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The Merchants of Misery

2015 October 11

Bishop David EppsI became angry last week. Really, really angry. That’s unusual for me. Over the years I have tried to learn what is important and what is not, in what to invest emotional energy and when not, and what is worth my anger and what is not. But a headline in local newspapers caught me off guard. The headline that captured my attention was this: “Dead Baby Tests Positive for Meth; Mom Charged.”

Oddly, I’m not angry at the mother. Truth be told, I feel sorry for her. No one ever starts out to be a drug addict, much less a meth addict—which may be the worst addiction of all. The 22-year-old mother is going to face the legal system and I don’t expect her to find much mercy there. Her four-month-old infant daughter is, after all, dead. Reports indicate that the baby “tested positive for a substantial amount of methamphetamine in her system…” Two other children also tested positive for meth and were removed and are in the custody of the state. The kids, ages two and four, were, according to law enforcement officials, “covered in marks and bruises.” Meth was found in the bed where the mother and children slept.

I have had way more experience with drug addiction and the misery that it spawns than I would wish on anybody. I have seen lives destroyed, families obliterated, children neglected and abused, and I have seen people die. My anger is not toward the drug addict whom I see as ultimately stupid. After all, that first hit, or toke, or whatever one took, was a choice. It was a stupid choice and led to years of wasted potential and wrecked lives.

No, I reserve my anger for the self-centered, callous, predators that sell the drugs that ruins lives and destroys families and kills babies. There is a baby girl, four months old, who will never have any hope or life or dreams or future because, somewhere, a predator sold meth to her addicted mother and her life was stripped from her. And it happens every day, everywhere in America, over and over again.

There are a great many very good people working hard to rescue addicts from their dilemma. Rescue missions, rehab programs, faith based in-house ministries are among those fighting the good fight. Progressive and enlightened jurisdictions, such as Coweta County, GA, have established drug courts and veteran’s courts that are trying to deal with the victim-addicts and set them on a course for a restored and renewed life.

But it takes more. Law enforcement is leading a valiant effort to root out and incarcerate those who profit from this misery. In my area, almost every week, local law enforcement announces that a number of arrests have been made and that dealers and traffickers have been jailed. They have my full support and endorsement. But the public needs a new attitude. Drug marketers are not people just trying to eke out a living. These people are not out to help people “have a good time.” They are in the business of making enormous sums of money by preying on pitiful people whose lives they care not one thing about.

Some people argue that marijuana is no worse than alcohol. Well, the same cannot be said about cocaine, heroin, crack, meth, and a host of other poisons. In this society, when a person kills a number of people, as in Oregon recently, the authorities go in to end his actions. Drug dealers, whether they ever pulled a trigger or not, are dispensers of mass misery and some of them are killers, just as surely as if they had shot this baby in the head. The public needs to speak up and demand that these merchants of misery be jailed. Now. Before another baby dies.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee ( and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at

The Storms of Life: Part 3

2015 October 9

Bishop David Epps

The Cathedral of Christ the King
Nineteenth Sunday of Pentecost
September 27, 2015

Sermon Link: The Storms of Life: Part 3

Are People Truly Knowable?

2015 October 8

Bishop David EppsI was pondering this week how differently we act, and how differently we are seen by others, depending upon where we are and who we are with. The incident that brought it to mind was a memory of a business meeting. One man was “all business,” fairly abrupt at times, strongly opinionated, and he had some difficulty in appreciating and recognizing other points of view. If that had been the only time that people had ever seen him, they might have come away with a very inaccurate picture of this individual.

This same man was a very generous individual, cared about the welfare of others, often volunteered to help and assist people in need and was a deeply spiritual person…which seemed at odds with who he was at the business meetings.

The truth is, of course, that he was both people…and he was many more people besides. All people have multi-aspects to their humanity, like the facets on a precious diamond. In addition to what people saw of this man in the business meeting or in the community or church setting, he was also a committed father, a doting grandfather, a person who wanted to make a difference in the world–and he was even more than this. As are we all.

When we visit a patient in the hospital, or see a sick friend at home, we see a very small slice of that person’s life. He or she is much more than we see in the hospital, hospice, or sick bed. They are more complicated than we might imagine. Someone once said of a person, “I can read him like a book.” But one can read a book and know the whole story but one can never get to know a person well enough, however many years we might try, to say that we know all about them. Unlike a book, they can never be fully read. There are hidden depths in every individual that will never be plumbed, even by those closest to them.

All this is to simply say that we cannot, must not, judge a person based upon what we see of them at a given moment in time. Indeed, all we ever see of a person at a given moment may be described as merely a “snapshot” of a very small portion of a person’s life.

Since January of this year, I have spent 27 weeks in class with three other individuals who are also students in Clinical Pastoral Education. I know them better than I did in the beginning. However, I still have not begun to REALLY know who they are. There are people in my church with whom I have been friends for over 30 years. But I don’t know everything there is to know about them either. It is likely that I never will. And that is not a bad thing. It is just more evidence that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Every person has a unique and priceless value that demands that we treat them with dignity and respect. All person’s are God’s unique creations and his work is magnificent.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee ( and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at

The Storms of Life: Part 2

2015 October 7

Bishop David Epps

The Cathedral of Christ the King
Eighteenth Sunday of Pentecost
September 20, 2015

Sermon Link: The Storms of Life: Part 2

Ask Father Paul – Annulment of a Marriage?

2015 October 6


As I send you this email, Pope Francis, whom I greatly admire, is visiting the United States. A couple of weeks ago I remember a story in the news about how he had moved to make the annulment of a Catholic marriage easier, quicker and cheaper. I am not a Roman Catholic but I wonder … how can a sacrament, once it is done, be undone, especially if there are children born to that marriage? It seems like the Church is trying to do the impossible … almost like un-ringing a bell.



An annulment or nullification of a marriage can be granted by either a civil court of law or by a church court established for that purpose. There are a number of reasons why an annulment can be granted … some of which I will list later. But here I will discuss only annulments granted by the Church.

When I say Church, I mean sacramental / liturgical churches. Most Protestant churches do not grant marriage annulments.

Please keep in mind that the annulment of a marriage, and a divorce are not the same things. The “annulment” of a marriage by the Church involves a declaration by the Church that a valid marriage sacrament NEVER took place. In other words (to answer your point) “the bell” was never rung to begin with. A divorce, on the other hand, involves a declaration by the civil government that a valid marriage is hereby dissolved and has ended. Children, born to a couple, whose marriage is later annulled, are considered legitimate by the Church and by the civil government.

When a couple contemplates marriage, one of the first things they must realize is that by law their marriage must first involve the civil government to the extent that a valid marriage license must first be procured before anything else can happen. Once a marriage license is granted, the couple has a limited time period to undergo either a civil ceremony officiated by a judge or other government official, or, a religious ceremony officiated by a member of the clergy of any recognized religious body. A ceremony by either one or the other is mandatory. Once the ceremony is held and the license is signed by the person who conducts the ceremony, the couple are married.

If the ceremony was entirely civil, annulment of the marriage by the Church is extremely rare since the Church is loath to get involved in civil matters, plus no Church sacrament was involved in the ceremony. The couple would simply seek a civil annulment and/or a divorce. If, on the other hand, the marriage ceremony was conducted by the clergy of a sacramental church that grants annulments, an annulment by the Church can be sought. In the latter case the couple may or may not also seek a civil divorce. However, a civil divorce would be required by law before either party could remarry.

So what are the things that are needed, in the eyes of the Church, before the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony can be annulled or invalidated?

Basically, it usually comes down to whether or not the marriage was originally, at the time it was solemnized by clergy, lacking one or more of the essential elements required to make the sacrament of marriage valid. There are a number of things that can bring about the approval of an annulment by the Church, but they mostly all boil down to the fact that the marriage was in some way entered into under false pretenses. For instance, if one or both parties were already married to another person at the time the marriage was solemnized, an annulment could be granted. Other reasons are: (at the time of the marriage ceremony) mental incapacity, fraud, forced consent, inability by either party to physically consummate the marriage, lack of consent or an underage party to name a few.

All of this is to emphasize Ted, as the pastor or priest will usually declare to the couple and the congregation at the beginning of the marriage ceremony … “marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God. If anyone knows why this marriage should not take place, let him come forward now.”

Have a question? Email it to me at

Father Paul Massey is Pastor Emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit for information.

Remembering Divine Encounters

2015 October 5
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Bishop David Epps

The Cathedral of Christ the King
Seventeenth Sunday of Pentecost
September 13, 2015

Sermon Link: Remembering Divine Encounters

The Greatness of a Nation

2015 October 4
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Bishop David EppsWhen I was a student at East Tennessee State University, the professor of American History said that he was a believer of the “open gate theory.” He said that “When the gate of a nation is open, do the people run into the country or do they run out?” “This,” he said, “is the measure of the greatness of a nation.”

Back then, there were plenty of examples of people trying to flee their countries. People were landing on the shores of Miami by the boatload. No one, it seemed, wanted to stay in Cuba. In East Germany, people who tried to flee to West Germany were being gunned down. The citizens of North Korea were headed south at great risk of their lives. Many people were running out of the open gate. After I graduated from ETSU, people from South Vietnam flocked to the West Coast.

People have always flooded to America. Even when our gates are closed, people find a way around them, under them, over them, or through them. Some come legally and many more come illegally. But come they do. If my history professor is still alive, I have no doubt what his interpretation would be—people are coming to America because it is a great country.

Once in a great while, some public figure—usually a ticked off entertainer—will threaten to leave the United States over some issue. But they never do. Even though the gate swings both ways, they stay in America. On the other hand, estimates are that some 11,000,000 – 14,000,000 people are in this country illegally. A few are criminals, drug dealers, and thugs. The vast majority have come to America because they still believe that it is the Land of Opportunity. They believe in the greatness of America even when many of our own citizens no longer do.

Most of the politicians during this election cycle will spend a great deal of energy discussing what to do about dealing with these people. Maybe some thought ought to be given to harnessing the energy, optimism, and hope of these people who have come through the open gate.

In our own area, there are a fairly large number of Hispanic immigrants. Many, I suspect, are “undocumented.” Most of the folks lump them all together and refer to them as “Mexicans,” which plenty of them are not. Nevertheless, the most common sentiment that I have heard expressed is how hard these people work. In fact, someone said recently of a person with a strong work ethic, “He works like a Mexican.” While some might interpret this as a slur, the individual meant it as a compliment. He, too, has noticed that the Hispanics among us, legal or not, work hard, work long, and complain little. Like us, they are trying to build a life, support a family, and secure a future.

It says something about this nation that, even with our multitude of problems, people are still flooding to America. In great numbers. In droves, even.

In 1980, Neil Diamond sang:

On the boats and on the planes
They’re coming to America
Never looking back again,
They’re coming to America

Everywhere around the world
They’re coming to America
Ev’ry time that flag’s unfurled
They’re coming to America

Got a dream to take them there
They’re coming to America
Got a dream they’ve come to share
They’re coming to America

Such is the greatness of a nation—even when she tries to shut the gates, even when she tells people they are not welcome, they still come. My professor would be proud.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee ( and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at