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Why we Did It

2017 November 24
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Bishop David EppsWhen a young man or woman, around the age of 18 or 19, joins the military, sometimes the reasons are not quite clear in their own minds. If pressed for a reason, they may say, “to serve my country,” or “to travel and see the world,” or “to have a career.” Often, however, the answer might be much less ambitious, such as, “I don’t know yet what I want to do with my life,” or “I need a job and don’t want to go to college,” or “for the educational benefits.” After 9/11/2001, a number of young people said, “To avenge our losses and strike back at those responsible.”

My own reasoning was much simpler—I was flunking out of college and I didn’t want to face my parents when I did. I discovered that, if I withdrew and enlisted and could produce military orders, the university would let me “withdraw passing,” without my GPA taking a hit. In fact, I would get a tuition refund. And then there was the matter of being drafted, which I did not wish to be. So, I enlisted in the Marine Corps on a Tuesday, withdrew on a Wednesday, and shipped out to Parris Island on the next day, a Thursday. I never did tell my parents that I was in serious danger of flunking out.

But, as we grow older, issues sometimes become much clearer. I have always been grateful for my service and am honored to be among the 7% of the U. S. population, alive today, that has ever served in the military. I am blessed to be counted among the fraternity brothers and sisters known as “veterans.”

Last Friday, at the invitation of my 4th grade granddaughter, Bekah, I attended a function at Moreland Elementary School that was designed to honor veterans. Having 12 grandchildren, I have been to several of these over the years and was quite happy to attend. The school provided breakfast for the veterans and the children who invited them. As we ate, the rest of the school children and staff filed into the gym.

After breakfast, we lined up and, accompanied by marching music, headed to our seats on the gym floor while the kids rejoined their classmates. As soon as the first veteran came through the door, the entire student body jumped to their feet and gave a standing ovation. The thunderous applause continued abated until the last veteran came to his or her seat.

Then we were all led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Every child and staff member stood. Each one faced the flag and placed his or her hand over her heart, and each enthusiastically recited the pledge. A Presidential Proclamation was read, the children sang patriotic songs, there was a time of silence for those who had fallen, and the anthem of each service was played and the veterans stood when their service anthem was sounded. Then the name of each veteran was called, their branch of service was named, and the number of years served was announced.

As I looked at the children, so excited to be honoring their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and other veterans present, all I could see were beautiful children with their lives just beginning. The respect they demonstrated was palpable. As I looked and the scores of fellow veterans, I was not surprised at all to see tears in the eyes of quite a number of them.

Standing there, surrounded by veterans and hundreds of children, I thought, “This is why we did this. This is why we served. We did it for children who were yet to be born so that, someday, those children would live in a great and free society.” We did it for the teachers too, some who had not been born, so that they would grow up, go to college, become teachers, and help to train the sweet faces that stood all around us.

As I stood there I knew, finally, why I had served, whatever reasons I had back then. I did it for the future. And I would do it again. And so would every man and woman in that room who stood in front of those children last Friday. We would all do it again.

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

The Wall

2017 November 22
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by Admin

Bishop David EppsOnce in a great while, I will try an experiment in church. On the appointed Sunday morning, I will ask for a volunteer from the congregation. When the victim, er, the volunteer, comes to the front, I ask him or her to stand in a corner with his/her nose touching the wall. That, done I ask, “Without moving your head or body, and remaining perfectly still, tell us what you see.” The answer that always comes back is, ”I can only see the wall.”

And, of course, that is the whole point of the experiment. When we get overly focused on something…a problem, depression, talk radio, politics, a relationship gone sour…all we can see is the thing right in front of our eyes. It is as though the whole rest of the world ceases to exist for us and the broader picture is lost.

When I was a social worker, working as a case worker in child protective services, my world became the world of abused children, neglected children, and bad parents. True enough that at least half the referrals we received were without merit, but one severely abused or murdered child made us forget about the other people who are doing a pretty good job. I was young, in my twenties, and, after 2 1/2 years on the job, lost perspective and burned out. Everywhere I looked were violent and neglectful parents. It wasn’t really that way but it was all I came to see.

Police officers are subject to the same type of wall-seeing. Almost every contact that a cop has with a member of the public is an unpleasant one. A thug is going to be disrespectful and nasty when arrested but it is likely that that CEO who drives a luxury car and gets a ticket will be equally disrespectful and nasty. And, because they live in a cop world, cops tend to socialize with other cops. And, again, perspective is skewed. Not only are there dirt bags in the world who are potentially violent, wall-staring causes one to believe that the entire world is like that.

But the world is not like that. There are good people in the world, there are good parents in the world, and once out of the corner, there is much to see in the world that is bright, decorative, and beautiful. The world is not all talk radio, or politics, or things gone wrong. There is good and beauty all around if one just looks away from one’s own personal wall.

I had a friend who was down on life. I mean all of life. This friend is not and was not a member of the parish I belong to. He was down on relationships gone bad, the government, the lack of honesty in people, the church…in fact I don’t believe he saw the good or hopeful in anything. Every encounter left him feeling violated somehow. The negativity seemed to attach itself to me and, for a short time following an encounter with him, I, too, was depressed, negative, and looked at the world through his eyes. I shared his wall. I had to eventually, for my own health, cut down on the encounters. I don’t know what drove him to face his wall, but the wall was all he saw. As far as I know, all these years later, his nose is still pressed against that same wall.

The world, and life itself, is imperfect and there are downs as well as ups, relationships gone bad as well as relationships that are just waiting to be made great, and defeats as well as victories. To a great extent our world is what we make it, it is what we see it to be. I have, if I so choose, things to complain about. There are opportunities to moan and groan. But there are also reasons, many more reasons than not, to be grateful and thankful.

So, step away from the wall and expand your field of sight. Look for the right instead of the wrong, the lovely instead of the ugly, the hopeful instead of the hopeless. Look for reasons to be thankful and grateful instead of succumbing to bitterness. There is life away from the wall.

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

Our Violent Humanity

2017 November 8
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by Admin

Bishop David EppsI have been a consumer of documentaries and programs focused on historical events for many years. I fancy myself as an amateur historian in some areas and here is my conclusion: the world is, and always has been, an intensely violent, barbaric, and dangerous place. The evidence abounds.

All one has to do, if one is not inclined to read, is to watch the documentaries on the various wars. Even if one limits their interests to wars in the last 117 years, since 1900, one must conclude that humanity is anything but desirous for peace. In the Great War, also known as The War to End All Wars, generals on all sides continued to force their soldiers to endure suicidal, maniacal attacks as they climbed out of their trenches and charged into certain death against an enemy occupying their own trenches.

In World War II, the Great War having been re-named World War I, nearly the entire globe is enveloped in flames as nations try to exterminate entire populations. Armies brutalize, murder, and torture civilians in unheard of, unimaginable numbers. Military personnel die by the millions and civilians by the tens of millions.
In the “smaller wars” of Korea, Vietnam, and the desert conflicts, all sides, at one time or another, commit atrocities against other people. And, while America has been involved in the aforementioned wars, there are continually wars all over the planet at any given time. People killing people, brutalizing, torturing, maiming, debasing other human beings.

And, as far as I can tell, it has always been that way. Ever since Cain murdered Abel, humans have been killing their brothers and sisters with appalling efficiency. Why do people do that? It’s a serious question: Why? We are not guiltless sin this nation, as much as we like to think that we are the lone exception in the world. This nation enslaved a race of people for nearly two hundred years, engaged in acts of genocide against the native populations, and launched wars to grab land from the Mexican people. And that’s all prior to the Civil War, where, according to some estimates, 700,000 Americans died in a war against fellow citizens.

What is it that so easily enrages us and seemingly compels us to do violence against another person? Hollywood doesn’t help, obviously. Some of the most popular movies and TV programs involve extreme violence. And it is certainly true that the world is a potentially dangerous place. I have always locked my door…even when at home. I never leave the car door unlocked. I have the means to protect myself and my family should the need arise. So, fear and self-perseveration enter into the situation.

In Georgia there are 400,000 citizens with weapons carry permits. That’s more than twice the total number of U. S. Marines worldwide. Estimates are that 600,000 households have legal firearms. And, it’s not as if the fear is unfounded. A person in Chicago is more like to be murdered than a U. S. soldier is likely to be killed in Afghanistan.

But, sadly, it seems that violence is baked into our DNA. When I was a child I used to watch warring tribes of ants fight it out. These little warriors would fight until every last one of the enemy was dead. Is that all we are? Warring tribes of ants?

In our own country, there is little civil discourse. It is not enough to go against an opponent in an election. One must destroy, incapacitate, and humiliate him or her. Social media has become for some a launching pad from which to fire hurtful and devastating missiles.

Outside of divine intervention or worldwide repentance and renunciation of evil, I don’t have a solution. I am aware that I have within me the possibility of violence and a skill set to do damage. I also understand that I am responsible for my own reactions and actions. But, when the whole world goes mad, it is the sane one that appears mad to the others. Not that I am the sane one. But I can be among the sane, the civil, the patient, the forgiving, and the kind. It may be an impossible task but solutions have to start somewhere. Solutions start, not with the many, but with the one.

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

The Fog of Fear

2017 October 27
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by Admin

Written on 11 Oct, 2017

Bishop David EppsSomeone recently asked me, “If you had it to do over, what would you do differently in high school?” Although I would do a great deal differently, my first response was, “I’d run for Student Council.” “Why didn’t you?” the person inquired. “Fear,” was my simple response.

A few years ago I read a book on leadership authored by a former U. S. Navy SEAL. One of the chapters concerned the subject of “fear.” Navy SEALs are seen by the general population as fearless warriors, whose bravery knows no bounds. But the author took a different approach. Fear, he explained, is normal. Everyone experiences and faces fear. In fact, fear is the reason most of us do not do what we wish we could do.

He described two types of fear. The first is fear of failure. Almost all of us identify with this aspect of fear. In its extreme form, we are afraid to fail so we save face by not even trying. I once knew a student who turned in a blank test without answering a single question. He was unprepared for the test so, rather than try and get a failing grade, he chose to do nothing and receive a zero, which hurt his final grade much worse than if he had tried and made, say, a 50. The fear of not being elected kept me from even running for Student Council at all.

The second type of fear is the fear of what others might think about us. This, of course, is peer pressure at its worst. Studies have demonstrated that many people, who have the ability to leave poverty, do not do so because they are afraid of what their friends and family might think. When I worked a construction job after my senior year of high school, some of the permanent workers started calling me “college boy.” It was meant as a slur. Why did I think I was too good to stay where I was in life? I didn’t think that, of course.

When I received my college degree, a family member said, “Now don’t go start thinking that you’re better than us.” My own father, who pressed me to go to the university, said on graduation day, “Son, it takes more than a college degree to make a man.” It was another reason I didn’t run for Student Council. After all, what would people think about me if I did? Would they laugh at my attempts?

In fact, most normal fear falls into these two categories. Fear keeps us bound, restricted, and inert. The SEAL, on the other had said fear has no more power than a morning fog. We can see it. We may not be able to see what is on the other side. But fog has no power. It cannot hurt us. His advice? To embrace the fog and walk right into it. Do not let the fog, or the fear, kept us from attempting to accomplish worthy goals.

A few years later, and after trying to follow this advice, I came upon a challenge. As a chaplain and reserve police officer, I was required to go to the firearms range once a year. I nearly always fired “master” with the pistol. One day, after everyone had qualified, that range master said that everyone could, if they wish, try to qualify with the combat shotgun. I went rigid. I had never really fired a shotgun at targets. Here I was surrounded by police officers who were very competent.

I quietly told the range master I thought I would pass up the opportunity and just go home. He looked at me a long moment and said, “The principles are the same. You can do this, but it’s up to you.” He then walked away. My fear of failure and the fear of what the cops would think—especially if I failed—nearly caused me to retreat. I decided to embrace the fear. At the end of the day I had totally surprised myself by firing with the qualification of “expert.”

I try not to let the fog win now. The worst that could happen is that I fail. So what? The other worst that could happen is that people might think less of me. So what? But what if I succeed? What if I embrace the fear—what if I choose to walk into the fog? Well, then, the fear. Like the fog, has no power. I see it for what it is…just a mist without substance. So, my advice? I now agree with the SEAL: Choose to walk into the fog and embrace the fear. You just might be surprised.

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

Alphabet Soup

2017 October 25
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by Admin

Bishop David EppsMany of us are aware of the alphabet soup of the United States government. There’s the FBI, CIA, DHS, NCIS, NASA, USAF, USN, USCG, USA (army), and the USMC. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of other initials that stand for some agency or organization. Even in the sports world there’s the NBA, MLB, NFL and so forth.

But the church world has its own alphabet soup. There’s the UMC (United Methodist Church), the SBC (Southern Baptist Church), the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church in the United States of America), PCA (Presbyterian Church in America), the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), the A/G, or AOG (Assemblies of God), the COG (Church of God), GOGIC (Church of God in Christ), ECUSA, (the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, which has changed its name to simply The Episcopal Church, or TEC), the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) and hundreds, yea thousands of others, and my personal favorite, the CEC (Charismatic Episcopal Church).

It is also fashionable in some religious circles for clergy and those in religious vocations to have initials after their names with the various Protestants having their highest degree posted (i.e. The Rev’d John Smith, D.Min., or Doctor of Ministry) and, among the various catholic/sacramental groups, initials that stand for an Order or an association (i.e. Father John Smith, OSB, or Order of St. Benedict).

Sometimes, the clergy get a bit carried away with too many designations. For Example, The Rev’d John Smith, D.Min., ThM, MDiv, MA, MS, BS, AS. A little much, don’t you think? But the other group can be just as bad. For example, the alphabet soup that I could personally use would be these:

FAPC – Fellow of the College of the Academy of Parish Clergy
OSV – Order of St. Vincent
OHS – Oblates of the Holy Spirit
OSL – Order of St. Luke the Physician, an Order dedicated to healing
OSL – an entirely different Order of St. Luke that serves liturgical interests

So, if I used all of the available designations, it would look something like this:
The Most Rev’d W. David Epps, D.Min, D.Hum, CAPL, ThM, MA, BSW, Dip., FAPC, OSV, OHS, OSL, OSL
A bit ridiculous, don’t you think? Besides, how would all that fit on a business card? And who the heck would know what it all meant?

Anyway, some decade and a half ago, I entered into correspondence with a fellow clergy members who always signed his name while adding at least three sets of initial after his name. Being duly impressed, I started signing my correspondence, “Father David Epps, LPP.”

The correspondence continued back and forth for several months. Finally, I received a letter that said something like, “I give up! I have searched all my religious source books, including Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox. I have looked until I have run out of source material. Please! What does ‘LPP’ stand for?”

My response was a very short letter that said:

LPP – Lowly Parish Priest

Sometimes I think we overdo the alphabet soup game—especially in the Church. The simple truth is that almost no one in the congregations really care about how many or what degrees we have, if any. They, for the most part, care even less about the other associational designations as well.

They care about whether we are genuine, authentic, caring, competent, encouraging, forgiving, inspiring, and serving. If we rejoice with them and weep with them. If we are available during the hard times as well as during the celebratory times. Are we people of The Word and do we keep our word? Can they trust us not to judge them, yet, at the same time, be honest with them? Will we love them when they are good and will we still love them when they are bad?

And, truth be told, there are no initials for that.

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

Fall House of Bishops Report

2017 October 23
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Photo - North American Bishops and observers

North American Bishops and observers

The Fall House of Bishops (The North American Primates Council) recently concluded.

The Charismatic Episcopal Church of North America Primates Council (aka the House of Bishops) met recently (19-21 Sep.) in Malverne, New York.

The Patriarch delivered the opening message of Tuesday; he focused on the call of the Bishop was to release the ministry of all believers. Fr. Jim House’s opening message of Wednesday was to remaining humble and focus on the call of God our each life. On Thursday he spoke a word that God wanted us to encourage families to attend the 2018 Convocation.

The meeting focused on hearing what God was saying about establishing a proper pattern for succession and our diocesan structure, and the 2018 Convocation.

The 2018 Convocation will be in Henderson, NV. More details will be published very soon, as well a web page with details, local attractions, and opportunities, as well as Hotel information and registration.

Those I Would Like to Thank

2017 October 21
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Bishop David EppsAs I reflect upon the year thus far, I realize that I owe a debt of gratitude to certain individuals, groups, and organizations. You have help to make my life simpler, have reduced my stress levels, and have added to an overall sense of increased calm. I shall list these in no particular order:

The News Media – Because of your bombastic reporting, talking heads pontificating on subjects they know little about, ambushing interviewees, slanting coverage and viewpoints to one extreme or the other, and allowing guests to try to outshout each other to the point of bedlam, I have almost ceased watching the news altogether. It has freed up several hours of time each week and I find that I am not nearly so aggravated, irritated, and agitated. I have also discovered that, if the news story is big enough, someone will tell me about it in a timely manner. My thanks go out to CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, MSNBC, and Georgia Public Radio (which I once supported financially), to mention just a few.

Politicians of all parties – You have convinced me that the brightest and best do not always get elected to office. Your public preening, rampant ambition, refusal to negotiate with the other parties, blind support of issues based solely on left and right, rampant and profound hypocrisy, have demonstrated to me that public service is not always altruistic, noble, or admirable. So, I don’t enter into the food fight on social media (except on moral issues) and I keep more friends that way. The childish behavior demonstrated in at least two of the co-equal branches of government is downright embarrassing. We all know that term limits are sorely needed and we all know that our elected leaders are too selfish to support anything against their own interests.

The National Football League – While I do not place all players in this category, a bunch of you guys have given me my Sunday afternoons, Monday nights, and Thursday nights back. I lost friends who fought under the American flag and your decision to “take a knee” during the playing of our National Anthem has disgusted me to the point that I have decided not to watch you this year. You remind me of spoiled surly, rich kids who, not getting their way, hold their breath and turn blue. You fancy yourselves as warriors—you are not. You view football as combat—it is not. While this country has given you, under its capitalist system, the ability to be highly paid for your many talents, you are still an athlete and it is still just a game. The heroes that you denigrate who serve under this flag are the true warriors and they are engaged in combat as we speak. We do not want to see you protest. We want you to entertain us. Until that changes, I will watch college football and root for the SEC and the ACC—and maybe Notre Dame.

Public Television – PBS, you have been an oasis in a dry land. Thanks to those previously mentioned, I have found the time and the interest to search your offerings and have been delighted. I have discovered Midsomer Murders, Father Brown, the Doctor Blake Mysteries, and a number of other wonderful programs. I also must add some non-PBS channels where I learn a great deal about history, the military, science, and bizarre foods (which has helped me to taste foods that I never would have before). PBS has also brought back rock, R & B, Motown, and other musical offerings from my long ago past. I find myself becoming relaxed, informed, and entertained.

My Kindle – Because of the News Media, politicians, and time taken by the NFL during the fall, I haven’t had much time to read non- work-related stuff. Having slowed down a bit, I find that my Kindle allows my mind to investigate and to wander and wonder as never before. In fact, the TV is mostly turned off these days and I am quite content to read those books I never had time to read before.

So, for vastly different reasons, thank you News Media, politicians, the NFL, Public Television, and the Kindle for helping, in your own unique ways, to restore some modicum of balance to my hectic life. I look forward to re-visiting the first three should you ever grow up and quit taking yourselves so seriously. In the meantime, it’s time to go read Book 11 of the Mitch Rapp series.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org), 4881 Hwy 34 East, Sharpsburg, GA. Sunday services are at 10:00 a.m. He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org