1314 – A Reflection

Most people are not burdened with knowledge of their own end, or even fewer, those who have the ability to look it in the face and choose it.

There are, to be sure, many people who facing illness and war, have a very real sense of the first one but the latter is still rare.

Many things have the ability to push us past our limitations and what I can imagine is the despair of that first thing above.

Love, duty and even survival instinct, these can push humanity to incredible feats of strength, willpower, kindness and occasionally desperation- the person who lifts the car to save the child, the person who runs into the flames to rescue a loved one, the many women and men who offer themselves to harms way every single day.

For those who make these split second decisions, to save another at the cost of their own life, to defend the innocent and so forth- we don’t know what they were thinking- we don’t know if they, faced with their own demise, willingly take that one more step into both certainty and certain end for the sake of what they hold dear.

Some though, we do, and this moment is a long time in coming. Those split second choices dominate and shadow it seems, every moment of their life up until that day.

March 18th, 1314.

For seven years, de Molay faced both French and Papal inquisition- under both torture and years of solitary confinement.

Did he break, of that I think it is certain. Wouldn’t you break? Are many of us not broken in some way from the inquisition of life and confinement of so many hopes and dreams by the jailers of fear and difficulty. Now imagine his struggle with the same things that we struggle with, and place all this on top of it.

The physical pain and struggle would be hard enough, and he was not a young man to begin with, but greater I think, would be the knowledge that after many years of honourable service, to see that which he devoted his life to, slowly picked apart and picked over, his friends and comrades-in-arms imprisoned and impugned at the hands of his countrymen and his King. Imagine chewing on that knowledge for years.

Some met their ends with exile from service and imprisonment through confessions, certainly false, others had the ability to see out their sentences and sign on with other religious orders. Who can blame those who took that option, not I, faced with my life, well, I’d probably do that with a kind of screwed-up mix of pain, relief and glee. I am not more courageous or even only as brave as the historical figures we look at right now. I admire de Molay in this moment because I do not possess those qualities myself.

De Molay had in fact confessed at one point- Indeed, I suspect, he saw it as a potential means to end the affair for the whole Order of the Temple, and perhaps keep others out of further pain and trouble.

Two of the men with him on this day, over seven hundred years ago, took imprisonment and were taken away to fulfill their sentence.

Jacques de Molay saw his end, looked it in the face, and chose it, he recanted his confession knowing it meant certain death. It could be that this moment wasn’t as courageous as I paint it here or as we recall it each year or even each liturgy through the Litany of the Sovereign Pontiffs. Perhaps it was simple relief, or acceptance, or any number of things.

We know he had a choice, and he made it.

For at least 150 years year prior, the Order of the Temple had used the seal of two men on one horse. There are many interpretations, the most famous of which being that of it being a symbol of their initial poverty.

At this moment though, I think it was something else, or at least I choose to see it in that way.

The Grand Master, it is said, asked for two things at his demise, that he be turned to face Notre Dame cathedral during his execution, and that his hands be freed that he might pray.

This leader of men, of warrior monks, had fulfilled a different interpretation of their famous seal- with one duty, he faced the world as a warrior, and God as a monk.

We are blessed, as Johannites, as spiritual seekers, as human beings, to have much easier journeys than this Grand Master, but it doesn’t mean that there is nothing here to contemplate on or take to heart in our relative struggles.

We benefit both from looking at the struggle and those who gave it to him- because at many moments in our lives- we stand to be either. Either Phillip the Fair, in our greed, in our pride, recalling the words in the liturgy of the immorality of cherishing things and using people. Or de Molay, in accepting where we find ourselves and making the effort anyway, for its own sake.

Neither are these things exclusionary- sometimes they are successive- sometimes we only get the opportunity to stand up for what is right, when we stand down from that which is wrong- that when we choose to do better by our fellow humanity, we stand up for them and ourselves.

It doesn’t need to be torture and isolation to be wrong- it can be a closed fist, a closed mind, or a closed heart- and it doesn’t need to be one invoking the flames upon oneself to be noble- it can be an open hand, an open mind and an open heart.

We don’t get to know our ends, but we do get to face each moment, and we do get to make a choice.

Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch,
The Apostolic Johannite Church

The Fires of Montsegur – A Reflection

In difficult times, many people look to the past to make sense of their present difficulties, by way of commonality, coherent narrative, human nature and so forth.

In fact, this reaching for the past often occurs in two different forms- we either look to the past for examples of those whose lives and suffering mirror our present (‘this is just like’) encapsulating what, in our despair, we feel is our future, or we reach back to grasp some all-too-non-existent Golden Age or an example of where things were better, more ideal or principled (‘This is nothing like’ or ‘If only it were like this’).

Both of these are ways of framing and understanding our present experience- either through similarity or contrast, or both.

Anybody who has ever studied history, I’d wager, has done this, and any one who has gone through significant struggle and challenge, I’d also wager, has done this, though for those who have not made a study of history- they may reach back to some former time in their own life. I think I can say fairly that this is common to the human experience in some form or another.

In the political, social, and personal landscape, between economies, wars, persecution of minorities, many people, some rightly, a lot more wrongly, have reached back towards histories of persecution or oppression by one group towards another- either for commiseration, context or contrast or in some cases for historical solutions to the problems that we face in our own personal or social spheres in the present.

We shouldn’t forget these histories, these actions by one group against another- they’re still happening and you’ve probably experienced a form of it in your life, or have met someone for whom this is the case, at one point or another.

Our liturgical calendar and our history is replete with these moments- indeed the central Christian story, and often enough in gnostic circles, the Gnostic narrative, is often portraying as one group vs another- whether they end up on a cross or they end up on a stake.

The fires of Montsegur Day, though the evils told of therein are not alien to human history either before or after, are a beacon to any age in history, our own being no exception.

Montsegur Day is less about one group vs another, and more about what happens when we turn on each other- it is the suffering that we inflict on our sisters and brothers.

In truth, the many other days that preceded it, and the many that would follow it- whether it’s the Church vs the Order of the Temple, the Romans vs the Christians, the Christians vs. the Muslims, the Christians vs. the Jews, the Catholics vs the Protestants and on and on- in reality- they are all in truth, Montsegur moments- these other labels are ways to talk about historical conflicts and divides, but it has always been people against their fellow human beings, their sisters and their brothers.

These divides or labels have sometimes enabled us to forget, justify, or explain away these historical events and all-too-human behaviours, and often are just poor excuses for excuses for even poorer actions.

The fires of Montsegur, however, are a moment in time where we are less able to gloss over the heart of the matter. It is a day that lays as bare as can be, the things we do to those that share our humanity. The sides on the Albigensian ‘Crusade’ were as close to each other as anything.

If reaching back to Montsegur should enable anything for us, it should be a beacon fire into our present, and a lamp unto our paths for the future, of the intolerance we must banish and the acceptance we must integrate into our own paths and understanding.

We all share common cause- our very humanity itself- our blood, our breath, our hopes, fears, loves, losses- when you lay side by side the things we have in common with our neighbour against the things that we do not, well- it’s as one-sided as it gets.

It’s time to stop fearing the ‘other’- the other is you and if you keep those you don’t understand out of your hearts, your homes and hearths, eventually you will turn around to find yourself very much alone.

Let the fires of Montsegur be a light against that darkness.

Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch
The Apostolic Johannite Church


Respecting the Sacred Flame: Primatial Visit and Panel

Respecting the Sacred Flame: Primatial Visit and Panel

The Apostolic Johannite Church, the Archdiocese of Wisconsin and the Parish of St. Sarah the Egyptian are pleased to announce the official visit of the Primate of the United States to the Parish of St. Sarah the Egyptian to celebrate Liturgy and participate in the Respecting the Sacred Flame panel:

“There is no question that our society is in upheaval.  People of color, LGBTQIA community members, women, immigrants, older adults, people living with disabilities, and other groups are feeling even more threatened than they did just a few short months ago.


Small progressive religious communities such as ours can and do make a difference in these struggles, but we need to understand what we are facing, internally and externally.


St. Sarah’s Parish is therefore organizing a panel discussion on Saturday, March 11th, titled “Respecting the Sacred Flame.”  We are inviting two outside experts: African-American Historian Edward Carson, who will be looking at racism and economic oppression, and Brandeis University Professor Wendy Cadge, who will delve into gender and sexuality.  Our Bishop, The Most Rev. Dr. William Behun, Ph.D., will also be joining the panel as both Primate and Archbishop of the US and our diocese of the AJC, and as a professor of Philosophy and Ethics. 


The panelists will be trying to discuss and answer two questions:


(1.) What can we do within ourselves and our religious community to address racism, sexism, homophobia and economic oppression? 


(2.) What can or should we do as a small religious community to stop these kinds of oppression?


This event will begin with the Johannite Gnostic Liturgy at 5:00 p.m. and the Panel and Discussion at 6:00 p.m., at the Theosophical Society-Boston, 21 Maple St., Arlington, Massachusetts. “


For more information on the Parish of St. Sarah the Egyptian, please visit http://stsarahs.org/



Conclave 2017 Featured Speaker- Rev. Dr. John Spangler

Conclave 2017 Featured Speaker- Rev. Dr. John Spangler

The Apostolic Johannite Church is proud to present our featured speaker, the Rev. Dr. John Spangler, who will be giving a two part workshop on Pastoral Care:

The Rev. John D. Spangler, Ph.D., was ordained Deacon by the then Methodist Church (today United Methodist Church) in June 1953 and Elder in 1955.  In preparation for his career in the ministry he earned B.A. (1950) and M.A. (1951), both in mathematics at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; S.T.B. (now M.Div.) (1954) and S.T.M. (1955) at Harvard Divinity School; and Ph.D. (1961) at Boston University Graduate School. 

His career includes 13 years as pastor in local churches in urban, suburban, and rural areas.  In 1964 he was called to the faculty of Candler School of Theology of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; he left Emory to join the faculty of Iliff School of Theology, Denver, Colorado,  where he served 22 years as chair of the Department of Pastoral Care and Psychology of Religion.  Following retirement from Iliff in 1993, he served as interim pastor in several congregations. 

While in Atlanta, he served as chair of the out-patient division of the Georgian Clinic (a pioneering alcoholic-drug rehabilitation facility).  He is the author of Pastoral Care of Young Drug Users and Their Families.  Other major pastoral concerns are ministry with the aging, the grieving, the dying.  He was a founding board member of the Grief Education Institute, a pioneering agency for formal support of the bereaved.

We’re thrilled to have him on board for Conclave 2017 in Denver, Colorado and we hope you will join us.

Conclave 2017

The Apostolic Johannite Church is proud to present the eighteenth annual AJC Conclave – June 1-6 2017 in Denver, Colorado

Each year the people of the AJC, friends and family gather together to socialize, learn, build our skills and deepen our community. It is an amazing opportunity for spiritual growth and insight to modern Gnostic practice.

Conclave offers lectures, workshops and panel discussions selected to develop ministry skills, support the work of church leaders both lay and ordained and deepen and enrich the spiritual lives of attendees. Conclave is also rich in social time, time to eat, talk, pray and practice together. It’s like a retreat and a conference all rolled into one.

As always, we welcome you, no matter who you are or what your spiritual path, to join us for this unique week. You can come for all or part and participate as much or as little as you’d like. However you choose, we welcome you into our household.

The Dr. Juliana Eimer Memorial Lecture

This year, we would like to present to you a new annual Conclave lecture, in honour of a frequent, much loved and much missed Conclave presenter- The Dr. Juliana Eimer Memorial Lecture. For several years, the Rev. Subdeacon Juliana Eimer, Ph.D was an active presenter and participant at our Conclaves- speaking on a variety of topics, from female Saints to the nature of Divinity.

Her passing a mere months after our last Conclave was difficult for our community, and starting this year, the Apostolic Johannite Church has chosen to remember her work here with us through an annual lecture in her name.

For this inaugural year, the Apostolic Johannite Church has selected someone who experienced her love of knowledge, wisdom and Conclave better than anyone, Dr. William Behun, the Primate of the United States, her husband, as the inaugural speaker for the Dr. Juliana Eimer Memorial Lecture. He will be presenting on Hypatia of Alexandria

Featured Speaker

We are also continuing our tradition of bringing fine speakers from outside our community, with our featured speaker:

The Rev. Dr. John Spangler, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Psychology of Religion, IlIff School of Theology to speak on Pastoral Care.

Dr. Spangler will be delivering two talks on the subject of Pastoral Care and Ministry on successive days during Conclave. 

Program of Conclave Lectures and Workshops

In addition to the Dr. Juliana Eimer Memorial Lecture and our featured speaker, we are also excited to bring you an engaging list of speakers and activities throughout the Conclave program:

Without further preamble- here are some of the talks and workshops we have at the time of this announcement:

  • The Order of the Temple and Saint John: An AJC Religious Order with the Patriarch of the Apostolic Johannite Church
  • The Sacrament of Unction with the Most Rev. Dr.. Wililam Behun, Primate of the United States
  • The Women of the Levitikon with the Most Rev. Dr. Timothy Mansfield, Bishop of New South Wales
  • Saint Symeon: This Poor Body is Christ also with the Most Rev. Dr. Timothy Mansfield, Bishop of New South Wales
  • The Passage of Time: Liturgical Expressions of Life Events with Monsignor Scott Rassbach
  • Archetypes of the Warrior-Priest with the Very Rev. Bray Weaver
  • Midwife of Souls: Hospice Chaplaincy with the Very Rev. Bray Weaver
  • Gnostic Ascent with the Very Rev. Tony Silvia
  • Silence: the Healing Art of Shutting the Hell Up with Father Joseph McCauslin
  • Ministry and the Law With Father John DiGilio

Costs and Registration

Lodging is not included and is the responsibility of the attendee.

$300 Full Registration includes All Activities and Eight Meals:

Thursday: Dinner
Friday: All Activities, Lunch and Dinner
Saturday: All Activities and Lunch.  Dinner excursion at own cost
Sunday: All Lectures, Workshops, and Dinner
Monday: All Activities, Lunch and Dinner
Tuesday: All Activities, Lunch

$185 Three-Day Package (Friday to Sunday or Saturday to Monday) includes All Activities and Four Meals

Friday: All Activities, Lunch and Dinner
Saturday: All Activities and Lunch.  Dinner excursion at own cost
Sunday: All Lectures, Workshops, and Dinner


Saturday: All Activities and Lunch.  Dinner excursion at own cost
Sunday: All Lectures, Workshops, and Dinner
Monday: All Activities, Lunch and Supper

$65 Individual Per Day Registration (Includes activities and scheduled meals excepting Saturday Dinner)

Refund Policy

From Now until May 1st- 100% Refund
May 1st to 15th- 50% Refund
After May 15th- No Refund will be issued
Registration closes May 15th

We look forward to seeing you there and sharing your journey. Registration opens soon.


The Feast of St. John the Apostle 2016

I don’t think there are insignificant days on our Liturgical calendar. Each one of them has some lesson or meaning, story or interpretation, which can add perspective to our paths, empathy for others or compassion for ourselves when we look at their stories and symbols.

Excluding Holy Week and Nativity, none have a higher significance or deeper sense of humility on a personal level for this priest than the Feast of St. John the Apostle, the Beloved Disciple.

Years before I would wear a stole in this church or occupy the chair which we traditionally attribute to that of Saint John, my affinity for this most human of saints was strong.

I grew up a protestant but now with so many years later of working in this community, the layers of meaning and personal symbology never fail to multiply or unveil themselves each time I turn to this Son of Thunder with my intercessionary contemplation.

With the forgiveness of our sisters and brothers of the Johannite Church of Australia, its occurrence in the northern hemisphere’s season of the greatest darkness, Winter, even has meaning for me, coming as it does only a matter of days after the shortest day and longest night (I imagine they may think the same of that other remarkable Saint John, the Baptist?). Its occurrence is significant even without this seasonal placement, just with its proximity to the Nativity of the Divine Light.

I’ve written before that the Liturgical calendar is not unlike a musical scale, where, rather than repeating endlessly as such, it begins again but on a higher level, and many events and themes echo themselves in other events on our liturgical calendar.

This is also true in our personal spiritual epochs- where, all too human, we encounter and chip away at the same spiritual issues but with a changing in tone or perspective as reflected in the faces of changing seasons, changing circumstances, and changing examples.

During Holy Week, we recount the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the gathering of the Last Supper, the betrayal by Judas, and the death and resurrection of the Logos.

In these events and following them, some of the Apostles having starring roles- Judas in his betrayal and remorse, Peter in his denial and fear, Thomas in his doubt and questioning.

Yet there, in the background, heralded neither by self-interest, guilt or lack of faith, but by silence, is the Apostle of Love, the Son of Thunder, John.

He is found present in the garden, keeping watch as best he can (and still falling asleep), at the cross honouring sacrifice with the most powerful form of language there is, and likewise, as he goes to the Tomb to find it bare.

In the Apostles we encounter qualities worthy of emulation or stories from which we can draw understanding. Some for the way they lived, almost all for the way they endured, and some for the way they died. Some for the mistakes they made. 

In Peter, we have conviction- he was the first to proclaim the Divinity of Christ, and was willing in the garden to go down fighting to protect his teacher and friend. In Thomas, and in his questioning, a mark of wisdom and reason.

John’s life, endurance and eventual death, particularly when one takes into account the legends of his persecution, carries not only the quality of Love, for which all of us have spoken and discussed so often, but also the quality of presence and patience.

Of the Twelve, only John remains at the Cross in the time of his teacher’s greatest need and trial, a patient ministry of presence.

He is unable to relieve his Master’s suffering, he is unable to carry the burden for him, he is unable to make it pass any faster than life has seemingly ordained, he can heal no wounds, but he is able to be present.

Being a church which calls itself ‘Apostolic’, we count amongst our symbols, lessons and spiritual lineages, many of the Apostles, but there in between the word Apostolic and Church, is the word Johannite, the crown which gives splendor to those two other noble words.

2016 has been a year of great difficulty for our fellow humanity, and great difficulty for our Johannite community- each of you has experienced great loss, great trial and great stress- every single Johannite I’ve been able to talk to over the course of the past year has faced down some great sorrow, some great challenge, or some great obstacle.

The Divine does not desire our suffering, neither is suffering a test or a lesson. It is however, an opportunity, should we choose to take it as one.

It can or may be, an alchemical process where we have an opportunity to make gold out of lead. Whether we like it or not, we have the lead and unless we use it, it risks becoming a weight that can hold us back or down.

Though the gold we make may be small, and the lead from which we make it be great- what we yet make may be the coin with which we can redeem or regain something greater.

The gold of this year has been stamped with this Johannite patience, the Apostle’s very own ministry of presence. I have seen each one of you walk with, bear witness to, and companion on, the journeys of each other, in a fashion which in any experiences of a lesser nature, would take years to accrue that same sense of love and understanding.

Being privileged to witness this as a servant of this community is pretty difficult to overstate, and I’ve been deeply moved more times than I can count, to see this take place.

The Apostle’s role in Holy Week is one from which we can draw out many inspiriations, and see within it, many important lessons for our own paths as seekers who carry the title Johannite, but it isn’t just this story which provides us insight into what it means to be who we are.

Holy Week itself is but an octave on a much richer scale and the Crucifixion is a mirror of that highest of Divine sacrifices- the Incarnation itself- the sacrifice of the Divine into the limitations of matter, the Infinite into the Finite. 

I’ve written here and before about the ministry of presence and more often than not this is in the context of suffering. Yet, reflecting today on the power of presence, together with the proximity of the Feast of the Apostle to the Nativity of the Divine Light on our Liturgical Calendar, I am reminded of how often I forget about joy when it comes to this facet of the ministry to which each Johannite has been called.

It isn’t just the event of the cross of calvary that the Apostle, and every seeker who bears the title of his name, is called to bear witness to and be fully present for. Each Johannite is called to bear witness to the Incarnation- the crucifixion of the Infinite upon the cross of space and time, which is at the same time, the Nativity of the Divine Light- the beacon fire of love. 

We are called to steward and be witness to that which this birth gives rebirth to- great joy, growth, love and hope. The words of our liturgy recall the words of the Logos – I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I, but that it be kindled.

This is the season of the Nativity of the Divine Light- and following closely on its heels is the celebration of the Feast of St. John. We are called to that ministry of patience, that ministry of presence, to be present for each other not only in great trial but also in the kindling of great joy.

We have the lead, and in time, we will have the gold, but only if we keep watch with and for each other until it blazes. It isn’t enough to be present with each until the darkness recedes, there is a whole stage in the process yet to come, that of the increase of the Light. 

Keep watch until it blazes.

Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch
The Apostolic Johannite church


MI IV LogoAdvent marks the the season of anticipation and preparation before the Nativity of the Divine Light- the Incarnation of the Word, both in the world and in ourselves. 

Advent (latin: adventus) comes from the greek word parousia which means presence or arrival and is commonly associated with the Second Coming of Christ. 

Johannite liturgy points to the Parousia when it says “until he returns again in the hearts of those that follow his example” – as Gnostics and complimentary to it, the Nativity of the Divine Light as a seasonal and liturgical event points to the birth of the Divine Light within us. 

We can in no wise experience this return, this descent, this resurrection, until we have given birth to the Word to begin with. 

The liturgical year and these events, which mirror and reflect the spiritual journey, is a cycle that repeats itself and the fact that our own spiritual journey does likewise is not a mark of our many failings but a testament to the height and depth of the path itself. 

Like notes on a musical scale, it doesn’t simply terminate at some end – it begins again, in a higher octave or level. 

I return to my favourite stories time and time again, not because they change and transform, but because I change and transform- their meaning unfolds itself as experience grows and insight becomes sharper, or just as often enough in my own case, humility though no force of my own or rather all the forces of my own ignorance, adjusts my perspective whether I like it or not. 

The true voyage of discovery, Marcel Proust says, lies not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. 

Transformation, especially the kind heralded by the Nativity of the Divine Light, is not something that happens right before you walk into Sunday service but something that requires mindful engagement and preparation. 

As the Parousia is a continuous event- returning again in the hearts of those who follow his example, so too is the Incarnation continuous- Christ is born anew each time he is seen in the person of our fellow human beings. 

Earlier I mentioned that the liturgical calendar mirrors and reflects landmarks on the upward spiral of our spiritual paths, but it also mirrors and reflects itself- Advent prepares us for birth, Lent prepares us for Rebirth. 

Drawing this down to the level of our own journey and practice- Advent is a mindful engagement and preparation not only to see the Divine born in the world through person of your fellow humanity but also and especially first within yourself. 

If you’re not engaging the Divine Beloved in the person of yourself, then as Mar Thomas has said (though about forgiveness, which also is ever true)- you’re leaving the job half done. 

Louis-Claude de Saint Martin wrote that ‘There is nothing more easy than to come to the gate of truth; there is nothing more difficult than to enter it.’ I would like to think he would agree that this applies here. 

If you want to arrive at the Easter Sunday of your spiritual path, you will have to begin with your Nativity of the Divine Light. 

As we enter today into Advent, I urge you to engage and re-engage your spiritual mission to not only giving birth to Christ through seeing the Divine in the person of your sisters and brothers but also and especially in yourself. 

Unless he is born again in you, you will not be able to see the Kingdom of Heaven anywhere or in anyone else.

Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch