Thursday, September 07, 2006

Good-bye, Lee Buck

The Salvation Army has a wonderful way of noting when someone dies. They say he was promoted to glory. I read another line in an email last week when a beloved member of our church went to be in the unhindered presence of the Lord. Somehow it helps ease the loss when we can salve the pain with soothing, uplifting words like these.

The death of Lee Buck leaves a very big hole in the lives of all who ever met him. He was one of the most irrepressibly upbeat people I have ever known. He not only put his money where his mouth was, he never failed to follow that with more of his mouth as well. You could be certain that if he was on the property everyone within the sound of his voice would hear the Gospel Message at least once. He lived his life according to what he called the Five Foot Rule. If you get within five feet of someone, tell them about Jesus. The man was a vibrant personification of what is best about Christian Evangelism.

Nobody could tell stories as well as Lee. His gift for public speaking was good enough that if he was present at a public gathering and failed to say something to the group assembled, those of us who knew him wondered if he might not be feeling well. He couldn't help himself. And when he spoke he was always, always positive. This was the salesman in him. He knew what to say and what not to say to sell a product. And his product, from the time he became a Christian, was nothing more complicated than old-fashioned Christian love. And he spread the word of that love in a manner that few people are ever privileged to do.

This is not the time or place to be airing the dirty linen of the Episcopal Church in America, but it would be disrespectful to Lee to fail to mention that painful part of his life the last decade or so. Because of his global orientation, Lee Buck was able to see the Christian faith from a larger vantage point than those who only breathed the rarified air of academia or drink only the distilled, filtered, perfect water of untempered tolerance that we in America can afford to indulge. Only in America do we have such an overflowing cup of faiths that we are able to pick and choose among them, like shoppers at the grocery, trying to decide whether to get the low-fat, low-sodium variety product or one which is larded with cholesterol and swimming in brine. From one end to the other, Christianity in America offers any flavor you want, from Unitarians to Catholics to mainstream Protestants and everything in between. Historically, the Episcopal Church has saught a "middle way" with a liturgical form comfortable to those from that tradition to an open-communion welcome to just about anyone baptised into the faith, irrespective of the origin.

In recent years, however, in a well-intended impulse to inclusivity, sexual politics has displaced Christian love in a way that has divided the Episcopal Church in America. Those of us who can stand with one foot on each side of the issue are few and far between, essentially not warmly welcomed by either "side," but treated respectfully by both. Enough of that. Here are Lee Buck's predictions for the future of the Episcopal Church in America.

**The [House of Bishops] will vote to approve Vickie Gene Robinson, out of pure individualism if nothing else.The Third World {no longer so third} will ex-communicate the provinces of ECUSA and Anglican Canada, and very soon after the announcement of Vickie Gene Robinson's election.

**A new "REPLACEMENT" province will be formed in "NORTH AMERICA" to accommodate both Canada and the United States.

**The "continuing churches" such as REC, CEEC, American Anglican Church, and others, including AMIA, will be invited in to this new province.

**The ABC [Archbishop of Canterbury] will give his "blessing" to such a province because of the fact that he does not want to leave a legacy of the first ABC in history to be excommunicated by his own communion. Whether or not anyone believes it, this has already happened in the Jeffrey John affair, as I previously predicted some time ago.

**Africa, South America, and Asia have now grasped the extent of their "power" in the communion and, from this point on, will exercise great authority in the affairs of the communion. The center of power will no longer reside in Canterbury, but in "the South".

**When a province is ex-communicated it is as if it never existed in the eyes of those who have placed it out of bounds, but ECUSA does not care, because they are "independent" of any authority, including scripture.

[Episcopal Church USA] will continue on for many years, but will decline in numbers and influence. Because it has so much money, it can continue to exist as an institution, but will be known in the Christian world as a "secular" or "non-Christian" church. For example, the Unitarian Church of The U.S and ECUSA will be classed in the same category.

Please do not look upon the times to come as "tragedy or disaster", but rather as God at work bringing those who will, to a closer walk with Him. As a matter of fact, we in the Anglican Communion are living and experiencing the most rewarding, exciting, stimulating, invigorating and glorious of times. Out of this now seemingly incomprehensible and unsolvable morass, my prediction is that a great move of God is at hand and that we should wait on "tiptoe" with great expectation for what He is doing and going to do. This era will go down in Anglican History as a time when God moved in great power. I say to you REJOICE that God has allowed us to be a part of what He is doing. Listen to what Paul declares in Hebrews:

HEB 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

HEB 12:18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear."

HEB 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

PRAISE THE LORD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clearly, this was not a man of small passions. At the time of the Lambeth Conference in 1998 (this is a world-wide event for the World Anglican Communion that is convened every ten years) there was a lot of discussion about where the Episcopal Church in America was headed. Lee Buck returned from that conference with great enthusiasm because he learned first-hand that the Third World countries presented (and still do, by the way) an overwhelming mathematical advantage over their brothers here in the US, and in Britain, home to the mother church.

At this writing there is something of a diaspora of Episcopalians casting about, looking for new church homes. As Lee predicted several years ago the Episcopal Church in America seems to be marching to a secular drum, but the Church (capital C) remains strong. Some are starting independent congregations, some are swimming the Tiber, some are migrating to any number of convergence churches. But everywhere you look you can see a "move of God" that Lee Buck so joyfully predicted.

Canon Kendall Harmon marked the passing of Lee Buck at his blog titusonenine with a post of simple dignity. I am reminded of something I heard once: No matter how you live, it is wonderful to die an Episcopalian. Those who never knew Lee Buck can learn a lot from the comments thread being left at that post.

Rest in Peace, Lee. We will all be with you in just a short time.

Followup, September 11

Along with everyone else I will spend today contemplating the fifth anniversary of that terrible day five years ago. But I have to take a moment to record a couple of memories of Lee Buck's Celebration of Life last Saturday in Room F of the Cobb Galleria. Several hundred people came to say good-bye and rememver this man whose energy and enthusiasm for Jesus and the Gospel Message will forever remain his most enduring legacy.

It seems fitting to be reminded on September 11, yet again, that we have no way to know when we will be called to die, just as those victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 were called...Lee would point to these events and call that conclusion obvious. And with no fear of redundancy, he would easily and compellingly lead anyone within the sound of his voice through the Sinner's Prayer. For the umpteenth time, if necessary, just to make it stick.

Lee planned his own funeral in detail. One of the two priests delivering homilies said he did everything but write the sermons. The service was a liturgically correct celebration of Communion, open to all baptised believers, with six clergy participating, each of whom had been close to Lee as mentor, encourager, supporter and friend.

The Old Testament reading (in addition to Psalm 91) was the description of an ideal wife recorded in Proverbs, a powerful statement of this man's absolute dedication to and love of his wife, mother to their children and foster children.

One of the two family testimonies included, at Lee's instruction, the mandatory exercise that he always used to make sure listeners were alert and relaxed, ready to hear what he was about to tell them. The entire assembley was instructed to stand up and pay attention to some simple instructions. At the appointed time, they were to turn slightly sideways (not to bump into one another), raise their right fist, and left knee at the same time, pulling down their fists saying loudly at the same moment the word "YES!"
The leader said, "JESUS CHRIST is LORD!"
And the crowd responded with a loud "YES' that could be heard a long way off.
We had one "practice" exercise, then one final and joyous expression sure to lift the spirits of even the most solemn people present.

Pat Robertson and his wife were there. He added his testimony to the others listed in the program. I think he and Lee knew one another for years and Lee may have been on the board of CBN.

A young, gifted bagpiper played Amazing Grace, starting from the back of the room and walking slowly toward the altar as the elements were being blessed for communion. There were four stations to receive so the crowd was handled as quickly as possible.

At the end, again in accordance with Lee's instructions, there was a flag ceremony by two uniformed Navy personnel. A bugle played "Taps." The flag was then carefully and slowly carried forward to be folded into the traditional triangle and presented to Audrey, his wife. The service ended with the Navy Hymn as we all filed out to a reception at the back of the room.

There was much, much more. But these notes will be helpful to anyone wanting to recall this most memorable event.

1 comment:

Audrey Buck said...


I appreciated so much the depth of your report on September 7th on Lee's life. He was the love of my life and the light of my life, and I thank you for honoring him.

Audrey Buck
c/o Lee's e-mail address