Good Advice from a Bishop

This article is written by Bishop David L. Moyer,
Rector of Good Shepherd Church, Rosemont, Pennsylvania.

I did plenty of foolish and reckless things when I was an adolescent, which I believe is fairly normal for a teenager. There were some elements, upon reflection, that kept me from doing really over-the-top foolish and reckless things – things that would have harmed others and their property, and caused communal chaos and fear.

Number one is that I wasn’t angry at God, my parents, or society. My relationship with God consisted of going to church and being an altar boy. I knew my parents loved and cared for me, and were heavily invested in my present and future. I knew if I did something very foolish, they would punish me severely, and be very disappointed in me. I was taught by the Church and my parents to respect teachers, coaches, the clergy, the police, and the elderly.

I was expected to be productive and to work when not involved with school activities, and certainly to have a summer job. I was given what I needed, but never to the point of indulgence. For example, it took six years of Christmas mornings to receive a full set of drums, rather than having a set plunked down before me.

It was impressed upon me by the Church and my parents that God was always watching me, and that I certainly should not offend Him; and that there were eternal consequences of rebelling against God’s will.

Did some of you experience similar things, and have such elements of what is outside you, remain with you?

As an Anglican bishop, I quite naturally have an emotional and intellectual connection to England. Beyond church history, I have deep fraternal connections and affections with a number of priests and laity in the UK in my capacity in what is called an “Episcopal Visitor” for the Traditional Anglican Church in Britain. I travel at least twice a year to minister to them.

What we see in England, and what we saw recently in the “flash mob” incidents in Philadelphia, is symptomatic of a major breakdown of moral values and behavior due to the failure of churches and parents. The Church is led by humans and parents are human. Being a Church leader, a father, and a grandfather, I attest to this. But it is clear to me that churches and other religious institutions and parents are asleep at the switch.

Isn’t it high time for churches and parents to do some serious self-examination and soul-searching here and abroad, expressed in the Anglican liturgical tradition in this way: “We have erred and strayed from thy ways as lost sheep, … we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.”

I believe very deeply that the provision of the elements I was given as a child and adolescent would be salutary; and some heartfelt contrition and repentance that leads to a renewed sense of purpose would foster healing and reconnections that would be constructive and beneficial for our children and our children’s children.

Author: Fr. Christopher Phillips

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he has served for the past twenty-eight years. He is the founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips was ordained as an Anglican for the Diocese of Bristol, England, in 1975. After serving as Curate for three years at St. Stephen Southmead, he returned to the United States and served in two Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island. In 1981 he left the Episcopal Church and moved with his family to Texas, where he was subsequently ordained as a Catholic priest in 1983. Fr. Phillips and his wife, JoAnn, have been married for forty years. They have five children, all grown and married, and three grandchildren.

1 thought on “Good Advice from a Bishop”

  1. I have to agree that basic and early spiritual and religious training will make a huge difference in one's subsequent life.

    I my case there were, unfortunately, family issues between my parents which didn't make for a good "launch pad" for the future. On the other hand, at least my folks sent me to parochial school for six years, and there, amidst many dysfunctional "characters" (I'll spare us all the details) I did at least learn of the Fear of the Lord, and my early confirmation at age 10 only more deeply and sacramentally and truly forever stamped that particular Gift of the Holy Spirit on my soul.

    Thereafter I would do foolish things, yes, but never seriously considered getting into behaviors that could deeply stain and twist my soul, esp. as regarded relationships with young ladies that crossed my path. Well, true enough, I did dabble in Rosicrucianism as a late teen – big mistake – but even there the Lord kept me back from really going over the edge, and that after I had abandoned the church of my early childhood. "The gifts and callings of God", however, as the scripture saith, "are without repentance", and so I was sustained in spite of myself.

    I truly pity those without any of the formation that I received, imperfect as it may have been. Those involved with youth and young adults are truly heroes, laboring in a very difficult ministry. I hope Ordinariate-bound folks will truly meditate on this aspect of our calling, especially during these waning days of World Youth Day.

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