So help me God!

This edited transcript was first delivered to the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word, Souderton, PA, May 2022

On December 28, 2006 with my wife Brenda and our three children, I left everything familiar and moved across the world to the United States.

I still remember my mother, with a closed fist, beating hard upon my chest with great emotion telling me to, ‘go, just go’ as Brenda and I took her only grandchildren to the other side of the world.

Upon arrival in the United States, we found a nation that adopted us – a nation welcomed us in and gave us opportunity.  I quickly learned that there were liberties in this nation, freedom and liberty, especially around the freedom of religion, that I had not experienced previously in the way they are championed here in the United States.

I knew that America was not perfect – how could a nation be perfect – but I knew that the liberties of this new country of mine were worth preserving, so on February 7, 2014, I gladly raised my right hand, made the oath of citizenship and became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.

This was an oath that I took seriously as a Christian because the final words of the oath are, ‘So help me God’.

So help me God, to do what?

To support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; to bear true faith and allegiance to the same… to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law… and to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law… so help me God.

Almighty God was part of the oath I made and that made the oath very weighty. I was asking God to help me be an America citizen.

Sometimes I wonder if some natural born American citizens might cherish and serve our nation more fully, if they too asked God to help them be American citizens and made the oath of citizenship.  And sometimes I wonder, if we Americans do not recognize the weighty and good influence this nation has upon the world because of the freedoms that are the foundation of these United States. 

When I made that oath in 2014, I was not turning a blind eye to the brokenness of our nation. Look brothers and sisters, I see the brokenness every week when I travel.  When I made that oath, I was asking God to help me support and defend the constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  This is so important! Because, if America loses its liberties, great damage will be done to the world.

When I made that oath, I was not joining a political party (in fact I have never joined a political party) I was making a commitment to what is good about this nation.

There are men and women among us, who have fought, served, shed blood, buried their buddies for the America in which we live today – if you are or have served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, the police or as a first responder (active or retired) would you please stand so we can honor you and thank you for your service.

Do not let this nation be lost – too much is at stake, not just for us, but for the world in which we live.

Earlier, I spoke of leaving everything familiar.  But looked at what God has given me.  I have gained a nation and I have gained you.  And for better or worse, you have gained me.

Some people have asked me, ‘Why do you sing the national anthem when the church gathers as a council at synod?’ ‘Is it not a political statement?’  No… it is not political! 

The Apostle Paul writes that our conversation, our citizenship are in heaven – all Christians need to remember that. 

The anthem itself is an authorized hymn in the hymn book of our province.

I sing the anthem not because our nation is perfect but because we have something in this nation worth keeping and worth defending and I have asked God to help me do that! 

If we lose this nation – we are done! 

We also sing the anthem to honor those men and women who were just standing because they served to help us keep what we have.  And we sing the anthem, recognizing there is brokenness yes, but acknowledging the choice we all have to look to the sunrise side of America, rather than the sunset side of our nation.

The 4th verse of the anthem which we are about to sing – is almost a prayer to God.  It says,

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our trust.”

Those lyrics are just as good as the lyrics to ‘God save the Queen’!

After we sing the National Anthem – we will pray for our nation – for in God is our trust. 

In Memoriam

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

The Anglican Diocese of the Living Word mourns; and yet we rejoice!

Yesterday, April 19, our friend and brother, The Venerable Patrick William Malone (61) passed from this life into the glorious presence of the risen, ascended and glorious Savior who he loved so much. Patrick was diagnosed with ALS earlier this year and died at Seasons Hospice, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin surrounded by his devoted family and supported by the prayers of the church.

Archdeacon Malone’s ministry in our midst will be sorely missed and we are thankful for the legacy he leaves us. Most recently, he faithfully led Holy Cross Anglican Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and served concurrently as a hospice chaplain. He was a courageous presence in the formation and development of our diocese and a brave voice in provincial governance. He was instrumental in the development and training of men called to Holy Orders, several of whom are actively ministering across our own diocese and beyond.

I will miss the privilege of partnering in Christian ministry with this faithful and devoted disciple of Christ, a sheep of Christ’s own fold, a lamb of Christ’s own flock, a sinner of Christ’s own redeeming.  Patrick has now received what the Apostle Peter describes an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading [1 Peter 1:3].

I ask your prayers for Robin, Meghan, John and Avery, Ben and Naomi and for the members of Holy Cross Anglican Church.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen.

Bishop Julian Mark Dobbs

In Remembrance

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States of America.

I vividly remember that day when fundamentalist Islam flexed its muscle and inflicted terror, agony, suffering and death upon innocent men, women and children who were living their lives in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Today, we remember all those who were killed, those who still carry scars and injuries from the
events of that day, the courageous men and women who served as first responders and thousands of men and women in our military, some paying the supreme sacrifice, who have fought to defend the remarkable freedoms that undergird our republic.

I believe that is important to remember and never forget our history.

In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons in London, England Winston Churchill paraphrased
George Santayana when he said ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat
it.’

As a result of the events of September 11, 2001, I learned that life, freedom and truth are always
worthy of our defense and sometimes that defense will require us to contend for the freedoms
given to us by Almighty God.

I regularly visit the 9/11 memorials in New York City and at the Pentagon. I do this, not only to
remember the past and the horrific events of that day, but also as a conscious reminder that true
and eternal peace, love and forgiveness will only ever be found in Jesus Christ who was beaten,
stripped naked, nailed to a cross, executed and three days later overcame death and the grave so
that we might know forgiveness of our sins and the reassurance of the everlasting love of God.

On this 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, I invite you to remember,
reflect and pray with me:

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that
we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our
land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure conduct. Save us from violence, discord,
and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties and
fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.
Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of
government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law,
we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our
hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all of which
we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP 2019]

Desperate Afghan Christians turned away at airport, aid groups say

Looming over the deepening humanitarian crisis is a deadline of Friday for civilian evacuation operations at the Kabul airport to give way to the transport of the remaining 5,400 U.S. military personnel in the country in order to meet a target date of Aug. 31, set months ago by the Biden administration, for a complete U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan.

Source: Desperate Afghan Christians turned away at airport, aid groups say

For such a time as this…

One of our priests called me recently and said, “What a strange day…”.  These are indeed very strange days.  In fact, they are quite odd! At a click of a button some people find themselves cancelled, called out, called in and boycotted.

One of the most disturbing trends I am observing amidst these attempts to realign society is the eradication of free speech by tech giants and other individuals.

Even if I disagree with what another person says, I have long believed that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right.

Given that free speech was forbidden under King George III, our Founding Fathers chose to place free speech in the first of the 10 amendments to the Constitution, which we know as the Bill of Rights.  George Washington famously said, ‘If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.’

Our own Christian history reveals that the church has previously traversed seasons where self-centered tyrants have attempted to eradicate this precious freedom and the ability of Christians to proclaim the truth of the gospel has been under pressure, and yet, the church remains very much alive!

I want to urge Christians to remember that the ultimate goal of our freedom of speech is the proclamation of the gospel for the glory of God alone.  Fighting to preserve free speech only for our own benefit shifts our gaze from Christ to us.  The Apostle Paul writes, ‘Focus your minds on the things above, not on things here on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. [Colossians 3:2-3, ESV]. Setting our minds on things that are above contrasts with the things that are on earth.  We are urged to pursue a deeper knowledge of Christ himself and all that belongs to living with and for him.

The centrality of Christ, our desire to be found in him and share the gospel with others is our motivation to safeguard the precious freedom of speech in our generation.

Gospel truths are worth contending for and as the blood of the martyrs in every age down to the present day movingly reminds us, gospel truths are truths worth dying for.  We might be able to imagine dying for people, but not so many of us today consider biblical truths about Jesus so precious that we would contend and maybe even die for them – but the apostles, the reformers, modern martyrs have thought differently and as we reflect on how they contended for precious salvation truths down through the ages of the church, we stand on their shoulders, their blood has been the seed of the church. 

The Old Testament book of Esther tells how a Jewish girl became the queen of Persia and saved her people from a plot to destroy them.  With the possibility of death staring at her in the face, Esther chose to speak up for truth and the result was glory to God and the deliverance of his people.

O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.  [Psalm 51:15, ESV]

A conversation…

At the 2021 Provincial Council for the Anglican Church in North America, I had an opportunity to interview Bishop William Love on behalf of GAFCON. As you will hear, this was a pivotal time for Bishop Love as he was being welcomed into the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word as an Assisting Bishop after having resigned last year from the Diocese of Albany in The Episcopal Church. (Thanks to Ernie Didot of GAFCON for this video).

You cannot ‘try harder’ to please God

Posted: 23 Jul 2021 11:00 AM PDT

You cannot ‘try harder’ to please God and live in His grace at the same time. The one negates the other. The vicarious perfection of Christ needs to be better understood.

© Copyright D. Riddell, 2012 Book Reference: Faith Insights