Anglican Communion may be beyond repair says Welby

welby1Author:
Justin Welby
During the last eighteen months or so I have had the opportunity to visit thirty-six other Primates of the Anglican Communion at various points. This has involved a total of 14 trips lasting 96 days in all. I incidentally calculated that it involves more than eleven days actually sitting in aeroplanes. This seemed to be a good moment therefore to speak a little about the state of the Communion and to look honestly at some of the issues that are faced and the possible ways forward.

A Flourishing Communion

First of all, and this needs to be heard very clearly, the Anglican Communion exists and is flourishing in roughly 165 countries. There has been comment over the last year that issues around the Communion should not trouble us in the Church of England because the Communion has for all practical purposes ceased to exist. Not only does it exist, but almost everywhere (there are some exceptions) the links to the See of Canterbury, notwithstanding its Archbishop, are profoundly valued. The question as to its existence is therefore about what it will look like in the future. That may be very different, and I will come back to the question.

Secondly, Anglicanism is incredibly diverse. To sit, in the space of a few months, in meetings with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Primate of Australia, the Primate of South Africa, the Moderator of the Church of South India, the Primate of Nigeria and many others is to come away utterly daunted by the differences that exist. They are huge, beyond capacity to deal with adequately in the time for this presentation. Within the Communion there are perhaps more than 2,000 languages and perhaps more than 500 distinct cultures and ways of looking at the world. Some of its churches sit in the middle of what are literally the richest parts of the globe, and have within them some of the richest people on earth. The vast majority are poor. Despite appearances here, we are a poor church for the poor. Many are in countries where change is at a rate that we cannot even begin to imagine. I think of the man I met in Papua New Guinea who is a civil engineer and whose grandfather was the first of his tribe to see a wheel as a small aircraft landed in a clearing in the forest.

At the same time there is a profound unity in many ways. Not in all ways, but having said what I have about diversity, which includes diversity on all sorts of matters including sexuality, marriage and its nature, the use of money, the relations between men and women, the environment, war and peace, distribution of wealth and food, and a million other things, underpinning us is a unity imposed by the Spirit of God on those who name Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. This diversity is both gift and challenge, to be accepted and embraced, as we seek to witness in truth and love to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, the potential of the Communion under God is beyond anything we can imagine or think about. We need to hold on to that, there is a prize, the quest for which it is worth almost anything to achieve. The prize is visible unity in Christ despite functional diversity. It is a prize that is not only of infinite value, but also requires enormous sacrifice and struggle to achieve. Yet if we even get near it we can speak with authority to a world where over the last year we have seen more than ever an incapacity to deal with difference, and a desire to oversimplify the complex and diverse nature of human existence for no better reason than we cannot manage difference and dealing with The Other. Yet in Christ we are held together. In Christ the barriers are broken, peace is held out to us as a gift established, which needs living. In Christ there is hope of a life that provides hope of peace.

Fourthly, the Communion is extremely active. Let me give you a few examples. In Mexico, a small community abandoned by all, of people who had lost their homes and were living in the bad lands, where a priest (otherwise unoccupied apart from a full-time career in a professional area and running another church, as well as being unpaid) was sent by his bishop, to start a church, something he thought might well cost him his life. But there he went, to the poorest of the poor, and a community has been established with numerous baptisms, growing spirituality and a love and concern and compassion for one another that speaks of the living presence of Jesus among them.

Another example, a conference in Oklahoma City, in which from people around The Episcopal Church, with patience and courtesy to one another, there was discussion over the issues around the use of firearms and the meaning of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, in practice in the modern-day USA.

The South Sudan, and after a day spent burying the dead of a great massacre, the Archbishop stood up with extraordinary courage and called for reconciliation. Those from the rebel group would already have opposed him, those from his own group would not necessarily have been impressed. To do that puts any of our struggles into a real perspective.

In England a church in the middle of an extraordinarily mixed area of religious faith, faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, active in its worship, lively in its preaching, yet being the centre and focus of religious leadership in the area so as to enable difference to be handled well.

There are so many others that merit a presentation of its own.

We live in a community that exists, that is deeply engaged with its world almost everywhere, that is diverse and argumentative and fractured, but yet shows in so many places both known and unknown the power and love of Christ through His Spirit at work in our world. We live in a Communion which merits celebration and thanksgiving as well as prayer and repentance.

A flourishing Communion but also a divided Communion.

I do not want to sound triumphalist. There are enormous problems. We have deep divisions in many areas, not only sexuality. There are areas of corruption, other areas where the power of the surrounding culture seems to overwhelm almost everyone at one point or another.

Our divisions may be too much to manage.

In many parts of the Communion, including here, there is a belief that opponents are either faithless to the tradition, or by contrast that they are cruel, judgemental, inhuman. I have to say that we are in a state so delicate that without prayer and repentance, it is hard to see how we can avoid some serious fractures.

In an age of near instant communication, because the Communion exists, and is full of life, vigour and growth, of faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and love for him, everything that one Province does echoes around the world. Every sermon or speech here is heard within minutes and analysed half to death. Every careless phrase in an interview is seen as a considered policy statement. And what is true of all Provinces is ten times more so for us, and especially us in this Synod. We never speak only to each other, and the weight of that responsibility, if we love each other and the world as we should, must affect our actions and our words.

A Communion under threat

There is persecution in the Communion, in many, many areas. We are a poor, and a persecuted Church.

We are well aware of that and need to remember it constantly. In very many parts of the world, particularly parts of Africa and the Middle East, but also South East Asia, persecution comes from jihadist attacks which have killed many, many Anglicans, other Christians and in largest number Muslims, over the last few years. Not a day goes by without some report being received of the suffering and persecution of churches around the world, and of cries for help and requests for support. Not a day goes by without something which should break one’s heart at the courage and the difficulties involved.

There is immense suffering in the Communion. The terrible spread of Ebola, indescribable, a Black Death sweeping through three Dioceses of West Africa, is by itself a catastrophe of historic proportions. I was briefed on it two weeks ago in Accra, and the suffering of people in the afflicted countries makes the blood run cold. We must help, pray and call for more help.

In the South Sudan the human created food shortage threatens to turn into a terrible famine. In DRC the war continues with the utmost cruelty, usually including rape.

The list could go on and on, especially in the Middle East, Palestine and Israel, the Levant and the Euphrates valley.

Where do we go?

So what do we do? Where does this extraordinary, fractious, diverse, argumentative, wonderful, united, ferocious, peaceful, persecuted, suffering body that is the Communion go, and what is the impact on us here in the Church of England?

First, as I have said nothing we say is heard only by us.

Secondly, we should rejoice in being part of this monumental challenge, of this great quest for the prize of being a people who can hold unity in diversity and love in difference. It is almost unimaginably difficult, and most certainly cannot be done except with a whole-hearted openness to the Holy Spirit at work amongst us. It comes with prayer, and us growing closer to God in Jesus Christ and nothing else is an effective substitute. There are no strategies and no plans beyond prayer and obedience.

Thirdly, the future of the Communion requires sacrifice. The biggest sacrifice is that we cannot only work with those we like, and hang out with those whose views are also ours. Groups of like-minded individuals meeting to support and encourage each other may be necessary, indeed often are very necessary, but they are never sufficient. Sufficiency is in loving those with whom we disagree. What may be necessary in the way of party politics, is not sufficient in what might be called the polity of the Church.

In this Church of England we must learn to hold in the right order our calling to be one and our calling to advance our own particular position and seek our own particular views to prevail in the Church generally, whether in England or around the world. We must speak the truth in love.

In practice that has to mean the discipline of meeting with those with whom we disagree and listening to each other carefully and lovingly. It means doing that as much as when we meet with those with whom we do agree, whether it is during sessions of General Synod or at other times. It means celebrating our salvation together and praying together to the God who is the sole source of our hope and future, together. It means that even when we feel a group is beyond the pale for its doctrine, or for its language about others or us, we must love. Love one another, love your neighbour, love your enemy. Who in the world is in none of those categories?

All of us prefer being with those whose tradition we know and in which we were brought up. I am as much part of that as anyone else here. But I have gained far more in my own walk with Jesus Christ through being willing to meet with others whose traditions I did not find sympathetic, and be as transparent with them as I am with my closest friends, as from anything else that I have ever done.

And for the future of the Communion? I have not called a Primates’ Meeting on my own authority (although I could) because I feel that it is necessary for the Anglican Communion to develop a collegial model of leadership, as much as it is necessary in the Church of England, and I have therefore waited for the end of the visits to Provinces.

If the majority view of the Primates is that such a meeting would be a good thing, one will be called in response. The agenda for that meeting will not be set centrally, but from around the Primates of the Communion. One issue that needs to be decided on, ideally by the Primates’ meeting, is whether and if so when there is another Lambeth Conference. It is certainly achievable, but the decision is better made together carefully, than in haste to meet an artificial deadline of a year ending in 8. A Lambeth Conference is so expensive and so complex that we have to be sure that it is worthwhile. It will not be imposed, but part of a collective decision.

The key general point to be established is how the Anglican Communion is led, and what its vision is in the 21st century, in a post-colonial world? How do we reflect the fact that the majority of its members are in the Global South, what is the role of the Instruments of Communion, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, and what does that look like in lived out practice? These are great decisions, that must be taken to support the ongoing and uninterrupted work of ministering to a world in great need and in great conflict. Whatever the answer, it is likely to be very different from the past.

So, the good news. The Communion exists and is doing wonderful things. The bad news. There are great divisions and threats. The challenge. There is a prize of being able to develop unity in diversity and also with deeper and deeper ecumenical relations demonstrating the power of Christ to break down barriers and to provide hope for a broken world. We must grasp that challenge, it is the prize of a world seeing Christ loved and obeyed in His church, a world hearing the news of his salvation. So let us here, in the Church of England and above all in its General Synod, be amongst those who take a lead in our sacrificial, truthful and committed love for the sake of Christ for His mission in His world.

Making Marriage Meaningless well worth 7 minutes of your time.

“Clergy often too busy to ‘make disciples’” – South African priest

SOMA’s the Revd Christian Viljoen who says clergy should focus on making disciples
Photo Credit: Bellah Zulu/ACNS

By Bellah Zulu, ACNS

A South African priest has observed that many clergy are too busy attending to other aspects of church life and neglecting one of Jesus’s core commands of making disciples of all nations.

The National Director of Sharing Of Ministries Abroad (SOMA), Southern Africa, the Revd Christian Viljoen said this as his organisation prepares for a mission trip to Malawi at the invitation of one of the bishops there.

The Revd Viljoen told ACNS: “Clergy are often busy with so many things except obeying the command of Jesus to make disciples but neglecting this command means that we do not see the multiplication of disciples but rather a maintenance mode.”

SOMA Southern Africa has prepared a team of clergy and lay people including the Bishop of Johannesburg, the Rt Revd Stephen Moreo – a gifted evangelist and pastor – and a number of intercessors.

He explained that the mission, which lasts from November 3 to 14, seeks to reach the clergy in Malawi and their congregations in general through outreach services to “become disciples who need to be taken further on their journey.” He added that the mission seeks to meet the deep spiritual needs the Bishop there perceives are present in the diocese.

“During the Clergy Conference we will focus on an important aspect of discipleship, that of equipping and empowering the clergy or pastor to be a disciple because what Jesus began to do and teach as mentioned in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles is not being done by the clergy,” he said.

SOMA is an international Anglican institution that seeks to work with leadership to build up and equip the Body of Jesus Christ through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit principally through short-term cross-cultural missions.

In the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, SOMA works closely with ‘Growing the Church’, a growth institute within the Province, to provide the mission component within the church.

The World’s Most Hated Preacher

CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

So who qualifies as the most annoying, the most irksome, the most controversial, and the most rejected preacher of all time? While many might come to mind, there are many who certainly would never fit the bill. There are many who are so well-liked, so loved, and so adored, that one could never think of them as causing any trouble or raising a ruckus.

Many of our big-time preachers today, including those in the biggest churches in the West, are so committed to men-pleasing, to telling people what they want to hear, and to never rocking the boat, that they are perpetually loved and adored by the masses.

jesus 23It could never be said of them that they made enemies, caused division, provoked anger, and caused great disturbances wherever they went. They are so wishy-washy in their preaching and so intent on keeping the crowds happy and so docile that they will never utter a hard word, never take a stand for anything controversial, and never seek to upset anyone.

In the most marked contrast imaginable, there was a preacher who did all these things – and for that he was crucified. The world’s most troublesome preacher without a doubt was Jesus Christ. He is so utterly unlike so many of today’s popular men-pleasing preachers.

I am once again struck by this as I reread the gospels. As I am going through John right now, let me simply focus on this one gospel, and take only one part of it. But the verses contained here make it overwhelmingly clear how different Jesus was from so many preachers of today.

I will look at just John 5-12. These chapters are jam-packed with explosive confrontations, hard-core power encounters, and cases of incredible controversy and conflict. Jesus seemed to have this impact wherever he went. He sure knew how to provoke a reaction.

And so often that was a very negative reaction. He seemed to make enemies readily! Of course this is spelled out for us at the very beginning of John’s gospel. In John 1:11 we read: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

Thus very early on we are informed that Jesus was not going to have an easy ride, but would be causing controversy and getting folks upset. In these eight chapters of John we find this occurring repeatedly. Consider the way Jesus was constantly causing division amongst the people:

-John 7:12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.”
-John 7:30-31 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Still, many in the crowd believed in him.
-John 7:40-43 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Christ.” Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.
-John 9:16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.
-John 10:19-21 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
-John 11:45-46 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
-John 12:37-43 Some people believe, some don’t.

And it was not just the crowds who were divided because of Jesus. Even his own disciples were divided, with some choosing to no longer follow him. John 6:60-67 makes this very clear:

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

His words were so hard and non-negotiable that his own followers finally had enough. And the scale of negative reaction continues to rise. Plenty were mumbling and grumbling about what he said and did. We already saw this above, and in John 6:41-43 we read about how the Jews began to grumble about Jesus. And as also already seen, some critics accused Jesus of being demon-possessed. Other texts also speak to this:

-John 7:20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered.
-John 8:48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
-John 8:52 “Now we know that you are demon-possessed!”

Of course the negative reactions soon bubbled over into hatred. As we read in John 7:5-7: “For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Therefore Jesus told them, ‘My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil’.” And as we read later, Jesus told his disciples that just as the world hated Jesus, so too it will hate his followers (John 15:18-25).

And this hatred became so intense that it led to a deep desire to kill him:

-John 5:16-18 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
-John 8:59 They picked up stones to stone him.
-John 10:31-39 The Jews try to stone Jesus for blasphemy.
-John 11:8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
-John 11:53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
-John 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well.

Remember, this is just one of the four gospel accounts, and these are just some of the chapters from that final gospel. But from this small sampling of the evidence, it is crystal clear that Jesus always made an impact on people. Sometimes they loved him, but just as often they hated him.

Neutrality was certainly not an option it seems. He stirred people up big time, and so often people went absolutely ballistic over him and his words. It is obvious that Jesus did not have the slightest intention of pleasing people and making everyone happy. He was determined to speak truth, knowing that it would produce a ferocious negative response from so many.

So let’s get this straight: here was the most loving man to ever walk the earth. He was also the most gracious, the most compassionate, the kindest and the humblest preacher ever known. Yet he was also the most reviled, the most hated, the most attacked, and the most rejected.

So why in the world do we think we will get a better reaction than Jesus did if we faithfully and fearlessly proclaim his word? The world hated Jesus and it will hate us as well. That is guaranteed. As Leonard Ravenhill put it, “Why in God’s name do you expect to be accepted everywhere? How is it the world couldn’t get on with the holiest man that ever lived, and it can get on with you and me?”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said this: “You can really test what is being preached by one particular criterion, and it is this: the gospel of Jesus Christ is always offensive to the natural man. . . . If you find the natural, unregenerate man praising either the preacher or his message then, I say, you had better examine that preaching and that preacher very carefully.”

Or as George Whitefield remarked, “It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.” It is time we started earning a few lessons from Jesus, the greatest preacher who ever lived.

[1535 words]

Anglicans invited to round two of Vatican’s fight on the family

Author:

George Conger

Round two of the Catholic Church’s debate on human sexuality and the family has been set for 17 Nov 2014 at the Vatican in Rome. But among the speakers at this session will be the primate of the largest church of the Anglican Communion and two leading bishops of the Church of England.

 

Less than a month after proposals to change the Catholic Church’s doctrines

BIshop Nazir Ali

BIshop Nazir Ali

of marriage, human sexuality and conciliar authority brought conservatives to the brink of open revolt, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria will speak along with Bishops Michael Nazir Ali and N.T. Wright at the a three day conference.

Sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Councils on Interreligious Dialogue and the Family, the gathering will focus on “complementarity” of men and women

Archbishop Okoh

Archbishop Okoh

in the family, in marriage, and in the life of the Church.

Pope Francis will deliver the opening address to the Humanum conference, which will include speakers from a cross section of denominations and religions. In addition to the three Anglican invitees, among the other 32 speakers from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Sikh, and Buddhist faiths are Pastor Rick Warren, Cardinals Gerhard Müller of the CDF, Kurt Koch the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Jean-Louis Tauran of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

According the meeting’s website, the purpose of the gathering is to focus on “complementarity” of men and women.

The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium is a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.

Witnesses will draw from
 the wisdom of their religious tradition and cultural experience as they attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman. It is hoped that the colloquium be a catalyst for creative language and projects, as well as for global solidarity, in the work
 of strengthening the nuptial relationship, both for the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them.

One of the organizers of the event, Prof. Helen Alvare, told Anglican Ink the decision to include non-Catholic speakers at the colloquium was that marriage was not solely a Catholic concern.

The Holy See offices who chose these speakers believed that they would have a strong interest in looking closely at the relationship between the man and the woman in marriage.  In nearly every culture around the world, and most religions too, the question of what is true, what is beautiful, what is the lived experience of this relationship we hold to be “image of God” and crucial to learning love/the meaning of life, …is often discussed but still too little understood. The matter is usually discussed only under the headings of the sexual relationship between men and women, or “why people despair” this union. This gathering, it is hoped, will answer a need to find beautiful, new, creative language and images to attract people to the beauty of the relationship that is the heart of the family…one hopes to attract those even who despair of it, or who believe it is nothing special anymore.

Not only in Evangelium Gaudii, but also in the Synod documents it was offered that because marriage is a human institution experiencing real suffering, the Church should interact with cultures and religions, each of which has knowledge of this human institution, has a theology with reflections on marriage, has charisms respecting the treatment of marriage, has practical wisdom and insights. This is an inspiration for the gathering.

Each session of the conference will open with the screening of a short film, the organizers say, that will examine men and women and marriage from round the world. “Each film features a variety of illuminating interviews with young and old, single and married, women and men, lay and religious, from many cultures, continents and religions. Topics range from the beauty of the union between the man and the woman, to the loss of confidence in marital permanence, to the cultural and economic woes that follow upon the disappearance of marriage.”

Asked by Crux magazine to comment on the apparent conservative orientation of the invited guests, Prof. Alvare said Anglo-American political labels were not appropriate. Those invited to speak were chosen by the Vatican because of their work in this area.

“[W]hen you start knocking on doors, asking who’s working on this, you end up with people who look to those who use this political categories, I think, incorrectly, as conservative,” she said. “But those doing the groundwork don’t see their work on this regard in this particular way. Their work crosses across all political labels.”

Gafcon comes of age: Archbishop says

BP EliudAuthor:

George Conger

Gafcon has become a de facto instrument of unity for the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala said on 24 Oct 2014 in a pastoral letter to the global Anglican reform movement. Recounting his visit to Atlanta to install Archbishop Foley Beach as the second primate of the ACNA, Archbishop Wabukala wrote that Gafcon was “emerging as a new and effective ‘instrument of unity’ for the Anglican Communion. … that reality was underlined at the investiture of Archbishop Foley Beach as the second Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America by the Primates gathered in Atlanta, representing GAFCON and the Anglican Global South, receiving him as a Primate of the Anglican Communion.” Archbishop Beach’s “investiture demonstrated that the realignment of the Anglican Communion is now established and unstoppable,” he said, and “Anglicans around the globe are now affirming this fact.”

Abp Welby visits South East Asia and Myanmar

Archbishop Justin (r) with Archbishop Stephen in Yangon, Myanmar,
Photo Credit: Lambeth Palace
Related Categories: Abp Welby, Myanmar, South East Asia

[Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, today returned from a five-day visit to fellow Anglican primates in the provinces of South East Asia and Myanmar.

The trip was part of Archbishop Justin and his wife Caroline’s personal visits to all his fellow primates around the Anglican Communion.

In Singapore the Archbishop spent time with the primate of South East Asia, the Most Revd Datuk Bolly Lapok, and his bishops and clergy. He also joined a dinner with government ministers, community leaders, bishops and clergy on Monday evening. Meanwhile Caroline Welby met with the Diocesan Women’s Fellowship to hear about their work.

In Myanmar the Archbishop spent time with the primate of Myanmar, the Most Revd Stephen Than Myint Oo. He also joined a special dinner with goverment ministers, senior ecumenical church leaders, and former diocesan archbishops and bishops, among others. Mrs Welby met with the president and national secretary of the Mothers’ Union in Myanmar.

Yesterday the Archbishop met with other faith leaders at the British embassy in Yangon, before spending further time with Archbishop Stephen.

ALBANY: Episcopal Bishop Says Opponents to Sexually Perverse Lifestyles Could Be Charged with Hate Crimes

Unless something changes, I fully expect that in my lifetime, a person who stands up and speaks out against various forms of sexual relationships or lifestyles that the Bible identifies as being inappropriate or in opposition to God’s will (regardless of how loving and pastoral that concern may be shared), will be charged with committing a “hate crime”. – Bishop William Love

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org

The Episcopal Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love told delegates to the 164th Annual Diocesan Convention recently that religion, especially Christianity, is under attack in the US and throughout the world. He asked if Christians would have the courage and determination to stand up for the Christian faith and proclaim both in word and deed “God’s NOT dead”, regardless of what it might cost us in this life.

The orthodox Episcopal bishop, who has been at odds with the Episcopal Church’s liberal stand on homosexuality, especially over the ordination of gay and lesbian priests and bishops, says there are various special interest groups that are working very hard to silence any opposition to their cause. If they are allowed to continue unchallenged, the country our children and grandchildren will grow up in will be “very different” from that envisioned by our forefathers and for which countless Americans have bravely fought and died to defend and protect over the last 238 years.

Bishop Love cited a 2012 Gallup Poll where some 77% of Americans identified themselves as Christian. “If this is an accurate statistic why doesn’t our society more accurately reflect the Judeo/Christian beliefs this country was founded on? I suggest that the Christian majority has lost sight of who we are called to be and the life we are called to live as Christians. Far too often we live as if “God IS Dead!”

“According to a HUFF Post article of March 2013, “The number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is the highest it has ever been since data on the subject started being collected in the 1930′s.”

The article reports that the number of “NONES” in the 1930s was 5%; 8% by 1990; and 20% by 2013. This shows a clear shift in the U.S. population with a rapidly growing number of people who don’t identify with any religion. The number of U.S. adults under 30 with no religious affiliation is even higher at approximately 33%.

“Religion, especially Christianity, is under attack in this country and throughout the world. The question is, do we have the courage and determination to stand up for our Christian faith and proclaim both in word and deed ‘God’s NOT dead’, regardless of what it might cost us in in this life? Or will we deny our faith in Christ, living in fear and apathy, succumbing to the comfort and false security of materialism?”

Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32-33)

We may well be the only Christians some people ever meet or encounter, noted Love. The Bishop added that he was deeply moved by the movie “God’s NOT Dead” which can be seen on DVD, Blu-Ray and can be purchased here http://godsnotdeadthemovie.com/ The bishop said he has viewed it three times and urged diocesan delegates to see it.

“Most of our young people — elementary age through college are being educated in schools that are bowing more and more to the ever growing secularized and often anti-Christian culture in which we live. Not only have we long passed the days of being able to have public prayer in schools, but as witness by the more than 30 legal cases which inspired the movie “God’s Not Dead” students and teachers alike are being disciplined d punished in various ways if they publicly voice their religious beliefs in school or wear jewelry or other religious symbols depicting their faith — especially Christian symbols.”

Love believes that restrictions placed by school boards and school administrators limiting religious freedoms in the schools are “overreactions or misunderstanding of what the laws governing religious freedoms actually say, the fact is they are happening at all levels.

“Far too often they are not being challenged for fear of possible retribution or simply out of apathy. For a country that was partially founded on the principles of religious freedom, what is happening today in schools and universities throughout the U.S. is almost incomprehensible.”

The bishop cited one aid in protecting students’ religious freedom is the Student Rights Handbook found at www.ADFLegal.org/Gods-Not-Dead.

The Episcopal Diocese of Albany is one of only a handful of orthodox dioceses still remaining in the Episcopal Church. The future of this diocese will be tested following the outcomes of the upcoming Episcopal General Convention to be held next year in Salt Lake City, Utah.

END

The Traditions of Men, and Being Anesthetised

CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

Pardon the somewhat odd title – let me explain: While evangelical Christians can look down on other Christian groups for adding to Scripture, or twisting Scripture, or misreading Scripture, or allowing man-made traditions to trump Scripture, the sad truth is, we often can do exactly the same thing.

We all need to be on guard here. None of us have a perfect take on these things. But I continue to be amazed at how many people who have been Christians all their life and been faithful church-goers all their life seem to miss some real basics of Christianity.

As but one example, once I was sharing with a guy just a few home truths about Christian discipleship, obedience, holiness and the like. I mentioned how we need to take the warnings of Scripture seriously, and that a life of growing obedience and sanctification is the expected path of any disciple of Christ.

He responded by saying, ‘wow that’s pretty sober stuff’ (or words to that effect) – as if he had never heard that or read that his whole life. But it is just normal Christianity. It is there as plain as day in the New Testament. But we seem to view such basics as strange, unusual, and even surprising.

bible3How have we gotten to the place where the plain words of Scripture no longer mean what they are supposed to mean? How can we read them a zillion times and gloss right over them, and not pick up on their clear intent? How have we so missed out on what is so rather plainly stated?

It seems we have managed to drug ourselves, anesthetise ourselves, blind ourselves to the plain teachings of Scripture. We have bought so many traditions of men, and allowed our own culture – even our own Christian culture – to dumb us down that we can’t read a biblical text and let it speak to us as it was intended to.

Sure, we all come to Scripture with rose-coloured glasses on, or with blinders on, or with cultural baggage, etc. But the first step in correcting this is to admit that we have a big problem here, repent of this, and ask afresh the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth as we read the Word of God.

All of us are culture bound, and limited by the effects of sin. We are all finite, fallen and imperfect. And when we become Christians, we are involved in progressive sanctification. Perfection in this life eludes us. So we expect to do all things less than perfectly, including how we read Scripture.

But we cannot let that become an excuse. We need to keep praying with the biblical writers such requests as: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). Or as Paul put it in a slightly different context: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” (Ephesians 1:18).

We all need to keep praying that our spiritual eyes will be opened, and we will see what God is saying to us through his Word, and not allow all sorts of things to cloud over all this. An attitude of humility is always vital here. We do not always get it right, and we do not always read his Word correctly.

So a continuous attitude of openness and humility, with time spent on our knees in prayer, will never go astray. We can never assume we have fully arrived, or have the Bible all figured out. Sure, we have confidence and conviction of basic truths, and we are not to be in a state of perpetual doubt and vacillation.

But we also need to know that God is still leading us further as we read his Word and seek to understand it properly. I have changed various (minor) doctrinal positions over the years, and expect to keep doing so. The basics will stand, however, and should not be readily abandoned or toyed with.

We all will keep growing in our understanding, and part of that will mean jettisoning man-made teachings and understandings which we have allowed to take the place of Scripture, or be put on a par with Scripture. So I guess I should conclude this somewhat rambling piece with these words: every time we open the Bible, we need to pray for God to powerfully speak to us through his Spirit. Pray that his truth will always come forth as we read.

By the way, as an endnote to all this, I notice one type of tradition that evangelicals at least claim they have nothing to do with. We take pride in putting Scripture first, not man. We reject the idea of an infallible Pope who we must submit to or defer to. But it seems there are plenty of popes in the Protestant world as well.

All sorts of big cheese leaders are put up on a pedestal, and if anyone dares to critique them, their groupies come out in force, denouncing you. I have found that when I dare to disagree with some of these big leaders, their fans will lash out at me, as if I am attacking Jesus himself.

We have as many infallible and untouchable leaders in the evangelical world as anyone else does, and woe to those who dare to say anything critical about them, or compare them and their teachings with the Word of God. Their loyal and dedicated followers will defend these guys to the hilt, and attack those who think otherwise.

So we really need to stop pretending we are so much better than other faith traditions. We evangelicals have plenty of our own problems, including following man-made traditions over against the teachings of Scripture. And we can so easily read Scripture in a haze or a stupor, where the clear teachings get lost and perverted.

As I say, we must keep praying and stay humble. Jesus spoke so often about those who have ears but cannot hear, and about those who have eyes but cannot see. We really don’t want to be those sorts of people.

Christian Atheists?

CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

Atheists of course don’t believe in God. That is to be expected. But the question is, why don’t Christians believe God anymore? Why do they profess to be followers of Christ when by their very actions and their very refusal to obey the clear teachings of Scripture they demonstrate that they are none of his?

We find this happening all the time, and it is utterly shocking. We have crystal clear teachings in Scripture which are being outright ignored or rejected or disobeyed. We have people who claim to be great Christians who have no intention whatsoever of obeying some of the clear commands of Scripture.

We seem to be so inured to what we find just in the four gospels that we glide right over them without batting an eyelash. The truths found there are just not registering. We have become far too familiar with Scripture, and its ability to impact us deeply and radically seems to be lost.

We all need to get back to our first love, and we all need to read the Bible as if for the very first time. I have recently written on this issue: billmuehlenberg.com/2014/10/20/the-traditions-of-men-and-being-anesthetised/

Sometimes I think that with so much biblical illiteracy out there – even among Christians – that I should just produce articles with nothing but Scripture in them. And maybe I will one day. But here I will take a large slab of Scripture and pray that it speaks to all of us the way it was intended to speak.

discipleship 2I refer to Luke 14 where Jesus speaks much about gaining disciples and real discipleship. For example, in Luke 14:15-24 we have the Parable of the Great Banquet. You know the story: When the invited guests did not show up, the man holding the banquet says ‘go out to the roads and country lanes’ and bring them in.

Then in Luke 14:25-35 Jesus speaks about the cost of discipleship. Let me offer this whole portion:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Three times here we read that those who do not do certain things cannot be a disciple of Jesus. The first has to do with family ties. Now in a culture where family was so very important, these were incredibly radical words indeed. Of course, other Scriptures make it clear that we are to love members of our own family, and love others as well.

But if family relationships get in the way of following Christ, then a choice has to be made. If serving one’s family means one cannot serve Christ, then a decision about loyalties is called for. And as some have said, our love for Christ should be so great, so supreme, that in comparison, all other loyalties may seem like hate in comparison.

So the point is not to hate our families as such, but to love God even more than anyone or anything on earth. He is always to be our first loyalty and priority. The second clear teaching about discipleship is pretty clear – but also largely neglected and ignored.

We must carry our cross if we are to be a true disciple of Jesus. Anyone back then hearing these words knew exactly what Jesus meant. The condemned man sentenced to die a cruel death on a cross was forced to carry the cross piece to his own execution. Just as Jesus carried it, so too any condemned man had to do this.

He was heading for certain death, and his life was now forfeited. It is the same with Christian discipleship: we are no longer our own, we are bought with a price, and the life we now live, we live for Christ and him alone. The Christian has no more claims to anything, and has no more rights.

He has died to self and now lives for God. That is basic Christianity 101, yet it is shocking how very few Christians even think in these terms. They think they can do what they want, call the shots, and live for self. They are even told by mega-pastors that they can have their ‘best life now’.

Well, Jesus said nothing about such selfish foolishness. He demanded the complete surrender of self and crucifixion of all desires; otherwise we cannot claim to be his follower. The third demand makes the same claims. If we are not going to give up everything for him, then we cannot be his disciple.

It is that simple. And again, this is not so much about just dumping every material good that you have. The rest of Scripture makes it clear that we are to provide for others, and especially for those of our own household. Material possessions can and should be used for Christ and his Kingdom.

But what Jesus is demanding here is the complete surrender of all that we have, including all our desires, our wants and our rights. We must be willing to give up everything. And this is far more than just stuff. It can also be our selfish desires. Indeed, some of these desires can be good in themselves, but we may be clinging on to them too tightly.

So getting back to his first demand, we may have to let go of our desire to have a family, or to get married, or to have children. We may have to abandon our desire to live somewhere, or have a certain job, or use a certain talent or gifting.

We will have to be willing to give up anything and everything for him. That is because anything we cling to and desire too greatly becomes an idol which stands between us and God. These are the conditions of being his disciple. It is radical stuff, but discipleship is a radical calling.

Yet we read a passage like this – perhaps for the hundredth time – and it comes in one ear and out the other. It has lost its radical effect on us. We read the chapter, close our Bibles, and go on living just as we always have, with all our possessions, material goods, greed, consumerism, selfishness, and focus on Number One.

We all need to let these words hit us afresh. What is it that we are clinging to that is preventing us from really following Jesus? What are the gods and idols in our life which are separating us from Jesus? What are our desires and wants which keep us from being all we are meant to be in Christ?

The call to discipleship is really all about priorities. Just what are the real priorities in our life? What do we spend most of our time on? What do we think about the most? Desire the most? Crave the most? Talk about the most? If you honestly answer these questions, you will quickly discover what your real priorities are, and if you really are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

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