Installations and consecrations this week for the Church of Nigeria

Ikechi Nwosu

Author:

George Conger

The Archbishop of Aba Province, the Most Rev. Ikechi Nwosu, Bishop of Umuahia will be installed as Dean of the Church of Nigeria by the Primate of All-Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh at a ceremony Sunday 24 July 2016 at Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral in Lagos. The service will also see the appointment of new provisional archbishops and the consecration of three bishops elected at the June House of Bishops meeting.

Dr. Nwosu, (pictured) will take up the number two post in the province in succession to the Most Rev. Christian Efobi, Archbishop of the Niger Province and Bishop of Aguata. At the June meeting Archbishop Efobi was re-elected Archbishop of the Niger. The Most Rev. Michael Fape, Bishop of Remo, was elected by his peers to serve as Archbishop of Lagos in succession to the Most. Rev. Adebayo Akinde.

The Rt. Rev. Akinpelumni Johnson will be consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Lagos Mainland; the Dean of the Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral, Ven. Abel Ajibodu will be consecrated bishop of the Diocese Ile Oluji; and the General Secretary of the Church of Nigeria, the Ven. Israel Okoye will be consecrated Bishop of Diocese of Ihiala, at a service that will see 10 of the church’s 14 archbishops in attendance and over 100 of its bishops.

Helping children find their identity in Jesus

  July 2016

I have the absolute privilege of going into one of the local primary schools every Wednesday lunch time. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t always feel like a privilege, I’m there rain or shine. I’ve been wet through to the skin, I’ve been there sporting shorts and sunglasses on beautiful summer’s days (there has been one so far this year!) and there have been times when I’ve needed to sit with my feet on a hot water bottle in an attempt to regain feeling to my toes! But I am privileged! I get to go into school, just to hang out with children, tell them about Jesus and love them for who they are. What an honour.

Over the last few weeks, as children are beginning to accept me and open up to me, I’ve found myself giving dating advice to the group of 8-year-old girls that flock around me. My best advice so far is, ‘If you have a boyfriend, you do actually need to talk to him!’

‘Abi’s dating advice’ has now developed into to sharing Christian values with regard to sex and relationships. These girls are 8 years old and I trained in children’s and family work rather than youth work for a reason, but children are being exposed to what we might class as adult subjects at a younger and younger age. These are issues that need to be addressed.

As I sat down with my scrambled eggs and avocado lunch one day, I began to reflect on this a little more and my heart just began to break for these girls and the society in which they’re growing up. We live in a culture that doesn’t teach ‘love waits’ but one that says its OK to have as many sexual partners as you like as long as you are safe. And this is filtering through to children in primary school.

How can we be salt and light in this battlefield, how can we build up a ‘love waits’ generation?

First I want to start with an encouragement, our part of the battle is to pray, God has the rest covered (2 Chronicles 20:15). Praying is something that we can all do, we don’t need a theology degree, a church leadership role or super spirituality, we just need a heart and our Creator has given one to each of us.

Pray for God to use you, to shape you and to burden you and then go. Love the children you have the honour of walking alongside, whether at church, at school or at home. Share your heart with them, share God’s heart with them. Tell those children daily that they are enough, they are beautiful, they are children of the King (Galatians 3:26) and they are chosen by him (John 15:16).

If our children, biological or spiritual, know that their identity is in Jesus and that he loves them regardless then they won’t search elsewhere for value, meaning, belonging and purpose. His name will be etched into their hearts and they will be rooted in him. Their Saviour.

Abi Bates is Kids’ Pastor at St Saviour’s Church in Sunbury.

IRELAND: GAFCON leadership expresses concern over Church of Ireland sexuality dialogue

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
The outspoken General Secretary of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a movement of orthodox Anglicans who have distanced themselves from liberally-driven mostly Western Anglican provinces, says pressure is being exerted within the Church of Ireland to change its teaching on sexual morality – in common with other Provinces in the British Isles – and, as a consequence, weaken her commitment to Biblical authority.

Dr. Peter Jensen, the former Archbishop of Sydney, an evangelical, told the Church of Ireland Gazettenewspaper that the GAFCON Primates are deeply concerned about this pressure to change the Church’s traditional and biblical stance on sexual morality, but that he was encouraged by orthodox Anglicans on the island of Ireland. These orthodox Anglicans are encouraged that Biblical leadership is being shown by the Primates of GAFCON, and they are delighted to know that there are people willing to stand with them.

“Each party looks forward to a future of Gospel mission, growth, mutual interest and support, under God.”

The issue at stake is that of same-sex relationships. Dr Jensen’s remarks followed comments made by Nigerian Primate, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, in his June Pastoral Letter as Chair of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, in which he stated: “In the beginning, the focus of our concern was North America and we thank God that he has raised up the Anglican Church in North America as a new wineskin in that continent. Now our concern is increasingly with the British Isles.”

A Select Committee of the Church of Ireland General Synod, chaired by the Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev. John Mann, is overseeing dialogue on the subject of “human sexuality in the context of Christian belief”. It was established in 2013 and its term concludes in 2017.

Earlier this year, the Select Committee published resources “to assist the process of listening, learning and dialogue in the wider Church”. The General Synod of 2012 affirmed the Church’s Canon 31 teaching on marriage.

C. OF E. GENERAL SYNOD HOLDS ‘CONVERSATIONS’ ON HUMAN SEXUALITY

At last week’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod in York, members spent two days in behind-closed doors ‘Shared Conversations’ on the issue of human sexuality. A statement indicated that the talks had been “in an informal setting” and that Synod members had “listened and been heard as they have reflected together on Scripture and a changing culture in relation to their understanding of human sexuality”.

The statement continued: “Throughout these conversations, deep convictions have been shared and profound differences better understood. The Shared Conversations over the last two years now come to a conclusion, with over 1,300 members of the Church directly involved. “It is our hope that what has been learned through the relationships developed will inform the way the Church conducts whatever further formal discussions may be necessary in the future.

“It is our prayer that the manner in which we express our different views and deep disagreements will bear witness to Jesus who calls us to love as he has loved us.” In comments to the Synod at the end of the Shared Conversations, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, urged Synod members to go with confidence “in the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead”.

However, some 32 Synod delegates, both clergy and laity, publicly expressed their “lack of confidence” in the “shared conversations” and released a statement saying that the process was flawed.

Among them was the Rev. Dr. Ian Paul, a member of Archbishop’s Council, who has written consistently to explain and defend the church’s historic teaching, and has strongly criticized the Conversations process.

If a significant section of the Church’s governing body are prepared to publicly dissent in this way, then serious questions remain about the viability of maintaining surface unity in the church while allowing contradictory doctrinal positions.

Their statement read: “We, the undersigned members of the General Synod, wish to express our lack of confidence in the process of the Shared Conversations. Whatever their stated purposes, the outcome has not led to a greater confidence that the Church will be guided by the authoritative voice of the Scriptures, and its decisive shaping of traditional Anglican teaching, in any forthcoming discussions.”

In Scotland, and, more recently, Canada, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada passed an initial motion to amend its marriage Canon to include same-sex couples, by one vote. It now has three years to consider the matter. In 2019, the General Synod will hold its second reading on the issue. The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church last month passed a first reading of a change to its Canon on marriage to remove from it the doctrinal statement that marriage is to be understood as a union “of one man and one woman”. Following Church-wide discussions, the matter will return to the General Synod in June, 2017, for its second reading.

END

Simple guide to Christian living – ‘don’t be conservative

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream

In a recent article in Christian Today, Mark Woods uses a caricature of American evangelicalism to warn British Christians about the dangers of taking unfashionable counter-cultural stands.

Woods takes as his starting point a recent survey which shows that increasing numbers of evangelicals in America think it’s harder to be a Christian than it used to be. Rather than considering the possibility that secularism might indeed have resulted in greater hostility towards Christian faith, he immediately begins speculating on the motives of American Christians who feel less comfortable in 2016. According to Woods, it is all rooted in their “right-wing conservatism”.

Woods paints a picture of nasty, hateful American evangelicals, who for decades have colluded with the establishment in cruelly denying gay and transgender rights. Evangelicals have all been campaigning for a “socially conservative, imperialist agenda” which they have confused with the Gospel. The enlightened Obama administration has now thankfully swept away all the ‘discrimination’, so evangelicals now feel “embattled victims, surrounded by the forces of godless liberalism”, according to Woods’ narrative.

Rather than hankering after ‘Christendom’, where their values were dominant in society, Christians should just accept that old ideas about morality have changed, says Woods, and find new ways to work with the grain of society rather than being “die-hard culture warriors”. As the context for sharing our faith in Jesus has not changed, he claims, if we focus on that then we won’t find it so difficult to be Christian, and society will like us more because we are not trying to impose our values on them.

In attempting to apply this to the UK, Woods takes as his authoritative text the bizarre theory propounded by sociologist Linda Woodhead, that the Church of England is in decline because of the ‘dominance’ of evangelical churches which “find their identity in opposition to society”. If a church has clearly defined doctrine and looks to make disciples, it becomes inward-looking and “detached from wider social currents”. By contrast, argues Woodhead, the Church of England should be “embedded in society” and support “everyday rituals and habits of ordinary people”.

Woods seems to realize at the end of his piece that this approach, if unqualified, could simply mean the church acts to bless whatever people want to do, and so counsels discernment. He gives no guidance as to how the church might know when to oppose something in society and when to embrace it or not comment, except to suggest that the church should avoid ‘right wing conservatism’. He accuses evangelicals in America of being wedded to this socio-political philosophy, but completely fails to see that he has aligned his Christian views with another, perhaps much more dominant left-leaning liberalism.

 

In short, the argument used by Woods and many like him can be summarized as follows: “it’s so embarrassing to potentially be associated with the American Christian right, that we Christians in England must distance ourselves from any socially conservative views”. This attitude sets up an easy ‘straw man’ target and encourages Christians to define themselves as belonging to a group in opposition to those horrible ‘other’ people, rather than thinking through each issue theologically. It distorts the facts, suggesting for example that evangelicals in America (or in the UK) opposed to, say abortion and same sex marriage, are always politically right wing on all issues, and want to control moral values through political influence. Its sets up a false binary opposition between morally conservative Christians who want to be against society, and easy-going, loving ones who want to engage with it – whereas in fact some of the best examples of engagement in practical compassionate social action in Britain and around the world is to be found in theologically orthodox, evangelical parishes.

The trend of attacking the ‘American Christian right’ from the safety of a British armchair as a way of demonising orthodox biblical views is lazy and manipulative rhetoric which has taken hold in many sections of the church, and many ordinary Christians are left confused and intimidated. For example, they might read in their bibles the regular warnings about sexual immorality, but when they raise it with others they are slapped down with screeches of “Westboro Baptist Church”, and so decide to follow the crowd in signalling their concern about more acceptable issues such as modern slavery. They share on social media a story about someone dismissed from employment for wearing a cross or offering to pray with a client, and they are immediately attacked on all sides for having a ‘Christendom’ mentality.

Orthodox Anglicans looking to engage positively with the church structures face similar hostile thinking all the time. It might be at a Deanery meeting to talk about mission: a member stands up to suggest an agreed doctrinal basis for sharing faith in Christ, and this is refused by other speakers, who say that such an idea is divisive and exclusive. It might be at an interview for a ministerial post, where a candidate is told that articulating conservative views on ethics would make them unsuitable as a leader ‘for the whole church’.

Those with a revisionist interpretation of discipleship are not going to face a steep and narrow way, and so obviously will find being a Christian easier than those who bring themselves and their culture under the searching scrutiny of Scripture. Those who see the key to successful church life in avoiding expressing an opinion which might upset the dominant elite, or better still, in expressing this group’s opinions couched in Christian jargon, will have their reward in full. Meanwhile those who genuinely walk with Christ in speaking truth and living lives of love will expect opposition, but they do not identify uncritically with ‘right’ or ‘left’, play the games of power or indulge in the self-pity of victimhood.

How NOT to handle the Word of God correctly 

“Shared Conversations” and déjà vu

 I have just returned from a two-week holiday and a graduation in the UK, mindful of the Church of England’s General Synod. While there, I disciplined myself to avoid comments and to simply enjoy my time away with my wife and friends. But, towards the end, my attention was drawn to an article written by the Rev. Dr. Ian Paul, reporting as a participant in the “Shared Conversations” on human sexuality, as part of the reception of the Pilling Report (which seems to recommend to the Church of England, in the end, “pastoral accommodation” in the form of the blessing of same sex civil partnerships).

For those of you who may not have heard of the Rev. Dr. Paul, he was from 2005-2013 Dean of Studies and lecturer in New Testament and Practical Theology at St. John’s College Nottingham (an historically evangelical college for those training for ministry in the Church of England). He did his PhD on Paul Ricouer’s hermeneutic of metaphor and the interpretation of the Book of Revelation. He has been a member of the British New Testament Society since 1991 and has convened its Revelation seminar group since 2004. He is also a founding member of the Grove Biblical series editorial group (since 1994) and served as its Chair/Managing Editor from 1994-2004.  You can find his full CV here and his blog, Psephizo, here.

I would like to quote at length from Dr. Paul’s July 13 post because it seems to me that he has addressed the issue of paramount importance in all of these conversations—indeed, in the life of our troubled Anglican Communion today.  That issue is nothing less than the clarity and authority of the Holy Scriptures for our lives today.  While he had some positive things to say about the process of the conversations and some of the people he engaged, it is clear from his comments that the Bible is being seriously mishandled in the process:

“The worst plenary session of all was the first one, and it was very telling that what many view as the most important theological question—what does Scripture say and how should we make sense of it—was the one most badly misjudged. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to describe it as an absolute travesty of process. There were three speakers, one of whom supports the current teaching position of the Church, the other two arguing for change. The first person stayed within the brief, and spoke for seven to eight minutes; the second appeared to ignore the brief and spoke for 17 minutes, without intervention from the chair; the third spoke for 12 minutes. So we were offered 8 minutes on the Church’s current and historic teaching, and 29 minutes on why this was wrong. And the dynamic of putting the ‘orthodox’ position first meant that, as in all such debates, the advantage is handed to the others. Added to that, the first speaker, whilst eminently qualified in other ways, was not a biblical scholar, whilst the next one advocating change was. There was no voice from a Catholic perspective, engaging with the reception of Scripture within the tradition, and the ‘orthodox’ view was repeatedly labelled not as the Church’s teaching, but as ‘conservative’.”

An absolute travesty of process—déjà vu:  Biblical clarity and authority is presented as one option among many.  It is set up as a conservative minority view, a “straw man” to be demolished by “experts.”  There is not a fair allocation of time and speakers.  There is no opportunity for serious engagement back and forth, or for rebuttal.  Those in charge of the institutional process do not observe due process and fair play.  Often, the most qualified speakers for the Church’s historic teaching on the clarity and authority of the Scriptures are not chosen to speak.  As Dr. Paul goes on to observe:

 

“It is hardly a coincidence that (in the forthcoming Church Times article) all those pressing for a change in the Church’s teaching thought that it was very fair, and that we had heard the biblical arguments. It wasn’t, and we didn’t. After two years of planning, the ‘orthodox’ speakers were only finalised in the previous week.”

Indeed, one wonders why Dr. Paul, or Bishop NT Wright, or any other number of qualified orthodox New Testament theologians and scholars were not chosen to speak after so much preparation for these conversations.

As one who participated in some such “conversations” on human sexuality in The Episcopal Church (TEC) in from 1985-2005, I recognize these tactics and processes very well.  This is exactly why so many of us left TEC and formed the Anglican Church in North America.

Dr. Paul goes on to make a serious critique of the two presentations that sought to cast doubt on the clarity of the Scriptures and thereby to justify a change in the Church’s historic teaching:

“Even worse than that was the content of the second and third presentations, and the way the format prevented proper interrogation of the claims made. It was claimed that the givenness of sexual orientation is the settled view of Western culture, when it is contested both within and outside the church, is not supported by social-scientific research, and has been abandoned as a basis of argument in secular LGBT+ debate. It was claimed that all the texts in the NT referring to same-sex activity are in the context of porneia, ‘bad sex’, which was either commercial or abusive—which is a basic factual error. It was claimed that St Paul ‘could not have known of stable same-sex relations’ which is not supported by the historical facts. And it was claimed that same-sex relationships were the ‘eschatological fulfilment of Christian marriage’ since they involved loving commitment without procreation. It was not even acknowledged that many in the chamber would find that a deeply offensive assertion, quite apart from its implausibility. But the format of the presentation precluded proper exploration of these authoritative claims. It felt to me like a serious power play, and I felt I had been subject to an abuse of expert power.”

The abuse of expert power: presenting revised positions as established facts when they are NOT in order to cast doubt on the clarity of Scripture—déjà vu:  I have little else to add to Dr. Paul’s observations than my own experience which began long before seminary training, where it was not permitted to question such dubious claims within the institutionally approved processes of TEC.  For serious, balanced, Biblical scholarship I had to go outside the mandated readings and scholars presented by TEC.  In seminary classes, and in later councils of the church, I was actively discouraged, overlooked, and marginalised by TEC leaders who did not permit a proper and intelligent interrogation of their claims.  My experience is only the tip of the iceberg—it is an experience shared by countless laity, clergy and bishops who found no recourse than to form the ACNA in order to rightly handle the word of God and maintain Biblical clarity and authority.

Finally, Dr. Paul observes the not-so-subtle pressure in these conversations to abandon the clarity and authority of the Scriptures for reasons other than a proper examination of the Biblical texts themselves:

“All this was made worse when one of the key organisers, having picked up some negative feedback on this, stood up near the end of the day to tell us (in essence) that if you thought this first session was unbalanced, then you were wrong. It confirmed a basic lack of understanding of the concerns raised by those responsible for the process—concerns not of some extreme group at one end of the spectrum, but concerns of those who simply believe in the Church’s current teaching position…

This was exacerbated for me by the facilitation in groups. Several times we were reprimanded for actually trying to discuss the issues involved, and understand what each other believed and why, and what the differences were. We were not supposed to be discussing this, but only talking about how we might talk about it. When questions were raised about the process itself, this was clearly out of bounds, and our facilitator responded by using emotional language—’I am disappointed…I am sad.’”

Painting the concerns of those who stand for Biblical clarity and authority as extreme, using emotional language, expressing disappointment in them and doubling down—déjà vu:  When all else fails, when leaders in the Church reaffirm the clarity and authority of the Scriptures, when they question proposed changes in the Church’s teaching and the facts experts are marshalling to justify those changes, genuine conversation simply fails.  It reverts instead to manipulation, labelling and expressions of disappointment by those who are advocating the changes and who will not in good faith engage the clarity of the Scriptures and their authority. “Good disagreement” of any kind is impossible in the face of such ad hominem responses, as we discovered in TEC.

Although he is in favour of good conversations with Biblical integrity, Dr. Paul concludes with the fundamental flaw in the “Shared conversations” in the Church of England:

“The fundamental problem here was the underlying approach—that there are no right answers, and no given positions, and so what is needed is a juxtaposition of different views so that mutual respect can emerge. This might be just right for a position of political conflict, where there is no ‘objective’ position which can act as a reference point. But how can this be right in a context where the Church itself already has a committed position, one that has the weight of history behind it, and a position which, in theory, all the clergy and the bishops have themselves signed up to believing, supporting and teaching….”

Anglicans rejoice that we have an objective reference point—The Bible, the Holy Scriptures, their clarity and their authority in all matters of faith and practice. The Scriptures testify from beginning to end that our identity is in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins—and not only for ours, but for the sins of all—and who rose from the dead as Lord and Saviour of all peoples, in all times, places and cultures. Our identity lies in Christ and in Him alone. We had the Reformation for this very reason. And it was for this very reason that Paul wrote to Timothy “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)

Please pray for those in the Church of England who are standing faithfully for the clarity and the authority of the Bible. As my friends there have said, it is a desperate situation. Pray that we here may be an encouragement to them in word, deed and prayer.

Phil-Ashey-2014

The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.

  SAN JOAQUIN, CA: “The Most High does not live in temples made by human hands.” Acts 7:48

COMMENTARY

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
July 18, 2016

The property loss last week by the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin after eight years of battling, has drawn to a close. The winner, at least on the surface, is The Episcopal Church. They were handed a cool $50 million worth of properties including investments, endowment portfolios, as well as a crown jewel of real estate: Evergreen Conference Center, by the California Supreme Court.

The court action let stand an April decision from the Fifth District Appellate Court in favor of the Episcopal Church. That court found that the late Bishop John-David Schofield and the diocesan convention had failed to comply with the Episcopal Church’s canons when attempting to transfer properties.

But the Episcopal diocese has not won the hearts of a single Anglican Christian. The Episcopal diocese draws a total average weekly Sunday attendance (ASA) of 925. The one Anglican Hispanic congregation built under the episcopacy of the evangelical catholic bishop Eric Menees, has close to 1,000 members.

That one congregation is bigger than the entire Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin!

The Episcopal Church (and this diocese) has no ability to create or sustain an Hispanic congregation of 950. None, zip, nada. They prefer to pour money into reconciliation gabfests, or try and manipulate Global South bishops to buy into pansexuality.

More than 90 percent of the congregations that had once comprised the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin severed their Episcopal ties and joined the Anglican Church in North America. Their weekly ASA is over 3,000!

The Episcopal diocese may have won a bunch of real estate, but that’s all. They have not and will not be able to make those parishes grow again. Period. In a few months, perhaps in a year or two, most of them will be on the chopping block, available for sale to imams for mosques or upstart evangelical congregations or saloons, Mrs. Jefferts Schori’s favorite choice. The Episcopal Church has no ability to draw Nones or pansexualists into their churches. Their rectors do not know how to do the hard work of making disciples for Christ, especially if all you are selling is a load of social bonhomie, anti-racism training and an ill-defined Jesus Movement à laMichael Curry.

The figures speak for themselves. The San Joaquin diocese has only 20 congregations, with three parishes above 100! Last year, the diocese saw 9 children baptized, received some 16 into its congregations and saw 14 marriages. Burials totaled 43! More than three above combined.

The deeper truth is that the Episcopal Church is dying, and so is this diocese. It cannot draw into its fold young people, and homosexuals/lesbians are not banging down the red doors to crawl into episcopal pews. In one diocese after another, churches are closing and buildings are going up for sale, even and including diocesan headquarters in prestigious dioceses and upscale real estate markets like Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

The most recent case in point is the former episcopal diocese of Quincy. After they lost their battle with the Anglicans there, they were so small they folded their tent and were absorbed into the Diocese of Chicago. That’s the future of TEC dioceses as they shrivel and wilt. The fancy episcopal word for it is…juncturing.

Those San Joaquin Anglicans are not without resources. Menees said he expects the Episcopal Church will not replant churches in many of the properties, but will sell them off instead. He’s probably right about that.

Meanwhile, his congregations will need to gear up, using backup plans they hoped to never need. They will be moving out, Menees said, and into other facilities that have agreed to take them as tenants.

Ministries will continue, Menees said, but outreach will be hampered as congregations move further away from the neighbors they have been serving. Among those bracing for the transition is St. James Cathedral in Fresno, where a Spanish-speaking community has swelled almost 20-fold from 50 in 2008 to 950 today.

Based on what this writer has observed and experienced, there is always another denomination that will come to the rescue of faithful believing Anglicans. In southern California, Rick Warren offered to open Saddleback to an Anglican congregation. Three years ago, outside Philadelphia, a group of us formed Christ Church Anglican on the mainline. We regularly draw 40 to 50 each Sunday. We meet in a beautiful Methodist church in Wayne, PA, that could easily pass as Anglican, with a central altar and full stained glass windows depicting scenes from Christ’s life. Our gracious hosts give it to us for a pittance, which includes office space for a rector and much more. We meet at 4pm. God is doing a new thing, He will not leave himself without a witness, even as all the churches around us cave into homosexual marriage and ditch the gospel in the name of inclusivity and diversity.

God always has a faithful remnant and, in this case, the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin will prove God true and faithful. They will continue to grow wherever they are planted, because God cannot lie. This remnant will go and grow…that is the promise of God.

TEC may win the properties, but God is not mocked; they will lose the war. They have already lost the battle for souls, and ACNA is gaining new souls every week in one jurisdiction after another.

Across the country, mainline churches are dying, hollowed out by decades of liberal teaching as they scream the platitudes of a social gospel now primped up by the dying embers of the sexual revolution, made over into full sodomite acceptance. God is doing a new thing, and, if you have eyes to see, you can see it. Renewal is going on. We are reaching the end of Christendom in America, and the old mainline denominations are withering on the vine. The sooner and quicker they die, the better.

American religion is simultaneously growing and in decline. Fewer people claim to be Christians, but churchgoers–those who regularly attend services–are holding steady in some segments, and thriving in others, says church missiologist Ed Stetzer. This is the case in San Joaquin.

As Winston Churchill famously said to Hitler’s Nazis, “This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”

END

The Sexual Revolution and the Witness of the Church

mohler

by

In the face of the sexual revolution, the Christian church in the West now faces a set of moral challenges that exceeds anything it has experienced in the past. This is a revolution of ideas—one that is transforming the entire moral structure of meaning and life. These challenges would be vexing enough for any generation. But the contours of our current challenge have to be understood over against the affecting reality for virtually everything on the American landscape, and furthermore in the West. This revolution, like all revolutions, takes few prisoners. In other words, it demands total acceptance of its revolutionary claims and the affirmation of its aims. This is the problem that now confronts Christians who are committed to faithfulness to the Bible as the Word of God and to the gospel as the only message of salvation.

The scale and scope of this challenge are made clear in an argument made by the British theologian Theo Hobson. As Hobson acknowledges, “Churches have always faced difficult moral issues and they have muddled through.” Some will argue that the challenge of the sexual revolution and the normalization of homosexuality are nothing new or unusual. He says, “Until quite recently I would have agreed,” but he also says, “It becomes ever clearer that the issue of homosexuality really is different.”

Why is this challenge to Christianity different? Hobson suggests that the first reason is what he recognizes as the either/or quality of the new morality. I agree with him that there is no middle ground in terms of the church’s engagement with these hard and urgent questions. Churches will either affirm the legitimacy of same-sex relationships and behaviors or they will not. And the churches that do not will take a stand on the basis of a claim that God has revealed a morality to His human creatures in holy Scripture.

The second factor that Hobson suggests is what he calls “the sheer speed of the homosexual cause’s success.” As he describes it: “Something that was assumed for centuries to be unspeakably immoral has emerged as an alternative form of life, an identity that merits legal protection. The demand for gay equality has basically ousted traditionalist sexual morality from the moral high ground.” This is a profoundly important point. Hobson is arguing that this revolution, unlike any other, has actually turned the tables on Christianity in Western civilization.

The Christian church has always enjoyed the moral high ground; it has always been understood to be the guardian of what is right and righteous, at least in Western societies. But what we are seeing now is a fundamental change. Hobson is arguing that this moral revolution, having turned the tables of Christianity, now robs the Christian church of the moral high ground it had previously claimed. The situation is fundamentally reversed. For the first time in the history of Western civilization, Christianity appears to be on the underside of morality, and those who hold to biblical teachings concerning human sexuality are now “ousted” (to use Hobson’s word) from the position of high moral ground.

Hobson also rightly observes that this vast change in attitudes towards same-sex relationships and behaviors is not simply “the waning of the taboo.” As he explains:

It is not just a case of a practice losing its aura of immorality (as with premarital sex or illegitimacy). Instead, the case for homosexual equality takes the form of a moral crusade. Those who want to uphold the old attitude are not just dated moralists (as is the case with those who want to uphold the old attitude to premarital sex or illegitimacy). They are accused of moral defficiency. The old taboo surrounding this practice does not disappear but “bounces back” at those who seek to uphold it. Such a sharp turn-around is, I think, without parallel in moral history.

Hobson’s main point is that homosexuality “has the strange power to turn the moral tables.” And so what was previously understood to be immoral is now celebrated as a moral good. As a result, the Christian church’s historic teachings on homosexuality—shared by the vast majority of the citizens of the West until very recently—is now understood to be a relic of the past and a repressive force that must be eradicated.

This explains why the challenge of the moral revolution threatens to shake the very foundations of Christianity in the United States and far beyond. And yet, even as we understand this revolution to be a new thing, its roots are not recent. As a matter of fact, the church has seen the sexual revolution taking place turn by turn for the better part of the last century. What now becomes clear is that most Christians vastly underestimated the challenge this sexual revolution would present.

The confessing church must now be willing to be a moral minority, if that is what the times demand. The church has no right to follow the secular siren call toward moral revisionism and politically correct positions on the issues of the day.

Whatever the issue, the church must speak as the church—that is, as the community of fallen but redeemed sinners who stand under divine authority. The concern of the church is not to know its own mind, but to know and follow the mind of God. The church’s convictions must not emerge from the ashes of our own fallen wisdom, but from the authoritative Word of God, which reveals the wisdom of God and His commands.

The church must awaken to its status as a moral minority and hold fast to the gospel it has been entrusted to preach. In so doing, the deep springs of permanent truth will reveal the church to be a life-giving oasis amid American’s moral desert.

Lamentations: A Bottle for the Tears of the World

Lamentations: A Bottle for the Tears of the World

We live in a world with untold amounts of pain from war, famine, and oppression. But our worship sometimes leaves little room for emotions of lament. In The Message of Lamentations (IVP Academic), Christopher J. H. Wright, Old Testament scholar and international ministries director for Langham Partnership International, introduces readers to one of the Bible’s most heartbreaking, poetic, and neglected books. CT editor at large Rob Moll interviewed Wright about the role of Lamentations in understanding—and protesting—human suffering.

What is the likely setting in which Lamentations was written?

Almost certainly, it is the immediate aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. It was the most traumatic moment in Israel’s Old Testament history. The writer paints a portrait of utter devastation and appalling suffering: starvation, disease, slaughter, rape, scavenging, looting, and the desecration of holy things.

Unlike in Job and many of the Psalms, God says nothing to the writer of Lamentations. What should we make of his silence?

One commentator, Kathleen O’Connor, calls God’s silence “inspired.” This resonates on three levels. First, God allows the suffering people to have their full say. He listens, without interrupting to comfort or correct. Second, the Prophets had already explained that this would happen and why. And third, although God does not speak as a character in the book, he speaks by including it in his Word, within the canon of Scripture.

How does Lamentations differ from Job or the Psalms?

Job’s suffering is clearly undeserved. In the Psalms, suffering is sometimes the result of sin, sometimes the result of wickedness of enemies, and sometimes simply inexplicable. But even though the suffering of Jerusalem happened at the hands of the evil Babylonian empire, it is recognized as the outworking of God’s judgment on moral, social, and spiritual degradation. Lamentations accepts God’s punishment while recoiling from its awful severity.

What does Lamentations offer us today?

There are people who are, at this moment, seeing murder, rape, the loss of homes and loved ones, and the destruction of holy places. For them, Lamentations describes reality. We can and should lament with them.

Lamentations, as O’Connor says, provides a bottle for the tears of the world. We cry out to God for those who suffer so terribly from the effects of sin and evil and sheer folly: in wars, racial conflicts, and all manner of injustice and oppression. Lamentations holds up to God the sheer horror of what this suffering feels like, and appeals to him to act justly, to demonstrate his faithfulness. The book affirms God’s sovereignty—his throne is still in heaven even as the devastation of his temple happens on earth—in its closing verses.

What role should a book like Lamentations play in our worship, corporate prayers, and sermons?

The absence of lament, at least in many Western churches, is a great loss. We have quietly airbrushed great swaths of the Bible from our consciousness. We sing songs based on the Psalms, but often leave out the bits about suffering or oppression. We ignore the fact that in the Psalms, “lament,” or protest, is the largest category.

So much of our worship is cover-up: pretending to have emotions we don’t really feel, or smothering the emotions we do. That is not praise. It simply leaves us to pick up our suffering again on the way out—without bringing it into God’s presence or hurling it at him in questioning (but trusting) protest. Spending time in Lamentations helps us learn how to plumb the depths of lament as well as scale the heights of rejoicing.

How has your perspective on global Christianity informed your reading of Lamentations?

I have friends and Langham Partnership coworkers in many countries where God’s people are experiencing poverty, persecution, or outright destruction. And yet I know, because they tell me, that despite these horrors, they trust God and find him at work in amazing ways.

Lamentations helps us face the world’s suffering and weep over and protest it. But it does so within the grand narrative of Scripture, with its redemptive center in the cross and resurrection of Christ, and its glorious, hope-filled climax in the new creation, in which all suffering, weeping, and death will be no more.

UPDATE: For more on lament see the interview with Soong-Chan Rah on preachingtoday.com on the beauty and power of lament. Also, listen to Mark Denver’s model sermon on Lamentations 3, “God Uses Suffering for Our Good.”

Even in the Ozarks, Anglican tradition finds space inside Catholicism

Friends this is just of interest and I think worth the read in stormy sea of Anglicanism

Fr. Dwight Longenecker
July 7, 2016
CRUX CONTRIBUTOR

Even in the Ozarks, Anglican tradition finds space inside Catholicism

The St. George Ordinariate Community at worship at their first home in Immaculate Conception parish, Springfield, MO.
In the unlikely setting of the Ozarks, a new structure within the Catholic Church intended to provide space for former Anglicans to preserve their patrimony puts down roots and finds an improbable appeal even to Baptists and Pentecostals.
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In 2009, I was headed for a retreat with other men who had come into full communion with the Catholic Church from the Anglican tradition. As we traveled, we caught the news that Pope Benedict XVI had established a kind of “church within the Church” for Anglicans called “a personal Ordinariate.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Dr. Rowan Williams, was taken by surprise, and it was clear that he was not pleased. Observers on both the Anglican and Catholic side of the ecumenical table were critical.

This was not a move forward ecumenically, they accused, but a simple attempt at “sheep stealing” on the part of the Catholics.

Supporters replied that Rome was simply responding to repeated calls from a small number of Anglicans for a mechanism whereby they could come into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining the good things from their Anglican tradition.

At the priests’ retreat, we were full of questions about the new ordinariate. Over the last seven years the answers have come clear.

Three ordinariates have been established: in the U.K. the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham; in the U.S., the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter; and in Australia, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

These personal ordinariates have their own bishop or, if he is a married former Anglican, an ordinary. They have a Vatican-approved Anglican-style liturgy, their own clergy, religious orders and autonomous governance.

One of the hallmarks of the Anglican Ordinariates is the enthusiasm and involvement of the laypeople. Although the institution was devised and established by Rome, the influence and initiative has been from the grass roots.

I spoke to Shane Schaetzel, a layman in Missouri who heard about the new Ordinariates and who saw them as a great opportunity and got busy establishing a local Anglican style Catholic community.

Longenecker_ Shane, what is your own family faith background?

Schaetzel: My father comes from a long line of Lutherans, my mother comes from the Southern Baptist tradition of the Appalachian Mountains in Western Tennessee. So I was baptized in the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church, but raised in the American Baptist Church.

At the age of 20 I started attending an Evangelical Church called Calvary Chapel. There I met my wife, a former Methodist, and trained for ministry.

When and why did you feel drawn to the Catholic faith?

The draw to the Catholic faith began in the late 1990s, as I studied the Church Fathers and the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. These helped me gain an appreciation for the liturgical side of worship. The high church liturgy of The Episcopal Church seemed to offer the kind of solemnity and reverence we were looking for.

It was the Anglican liturgy that first drew us into the Eucharist as the focal point of Christian life. Then it was the Eucharist that drew us into the Catholic Church.

How did you go about starting an Ordinariate community?

I initially checked with some friends, to see if there would be an interest. Then I approached my diocesan Bishop, James V. Johnston Jr., about the possibility of starting a prayer group using the Daily Office from the Anglican Use, Book of Divine Worship.

Johnston was extremely supportive. I cannot stress enough how important it was at that time to get the blessing of the local bishop, nor can I express enough the magnitude of assistance and encouragement that he provided.

Our group began meeting for Evening Prayer in early 2010. In late 2014 the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter provided a priest to celebrate mass for us once a quarter. This stabilized our group, and we were able to draw in some new converts to the Catholic faith.

In 2015 we were given St. George as our patron and officially recognized as a Church community. In 2016, the Ordinariate provided a parochial administrator to care for our community, who now says Mass for us weekly, and celebrates weekly Evening Prayer.

How large is your community?

Currently we are at about 30 people, but we get new visitors all the time, and many of them are people seeking to become Catholic.

Where did you start worshiping as a community?

Johnston initially provided space at a local parish for us to begin our Evening Prayer services. When our first Ordinariate priest arrived for quarterly celebration of mass, we remained at the local Catholic parish.

However, when our parochial administrator arrived for regular celebration of Mass, the diocese allowed us to use a large swath of land in Republic, Missouri, which has three buildings on it. One serves as a rectory for our parochial administrator and his family. Another serves as a chapel and church office. A third will likely serve as a guesthouse for visiting Ordinariate personnel.

Do you have your own priest? What is his relationship to the ordinariate HQ in Houston,Texas?

Yes, our parochial administrator is Father Chori Seraiah, a married former Anglican priest, who is now a Roman Catholic priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. Seraiah also works to assist at some local parishes in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

What do you reply to those who say the Ordinariate is divisive and “sheep stealing”?

The Ordinariate has always been an institution for those who want it, and in both communions, Anglican and Catholic, there has always been only a certain group of people who want it.

This is an attempt to help a small group of Christians who felt separated from both the Anglican church and the Catholic Church, not an attempt to steal sheep from the Episcopal Church or from other Catholic parishes.

The Anglican patrimony is a beautiful liturgical tradition, but it’s not for everyone. It has a distinctively English feel to it, and draws heavily upon the medieval Sarum Rite. Some Catholics will love it, others will not.

It’s been my experience that good and faithful Catholics fall on both sides of that.

In what way is the Ordinariate a positive move forward ecumenically?

Authentic ecumenism begins with dialogue, but it doesn’t end there. There has to be a goal dialogue moves toward, and that goal must always be unity.

It seems that modern ecumenism has in many cases been stalled in endless dialogue. Real unity must be the goal, and the ordinariates are the first tangible sign of accomplishing that in the Western world.

Sects demand uniformity, but the Catholic Church exists in unity, not uniformity. Unity draws different people, of different traditions, into one common faith.

The ordinariates represent a positive step in that direction. As Catholics, we must all have one faith, but when it comes to liturgy, traditions, customs and sensibilities, there is room for variety. Indeed, this variety only makes the Catholic Church stronger and enriches everybody within her.

In this sense, the ordinariates are the “next step” in ecumenical relations.

Isn’t this just another traditionalist throwback, an exercise in ecclesiastical nostalgia like other traditionalist movements?

I’m going to have to take issue with the word “throwback” here! All of Catholicism is a “throwback,” isn’t it? The modern Church is built on the medieval Church which is built on the ancient church which goes back to the Apostles.

What a throwback!

The real question here is: are we just another “traditionalist movement?” Traditional is when one uses tradition to point one toward a higher direction, like a doctrinal truth, for example. A traditionalist, on the other hand, is one who defends tradition solely for its own sake and nothing more, as if the tradition was more important than the thing it signifies.

A traditionalist is an ideologue, one who loves tradition is an idealist. So in answer to that question, we are traditional, but not traditionalist.

How might the ordinariates bring new life and unique gifts to the Catholic Church?

I think the ordinariates remind mainstream Catholics of a time nearly forgotten, a time before the Reformation when Western Christians were relatively united, each language and culture having some of its own unique liturgical styles to go along with it.

In observing the Anglican patrimony in action, mainstream Roman Catholics will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Roman Patrimony. In addition, we now have a whole new body in the Catholic Church that exists primarily of converts, and this is going to bring an entirely new perspective and energy into the mainstream Church.

How might the ordinariates evangelize non-Catholic Christians?

We’ve already seen this happen at St. George. Some of our new members are former Baptists, having no Anglican history at all. So it just goes to show that one doesn’t need to be an Anglican to be attracted to the Anglican patrimony!

The Anglican patrimony has been a fountain of culture and spirituality for English-speaking people for centuries, but the stream of English spirituality broke away at the Reformation.

Bringing Anglican style worship and spirit into full communion with the Catholic Church doesn’t just preserve it. It renews and energizes it. In time, this will also renew Catholic culture in the Anglophone world.

Granted, that may still be a long way off, but I believe the long-term effect is inevitable.

How have the people in your part of the country responded to the formation of this community?

We’ve had mixed reactions. Those who understand what we’re about are usually enthusiastic. Those who misunderstand are usually tepid and reserved.

For Catholics, the biggest challenge has been just understanding that we are Catholic too, and that we’re not some kind of breakaway sect. Anglicans and Methodists pretty much understand what we’re about, and those who are interested are now joining us.

In our area, here in the Ozarks, the largest pool of Christians are Baptist and Pentecostal, and when it comes to our relations with them, its no different than any other Catholic parish: they are polite but suspicious.

However, there is a thirst for liturgical worship among many Evangelicals. Maybe our English style doesn’t seem as threatening or foreign as some other forms of Catholicism, so that means they can find in the Ordinariate a bridge across the Tiber.

Historic Church of England diocese runs out of cash

ruth-gledhill Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Contributing Editor 08 July 2016

 

Wiki
Rochester Cathedral

A historic diocese in the Church of England has frozen clergy stipends, abandoned rectory repairs and is planning to rent out unused vicarages to private tenants in a bid not to run out of money.

The diocese, founded by St Augustine in 604 and one of 10 dioceses that date from the seventh century or before, has for “some years” been “spending more than it has received in income,” according to the Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff.

In a letter to clergy, church wardens and parochial church councils, he says that he and the chairman of the diocesan board of finance are explaining “the financial difficulties which we face as a diocese”.

Langstaff says Rochester has been drawing on reserves built up over many years. The accounts for last year show a deficit between spending and income of £604,000.

Langstaff says: “This means that our present position is worse than expected because, while this has also been funded from reserves, those general reserves are now almost exhausted.”

He warns that it is “essential” the diocese moves back to a situation where spending is no more than income.

The agreed deficit budget of £557,000 for this year will also be exceeded without “significant” action, he warns, saying: “The remaining reserves are not sufficient to fund this deficit.”

An extract from first page of the Rochester letter

An extract from the second page of the Rochester letter

As a result, all “discretionary” spending will now stop. No more vicarages or rectories will be repaired unless necessary on health or safety grounds, or to keep wind and water out. Training will be cut, all vacancies are being frozen and clergy stipends are being frozen. When parishes are vacant, the vicarages are to be let out to try and make extra cash.

“The longer term solutions lie in, we prayerfully hope, an increase in income from parishes together with a reduction in the overall number of clergy.”

The average cost of a priest is £60,000 per year. At the same time, parishes have been giving £230,000 less than is needed this year. If each churchgoing Anglican in Rochester gave an extra 25p a week, the diocese would receive an extra £331,500.

The Rochester diocese serves a population of 1.3 million and has 239 churches in 216 parishes. Resourcing this ministry requires skill, expertise, safeguarding provision, legal and other services.

“These are challenging times ahead for the diocese as a whole, and all of us, both lay and ordained, have a shared responsibility to respond to the challenges that are now before us if we are to continue to grow God’s Kingdom in this place,” says Langstaff.

Rev Peter Ould, a banking consultant who is a priest in the Canterbury diocese, told Christian Today: “If we take the letter at face value it seems to indicate that the diocese has consistently run a large deficit for a number of years with no serious attempt made until now to remedy that situation. To wait until the coffers are actually empty before you put in even the limited kind of cash flow management measures that the diocese say they have now implemented, strikes me as irresponsible. It’s certainly the kind of behaviour that might, in the commercial world, lead someone who was responsible to consider very carefully their position.”

Christian Today has reached out to the Church of England for a comment.

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