We recognize the seven Sacraments of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
    Church – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord –ministered with unfailing use of
    Christ’s words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him, Confirmation,
    Matrimony, Ordination, Reconciliation of a Penitent, and Unction of the Sick.
  6. We believe that, in the Sacrament and mystery of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus
    Christ is truly, really and substantially present in the Body and Blood in the
    outward and visible sign of Bread and Wine. (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16-17, 11:23-29,
    John 6:32-71)
  7. We affirm our Lord’s teaching that the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is in its
    nature the exclusive, permanent and lifelong union of one man and one
    woman. We affirm that God created only two complementary sexes of human
    beings – male and female. We also affirm that a person’s God-given sex is
    immutable and therefore, cannot be changed.
  8. We believe all Seven Councils are ecumenical and catholic on the basis of
    the received Tradition of the ancient Undivided Church of East and West.
  9. We affirm that God, and not man, is the creator of human life. Believing that the
    unjustified taking of life is sinful, we will promote and uphold the sanctity of life
    from conception to natural death.
    In making this Declaration, we accept all the responsibilities which pertain to the
    common witness of all who participate in this endeavor and we ask God’s blessing
    upon our labors.
Forward in Faith

Forward in Faith

Forward in Faith North America (FIFNA) is the catholic voice of Anglicanism in North America.

We worship God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, living and proclaiming the catholic faith as received in the Anglican tradition.

Invitation to the 2021 FIFNA Assembly and AWI Conference July 7-10

 

It is great relief and pleasure to be able to invite you to attend the 2021 FIFNA Assembly, being held in conjunction with the Anglican Way Institute Conference in Dallas, Texas July 7-10. This event had to be cancelled in 2020, and our abbreviated Assembly was held by phone-in only.

We will begin a new era in our ministry at our Assembly as we elect a new President and vote on significant changes to our Constitution and Ordinances to equip us for the ministry opportunities and challenges we face in a realigned Anglicanism in North America. The list of positions open and current slate of nominees, as well as the proposed changes to our organizational documents, will be posted online here. Our Assembly will open on Wednesday, July 7, at 1:00 pm. All our activities, as well as the Conference, will take place at the Church of the Holy Communion in Dallas.

The important Teaching we have always offered at our Assemblies will happen at the AWI Conference. Keynote Speaker Dr. Peter Kreeft will be giving 4 addresses on The Apologetics of CS Lewis. In my ministry, I have used more books by Dr. Kreeft in adult education than anyone except CS Lewis, so this will be a special blessing to me as well as all who will attend. In addition, Bishop Sutton will give an Opening Address on Lewis, and I will offer one on the Theology of Charles Williams, a friend of Lewis who was also influential in his life and thought. Bishop Sutton will also be the Speaker after our FIFNA Dinner the evening of the 7th.

To facilitate our attendance, we are offering scholarships to attendees of up to $500. These funds will be available upon request to reimburse travel expenses. Registration costs will be $35 for the Assembly and Dinner on Wednesday, plus the special rate of $75 for FIFNA members for the Conference. Further information is found on the AWI flyer.

To register for the Assembly and Conference, please contact Cathy Heissenhuber at holycommuniondallas.org or at (972) 896-6458.

Thank you for your support of FIFNA, and I hope that you will be able to attend this important event. If not, please keep it and those who will be attending in your prayers.

Faithfully, Fr. Lawrence Bausch
President, FIFNA

Ash Wednesday

An Ash Wednesday homily by the Bishop of Fort Worth, Ryan Reed.

Every Ash Wednesday, we are confronted with the fact that we are all broken people, living in broken world. The silent procession, the somber liturgy, the stark plain sanctuary, the ashes, the litany of penance: all of these remind us of the truth of our sinfulness, our brokenness, and our rebellion against God and his will for us.


In the early 20th century, an English newspaper editorial asked the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” G. K. Chesterton mailed in a two word reply: “I am.”


We begin the journey of Lent with the difficult task of looking at our own guilt and sin. The journey begins with ashes and the terrible reminder that we are fallen.


The ashes serve as a sign of remorse and repentance and take us face to face with our own brokenness. We are confronted by our own individual rebellion against God which our first parents have imparted to us. With these same ashes we are also confronted with our mortality. We are but dust and to dust we shall return. To quote the rockband Kansas, “All we are is dust in the wind”.


The journey of Lent begins with the harsh reminder that we are held captive to sin and that not one of us can escape the consequence of sin. Unless the Lord returns first, we will all die.


But the journey of Lent doesn’t end there. We will gladly cheer the arrival of our king into his city, and then, just days later, at the drop of a hat, we will shout for his death. We will stand by as he is beaten and whipped, mocked and spit upon.


We will watch as he struggles to make it to his place of execution: as he walks the way of the cross, and we will hear the distinct sound of iron striking iron as the spikes pierce his hands and his feet. We will stand in the crowd as many mock him and laugh at him. We will watch as his mother cries in pain and the most perfect thing in all creation, the man named Jesus writhes in agony. And as he breathes his last, the world will grow dark.


On the surface, this is not a journey that any of us really want to take. When we look at the cross of Christ, we see the wrath of God in all its holiness, and we see the horror and the consequences of our sin. We see the perfect justice of God meted out for our rebellion, as the blood of Jesus drips into the ground.


When we look at the cross, we see the wrath of God. But there are two sides to the cross. When we look again, we also see the love of God in all its holiness. So on the surface, we may not want to take this journey, but deep down inside, we would not miss it for anything in the world.


We start this journey on Ash Wednesday in humility and repentance, recognizing that God loves us so much that he would send his son to die for us, so that if we are willing to believe in him, we might not only be forgiven, but discover eternal life.


We put on ashes knowing that only by the grace of God have we become his children. During Lent, we journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem, as he reveals to us God’s will for his people. We rejoice at his triumphal entry and crown him with many crowns. We sit quietly in the upper room as Jesus demonstrates for us what is at the very heart of the Trinity: a perfect self-giving love which he shows us as he washes our feet. He calls us to share that same sacrificial love for each other. He then institutes a new Passover meal which will allow us to share fully in him even as he comes fully into us.


We walk with Jesus along the way of the cross, adoring him for the love he shows us and thanking him for the suffering that has removed the stain of our shame. Thanking him for taking the place that was rightfully ours.
We stand with Saint Mary and Saint John at the foot of the cross in awe that God loves us this much. And we look through the cross to a tomb where the most surprising, most amazing thing in all of creation will happen.


We stand with the women before the tomb and hear the most incredible words ever uttered by man or angel. And we come to know more fully that sin and death have been crushed and destroyed. We discover that light has overcome the darkness and that victory belongs to God. And for all of that, we will rejoice.


As the prophet Joel says, now is the time to blow the trumpet and declare a fast. Now is the time to fall on our knees in repentance because God is coming with blessings in his hand.


As we begin this journey of Lent, we look upon the cross and realize with St. Paul that now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. We have an opportunity, if we use this gift of Lent, to ensure that our hearts are in the right place. To ensure, as Jesus tells us, that we are storing up treasures not here on earth, but in heaven.


We begin this journey kneeling before the altar and receiving ashes in the sign of the cross. Ashes that remind us we must repent and that apart from God we are nothing.


Ashes in the sign of the cross remind us also that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. The sign of the cross which tells us that Jesus has conquered sin on our behalf. A cross that points beyond itself to an empty tomb in which Jesus now offers us divine life.

 

 

Fort Worth Wins

Diocese of Fort Worth Press Release:

For immediate release:

U.S. Supreme Court upholds Texas ruling on Diocese, Corporation

It is with great joy and thanksgiving to God that we receive news today that the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has let stand the unanimous May 2020 ruling of the Texas Supreme Court (TXSC), which found in favor of the Diocese and diocesan Corporation.

Responding to two Petitions and replies, SCOTUS denied the requests of The Episcopal Church and All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth for a review of the May 2020 opinion. That opinion upheld state trust law and statutes governing unincorporated associations, affirming ownership of properties throughout the Diocese is governed by our Constitution and Canons and administered by the diocesan Corporation.

For all practical purposes this ends the appeals process that began in 2015 following the Second Summary Judgement of the trial court in Fort Worth. Shortly the trial court will move forward to enforce the ruling and consider related matters severed from the original suit filed against the Diocese in April 2009.

“Today’s decision marks a turning point for us as a Diocese,” said Bishop Ryan Reed. “After directing so many resources to this dispute, we can now put our entire focus on Gospel ministry and Kingdom work. We are nearing completion on a strategic plan that will keep us focused on sharing the transforming love of Jesus Christ and our mission to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”

We are grateful for the thousands of prayers said over these 12 years, for the faithful leadership of Bishop Jack Iker, the excellent work of our legal team, the solid foundation laid for our Diocese nearly 40 years ago, and most of all for God’s gracious provision with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion with 55 congregations located in
Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, Midland, Wichita Falls and other locations in Texas and Louisiana. It was founded in 1982.

FIFNA Awards Scholarships

 

The following seminarians have been awarded Forward in Faith Scholarships, funded by the Swartz Trust:

The Rev. Dcn Charles J. Arturo, Missionary Diocese of All Saints Attending Nashotah House.

Mr. Luke A. Childs, Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, Attending Nashotah House.

Mr. Andrew Hurt, Diocese of Mid-America (REC) Attending Cramner Theological House.

Mr. David A. Peterson III, Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin Attending Nashotah House.

Mr. Jared M Wensyel, Diocese of Mid-America, REC, Attending Cramner Theological House.

The Swartz Trust was established: “…specifically for the purpose of training male seminarians for the priesthood and furthering the education of priests in evangelism.” Scholarships are for $2,500.

To apply for this financial assistance, click on the Scholarship link on this website or apply by email to Fr. John Himes: fr_john_himes@hotmail.com

A Holy Wednesday Reflection — Light From Darkness

It is out of that uttermost gloom of My God, my God, why have you forsaken me that the light breaks. The light does not merely shine upon the gloom and so dispel it; it is the gloom itself transformed into light. For that same crucifixion of our Lord which was, and for ever is, the utmost effort of evil, is itself the means by which God conquers evil and unites us to himself in the redeeming love there manifested.

Judas and Caiaphas and Pilate have set themselves in their several ways to oppose and to crush the purpose of Christ, and yet despite themselves they became ministers. They sent Christ to the cross; by the cross he completed his atoning work; from the cross he reigns over mankind. God in Christ has not merely defeated evil, but has made it the occasion of his own supremest glory.

Never was conquest so complete; never was triumph so stupendous. The completeness of the victory is due to the completeness of the evil over which it was won. It is the very darkness which enshrouds the cross that makes so glorious the light proceeding from it. Had there been no despair, no sense of desolation and defeat, but merely the onward march of irresistible power to the achievement of its end, evil might have been beaten, but not bound in captivity for ever. God in Christ endured defeat, and out of the very stuff of defeat he wrought his victory and his achievement.

Archbishop William Temple (1881-1944), Mens Creatrix.

Palms in Liturgy: Lessons for Prayer and the Christian Life

By Lawrence Bausch

One of the things we will miss this Sunday by being unable to gather for Mass is the distribution of palms.  After their use during a joyful Procession, we typically take them home and put them in a visible place, where they will remain until we take them back to church to be burned to make the ashes which will be distributed on Ash Wednesday.  Since we are unable to come together this week, it might be helpful to meditate on the mystery and meaning of palms as we use them in our Church.

In the Old Testament, palm branches are mentioned regarding their use in constructing booths for the annual Feast of Booths (Sukkot). This practice recalls the 40 years of the Exodus, when the Jews had left their homes to trustingly follow God (Leviticus 23:40; Nehemiah 8:15).   In the New Testament, John’s Gospel singles out palm branches as those to be laid before Jesus’ path as he entered Jerusalem (John 12:13). They are mentioned one more time in a fascinating scene in Revelation where, after a vision of the 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel, the seer saw “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).  In the context of these references, we can say that palm branches were used as a sign of trust in God’s providential guidance (OT), to praise Jesus as he entered the Holy City (John), and will be used to worship him eternally in his eternal Kingdom (Revelation).

Ashes are found in two primary contexts in the Old Testament.  One type of occurrence concerns sacrifices or ‘burnt offerings’.  Animal sacrifices began when God provided Abraham with a ram to offer in place of his son Isaac (Genesis 22). In general, sacrifices of any kind are representative of the person or people making the offering. Throughout the Old Testament we read about ‘burnt offerings’ being offered, and many later became ritualized for use in the Temple.  Included among many instructions regarding these sacrifices are guidelines pertaining to what to do with the ashes which result from them (cf. Leviticus 4:12). 

The earliest and most frequent use of ashes in Scripture pertains to penance and humility.   When Abraham appealed to God for mercy upon Sodom, he acknowledges that he is “but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). After God appeared to Job and questioned him concerning his demand for an explanation regarding his horrific suffering, he prayed, “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).  Jesus uses this same image, quoted in Matthew and Luke: “Woe to you, Chora’zin! Woe to you, Bethsa’ida! For it the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in dust and ashes (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13).” In Matthew, he says these words in the context of the debate about the mission and role of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:7-24), while in Luke it follows his commissioning of the 70 (Luke 10:1-16). 

Palm branches are offered in praise; ashes are received in penance.  We receive palms in the context of praise (many churches sing “All glory, laud, and honor, to thee, Redeemer, King!” during the palm procession); we receive their ashes in the context of penitence (as they are placed on our forehead we are told, “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return”).  These separate practices are united by the common use of palms.  This link may be useful as we consider our life in Christ this Holy Week.  How are our praises of God and submission to his will for daily living limited by our “unruly wills and affections”? As many have pointed out, our Liturgical link on Palm Sunday between the Triumphal Procession and the subsequent reading of the Passion Gospel, the crowd crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” probably included some who, days later, were shouting “Crucify him!” We intuitively recognize this possibility because of the inconsistency of devotion in our own lives.  At the same time, our ability to praise and serve our Lord beyond our sinfulness can encourage us to see that God accepts even our stumbling steps towards him as we respond to his grace.  God does not scold us for our stumbles any more than a parent does when their young child is learning to walk.

This strange season of physical separation can be a graceful time to invite the Lord to come more intimately into our lives and reveal those elements in our lives that need his graceful help, as well as those upon which we can see his joy.  We can use this time in deep intercession: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:14-15).

Fr. Lawrence Bausch is President of FIFNA

Statement by the President of Forward in Faith North America, Fr. Lawrence Bausch

Friends,
 
As each of us discern how to live out our faith during these strange and isolating times, we face an ever-changing landscape of limitations.  Many of us are unable to attend Mass or gather for any corporate prayer. 
 
Some are able to observe worship via the internet, from their local parish or other churches, while others are urged to pray the Daily Office or Family Prayer from the BCP or Spiritual Communion from the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book or another source (remember that the Daily Office is Corporate Worship even when done while alone).
 
Whatever we do, I encourage us to do so both to the glory of God and also as intercession for others, especially those ill with the virus. 
 
Many of us will recall learning about the “Sacrament of the Present Moment”, the awareness that each moment in time connects with the eternal, and is indeed the only “time” in which we encounter God.  While we are mostly isolated in our homes, this can be a good season for us to “practice the Presence of God” by way of intention.  Whether we are doing housework, working remotely, exercising, reading, watching TV, listening to music, we can consecrate these activities by offering them to God’s glory, sharing each with Him. 
 
We can pray that our wholesome activities may allow for others to be blessed, as what happens to one member of the Body affects all.  Also, we can be praying for our Lord to show us when and how to reach out to others.  While we cannot be with them physically, we can take the opportunities at our disposal to connect with others, especially those we know who are isolated.
 
No moment separates us from God, and we can respond to the challenges brought about by the coronavirus in ways which both honor our Lord and serve to  benefit others in his name.   
 
Blessings,  Fr. Lawrence Bausch
                  President, FIFNA

Resisting Temptation to The Last Breath

Via Forward in Christ:

By Ray Sutton

“This is the great work of man; always to take blame for his own sins before God, and to expect temptations until his last breath.” St. Anthony the Great

So wrote St. Anthony the Great, considered to be the father of monasticism both East and West. Having inherited enormous wealth after both his parents died, Anthony was orphaned. Then one day he heard the words of Jesus Christ from St. Matthew’s Gospel, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions” (19:21). He sold and gave away all that he had.

Subsequently he entered the monastic life. At the time the way to do this was to live in community with other monks. Instead, Anthony of Egypt or Anthony of the Desert, as he is also referred to, chose life in a cave to live as an ascetic. There he engaged the hermitic (hermit or life alone) tradition of monasticism. 

In his life of solitude, Anthony also discovered spiritual warfare as he had never known it before. He fought virtually every kind of demon of temptation. St. Athanasius, his good friend, records and preserves St. Anthony’s teachings in the classic biography of his life, the Life of St. Anthony. Thus began the influence of St. Anthony on saints East and West.

Perhaps the most famous bishop and theologian in the West to be influenced by St. Anthony was St. Augustine; in the Eastern Church he is recognized as Blessed Augustine. The famed Bishop in North Africa, also considered to be one of the four Doctors of the Church, learned about St. Anthony from his friend Ponticianus. 

Ponticianus shared a story with Augustine about two of his friends who had discovered Athanasius’ Life of St. Anthony. These two read St. Anthony’s Life together. One of them, an Imperial Inspector, found himself blurting out in the midst of their reading, “Tell me, please, what is the goal of our ambition in all these labors of ours? What are we aiming at? What is our motive in being in the public service? Have we any higher hope at court than to be friends of the Emperor… But if I should choose to be a friend of God, I can become one now.” It was then that he discovered through St. Anthony’s life that all his worldly ambition was nothing compared to friendship with God. Both men were converted from their reading of St. Anthony’s Life.

Upon learning of what happened to the two about whom Ponticianus related, Augustine read St. Athanasius’ Life of St. Anthony. He writes in his Confessions of how at one point as a young, nineteen-year-old, he had prayed his legendary prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence but not yet.” After reading St. Anthony’s Life, he began to realize the time of “not yet” had come to an end. 

Shortly thereafter, he sat outside the Cathedral in Milan listening to St. Ambrose preach on the Epistle to the Romans. There on a bench he heard a child singing a song in the background, tolle et lege, which means “take up and read.” Looking down he saw a text from Romans. He read it and the rest as they say is history. Augustine converted, returning to the faith of his mother, Monica, who had prayed for him all during his sojourn resisting the call of God on his life.

Significantly, both the Eastern and Western traditions on resisting temptation emerge from St. Anthony. In the West, St. Augustine forges a path in his own autobiography, Confessions. Combined with his other commentaries and writings, he develops a theology and way of fighting sin and temptation on which others would build. From Dante to C.S. Lewis, we learn much about the techniques of old Scratch, the Devil. 

As for Lewis in particular, while studying at Oxford I joined the C.S. Lewis Club that often met at Pusey House, where I was doing most of my own doctoral research. I recall one evening that a speaker said, “Lewis provides in his writings perhaps the most extensive insight into the struggle with evil of any other in the Western Tradition of Christianity.” He went on to explain that Lewis had lived on the other side in the world of evil for much of his life. When he converted, he brought with him the detailed insights of the dark kingdom’s intrigue that entices so many with Faustian promises. Indeed, and he was given the gift of prose with which to communicate his insights about the ways of the Evil One with stories for children young and old. All of his writings if read carefully, are a tour de force on the corporate and individual ways of temptation.

In the Eastern Church, however, we find a tradition that provides perhaps the best analysis of the actual process of temptation. It is most clearly sketched in a work called the Philokalia. It is written by the 12th century St. Peter of Damascus, based on a collection of writings going back to the Church Fathers and other Eastern monastics. The process of temptation presented in the Philokalia builds primarily on a text from the Epistle of James in the New Testament. James writes:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. “ (ESV)

James explains clearly that God is not the author of temptation; Satan is. God allows temptation as part of our testing. The classic example is Job. In the first chapter of this massive Old Testament book we learn that Satan had to ask permission to tempt Job. God gave it for the purpose of perfecting Job. The desired end for God was as James explains, “to receive the crown of life,” the ultimate reward for any believer. And as St. Anthony explains, temptation continues to our last breath. Temptation is endemic to our life in Christ just as it was part of His.

However, temptation is not sin. The fact that one is tempted does not mean he or she is weak or that a sin has been committed. Yet, temptation is the beginning of what can give birth to sin, to use James’ analogy. The Eastern Fathers and Desert Monks in the Philokalia provide us with a lucid development of the process. It is: 1. Provocation/bait; 2. disturbance/interaction/coupling; 3. assent; 4. captivity; 5. Passion. Sometimes disturbance and coupling are separated into two explaining why some will speak of six steps into the plunge into sin. The following is a simple explanation. I’ll explain them as a fivefold process combining 2 & 3.

First, temptation begins with provocation or as is sometimes called, bait. Fleeting thoughts or a surprising, unexpected situation enters the horizon of our journey with God. Satan is always ready through his minions, demons, to put bait on the hook to lure us into sin. Even when we’ve placed ourselves in a dangerous context, a target rich environment for sin, Satan takes advantage to offer temptation. He’s always ready to do this even if we’re not, and often especially, least expecting it.

Second, once the bait has been cast, a disturbance in our soul erupts leading to a coupling with sin. The thoughts and desires aroused are entertained. We begin to dwell on the sinful by forming images in our mind. We play with the image. We think we’ll be “okay” just for a moment to find pleasure in it. We often begin to experience emotional arousal over the images. This is a critical moment when we cross over into the beginning stage of sin.

Third, we give into conscious assent. This is sometimes described as the onset of seduction. We continue to find pleasure in the sinful thoughts. At the same time the soul may become further disturbed and even struggle. Then if not resisted, one decides to take action on the thought. Assent is given.

Fourth, the struggle continues to the point of becoming captive. A rationalization begins to provide a way to continue into some kind of action. No doubt by the grace of God we can choose to break free. If not, we become captivated to the point of being a prisoner to evil desire.

Fifth, passion overtakes us. The thoughts that have been enticing and increasingly envisioned begin to control us. They even start to form a habit. There may be a back and forth. But by being allowed to stay around too long in our thoughts, hearts, and lives, too persistently, and by being too passive to the temptation, the desire becomes a passion dominating our existence.

St. Maximus the confessor summarizes: “First the memory brings some passion-free thought into the intellect. By its lingering there, the passion is aroused. When passion is not eradicated, it persuades the intellect to assent to it. Once this assent is given, the actual sin is committed.”

The Good News of the New Testament is that Grace is greater than all our sin! Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the Liberator clad in His glorious armor to fight for us. But we must make a conscious choice to resist and to fight. We have a conscious choice at every stage of the temptation. St. Paul tells us to put on Christ and His armor (Ephesians 6). If we will, we can resist temptation.

Again, St. Maximus summarizes well the help that God will give to those who resist. He says, “Some temptations bring men pleasure, some grief, some bodily pain. The Physician of our souls by means of his judgments applies the remedy to each soul according to the cause of its passion” (The Ascetic Life and Four Centuries on Charity). 

The hope we have is perhaps best stated by St. John Climacus, “The sea is bound to be stirred up and roused and enraged, so to cast out of it again on to the dry land the wood, the hay, and the corruption that was brought down into it by the rivers of the passions. Let us watch nature, and we shall find that after the storm at sea there comes a deep calm.” In this life we taste of those intermittent calms. But to end where we began, the ultimate calm will not come according to St. Anthony until we take our last breath.

God help us to stay in the fight against the world, the flesh and the devil until we breathe our last. And then there will be calm as never known beside the still waters of heaven.

The Most Rev. Ray R. Sutton is the Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) and the Ordinary of the Diocese of Mid America.