“Jesus is with us” is our DNA – Archbishop of Myanmar preaches closing sermon of Global South


These notes of the sermon by Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo taken at the time do not claim to be verbatim.

Christians in Myanmar have shined the light of the Gospel there for 200 years. Myanmar has one hundred and thirty four ethnic groups, but Buddhists are the majority community.

Through Christians the light of world shines. By doing social missions, health and education, many ethnic minority groups have become Christians and the life of the people of Myanmar has been lifted up.

During the 1950s this light was covered up by the then government who announced that Buddhism was the state religjon. Many ethnic groups stood against this. This triggered the world’s longest civil war. It has lasted for 65 years and is not over yet.

Myanmar has experienced tears and blood for 65 years. Christians have been reduced to being second class citizens. Christianity was regarded as being an expression of neo-colonialism. Light was covered by darkness.

How did Christians shine their lights under this thick cloud?

I turn you to the Great Commission in Matthew 28 verse 18: “All power is given to me in heaven and earth.” We cannot compete with the world as we are weak and imperfect. Christians form 6.2% of the population of Myanmar. We have no power or authority economically, politically, or socially. Yet Christianity has never been damaged by weakness in the last sixty years. Rather it has been growing gradually with nothing to rely on except God and his power.

Christianity has been growing gradually in very difficult situations only because of the power of Jesus Christ who is ruling and guiding every event and circumstance. Even though our light is covered by the basket of poverty and discrimination, we can still serve God as light to the nation. Light given by Christ did not disappear only because of the power and love of Jesus Christ and his commission: “Go and teach all nations baptizing them in name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

We note the suffering we have been passing through. But God is everything. The mission of the church is God’s mission led by God himself. We are just instruments of God, God teaches us to have a mindset of total dependence on Him, not on other resources, so that the power of Jesus can flow through us in the right way. In the process of our struggle, Christ assures us he is with us.

Sometimes we cannot even worship together because of our church’s plight. All that is left is to make personal deep prayers. Mostly God gave us answers which are beyond our prayers. Christ keeps his promise. He also teaches us to keep his commands.

‘Jesus with us’ has become the DNA of church of Province of Myanmar. By this DNA God helps us uncover the basket and that we be found faithful. God never lost sight of his people to be the light of the world. The key is his promise – to be with you even to the end of the world.

When people of the world lost the knowledge of God, God called Abraham and Israel.

When Israel lost its calling, God called through Holy Spirit a new people to be the light.

When the Catholic Church broke with the teaching of Scripture, there appeared protesting churches – the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

When darkness descended again – God called GAFCON and the Global South to establish his kingdom and his light.

How will we be found faithful among all the challenges we face?

Satan has been trying cover Christianity with the basket of human egocentric desires. We are not able or called to address this with our own skills and resources. The answer according to the experience of Myanmar is found in Matthew 28 18 – all power is given to Jesus who promises “I am with you always.”

Jesus Christ is with us in every time and everywhere in every circumstance and so is his power.

Let us work together as Global South and GAFCON to uncover the basket and to be the light of the nations.

CAIRO: Mother proud of her two sons who did not renounce Jesus as they were beheaded by ISIS

By David W. Virtue in Cairo
Archbishop Mouneer Anis, Global South chairman and Egyptian Anglican Archbishop said he met the mother of two men who were beheaded by ISIS last year, and she told him that she thanked God that her two sons did not renounce Jesus, and she would have been ashamed if they had. ISIS killed 21 men that day. “I gave my two sons to Jesus,” she told him.

“I thank my God that my two sons did not denounce Jesus; it is an honor and privilege that they died faithful,” she told Anis.

The Archbishop said that the men were saying, “Oh, Lord Jesus” as they were having their throats cut, but they refused to denounce the Lord.

Anis said these people were uneducated Coptic orthodox Christians, but they had a simple faith in Jesus and they were faithful unto death. “They were ordinary laborers with no theological education but they were not going to denounce Jesus,” he said.

Anis described the present state of Christians in the Anglican Communion as a “faithful remnant”.

Some 100 global Anglican leaders are meeting in Cairo to reflect on the gospel in the modern world, staying faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ in a Communion torn by ‘heresies distressed.’


Global South, GAFCON and two Popes


From Chris Sugden in Cairo

The sixth conference of the Global South Primates of the Anglican Communion opened at All Saints Cathedral Cairo on Monday evening October 3rd.

The chairman and host Archbishop Mouneer Anis welcomed Archbishops and their representatives from fifteen provinces and guests from the Anglican Church of North America and the UK, along with representatives of the Egyptian government and foreign embassies.

The preacher at the opening communion service was Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the chairman of GAFCON. The Papal Nuncio brought a greeting from Pope Francis and greetings were also given by representatives of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II and of the Grand Imam of Al-Hazar.

Archbishop Okoh preached on the theme of peace. As he recalled the conflicts in Syria, Nigeria, and Somalia and terrorism in Kenya and Uganda, he noted that while the Church has the peace of the Lord which does not depend on outward circumstances, such circumstances do disorient people and interfere with their wellbeing. As children of peace, the people of God have the responsibility to be peacemakers, and need to take into account justice and fairness in so doing. Referring to intense discussions in the Anglican Communion on sexuality, he said that the choice was between the apostolic faith and new age faith. He called on the gathered bishops to be faithful.

In his opening address, Archbishop Mouneer made it very clear that the conference would reflect on the lessons from the history of the Church in North Africa where for example Athanasius of Alexandria stood against the Arian heresy which was supported by the state. Though the world was against him, Athanasius stood against the false teaching adopted by majority of the church. But in the end the Arians disappeared and the orthodox churches flourished,

Archbishop Mouneer urged the primates and bishops to stay faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ received through the apostles for “truth will prevail in the end”. His hope was that during the coming days they would find ways to deal with these challenges of false teachings which undermine the authority of the scripture, and gave as an example the redefinition of marriage by same-sex marriage or approval of same-sex relationships by prayers of blessing, These were described by the Primates at Canterbury in January 2016 as a fundamental departure from the teaching of Anglican provinces for which Lambeth 1,10 represents the standard which recognises marriage only between a man and a woman. “The whole truth is revealed to whole church,” he said. “Unilateral decisions have torn the fabric of the communion over the last 13 years, as some provinces went on their way without regard to the rest.” “Some churches are pushing a new form of ideological slavery on us and we must and resist financial and ideological slavery.”

Noting the many challenges in their own Global South societies of polygamy, tribalism, corruption, the harsh treatment of women, false teachings of the prosperity gospel, of Jehovah’s witnesses and the mormons, and the terrible statistics of displaced people, poverty and ill health, Archbishop Mouneer concluded: “We cannot focus on the faults of others while neglecting the needs of our own people. The Global South needs a theological framework – a statement of faith or covenant of what we subscribe to, and a strong structure to guarantee out sustainability, for without unity we cannot sustain our response to these challenges.”

The conference meets until Saturday 8th October.

Pictures here http://anglicanmainstream.org/global-south-conference-opens-in-cairo/

Global South Conference opens in Cairo

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the chairman of Gafcon, was the preacher at the opening communion service of the Global South Conference in All Saints Cathedral Cairo on Monday October 3rd, presided over by the chairman of the Global South, Archbishop Mouneer Anis.


The ‘Be Positive’ message: are we substituting God’s grace with our own?


by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

How should Christians live “in a culture which often either ignores faith or aggressively opposes it? What are Christians to do in… an environment, where traditional attitudes to morality are suddenly becoming extreme and unacceptable?” These questions were asked at a recent symposium hosted by an organisation called Threads UK, part of the Evangelical Alliance. According to the report in Christian Today, the main speaker, David Kinnaman, gave some examples of a ‘new morality’ based around a cult of the Self that has taken hold in our culture. He went on to give some suggestions as to how to live effectively as Christians. Firstly, he said, don’t offer any public critique of the new morality, or try to change culture in any way that appears like the Church telling others what to do. Secondly, be a “faithful presence” (ie just be where you are as a Christian, without necessarily saying anything about your faith), and a ‘positive’ influence, offering hope instead of despair. According to the report, in the discussion which followed, this mission strategy was largely supported by those present.

A similar strategy appears to be supported by Archbishop Justin Welby, as shown by his recent sermon to the global Mothers Union at their 140th anniversary celebration. He acknowledged the reality of rapid cultural shifts in relation to the family, mentioning changing attitudes to same sex relationships, cohabitation and divorce. But he did not attempt to explain the reasons for these trends, critique them, or promote a biblical model for family life: a father and a mother who are committed in love to each other and who pass on their values to their children. Instead, according to the Archbishop, the Mothers’ Union should accept the reality of different types of household arrangements, and offer help and hope to them.

We’ve all heard the arguments which advocate a ‘positive’ approach to living and witnessing in contemporary Western culture: “Christians should not just be known for what they are against…create, don’t complain…don’t curse the darkness but light a candle”. The ‘be positive’ approach is partly reacting against a grumpy, ultra-conservative legalism and opposition to change, and a despairing withdrawal into a ghetto, neither of which are helpful. It focuses on some key Gospel emphases: prayer, evangelism, and compassionate community service, and is born out of a genuine desire to improve the poor image of the church which is an obstacle to mission. It is not advocating a liberal capitulation to culture, like some Anglican Bishops and theologians who say that the ideas behind the moral and sexual revolution are actually from God and should be embraced (for example, Paul Bayes, Alan Wilson, Barry Morgan, Adrian Thatcher).

But as a biblically orthodox Anglican response to living in contemporary Western culture, is this adequate? Here are some reasons why just being ‘positive’ is defective:

  1. It often appears to be more embarrassed by Christian righteousness than grieved by cultural ungodliness. If being ‘positive’ means saying nothing about (for example) sexual immorality, but criticizing Christians who bravely oppose it, then we are not following the Psalmist who said: “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” (Psalm 119:136).
  2. Jesus did not command his disciples to just be a ‘faithful presence’ but to “go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey”. Part of the church’s reflection on its place in the community and nation involves working out how to teach obedience to the ways of Christ. Should it just be to the church members? Jesus’ words and the history of Christian mission suggests that it is more than this, and certainly the Church of England and Anglicanism around the world has always believed that its intentional teaching and discipling role extends to community and nation building, not just pastoring the gathered congregation.
  1. We know that many of the cultural leaders in the moral revolution have a horror of the Church being a kind of ‘moral policeman, and secularists as a whole want to remove the influence of religion from public life altogether. Does this mean that Christians should oblige by steering clear of anything that looks like an effort to critique society’s values and try to change them for the better? Should we restrict ourselves in terms of our ‘public face’ to inoffensive social action and evangelism? The danger with this is twofold: the church fails to take a stand against evil, corruption and injustice outside its walls, and it becomes afraid to teach clearly about controversial issues to its own members.
  1. It’s sometimes assumed that what puts people off the church is the ‘thou shalt not’ message about sex outside of marriage. All the church has to do, then, is to apologise for its treatment of gay, divorced, cohabiting people, give no moral guidance on these issues and try and steer the conversation towards God’s love, options for our spirituality, and our good works. But this is quite simply a non-Gospel. Both Jesus (eg Matthew 15:19) and Paul (eg Romans 1:21-27) use sexual immorality as perhaps the most obvious visible sign (among many others) of a heart in rebellion against God, the answer to which is repentance, faith and forgiveness. A church which downplays the seriousness of sexual and other sin is covering up the fatal problem of heart-sickness, rebellion and judgement, and so covers up God’s solution of grace in Christ, substituting it with our own.
  1. The simplistic ‘be positive’ message relies too much on the biblical model of Jesus in first century Palestine, and does not pay enough attention to other historical eras. Jesus appeared not to criticize the secular Roman authorities, but was constantly warning against the Pharisees with their strict moral teaching undergirded with hypocrisy and lack of love and grace. It’s very easy to apply this model today and see the evangelical cultural critics as modern day Pharisees. But while the Gospels continue to speak timelessly of the ministry of Christ to our human condition, the context of Christians in the West today is more similar to other biblical periods. For example, Judah in the late monarchy required the ministry of prophets, warning the leaders of God’s people of compromise and apostasy bringing God’s judgement. Or the time of the early church, when Paul led the apostles in working out how to take the Gospel to a pagan Gentile audience, and faced conflict from religious and civil authorities on the way. Or perhaps the exile in Babylon and the diaspora into the Roman empire – the need to form distinctive, counter-cultural communities, preserving the vision and values of God’s rule, and influencing society from below.

The church must beware of being driven by fear of journalists and loud social media voices. They love to portray a simple narrative of nasty, bigoted conservative Christians vs. nice, loving, liberal ones. It would be good if we were known for believing what the Bible teaches, acting on it, and being ready to explain our hope, even if it’s not always popular.

AMiE Unveils Church Planting Plan for Britain


AMiE Pioneering from Anglican Mission in England on Vimeo.

What is our desire?

When Jesus looked at the crowds he was filled with compassion. He was deeply moved as he saw vast numbers of lost people. This love for sinners led Jesus to take action. According to Mark 6:34, “…he began teaching them many things.”

AMiE is a mission society that was established by GAFCON to multiply and strengthen healthy Anglican churches in England. Stirred with compassion, we want to assist in the evangelisation of England by starting many new churches. Our gospel ambition is to pioneer 25 AMiE churches by 2025 and 250 by 2050.

How are we planning to do this?

We will establish a map of promising and needy places to plant new gospel churches. We will do this through conversations at a national, regional and local level. We will build on the information that has already been gathered by other networks.

We will proactively seek out individuals to pioneer AMiE churches and to serve as Assistant Ministers. Those who lead AMiE churches will be men of appropriate character, gifting, training and experience. They will be approved by our selection process. We will also encourage Christians to relocate in order to join a church planting team.

Why plant with AMiE?

We aim to provide excellent Biblical church planting training to those in need of it. This will include initial advice, ongoing development and access to resources.

Our desire is to seed fund the first batch of AMiE church plants.

AMiE ministers will be supported by AMiE bishops. Since AMiE is connected to GAFCON, all AMiE churches will benefit from partnership with biblical Anglicans around the world.




1 Pioneer
Could you plant an AMiE church? Could you be an Assistant Minister? Could you lead the student work or the children’s ministry or the women’s ministry? Could you be an Apprentice? Or could you even relocate and join a core team in a new place?

2 Partner
Would you pray that God would make this gospel ambition a reality? Could your local Anglican church link with an AMiE church? An incredible partnership could flourish, involving prayer, ministry being funded and mutual training in evangelism and discipleship. Could you give financially? Imagine what we could achieve together. If 100 churches or individuals each pledged only £500 a year for 4 years, then £200,000 would be available to seed fund many new churches. AMiE would also love to support other church planting initiatives. We would be delighted to share wisdom and give advice to local church leaders about how they can pioneer new churches in their region. Please contact us for more information about what we can offer.

There is much to do. And of course we cannot do everything. But we have a great God whose arm is not too short to save and we have a great mandate to spread the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every postcode in this country. So filled with compassion, let’s pour ourselves out for Jesus and plant as many churches as we can. For more information about how to pioneer or partner with AMiE please email Lee McMunn.



The Parable of the Train Traveller

 Bible and Mission

His disciples asked him, ‘Teacher, tell us: What is good pastoral care?’
He replied, ‘A certain man wanted to take a train from Cardiff to St. David.  Three priests
were standing on the platform with him. The man, who was terrified of train travel, asked‘Is this train safe?’  

The first priest, who believed that all train travel was safe, assured the man that it mattered not which train he took or where he travelled.  ‘You shall be safe,’ he stated firmly, ‘and know of a certainty that the Church has blessed this train.’  Then he gave the man an encouraging smile.  

The second priest, who had planned to go to Oxford, said, ‘I shall change my ticket, travel with you, sit beside you to encourage you along the way, and have shared conversations.’  With that, he climbed onto the train with the man, helping him with his baggage.  

The third priest, who moments earlier had checked the train news on his Smartphone, yelled, ‘Get off the train!  The bridge is out and you shall surely perish, all of you!’  

Then, turning to Peter, the teacher asked, ‘Which of the priests gave good pastoral care?’  ‘I suppose,’ answered Peter, ‘the second one, who stayed off his cell phone and gave the man his full attention and good company.’

Peter Jensen on “The Power of the Laity”

Peter Jensen

It’s odd.  Sometimes you would think that the Church is the business of the clergy only, and the laity count for little or nothing.

Of course, earlier generations even used language (‘going into the Church’ when they meant entering the ministry) which betrayed such a way of thinking. As well, the services of decades ago were entirely conducted by the clergy with little or no lay participation, at least in my part of the world.

But, for many decades now there has been a recognition that ‘God’s Frozen People’ (to use the title of a popular book from the 1960s) needed to be unfrozen and the opportunities for public ministry have grown enormously. The biblical teaching that the church is the Body of Christ has become central to our way of thinking and the gifts of God’s people recognised, at least in theory.

Of course this is consistent with Anglicanism since the Reformation. The Bible then became a gift to the whole church, and people were encouraged to listen to it in their own language, to own it, to read it aloud to their families. When it comes to the Scriptures, we are meant to, ‘hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them’ as the Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent says.  Inherent in the idea of getting people to hear and read the Bible is a view that we are all accountable for what we read and how we respond to the Lordship of Christ.

Access to the Bible empowers the laity. It enables them to test all things for themselves. It enables them to live the Christian life both inside and outside the Church.

It is significant that when the Apostle Paul speaks directly to the Church in Corinth about the way in which various patterns of behaviour were inconsistent with the gospel, he does not address the ministers of the church, but the church itself, every member of it. 1 Corinthians is not a note from the bishop to ‘his’ clergy, an ad clerum.  Paul regards the discipline and the obedience of the church to be the responsibility of all.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am a Bishop myself and I believe in due order and responsibility. But I also recognise that all the members of the Church, have an ultimate responsibility under God for the spiritual and theological well-being of their Church. Essentially, they are not to support false teaching or false teachers and they are to know the truth and to test what they see and hear by it (see 2 Peter 2, for example).

This obligation has become increasingly important. One of the things that is constantly being said is that although many clergy are clear on the authority of the Bible and its teaching on sexual ethics, they will not be able to carry their congregations with them.  If this is true, it is a summons to committed Christians to support the clergy by insisting on the full, clear teaching of the Bible and accepting the consequences of taking a stand for that truth.

The spiritual maturity of the laity involves an understanding of their role and responsibilities. Indeed, in a Church led by Bishops the lay voice is even more important. Clergy are often beholden to Bishops for their livelihood and prospects, and may feel inhibited about taking action or speaking out. Laity have a special responsibility to speak and act with clarity, conviction and truth to Bishops. A Bishop is sometimes more inclined to listen to lay opinion than he is to the words of the clergy.

There is a danger that the present controversies about human sexuality will be portrayed as an arcane discussion between clergy perhaps even a political discussion. As such, the laity can ignore these matters and give themselves energetically to the ministry of the local church as they do at the moment.

This would be a tragic mistake. Wrong decisions on this matter will be the end of the Church as a witness to the truth that is in Jesus Christ and will turn it into an ever-declining religious club. Both clergy and laity must take responsibility to speak and live the truth and in particular to support those clergy who by speaking the truth of God’s word will come under pressure to be silent.


The Modern Gospel is Selling Us Short — And Sending People To Hell

Sept. 10, 2016

Plenty of concerned Christian leaders, — men such as Leonard Ravenhill, Ray Comfort and Paul Washer — have long noted how the gospel presentation so many evangelicals offer today is a far cry from that which is found in the Bible. Our offers of the gospel tend to differ markedly from that of Jesus and the early disciples.

Today we speak about accepting Christ or asking him into our heart or having a personal relationship with Jesus. These phrases and concepts have some truth to them, but they are often far too lean and vacuous to do much good — they certainly do not summarise the biblical call for faith, repentance and a life surrendered to Christ.

We have watered down the gospel message, in other words, and therefore the way we present it to sinners is watered down as well. So we are selling people short, and worse yet, we may be misleading many into thinking they are part of Christ’s Kingdom when in fact they are not.

Too often a once-off altar call is seen as the be all and end all of Christian salvation. But an emotional reaction decades ago is not what biblical conversion is all about. A changed life is. Too often folks will sing a dozen choruses of “Just As I Am” and leave a gospel meeting just as they were.

As mentioned, many concerned Christians have challenged the modern gospel understanding and gospel presentation. For example, I have spoken elsewhere about the important 1970 book by Walter Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? See here: billmuehlenberg.com/2014/09/14/carnal-christians/

Today I want to run with a few more Christian leaders who have spoken to this. One of them died over 50 years ago and one of them wrote a piece on this topic just today. The former is the great A. W. Tozer. He of course constantly spoke about the God-centred biblical gospel as opposed to the man-centred modern gospel.

Let me share just one of his writings on this. In the 1964 book That Incredible Christian, we have a collection of his writings, and in it we have chapter 3: “What It Means to Accept Christ”. He reminds us that there is nothing more important than making sure we got this issue right. Here is a part of this vital chapter:

Being spiritually lazy we naturally tend to gravitate toward the easiest way of settling our religious questions for ourselves and others; hence the formula “Accept Christ” has become a panacea of universal application, and I believe it has been fatal to many. Though undoubtedly an occasional serious-minded penitent may find in it all the instruction he needs to bring him into living contact with Christ, I fear that too many seekers use it as a short cut to the Promised Land, only to find that it has led them instead to “a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.”

The trouble is that the whole “Accept Christ” attitude is likely to be wrong. It shows Christ applying to us rather than us to Him. It makes Him stand hat-in-hand awaiting our verdict on Him, instead of our kneeling with troubled hearts awaiting His verdict on us. It may even permit us to accept Christ by an impulse of mind or emotions, painlessly, at no loss to our ego and no inconvenience to our usual way of life.

For this ineffectual manner of dealing with a vital matter we might imagine some parallels; as if, for instance, Israel in Egypt had “accepted” the blood of the Passover but continued to live in bondage, or the prodigal son had “accepted” his father’s forgiveness and stayed on among the swine in the far country. Is it not plain that if accepting Christ is to mean anything there must be moral action that accords with it?

Allowing the expression “Accept Christ” to stand as an honest effort to say in short what could not be so well said any other way, let us see what we mean or should mean when we use it.

To accept Christ is to form an attachment to the Person of our Lord Jesus altogether unique in human experience. The attachment is intellectual, volitional and emotional. The believer is intellectually convinced that Jesus is both Lord and Christ; he has set his will to follow Him at any cost and soon his heart is enjoying the exquisite sweetness of His fellowship.
This attachment is all-inclusive in that it joyfully accepts Christ for all that He is. There is no craven division of offices whereby we may acknowledge His Saviourhood today and withhold decision on His Lordship till tomorrow. The true believer owns Christ as his All in All without reservation. He also includes all of himself, leaving no part of his being unaffected by the revolutionary transaction.

Further, his attachment to Christ is all-exclusive. The Lord becomes to him not one of several rival interests, but the one exclusive attraction forever. He orbits around Christ as the earth around the sun, held in thrall by the magnetism of His love, drawing all his life and light and warmth from Him. In this happy state he is given other interests, it is true, but these are all determined by his relation to his Lord.

That we accept Christ in this all-inclusive, all-exclusive way is a divine imperative. Here faith makes its leap into God through the Person and work of Christ, but it never divides the work from the Person. It never tries to believe on the blood apart from Christ Himself, or the cross or the “finished work.” It believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole Christ without modification or reservation, and thus it receives and enjoys all that He did in His work of redemption, all that He is now doing in heaven for His own and all that He does in and through them.

To accept Christ is to know the meaning of the words “as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). We accept His friends as our friends, His enemies as our enemies, His ways as our ways, His rejection as our rejection, His cross as our cross, His life as our life and His future as our future.

If this is what we mean when we advise the seeker to accept Christ we had better explain it to him. He may get into deep spiritual trouble unless we do.

The brand new article on this comes from Matt Walsh. He speaks about how we can carelessly throw around the phrase, ‘having a personal relationship with Jesus’. For some it can become an excuse for carnality and disobedience, and cover a multitude of sins.

He notes how many offer the biblically false idea that a relationship with Christ precludes having to worry about rules, regulations, obedience, and keeping Christ’s commands. But both always go together. He writes:

No, the Bible never mentions our “personal relationship” explicitly, neither did the Apostles use the catchphrase when they were out converting the masses, but a similar idea was expressed many times in Scripture. In James, for instance: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Or in Jude: “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Or by Jesus Himself: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

Indeed, the entire New Testament is the story of Jesus coming to Earth as a person and sacrificing Himself so that we could have salvation. The Bible tells us of a personal God so desperate to bring us into eternal life that He sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. It’s clear that God wants an intimate connection with us, and that can only begin when we realize our need for Him and develop a deep desire to know and serve Him.
And therein lies the “personal relationship,” if you want to put it that way. Or you could put it as St. Augustine did: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Maybe we came up with “personal relationship with Jesus” because we’re not as poetic or eloquent as the early Christians. It seems we often look for blander and broader language to convey the same ancient ideas. But however we phrase it, we do in fact need a personal relationship — an intimate connection, a deep bond, a true union — with Jesus. My friend was right about that much, at least.

The problem arises when we think we can have the relationship on our own terms; when we forget who is the master and who is the servant; when we get confused about who is the Father and who is the child; when we emphasize “my” and not “Jesus,” as if we’re the ones calling the shots. Notice that whenever the Bible talks about you and me, it uses terms like children, sheep, disciples, servants. The Lord is the Father, the Shepherd, the Master, the Savior. The relationship — our “personal relationship” — is defined for us, quite helpfully. Our roles are made clear. And we have to fulfill our role or the relationship cannot bear fruit.

He continues:

The fact is, all relationships require loyalty, devotion, honesty, humility, and active participation from both parties. A relationship with an authority figure, like a parent, requires obedience and a humble willingness to follow the rules. Our relationship with God is not an exception to this. It is the absolute prime example. Our relationship with the Divine does not give us a license to do whatever we want. It calls us to do what He wants.

Walsh concludes:

And, ultimately, if we really don’t want Jesus — even if we say we do — we won’t get Him. If we don’t want a deep and meaningful relationship with Him, we won’t have it. We can’t have it. Jesus can’t force us to love Him. If we do love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15), or at least try. The moment we give up trying — the moment we throw away His commandments and try to have a “relationship” without them — is the moment we give up on the relationship completely.

For a long time now evangelicalism has drifted away from the biblical gospel. That can only mean that a lot of people who think they are Christians are not — they have drifted away from God. Only a biblical gospel can save people, not a watered down, man-pleasing gospel.

There is nothing more important that we must get right than how we are made right with God. If we get that wrong, we get everything wrong.


Reflections on the Consecration of the Eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh


David Wilson

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . (from the OT lesson)

As so it was, as the Rev James L. Hobby Jr. became the Rt. Rev. James L. Hobby, Jr. eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh on Saturday September 10, 2016.   Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, the Most Rev. Foley Beach, conferred the episcopal mantle upon him with co-consecrators the Most Rev. Robert Duncan Archbishop Emeritus and seventh Bishop of Pittsburgh as well as the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey Bishop of the Mid-Atlantic Diocese and the Rt. Rev. Neil Lebhar, Bishop of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese and Jim Hobby’s former diocesan bishop.

It was a great day in the life of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, in the life of the ACNA and in the life of global Anglican Christianity as well over 600 congregants joined 3 Archbishops (Beach, Duncan and Tito Zavala Abp of South America), and 23 other bishops – mostly from the ACNA but also including a bishop from the Anglican Church of Canada (which was somewhat brave given the level of hostility the Primate of the ACoC, Fred Hiltz has heaped upon the ACNA within the structures of the Anglican Communion).  The bishop who ordained Jim a deacon and a priest, the Rt. Rev. Alden Hathaway was also present in the congregation.  Jim joins four other grads of Trinity School for Ministry as bishops in the United States – all of whom are in the ACNA or Diocese of South Carolina. Three of the four were present in the service, Mark Lawrence, Ken Ross and Mark Zimmerman.

The bishops were joined in the procession by 18 deacons and 70 priests of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, at least 9 bishop’s wives, numerous members of the Hobby family (many acting as presenters), the Dean and faculty members of Trinity School for Ministry, leaders of the Anglican Global Mission Partners, and lay leaders and youth of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Lastly 8 ecumenical partners — judicatory heads, bishops and archbishops who are members of Christian Associates of Western Pennsylvania joined the procession as well.

The long procession formed in nearby Church of the Ascension and we marched on a warm, sunny day one city block to the Cathedral of St. Paul.  As we strolled we greeted the Pittsburgh police who held up the traffic on our behalf as we crossed the intersections.  At one point as we passed a PAT bus, the door opened and the female bus drive called out, “Glory to God, Alleluia, Praise the Lord”

After we entered the edifice, finished the stirring processional hymn and were all seated, Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh offered a warm welcome his Cathedral.  Later Bishop Trevor Walters of the Anglican Network in Canada (ACNA) delivered a stalwart sermon likening Jim Hobby’s call to that of 3rd century Cappadocian father, bishop and martyr Cyprian.

A light moment came when Jim Hobby was bopped on the head with a Bible by Foley Beach as he presented it to him and urged him to preach the Word of God.  A serious moment occurred when Jim was charged to “banish and drive away from the Church all strange and erroneous Doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and publicly to call upon others and encourage them to do the same?”   Had this charge been taken seriously in the postwar Episcopal Church by its bishops and other leaders and had it been retained in the 1979 BCP then perhaps the Church would never had needed to separate.  A moot point now.

A very moving, Spirit-filled, moment was the laying-on-of hands on Shari Hobby by the bishop’s wives and the seven or eight minutes of concentrated prayer on her behalf.

Then there was the awesome worship – majestic Anglican hymns being led by a magnificent pipe organ, mixed with old gospel tub-thumpers and the very best of contemporary Christian music led by marvelous praise band.  As the worship enveloped the Cathedral, the whole of the event was summed up in the words of songwriter Chris Tomlin, “How great is our God! Sing with me.  How great is our God!  And all will see – how great, how great is our God!”   Finally, the Dean and Rector of St Paul’s Father Chris Stubna said to a member of our Altar Guild as they were loading up, “Boy, you Anglicans love to sing!”    A great day it truly was.