ISIS destroys the the ancient Monastery of Mar Elian

“The Monastery of St. Elian was a Christian monastery near the town of Al-Qaryatayn in the Homs Governorate,” says Wikipedia. “Was”? Yes, the tense is accurate. It had stood there since the fifth century as a place of worship and spiritual inspiration, faithfully curating the bones of Mar Elian el-Sheikh – St Julian the Old – a Christian martyr from Emesa (modern Homs) who was murdered by his own father for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. The monastery is no more: “It was destroyed on 21 August 2015 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the Syrian Civil War,” we read.

It had long been a place of interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims. A 15th-century inscription just inside the entrance to the shrine read: “This is a holy place and everybody here is protected.” No more, of course. The entrance is now a pile of rubble, and any protection for Muslims or Christians who revered St Elian (or Sheikh Ahmed, as local Muslims called him) has also gone – dust to dust.

But it isn’t only the bricks and mortar – ancient, blessed and venerated as they were. ISIS / Islamic State / Daesh militia have kidnapped two priests: Fr Jacques Mourad, who was abducted in May 2015, and Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio has been missing since 2013. Funny how we hear more about the stones of the temple than the temples of the Holy Spirit.

Amidst the violence, brutality and annihilation of the apocalypse are the ravings of hordes of brown-eyed devils. They drive JCBs, cleansing the land of idolatry, and they carry swords, dripping with the blood of martyrs. They have not come for interfaith dialogue, but to judge the wicked. There is no pardon for those who are not chosen: just perpetual revenge and unbearable suffering in the murderous consummation decreed by Mohammed – so they say.

When the Disciples sat on the Mount of Olives and asked about the signs of his Second Coming and the end of the world, Jesus talked of wars and rumours of wars; of nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom; of famines, pestilences, earthquakes, deceivers, false prophets, betrayals, hate and iniquity.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2Tim 3:1-5).

Having a form of godliness but denying its power? Denying justice? Denying mercy? Denying peace? Denying love? We don’t have to look very far for that, do we?

Church of England Gay Activist Leader Frustrated at Logjam in House of Bishops

We still don’t have one single gay, bisexual bishop come out of the closet, says Colin Coward of Changing Attitude

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org

The leader of the Church of England’s most strident pansexual organization, Changing Attitude, launched an attack on the Church this week expressing his frustration that things are worse now than they have ever been for homosexuals. He said there is far more conflict and insecurity at Lambeth Palace and the House of Bishops to commit themselves to doing the right thing.

[The Rev.] Colin Coward, director of the unofficial lobby and pressure group, said things are worse now than they have ever been for LGBTQ persons despite what has been achieved at the political level by both labor and conservatives with marriage equality. The Church of England is not keeping up with the times, he added.

“What have we achieved? There was more courage 30 years ago. Last year the HOB voted 22 bishops in favor of equal marriage, one against, and 23 abstained or were not there. The majority did not approve of equal marriage,” he bewailed.

Expressing three parts outrage, indignation and despair, Coward opined, “We still don’t have a single gay/bisexual bishop that has been able to come out and reveal themselves.” He described the situation as “extraordinary” and a “huge problem for the Church.”

“We have a weird church culture with not a single bishop being honest about themselves. This affects their energy. We hear lots of good stories but also bad news stories,” he lamented.

Coward described the situation the Church is living in as “deeply conflicted” over whether or not gays and lesbians can marry or obtain pension rights. “It is worse now than ever,” he whined. “I don’t want to retire nor am I ready to retire.”

Coward said there is no formal split in the Communion but said there is a strong bloc that would like a formal schism to occur. “When GAFCON leaders met in London they talked about separating from the Church of England, but they do not represent the numbers that they say they do.

“They do not represent their own people only their own prejudices and passions and in creating an Anglican Communion to their likings. If they set themselves up they will find fierce and severe opposition within their own communities.

“When will something break the log jam…something really needs to happen…someone has to come out.”

Coward also blasted efforts of reparative therapists who offer hope for men and women who voluntarily choose to move from gay to straight. “You cannot approve or allow groups in the Church of England to practice reparative therapy. All professional bodies have rejected it as deeply damaging.”

He specifically blasted a conservative group called Christian Concern, which he described as a lobbying group against gay people and accused them of blocking doorways and moving outside in lobbying areas where Synod is held.

Coward said Synod got to be nice along the lines of “shared conversations” which he said the Church had been stuck with.

“I have been arguing not to tolerate a two year delay.” Coward said. Canon David Porter, the archbishop’s Director for Reconciliation, will bring up motions for discussion in 2017 with the intention of legislating for some kind of change in Church of England practice without upsetting conservatives.

Coward said he wanted to see the full blessing of same sex relationships. “We need to campaign vigorously for full equality for LGBTQI persons and in ministry and then we will have achieved the bottom line. Our ultimate goal won’t be reached until we reach that moment. Changing Attitude is going to hold their fire to the feet.”

END

COMMENTARY

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
August 4, 2015

It is entirely fictitious of Colin Coward to say that GAFCON Anglican provinces would find a fight on their hands if they separated from the Church of England. There would be no fierce opposition at all. To date there has been reluctance by the Global South Primates to separate themselves from Canterbury for a number of reasons, including the fact that there is an historic relationship that goes back to the formation of the Church of England. That doesn’t mean that one needs to go through Canterbury to get to Jesus, nonetheless the Global South stays within the Communion. Witness the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury was received politely when he visited some of the more orthodox African Anglican provinces like Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, but got no compromise on sexuality issues.

It is also another fiction to think that these African provinces would implode internally unless accommodation is made for homosexuals. Not going to happen. Witness what happened when President Barak Obama went to Kenya promoting homosexual and lesbian rights: the push back he got from President Uhuru Kenyatta saying Kenyans had more pressing concerns to deal with, including health, education, and “ensuring inclusivity of women.” He might have added that sodomy is not a human or civil right; it is a behavior that can have deadly consequences. The largest African Anglican provincial leaders have told VOL that they will never compromise on homosexuality for biblical, cultural, and societal reasons. It is a cultural aberration. Furthermore, they face the hostility of Islamic leaders who use the West’s embrace of homosexuality to kill Christians, something that Archbishop Justin Welby needs to get his head around and Something Colin Coward dutifully ignores.

On the subject of reparative therapy, which was “outlawed” by resolution at the Episcopal Church’s recent General Convention in Salt Lake City, the following needs to be said:

First, people who seek to change do so voluntarily, there is never any coercion. ANY attempt to procure change by a parent or friend is condemned.

Secondly, I have seen reparative therapy at work in London with such distinguished therapists as Jeffrey Satinover, M.D and Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, and it works. For sure, change is not instant, but it does occur. There are thousands of men and women who have “gone straight” with many happily married couples as living proof that change is possible.

Thirdly, Christianity is not always the motive to change and the Christian Faith is not used as a club or guilt machine to force change. Many find change possible through an encounter with Christ, but many do not. Change comes through self-knowledge, often without the driving force of faith.

For Mr. Coward to suggest that “all professional bodies have rejected it as deeply damaging,” is simply not true. There are still a goodly number of therapists willing to treat people with this affliction. I recently had dinner with a Christian clinical therapist (an Anglo-Catholic). I asked him if he would treat someone who was conflicted in their sexuality and he said he would.

On the subject of “shared conversations” we have heard this before. Such “sharing” always lead to capitulation like the “listening process” in The Episcopal Church. Orthodox Episcopalians were made to listen and listen and listen till they rolled over or had to leave TEC because they knew that such “listening” always leads to acceptance of a behavior they knew was unbiblical and medically dangerous.

Coward’s organization, which has its roots in the American Episcopal organization known as Integrity, will campaign and campaign till they break through with the very likelihood that the Church of England will do to the Global South what the Episcopal Church has done to its flailing orthodox wing and simply tell them that God is doing a “new thing” and the church wrote the Bible and can therefore rewrite it. At that time the vast majority of Anglicans might well form a more perfect union and bid the pansexual Western liberal Anglican community farewell.

END

Efforts to Silence Clergy Continue Apace

james-mcconnell-court-case

Christians in the U.S. worry that the day may be coming when they will no longer be able to freely speak their minds about their faith. But that day has already arrived in Canada, Europe, and the U.K.

In 2008, a Canadian Human Rights panel imposed a $5,000 fine on the Reverend Stephen Boisson for a letter he had written in 2002 to a small newspaper describing homosexual activists as immoral (the ruling was eventually overturned by a higher court). In the same year (2002), an Ontario court ordered a Catholic school to admit a homosexual teen and his older male lover to the school prom. In 2004, a Swedish pastor was sentenced to a month in prison for a sermon that criticized homosexuality. A year before that, Irish clergy were given notice that they could be prosecuted if they distributed a Vatican publication on same-sex relationships.

As in other parts of the world, homosexuals in the U.S are a protected class. Criticizing them from the pulpit (or any other venue) may soon be considered a hate crime. But homosexuals aren’t the only privileged group. In much of the Western world, Muslims have also acquired a most-favored status. Once again, the trend is most pronounced in Canada and across the Atlantic. Consider two recent headlines:

This August, James McConnell, an Evangelical Christian pastor, was charged by a Belfast court with making “grossly offensive” remarks about Islam. Local Muslims complained that on May 18, the Reverend McConnell had preached a sermon to his large congregation describing Islam as “heathen” and “satanic” McConnell, who rejected an “informed consent” warning that would have allowed him to avoid prosecution, now faces six months in prison.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, McConnell said he had no hate for Muslims: “My church funds medical care for 1,200 Muslim children in Kenya and Ethiopia. I’ve no hatred in my heart for Muslims, but I won’t be stopped from preaching against Islam.” Ironically, Dr. Raied al-Wazzan, the director of the Belfast Islamic Center and the chief complainant against McConnell, does seem to bear some animus against Christians. Speaking to the BBC in January 2015, he said, “Since the Islamic State took over, it [Mosul] has become the most peaceful city in the world.” That, after the Islamic State had killed or expelled all of Mosul’s Christian community of 60,000.

Al-Wazzan seems to be endorsing genocide. Why isn’t he on trial for hate speech? Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Susan Breen, an atheist journalist, raises that very question: “The fact that Dr. Al-Wazzan will be in the witness box, and not in the dock himself, reinforces Christians’ belief it is they alone who are being victimized and persecuted in our society.”

Rev. McConnell is certainly better off living in Belfast than in Mosul. But, as evidenced by his experience and by the recent Irish vote in favor of same-sex “marriage,” Ireland seems increasingly inhospitable to Christians and their “inflammatory” opinions. The trouble is, Pastor McConnell would probably not have fared much better in other parts of the Western world.

Take Canada. We’re grown accustomed to thinking of our neighbor to the north as a more liberal place than the U.S. But these days, it’s difficult to distinguish a liberal from a fascist. Canadian Human Rights Commissions have already put two prominent Canadian citizens (Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant) on trial for criticizing Islam. Fortunately, Steyn and Levant prevailed and even managed to bring about a repeal of the Canadian law which gave Human Rights Commissions the authority to conduct Star Chamber-style inquiries.

However, the liberalists are at it again. This summer a bill was introduced that would give new powers to the Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC) to combat hate speech and any speech that promotes “fear of the other.” The Commission’s president, Jacques Fremont, explained he would use the powers to sue “people who would write against … the Islamic religion … on a website or on a Facebook page.”

Pastor McConnell’s remarks could be construed as promoting “fear of the other,” but so could a lot of other things in our loose-constructionist societies. Anything but the most innocuous remarks about Islam and homosexuality can be interpreted as promoting fear of the other. And it’s not just pastors in pulpits who need to worry. If the bill is passed, any Canadian citizen expressing an incorrect opinion on a website or Facebook page could be liable to prosecution.

The upshot is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to discuss two of the most important issues of our time. In their own ways, both the marriage revolution movement and the Islamist movement pose major threats to civilization. The danger is that, for fear of ending up in court, few will dare to openly acknowledge the threats.

You may counter that the Reverend McConnell wouldn’t be facing jail if he had chosen his words more carefully—something a bit less provocative than “heathen” and “satanic.” There are two replies. First, what business is it of the State what he says? Short of inciting a mob with pitchforks and torches to attack the local mosque or church, the representatives of one religion ought to be free to criticize another religion. Freedom of religion should include the right to say what you think is wrong with another religion. Or, as McConnell put it, “I would defend the right of any Muslim cleric to preach against me or Christianity.” Letting the State sit in judgment on sermons is tantamount to letting the State tell the Church what it can and cannot believe.

Second, there is no end to the things that Muslim leaders find offensive. In Saudi Arabia, it’s offensive for Christians to build a church. In some Muslim countries it’s offensive when Christians use the word “Allah,” even though that is the word they have traditionally used for God. When Pope Benedict quoted a medieval emperor’s assessment of Muhammad, Muslims around the world rioted in protest. In Sudan, an English woman was put in jail and almost lost her life for letting her students name the class teddy bear “Muhammad.” At this point, most pastors will have figured out that anything other than greeting-card type platitudes about Islam will be considered offensive. And so most will choose to remain completely silent on the issue.

But that is the same mistake many pastors and certainly the vast majority of priests made about homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.” They chose to remain silent on these issues. As a result, a good many Christians came to the conclusion that the same-sex “marriage” debate wasn’t that important. Now, thanks in part to the silence of so many Christians, gay activists are in a position to dictate to Christian florists, photographers, and bakers. By now, it should be apparent that the gay assault on Christianity has nothing to do with provocative Christians and everything to do with the gay activist agenda. There is nothing provocative about a Christian baker politely declining to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, especially when the couple had other options. On the contrary, the gay couple were deliberately attempting to provoke a predictable reaction from the baker so that they could proceed with a lawsuit.

Let’s hope that Christian pastors will exercise prudence when speaking about Islam. But for them to remain silent about the threat from Islam will lead many Christians to conclude, as they did with the issue of same-sex “marriage,” that there is no real danger to church or society. The tables have already been turned on Christians who failed to understand the gay activist agenda. It is their rights, not the rights of gays, that are now at risk. Likewise, Christians who fail to understand the global Islamist agenda will have far more to fret about than pastors who don’t observe the niceties of non-offensive language.

Editor’s note: The image of Pastor James McConnell was taken at a press conference at Langanside Courthouse, Belfast, Northern Ireland in August 2015.

REFORMATION ANGLICANISM: Biblical — Generous — Beautiful

By Chuck Collins
Foreword by Ashley Null

Reviewed by David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
August 2015

If you have really want to know what Anglicanism is truly all about, written in plain English, and cutting through the usual Anglican speak, there are fewer books that I can recommend more highly than Chuck Collins’ 160-page history of our wonderful Anglican Communion.

Anglicanism is defined and guided by the Bible. The 16th Century reformers didn’t see themselves as starting something new; they only wanted to return the church to the authority of the Bible and to ancient consensual Christianity from which the Medieval Catholic Church had departed. The “Anglican formularies” that speak about what Anglicans believe all affirm that the Bible more than just “contains” or “speaks of” the Word of God, it is the Word of God written. IT is the authority by which every other authority is judged, writes Collins.

The author quickly dismisses the myths surrounding the origins of the church during the reign of Henry VIII and his wifely problems, arguing that the Church of England goes all the way back to Jesus Christ and the apostles. “The most ancient form of Christianity in Britain is not Roman Catholicism, but ‘Celtic’ Christianity,” argues Collins.

Anglicans, he says, are permanently linked to the Protestant principles of the English Reformation: the Bible as supreme authority (over tradition, reason, and experience), “Justification by faith” alone through grace alone by Jesus alone (we can be “right” with God by receiving in faith what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, not by being “religious” or “good”), and the “Priesthood of all Believers” (we don’t need a priest, pope, or any other intermediary to relate to God personally).

Collins notes that while there is plenty of room for debate about secondary issues, there has been substantial agreement over the centuries about a fixed doctrinal core. The documents of the English Reformation, the key Anglican theologians (including Cranmer, Hooker, Jewel, and Andrews), and the Anglican formularies (including the Articles of religion, the Homilies, and the Book of Common Prayer) all affirm a certain defining principle. Namely: the primacy, clarity and sufficiency of Holy Scripture is the final source of authority in the church and true for all people for all times.

A chapter on the arrival of Anglicanism into America draws up the tension and churchmanships of two men, William White and Samuel Seabury. White spoke from a foundation of Reformation or evangelical Anglicanism and Seabury from a high church or Anglo-Catholic foundation.

Evangelicals believe that the key elements of Anglican theology were largely settled in the time period between Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker (1554-1600).

Anglo-Catholics then and today view the Caroline Divines (from the mid 1600’s) up through the Oxford Movement (staring in 1833) as a settlement of previously developing Anglican theology. They take their cue from pre-Reformation Catholic ideals.

Collins quotes the well-known saying; “In essentials — unity; in non-essentials — liberty; and in all this — charity.” But this is Anglicanism! Indeed it is.

Collins is not afraid to take head on issues like “Sin — not promiscuous genes” in one chapter and “The Sacrament of New Birth” in another. Here is his take on “Why Baptize Infants?”

“Roman Catholics emphasize the objective reality of God’s grace and treat baptism as always effecting the new birth it symbolizes (the ex opera operato view of sacraments). Protestants generally emphasize personal conversion and they treat baptism only as a symbol of the new life that God gave them when they were converted. Anglicans hold a middle ground between these views. We believe that God objectively extends his grace in baptism, that it is far more than just a symbol. To access the grace of baptism requires a personal response of faith, which itself is a gift from God.”

It will come as no surprise that the book is endorsed by such Anglican luminaries as ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach; the Rev. Dr. J.I. Packer; the Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry; the Rev. Canon David H. Roseberry among others.

Collins’ writing is lucid, light-hearted, and a joy to read. His background includes being a 1st place winner of poetry prizes.

Chuck Collins’ Reformation Anglicanism makes the faith both reachable and understandable. He shows the winsome beauty of God’s character that is deeply embedded in Anglican worship and prayers, and that what sets the world’s largest protestant group apart is that it is generously orthodox, completely biblical, and liturgically beautiful. Fr. Collins is the Associate Rector of Christ Church Anglican in Phoenix, Arizona.

You can buy a copy of the book here: http://tinyurl.com/nf3pcxjor
Or here: http://anglicanhousepub.org/portfolio/3979/

Here we stand - Evangelical Declaration on Marriage
Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage
27 Jun 2015
Author:
Russell Moore
As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage represents what seems like the result of a half-century of witnessing marriage’s decline through divorce, cohabitation, and a worldview of almost limitless sexual freedom. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.

The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman. From Genesis to Revelation, the authority of Scripture witnesses to the nature of biblical marriage as uniquely bound to the complementarity of man and woman. This truth is not negotiable. The Lord Jesus himself said that marriage is from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6), so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us, but it also represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.

Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift. Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.

The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:

Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.

The redefinition of marriage should not entail the erosion of religious liberty. In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require. We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.

The gospel of Jesus Christ determines the shape and tone of our ministry. Christian theology considers its teachings about marriage both timeless and unchanging, and therefore we must stand firm in this belief. Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.

A list of signatories of the statement is found at the ERLC website. Signatures will be added as they are received. Reprinted with permission of the ERLC

Categories: Press Releases
Provinces: Anglican Church in North America
– See more at: http://www.anglicanink.com/article/here-we-stand-evangelical-declaration-marriage#sthash.DIljwADa.dpuf

“From the Beginning”: God’s Design for Marriage

ACNA1

A Statement from the Anglican Church in North America

The Archbishop and Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America have received the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States of America and are deeply grieved by the stark departure from God’s revealed order. We are concerned for the inevitable results from this action to change the legal understanding of marriage and family life.

While this decision grieves us, God’s truth and the goodness of the order established in creation have not been changed. The kingdom of God cannot be shaken. We pray with confidence that God will reveal his glory, love, goodness, and hope to the world through his Church as we seek to follow him in faith and obedience.

Jesus Christ teaches that God is the author of marriage from the beginning of time (Matthew 19:4-6). God’s design for marriage has always involved a man and a woman: “a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). These truths have ordered civilization for thousands of years. Where God’s designs are followed in any society, including his designs for marriage and families, the result is the greatest possible blessing and abundance of life.

The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is often summarized as, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Because of his love, we love and care for all those who experience same-sex attraction. The Anglican Church in North America continues to welcome everyone to experience the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Marriage is established by God for the procreation and raising of children and for the good of society. For this reason, governments have an interest in marriage and have delegated authority from God to protect and regulate it. But no court, no legislature and no local magistrate has the authority to redefine marriage and to impose this definition on their citizens.

The United States of America, so its founders believed and taught, is a nation under God whose citizens’ fundamental rights are derived from the Creator. There is no right to a relationship which is contrary to the Creator’s express design. We cannot accept the Supreme Court’s decision purporting to find a fundamental right to same-sex “marriage” any more than we can accept its claim to have found a right to destroy human life in the womb. We will work with others to overturn this decision, and we pray that others will join with us in this effort.

Meeting this week in Vancouver, British Columbia, we are reminded that our Canadian members have been living under a similar legal standard for the last ten years. Their situation includes minimal legal protections for those who in good conscience cannot recognize this redefinition, and it is our prayer that stronger protections will be put into place and honored in the United States.

In the meantime, we shall continue to exercise our religious freedom to perform marriages for those who come for holy matrimony as defined by our Church. The Anglican Church in North America only authorizes and only performs marriages between one man and one woman. We respect the consciences of those clergy who may decline to perform marriages as agents of the state. We ask our churches to respect such decisions and help make arrangements to minister to those seeking to be married. We are also well aware that this ruling may create difficulties for our lay members and Christian institutions as they seek to be faithful in upholding God’s design for marriage, and we will make every effort to find ways to support and stand with them.

The Church bears witness to the truth of God’s Word and God’s design of marriage (see attached statement on “Bearing Witness”). When government oversteps its rightful authority, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Today there is no place for either triumphalism or despair, so we prayerfully and sincerely urge a spirit of charity by all. We speak out of a concern for the consequences that our people and our neighbors will suffer from an unjust and unwise decision by five justices of the Supreme Court. We call those justices to repentance, even as we echo Jesus’ words, praying for God the Father to forgive them, for they know not what they have done.

We call our people to a season of prayer for marriage and offer the accompanying Litany and Prayer to guide us.

Unanimously adopted by the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America.
June 26, 2015

For the Full Statement with Litany and Prayer click here.

Prominent Oxford Diocese Evangelicals call for the resignation of Bishop Alan Wilson

GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
‘He who scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.’
Now also he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be make rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God……
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.”

The basis for cheerful giving is the grace of God: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” — the gift of a Savior, the gift of life, the gift of eternal life, the gift of God’s love, the gift of all God’s blessings. We give to meet the needs of God’s people but also to overflow in our thanks to God. There are not enough words to describe all the ways we are thankful to God.

I thank God for revealing his love to me through faithful Sunday School teachers and pastors, through family and friends, through the provision of education, the opportunity to travel and study, the advantage of being called to serve and learn from celebrated mentors, the good fortune of meeting and falling in love with a beautiful, brilliant and gracious lady who shared my vocation, the gift of good health, two lovely daughters, four grandchildren and spheres of ministry in congregations and colleges that have stretched me and enabled me to grow in grace and the knowledge of God. I have more than enough reasons for thanksgiving to God to make me a cheerful giver, especially to those who have not been as blessed as I have.

What is true for me is also true for all of us who have been favored with the blessing of faith in Christ and the enjoyment of his grace in congregations where we are spiritually fed and nurtured, especially those of us who live in affluent and secure circumstances. Those who are aware of their blessings, and are thankful to God for them, will give to the needs of others and the furtherance of the ministries of the Gospel, not reluctantly or under compulsion, but cheerfully. It is only those who are ungrateful, who are fearful and anxious about tomorrow, and doubt whether God will enable them to have enough to live on, who give reluctantly and not cheerfully. They forget the provision of the Lord in their lives over the years and that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need you will abound in every good work.”

I am thankful of those who are giving cheerfully in their churches. God loves a cheerful giver. God loves you if you are giving cheerfully and thankfully. Last year in my church the offerings supported three categories of expenses: Administrative (personnel and programs) 50 percent of the budget, Buildings and Grounds (maintenance, utilities and insurance) 20 percent of the budget, and Outreach (missions and other Christian ministries) 30 percent of the budget. We supported 28 local, national and international Christian ministries through our Outreach budget in 2014.

Cheerful giving is planned giving, it is what we have decided in our hearts to give. We have prayed about it and sought to give generously as God has blessed us. We don’t give thoughtlessly, off the cuff, whatever we have left after our other priorities. Some can give more than others because of their circumstances. Jesus commented on the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. “He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins and said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'” (Luke 21:1-4)

In our church we have members who give less than $5.00 a week and members who can give over $200.00 a week. I doubt that we have many who qualify for poverty. We live in a high-rent district. When I write out my checks for the Sunday offering I compare it with how much we are spending on cable television, phone, messaging and internet service, travel, gas and car payments and maintenance, home mortgage, insurance, club fees etc. We can cheerfully fork over hundreds of dollars each month to pay our bills and yet many reluctantly part with less than a few dollars a week in the offering. I can remember discovering that one of our wealthiest members who professed his enthusiastic support of my ministry when he moved away had given nothing to the church for years. He was all show and little substance.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about a merchant who had prospered in business and built a house in the country and he had enlarged it and laid out his grounds at great expense. When he went to his office, he was called upon by a representative of a society, and he replied to his requests, “I really cannot afford to give anything; I have so many calls, I cannot do it.” He was a man who had usually been very generous, and it touched his conscience a little afterwards to think that he should begin to stint in what he gave to his Lord. At night, he sat by the fireside meditating, and he said to himself, “I really do not know whether I was wise to build this house; it has brought a deal of expense; new furniture is needed, expenses have increased, the girls need more for clothes — everything is on a more lavish scale, and yet I have been stinting the Lord. I fear I have done amiss; I do not feel easy about it at all.”

As he was thinking he fell asleep. He saw the door open and there came into the room a very meek and lowly stranger. He advanced to him and said, “Sir, I have called upon you to ask for your help for a missionary society which sends the Gospel to those who do not know it. You are wealthy, will you give me help to send them the Word of Life?” He said, “You must excuse me; really, my expenses are so great that I must curtail. I am quite unable to give you anything; I must decline.” The stranger looked at him with a mournful glance, and said, “Perhaps you think that the work is too far away, and you do not give because the money is to be sent overseas. I will tell you then that there is a school for indigent children near your place of business, and it is about to be shut up for lack of funds; and there are poor little children ignorant of the love of God — will you give me a subscription to that object?” The merchant was a little vexed to be asked again, and he said, “Stop troubling me; I cannot afford it; I cannot give you anything.”

The stranger brushed a tear from his eyes, and he said, “Well then, I must ask you at least for something for the Bible Society. That, you see, lies at the root of everything; it gives away the Word of God, and surely, if you cannot afford to give to the Missionary Society, or to the School, you will give for the Word of God itself.” “No,” he said, “I have told you that I cannot do it,” and then — and then the aspect of the Stranger seemed to change, and though He was still meek and lowly, yet his countenance became majestic! There was a Glory in his face, and yet there were lines of grief, and he said, softly and very sternly, “Five years ago that little daughter of yours, with the fair hair, lay sick of the fever, and you prayed in the bitterness of your soul that the darling of your heart might not be taken from you, but that you might be spared that heavy stroke. Who heard that prayer, and gave you back your child?” The merchant covered his face with his hands, and felt ashamed. “Ten years ago,” said the same Voice, ‘you were in great difficulties. Checks were returned because of insufficient funds; you were on the verge of bankruptcy; your hair seemed as though it would turn gray with worry. To whom did you apply in the day of trouble, and who heard you, and who found you friends who tided you over your difficulties? Who did that for you? Once more,” said the Stranger, “fifteen years ago you felt the burden of your sins. You went up and down the world wringing your hands with fear, and crying ‘God have mercy upon me!’ Your heart was overwhelmed within you; who in that hour, spoke the forgiving words which canceled all your sins? Who took all your iniquities upon himself?” The merchant sobbed aloud, and trembled much when the Voice said, “If you will never ask anything on me again, I will never ask anything of you.” The man fell on his face before the Visitor, and said, “Take All!”

Whether it was a dream or not, it is certain that that merchant gave to the cause of Christ as few had ever done before. “God loves a cheerful giver.” Give out of a thankful heart. But first, have you given him your heart? Have you put your trust in Jesus? If not, this message is not for you; but if your heart belongs to the Lord, and has been washed in the blood of the Cross, let this Word sink deep into your ears, and deeper still, into your hearts, for “God loves a cheerful giver!”

(Subscribe to Ted’s blog at www.tedschroder.com. It will be sent to your email at no charge.)

The God Blog: Nigerian archbishop brings African perspective to American issues

By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer Benjamin Kwashi

I’m always eager to spend quality time with someone whose background and culture are radically different from my own.

Like a fish unaware of the water it swims in, we Americans are so immersed in our own culture that we often cannot see how we are perceived by others.

I had such a privilege this week during a nearly two-hour lunch with Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi, one of the leading religious leaders in Nigeria, who was in Tulsa to speak at two churches. (My thanks to the Rev. Briane Turley, Church of the Holy Spirit Anglican, for arranging the one-on-one time.)

Here are some edited excerpts of our conversation. (Reader beware – there’s plenty here to offend capitalists, western Christians, Muslims, progressives and secularists.)

Kwashi, by the way, has earned the right to his opinion: he’s been face to face with a radical Islamists in Nigeria that at different times savagely brutalized his wife, almost killing her, burned down his home and came close to executing him.

Why does Boko Haram hate Christianity, Americans and the West?

They see the freedom that democracy brings as a limitless freedom that encourages immorality. So they restrict freedom.

The worst for them is the western education that forms the foundation for a loose morality, greed in capitalism and throws God away, atheism.

They see the economy, as practiced in Islam, as one that should be just and fair to Muslims. In contrast, capitalist economy is not fair to the poor. So they create Islamic banking (no interest) to care for the poor.

In western media and advertisements you see women almost naked. They oppose that by bringing in the ancient dressing which covers the woman from head to foot.

How do they respond to that?

So they’re reacting to all of that by calling for a jihad. But it’s more than that, it’s a return to ancient Islam, pure Islam, original Islam. How that comes into a modern world that has changed in 1500 years creates a huge clash.

That forms the bedrock of their theology for the jihad. They’re asking for a purification, a revival of religion.

In Nigeria, wih Boko Haram, the foundation is the same, a need to revive Islam, evangelize the unbelieving world. And the way they evangelize people is the same, either convert them, or kill them, or make them slaves.

And they try to get political power, and military power, imposing their control little by little over more territory.

They impose their laws, which are not written down. They alone know the laws, and they impose them, by instant death penalty.

What is the meaning of jihad?

That’s a difficult question. The interpretation of jihad will vary from place to place, depending on who the Muslim leader is. In the Islam I grew up with in northern Nigeria, jihad always meant purification of the faith, to re-examine yourself, to draw nearer to God, to repent of sins. It was an internal thing, living righteously with all people, and encouraging others to live righteously.

I didn’t know that in our time, it would be violent. But you cannot deny that through history, several jihads have been extremely violent. That history is undeniable.

How do moderate Muslims view the radicals?

Every average Muslim would disagree with them, because the return to ancient Islam would drive people into backwardness. Conditions have changed. Even in Nigeria, most Muslims would not agree with them.

In their attack on the perceived enemy, those who are followers of America, followers of godlessness and social immorality, they begin to turn on moderate Muslims.

What happened when you wrote a letter to Nigerian Christians to not retaliate against Boko Haram attacks?

“It was like magic. Christians watched their houses burned. It became a major embarrassment to Muslims. They couldn’t understand it.

The Coptic Christians who were slaughtered were praising God.

How central is the principle of freedom to Christianity?

Freedom is the best gift God has given to man. Once there’s no freedom, anti-freedom is simply slavery.

Why do you consider secularism the real danger to Christianity?

Secularism is a self-centered religion, self-serving, very selfish, and the cousin of capitalism. It is about to take over capitalism, which emphasizes hard work and excellence. The distinction between a capitalist economy and secularism is thin.

Secularism has taken away family discipleship, children learning right behavior from seeing their fathers treating the family well, looking after the family, saying their prayers in the morning and evening. That made Muslims admire and respect us as Christians, because being a Christian meant being honest, being humble, being courteous, being able to live with people, so we could win people to Christ.

Secularism throws all of that out the window. It says you don’t have to be a gentleman, just be who you are.

Secularism has no response to Islam. None whatsoever. As long as any nation elevates secularism, it’s only a matter of time, because radical Islam knows how weak secularism is. The only thing they don’t know what to do with is the Christian gospel.

Secularists and violent Islam agree together that the problem is Christians. They are both opposed to Christians.

Why do most African Christians oppose same-sex marriage?

I believe this is a revisitation of colonialism. It’s colonialism coming in another way. Why should the West, because she decides that she no longer needs the Bible, and homosexuality is right, why should they ask me to believe what they believe? They’re denying me the very freedom they preach, and they’re denying me the freedom I already have in Christ.

Welby: let’s stop pretending all religions agree

Obsession with meaningless and ‘anaemic’ displays of unity is ‘dishonest’ and could be helping extremists, says Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
May  2015

Religious leaders risk fuelling extremism by pretending that all faiths are basically the same, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said faith leaders seemed desperate to hide behind “bland” and “anaemic” statements about what they have in common rather than facing up to the “profound differences” between them.

But he warned that the pretence that mainstream religions agree on everything is simply “dishonest” and risks leaving them impotent to halt the spread of extremism.

His comments came in address to the annual dinner of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in London.
The Archbishop told the audience, which included hundreds of Jewish community leaders as well as Muslims, Christians and representatives and other faiths, that the recent wave of persecution and inter-religious violence seen in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere was a “generational” threat.

“If we don’t do that we leave all the good arguments in the hands of the radicals and that is the great challenge I face, and I believe we all face,” he said.

“If we’re going to do that we have to come together and we have to have the difficult conversations in safe spaces and that’s a very, very difficult thing up do.”

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What are our leaders doing about religious persecution?

He added: “We need to move beyond inter-religious interaction in which we the usual suspects issue bland statements of anaemic intent with which you could paper the walls of Lambeth Palace — and much good would it do you — all desperate to agree with one another so that the very worst outcome could possibly be that we end up acknowledging our differences.
“That is not enough in the face of the dangers we face at this time.

“It is disingenuous and ultimately dishonest because alongside all that we hold in common and all that we share there are profound differences between what we believe and the outworking of our faith.

“True friendships and relationships can withstand honesty about differences in values, opinions and religious understandings and a common commitment to mutual flourishing in diversity.”

END

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