Derelict Christian Leadership and Churches Missing in Action


Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…


If the Lord should tarry, one day we will look back at the church in Australia in the 21st century and wonder if it really was any different than the Laodicean church which Jesus so strongly condemned in Revelation 3:14-22. Don’t get me wrong: there are many on-fire pastors, many dedicated churches, and many committed Christians.

But I would say they are in the minority. They are the biblical remnant. They are the few who are on the narrow road and have gone through the narrow gate. There are plenty of ways to measure this: gospel-less gospel messages, entertainment-based worship, a celebrity culture, money making ventures, the desire to please men, and so on.

I have written often about this. But another way to judge a church or a Christian leader is how they stand on the most pressing moral issues of the day. If they are silent about the things that matter most, that tells you heaps. When some of the most pressing social issues of the day are simply ignored by Christian leadership, then that is an indication of a dereliction of duty.

We had a perfect example of this back in the days of the abolitionist movement. Usually led by Christians, the fight against slavery was one of the most vital issues of the time. Yet it was only a minority of Christians, churches and leaders who took a stand on this.

Most said and did nothing, or even worse, they actually supported slavery! Many pastors and church leaders owned slaves back then! So Wilberforce and his supporters were always in a minority as they fought for what was right. And it is the same today with the battle to save unborn babies.lukewarm

The right to life is a fundamental principle, and social justice must begin in the womb. While this is one of the most important moral issues of our day, regrettably the great majority of churches and Christian leaders are doing nothing about it.

The truth is, abortion is a gospel issue. The two great commandments given by Jesus should be enough here. If we are to fully love God we need to love what he loves and hate what he hates. And God hates the shedding of innocent blood. If he is greatly concerned about this, so should we be. And it is pretty hard to love your neighbour as yourself if he is dead. The first step to loving someone is to ensure they can live.

However our Christian voice here is almost completely silent. Consider something that just occurred in Victoria. For at least a year now the Infant Viability Bill put forward by Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins MLC, Member for Western Metropolitan, has been a matter of public debate and discussion.

But where were the churches on all this? Rallies were held in support of the bill, social media campaigns were set up, videos were produced, and so on. But it is as if the churches did not know or did not care. And because of this we had a tragic outcome yesterday, as the bill was voted down. Rachel said this about the outcome:

It is with disappointment that I write to inform you that the Legislative Council has voted on my Infant Viability Bill, and has chosen to vote it down (with a division of 11 for, 27 against, and 2 abstained). Voting in favour of the bill were: 3 members of the Liberal Party (Richard Della-Riva, Bernie Finn & Gordon Rich-Phillips); 3 members of the ALP (Daniel Mulino, Adem Somyurek & Nazih Elasmar); 2 members of the Shooters & Fishers Party (Jeff Bourman & Daniel Young); 2 members of the National Party (Damien Drum & Melina Bath); and, of course, 1 member of the DLP (myself).
Unfortunately the parliament today decided to vote against the bill. This is disappointing for the thousands of supporters across Victoria and Australia. I have always believed that this bill was about doing what is right. It is right to stand up for mothers and their babies. One day we will look back on this bill as a starting point, in turning the tide on abortion here in Victoria. It is our first proactive stand. It is not our last.
My resolve does not waver in the face of this opposition. I pray that yours does not either. I want to thank you again for your contribution to this campaign, and to encourage you to continue this cause. Together, slowly, we are making a difference.

Many things can be said about this defeat. The same number of Labor politicians supported it as Liberal pollies? What in the world is wrong with the Liberal Party? What an immoral and callous bunch of men and women to not even give a rip about the unborn. Forget about calling this group a conservative party.

But my main concern, as mentioned, is the fact that the great majority of churches and pastors said and did absolutely nothing about all this. I have no idea how many churches there are in Victoria, but for the sake of argument, let’s say there are 5000 (and I will just include Protestant churches here, since I suspect Catholic churches might have been a bit better on this issue).

I would hazard a guess that probably 90 per cent of those 5000 churches knew nothing about the bill. And of the 500 left that did, I would again hazard a guess that 90 per cent of those did absolutely nothing about it. So that may mean just 50 churches spoke about it and/or encouraged people to support it.

And even that figure could be quite high. So where does that leave us? A church that is at best asleep, and at worst, dead, at least when it comes to this vital issue. And I am fully aware that most churches and most pastors will never touch this issue because they don’t want to rock the boat, they don’t want to upset anyone, and above all they don’t want to see a drop in the weekly offering.

I say this to their shame. One day these Christian leaders will stand before our Lord and they will have to give an account for this damnable silence about this absolutely vital issue. I would not want to be in their shoes on that day. And I know I am not alone in thinking this way.

One terrific young Christian and committed pro-lifer that I know was at Parliament House in Melbourne yesterday and witnessed this bitter defeat of the bill. He went to the social media just afterward and said this:

Will be moving on from the Church I’ve served for almost a decade. It’s time that all did likewise in congregations that refuse to engage the culture in some small way outside their own programs. A morally simple piece of legislation like banning late term abortion fails to pass, meanwhile the homosexual pride flag flaps over the roof of The Parliament that is meant to represent me.

I feel his pain and I feel his righteous indignation. And I agree with his advice. If you are attending a church that never speaks out on the crucial moral issues of the day, such as the attack on the unborn or the attack on marriage and family, then you may be in the wrong church.

In my books such churches are well on the road to apostasy. If they refuse to speak out on issues as important as this, then they will never speak out on anything of importance when crunch time comes. Time to get up and leave, wiping the dust off your feet on the way. Find a church that is serious about biblical truth and is serious about what really matters.

Let me conclude with a short piece I recently found from a Christian satire website. Sometimes satire can be a great vehicle for expressing serious truth. The piece is entitled, “Mainline Protestantism declared a safe space for those offended by the gospel”. While it deals with a slightly broader topic, it is quite relevant here:

While some college campuses have established safe spaces where the disenfranchised can avoid the pressures, biases, and judgement of the world, mainline Protestant denominations are taking it one step further. The entire umbrella group has now been designated a safe space for those who would otherwise be offended by the gospel, sources confirmed Wednesday.
Speaking on behalf of a plethora of denominations including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Methodist Church, a spokesperson issued the following statement: “We are in agreement that there is a great need for churches to rise up and create spaces that are safe for questioning and accepting our identities, doubts, fears, failures, and blatant sins. Effective immediately, we are declaring all mainline Protestant churches safe spaces, where there are no judgments, conviction, repentance, or gospel presentations whatsoever.”
The statement listed elements that safe space churches should remove from their premises, including “crosses, Bibles, pulpits, organs, hymnals, systematic theologies, and sermons exhibiting any form of triggering micro-aggression. Be considerate.” Words like “sin,” “hell,” “death,” “wrath,” “propitiation,” and “substitutionary atonement” are also on the ban list.
On behalf of all of mainline Protestantism, the spokesperson expressed heartfelt joy that they were able to make such a major step toward accepting—and not judging—anyone who may be on a path toward God’s judgment. “Our congregations are now spaces that are safe from the freeing power of God in the gospel, where each person is free to construct their own narrative. That’s worthy of celebration.”

These Christian contradictions are not helpful to mission

Church of Scotland
Moderator of the Church of Scotland Dr Russell Barr welcomes the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to the General Assembly in Edinburgh.

Until now, possibly the most difficult doctrine that Christians have struggled to understand is the doctrine of the Trinity.

This must be close to being surpassed in its mystery by the latest pronouncements from the Church of England and the Church of Scotland.

The Church of Scotland this week decided to recognise the ministry of clergy in same-sex marriages. At present, these same clergy are not, however, allowed to celebrate same-sex marriages for the laity.

At the same meeting of the General Assembly in Edinburgh, the Church of Scotland agreed the Columba Declaration, This recognises that “in both our churches the word of God is truly preached, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Communion are rightly administered”. In addition, it enables ordained ministers “from one of our churches to exercise ministry in the other church”.

The Church of England does not allow its clergy to convert same-sex civil partnerships to marriage. And it has been enforcing this pretty strictly. Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a hospital chaplain, lost his licence after he married his partner, which effectively lost him a new job offer at the same time. Last year he also lost an employment tribunal on the case.

Perhaps he should now move to Scotland and work for the Kirk.

David Robertson, of the Free Church of Scotland, wrote on his blog: “The Church of Scotland has cut itself off from most of the worldwide church – the Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical churches are opposed to SSM. Both the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Australian Presbyterian Church warned there would be consequences, but to no avail.”

It has clearly not cut itself off from the Church of England. Quite the opposite.

Yet the Church of England, under the leadership of Archbishop Justin Welby, has taken a consistently conservative line with its own flock and set a conservative standard for the wider Anglican Communion. The Primates Meeting last January imposed “consequences” on The Episcopal Church in the US for its liberal stance on the issue. Other Anglican provinces have pulled back since then.

So what will the Scottish Episcopal Church do when it debates this very issue next month?

And will the hurt in this Church over the Columba Agreement impact the discussion at all, prompting a revenge factor in the vote?

Probably not, given what good Christians they all are and how much they love each other. And especially not, now that Archbishop Welby has made a public and heartfelt apology for the “consternation and deep hurt” caused by the way the declaration was announced.

Martin Luther

In his speech to the General Assembly, Archbishop Welby also mentioned next year’s Reformation Jubilee, the 500th anniversary of the date in October 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, kicking off the Reformation.

Ian Paul, a member of the Archbishops’ Council, suggests that “things go seriously wrong in the quest to justify same-sex marriage within Christian theology and ethics.” He cites scholarship suggesting the Scottish Episcopal Church has shrunken to a “radical Protestantism”.

If a radical Protestantism is indeed at the root of these difficulties, it will be enlightening to witness, in the coming celebrations, how these churches, their traditional “frenemies” and their new friends explain Luther’s own views on homosexuality.

He was unequivocal.

On the story of Sodom in Genesis, he fulminated on the departure “from the natural passion and longing of the male for the female” as “altogether contrary to nature”. Luther described it as a “perversity” that comes “undoubtedly from Satan”. (Luther’s Works, Vol. 3, 255)

People loved the present Pope when when he cut through the complexity and simply said: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

On the Trinity, when clergy want to put it simply, they say the Trinity is just one way of talking about God.

That also is helpful for its simplicity.

There must be many in the Church of England as well as the Scottish Episcopal Church feeling a bit put out by so many apparent contradictions from churches as they struggle to deal with complex contemporary issues.

What is happening at present is not remotely helpful to mission.

It is surely most baffling of all to the young, the missing generations. These are the people that all the churches are at one in wanting to reach out to. They are united in this at least.

Perhaps if radical ecumenism of the kind in the Columba Declaration can serve any purpose long term, it will be to bring long-term unity on some of these other issues as well.

Preserve the Unity of the Church?

Bible and Mission

…. exploring the interface between Scripture and the Church’s mission ….


Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

false gospel

Issues Facing Missions Today: 50. Preserve the Unity of the Church?

One argument that has struck many believers as compelling in the ecclesiastical debates in oldline denominations that revolve around sexuality—especially homosexuality—has been that the unity of the Church must be preserved at all costs.  This discussion entails figuring out what Christian unity and love are, and what issues may be considered matters of indifference (Greek: adiaphora).  What does it mean to preserve the unity of the Church?  Here, this question will be addressed with respect to Jesus’ high priestly prayer to the Father in John 17.

That ‘unity of the Church’ is no small matter perhaps gains its greatest strength from Jesus’ prayer for unity among the disciples in John 17.  ‘Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one,’ Jesus prays (v. 11b).  Of course, Jesus’ prayer acknowledges that the ‘world has hated them because they do not belong to the world’ (v. 14b).  In the narrative context of the Gospel, the ‘world’ often, as here, applies to Jesus’ opposition.  The disciples are ‘sanctified’ or ‘set apart’ from the world, and this occurs ‘in truth’ (v. 19).  Jesus has given them God’s word (v. 14a), which is truth (v. 17).  The unity for which Jesus prays on behalf of his disciples is a unity established by their disunity with the world and being set apart in the truth.  This is no airy fairy unity ethic that focusses on social inclusion whatever one believes or does.  Quite the opposite.  Social inclusion is based on an exclusive commitment to the truth.

So, John 17 is about more than unity.  It is actually Jesus’ prayer that precedes his arrest in Gethsemane (ch. 18) and immediately follows Jesus’ statement that the disciples are about to be scattered (16.32).  The prayer for unity, then, is about the danger the disciples are about to face from a hostile world that has rejected the truth that Jesus has taught his disciples, the truth in God’s word that Jesus has proclaimed in his own person.  Unity is not an absolute; it is the result of remaining committed to God’s word despite persecution.

Had Jesus been concerned about unity in a more absolute sense, he would have sought common ground with ‘the Jews’ (that is, the Jewish religious leaders rejecting Jesus), his opponents in John’s Gospel.  Instead, Jesus draws the line between his disciples and all others.

Some people are, moreover, peculiarly committed to unity within one corner of the Church, a denomination, as though this preserves the unity of the Church itself.  They understand unity with respect to their denomination’s unity.  This raises the important question, ‘Is a denomination the Church?’  The word ‘ekklesia’ in the Greek Bible is translated as ‘assembly’ or ‘church’ in English Bibles.  In the Old Testament, the word translates the Hebrew word for the assembly or people of God.  The term refers to the whole people of Israel.  This is how the New Testament picks up the word: the Church is the people of God.  Paul uses the term to refer to a local people of God in a given city, such as ‘the church of God that is in Corinth’ (1 Cor. 1.2).  He also uses the term in a specialized sense to refer to the Christians who are in a locality gathering together for worship.  He says, ‘…when you come together as a church…’ (1 Cor. 11.18; cf. 14.19, 28; 16.19).  Finally, as in the Old Testament, he also uses the term ‘church’ to refer to the universal people of God—to Christians.  Thus Paul says, ‘…I persecuted the church of God’ (1 Cor. 15.9c; see especially the use of the term in Ephesians).

None of these uses directly equates to a meaning that comes close to the term ‘denomination.’  ‘Ekklesia’ never means a group of believers distinguished from others by virtue of their practices or beliefs.  The idea that protecting the unity of such a group of believers is in any way a protection of the unity of the Church is actually a significant misunderstanding of the Church.  The error is inevitable, as the word ‘church’ has been used by the Roman Catholic Church or Orthodox Church precisely because it sees itself as the true Church to which all others ought to be reunited.  Certain Protestant denominations have adopted the word in a similar way to refer to the approved institution of the church in their geographical region, such as the ‘Church of Scotland,’ or Presbyterians, and the ‘Church of England,’ or Anglicans.  The meaning changes still further when we speak of the ‘Lutheran Church’ or the ‘Reformed Church,’ since here doctrinal and practical differences are in view.

When we refer today to denominations as ‘churches,’ we create a confusion about what ‘unity of the church’ really means.  Denominations are at best parts of the church and therefore by definition cannot fulfill any goal of Church unity.  They are, more realistically, parachurch organizations, or even, by definition (!), ‘disunity groups.’  Unity is not obtained by agreement with a faction of the Church but by, as Jn. 17 shows, obedience to the word of God, which is truth.

That unity with a faction of the universal Church means disunity with other factions of the Church needs to be stated.  Apparently it is not as obvious as it ought to be.  Unity with a group of American Episcopalians does not mean unity with the vast majority of African Anglicans, for example.  Unity within the Presbyterian Church (USA) does not even mean unity with other American Presbyterian groups.

Surely a desire for unity is a good thing.  Abraham Lincoln’s desire for unity and peace in America during his presidency led him to change his mind several times about what to do with slavery.  At one point, he sought to affirm the right of slave states to practice slavery in perpetuity so long as there was no spread of the practice to other regions or states.  At another point, he supported the view that slave states should be permitted to retain their slaves for another forty years.  Such options could have preserved the unity of the country and brought an end to war if both sides had agreed.  Ultimately, Lincoln was led to a more radical view: emancipation of all slaves everywhere.  The path to emancipation involved continued war.  Unity of the states, one might say, was the result of holding to the truth that slavery was wrong, even if that view meant the disunity of war.


This is precisely what Jn. 17 is all about.  Jesus prays for the disciples to hold on to the truth in God’s word even though it means enmity with the world (including other Jewish religious groups).  By doing so, they would maintain Christian unity—a unity known by the Father and the Son.

The New Tribalism of post-Postmodernity and Christian Mission to the West

Bible and Mission

…. exploring the interface between Scripture and the Church’s mission ….rollin01
Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

Issues Facing Missions Today: 49.

Issues Facing Missions Today: 49. The New Tribalism of post-Postmodernity and Christian Mission to the West 

Christian mission to the West is facing a new challenge that requires moving beyond the categories of ‘Modernity’ and ‘Post-Modernity’ for the worldview of the larger society.  We are witnessing a fundamental change in the western worldview, a new outlook that might be called ‘Tribalism.’  The Church is caught in the challenge of how to position itself in this new reality, which involves persecution from the Tribe.  Yet is also able to offer a profound witness at this time if it is willing to ‘become the Gospel’ in communities with far more depth than they have had in recent decades.

Enlightenment Modernity
Modernity was characterized by the encyclopedic, progressive accumulation of knowledge, the authoritative lecturer in the classroom, the scientific method and the reign of science over other disciplines in the university, and the relegation of faith to the private and individual sphere of life.  Modernity championed scientific and logical rationality and the ‘system’ (political, social, logical—whatever).  In this world, the body is understood for what it is—how it was made.  It is not a canvas to be tattooed with personal expressions of art.  Modernity is a world open to ideologies as diverse as democracy, fascism, and communism, but it is a world that can be characterized by ideology and the wars that were waged to establish them.

Postmodernity was characterized by its objection to a metanarrative to explain life, a deconstruction of rational foundations and the philosophical, moral, and scientific edifices built thereupon, the role of students to explore meaning through discourse (rather than the lecturer), the triumph of language and literature over science in the university, and a new permission to hear the mutterings of faith—and everything else–in public places.  Postmodernity championed narrative rationality, diversity, and self-expression.  In this world, the body is understood not as something given but as something to be personalised.  It was a canvas to be tattooed with personal art: there was no natural order.  Freedom of choice was the ruling ethic, over against the order of nature or some common understanding of justice.  It was a period in which to apologize for the past abuses of power and to bring out of the shadows groups that were marginalized.  Its deconstruction of ideologies and powerful authorities brought a certain easing of tension, but also a relaxing of moral argument and an uncertainty about what limits there are, if any, in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

The New Tribalism
Unquestionably, the page has now been turned in the West.  A new, totalizing discourse has and is emerging.  If Modernity ruled from the science department of the university, or from the history department operating as a science (a closed system of cause and effect that was swinging dialectically but positively towards some goal), Postmodernity ruled from the literature department.  Whatever post-Postmodernity is, the sociology department is gaining control of the university.  And so it is that perhaps the best term for this development is not ‘post-Postmodernity’ but Tribalism—an appropriately sociological term.
The tribe champions not the individual but the group, even though it recognizes that there are other tribes out there that must be kept in their places.  It is not apologetic for its own abuse of power but attacks the use of power by others as abuse.  It controls the speech, laws, and public square with its own, immense power.  Freedom is no longer based on conscience but is determined by the powerful majority and defined as the support of privileged groups.  All others must be silenced, made to conform in the marketplace, on the job, and in public discourse.  Not the emergence of individual tattoos of Postmodernity but gang uniforms and tribal tattoos for all members are the marks of political correctness.  If Postmodernity argued in favour of sexual diversity it was as a matter of the freedom to act as one wished.  Tribalism, however, argues for sexual identities and also insists that gender is not, as Modernity would have claimed, a biological matter but an innate orientation despite biology.  The tribal mentality shuts down free speech in the university and public square—it forcefully defines the new, totalizing ideology not by arguing from science (including politics, history, and economics interpreted as sciences) but by arguing sociologically.

If Postmodernity opened up some space to explore religions as legitimate expressions of faith that were, at times, oppressively shut down by the championing of science in the period of Modernity, the new Tribalism is decidedly opposed to faith, particularly Christian faith.  It often affirms Islam not as a faith but as a minority group (think ‘Sociology’) that needs to come under the Tribe’s protection because the Tribe wants to support minority groups.  It defines Transgender persons as a minority that is determined by its gender orientations over against its biology.  This argument is only compelling because the Tribal mentality assumes the dominance of the sociology department in the university and the agenda of supporting marginalized groups as groups, with no academic enquiry into their legitimacy apart from their social status.

The Church in the Age of Tribalism

Christians need to realize that the apologetic landscape has changed.  Mission in this context is no longer that of evidentialist argumentation ala the scientific paradigms of Modernity.  Nor is Christian mission going to succeed merely by means of a compelling narrative.  In the Tribalist world in which the Church now finds itself in the West, a sociological argument will be the most compelling.

Ecclesiology is now the most important theological question.  However, the sociological argument comes with persecution and martyrdom for the Christian faith as the pattern of life for Christians is increasingly at odds with the Tribe in which we find ourselves.  What is needed, though, is a compelling witness of Christian community living against the grain of Western society both ethically and socially.  This community—the Church—cannot argue much from common understandings of nature or from appeals to the legitimacy of diversity in a complex world.  It will have to argue by means of its life together that its alternative society has answers to what others seek.

The Christian response to Tribalism cannot come in the form of mega-churches desperately trying to get a robust cell group or home fellowship programme going despite its mass gatherings.  This witness if far too weak.  It cannot come in the form of calls for individual conversion alone; rather, the focus must become baptism of converts into a new community, the one body of Christ, the church.  It cannot come in the form of polished speakers offering a message, no matter how well crafted.  It has to come in the form of the compelling life together of a Christian community that is either winsome or worth persecuting for its stark challenge to the controlling Tribe.  Mainline denominations have so identified with the Tribe that they have lost any reason to exist.  On the other hand, truly Christian mission to the West must come in the form of faithfully orthodox communities of Christ that have so deeply participated in the life-transforming good news of Jesus Christ and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit that they have ‘become’ the Gospel message in community together.[1] 

The bad news is that the Church faces persecution in tribalist societies.  The good news is that Tribalism strips away the unfaithful and compromised so that the Church offers a purer witness, and it forces the ‘church’ to be a real church–a family whose life together shines forth the Gospel.

rollin01[1] See Michael Gorman’s Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI:

Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes consecrates its second bishop in Akron ceremony

Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes consecrates its second bishop in Akron ceremony

By Theresa Cottom
Beacon Journal staff writer

The Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes opened a new chapter Thursday, six years after its establishment, by consecrating Ronald W. Jackson as its second bishop in a ceremony at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Akron.

The procession was led by Archbishop Foley Beach, head of the Anglican Church in North America. Anglican bishops and other church representatives from across the continent took part in the service, some coming from as far as Texas, Canada and New England.

“I enjoy seeing a new beginning,” said Dan Klueg, one of about 250 attendees that filled the pews of the ornate church. “I’m confident [in Jackson] because the concept is steeped in prayer. We’re listening to God, which is what I want to be part of.”

The elaborate two-hour service was based on an ancient ceremony clad in symbolism, involving bishops laying their hands upon Jackson, numerous prayers and music from a live band and choir that played a wide variety of Christian music.

Jackson will succeed Founding Bishop Roger Ames, who is stepping down to be an assistant bishop. Under Ames, the diocese has grown from 15 parishes to 55 since 2010.

“He is a dedicated man of prayer. He’s had a strong experience of the spirit,” Ames said of Jackson. “I just think the Holy Spirit clearly has selected him. He’s a very brilliant guy, too.”

The ACNA was founded in 2008 by orthodox Anglicans who broke away from the American Episcopal Church due to its liberal views on homosexuality. The break was initiated by the Episcopal Church’s consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003, V. Eugene Robinson and the 2002 decision by the Canadian diocese of New Westminster to bless same-sex unions.

The Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes, which extends from southern Ontario to Lexington, Ky., was established in 2010.

Anglican services are typically held at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Fairlawn. However, Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Lennon granted Ames permission to use St. Bernard for the consecration to accommodate the large crowd.

“There is really good cooperation between the Roman Catholics and Anglicans at the moment,” Ames said. Ames explained that Gregory Venables, an Anglican bishop in Argentina, was friends with Pope Francis before he became the pope.

“There was a very strong Anglican connection between Pope Francis and our friend, and that has kind of filtered down in various ways. When we asked Bishop Lennon, he jumped at the opportunity to share, and we really appreciate it.”

“He was very kind and gracious to make St. Bernard available,” Jackson added.

Jackson was ordained as a priest in 1973. Since then, he has served in churches all over, including California, Tennessee and Capetown in South Africa. He has had an even broader reach in his missionary work, serving in India, South America and Africa. Jackson also taught ministry at Trinity College in England for six years before being elected as bishop. He and his wife, Patricia, have four children and six grandchildren.

“I kind of have a world perspective of the church and not just a local perspective of the church,” said Ames, who noted the diversity of parishioners within the diocese; some hail from South America and Africa. “We have wonderful influences. We don’t have to go out to the world, the world is coming to us. One of the things we want to be able to do is reach out to people of different cultures.”

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or

Wilberforce Academy 2016: Apply Now!

The Wilberforce Academy is aimed at students and young professionals with a passion to serve Jesus Christ in a variety of vocations including law, politics, education, media, arts and business.  Our aim is that delegates will be prepared for servant hearted, Christ-centred leadership in public life, having been equipped for a robust biblical framework that guides their thinking, prayers and activity in addressing the issues facing our society. We hope that they will also develop lasting…

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What Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Means by “Core Doctrine”

After the Episcopal church got spanked by the Anglican Primates over same-sex marriage, and were asked to not take part of any voting on doctrinal issues ( ruling which TEc has disavowed), it was only a matter of time before revisionist teaching as to what exactly constitutes “doctrine” reared its ugly head.

For most of us, doctrines should not only be derived from the Bible but should also be consistent with a plain reading of the texts. The Church has in the past added things such as Purgatory, Indulgences, etc which did not stand the test of Biblical scrutiny and were eventually rejected by reformers.

Today, the idea of “Core Doctrine” has been floated in order to shield the Episcopal church from the separation it faces as a result of its adoption of a new doctrine of marriage that permits same-sex marriage.

Unfortunately for those in the Episcopal church (TEc) there are no reformers left to demand the rejection of false doctrine.

Lacking such voices from within the church, let me quote from S. Donald Fortson and Rollin Grams new book entitled “Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition” as reported at The Gospel Coalition,

“The issue is not whether the Bible addresses homosexual practice: it does. It is not whether diverse interpretations on this issue have existed in the history of the church: they have not. The issue is, rather, what is authoritative for the church in the formation of its convictions and in its practices.”

Is the Bible authoritative for the church or not? That sounds like a doctrinal issue to me. Unfortunately, the use of the term “authoritative” just creates another crack for revisionists to prevaricate over and argue about just as they will do over the words “core” and “doctrine” when used separately or together.

As far as the current issue goes, these authors see no room for compromise for those who agree that the Bible is authoritative for the Church.

“On the issue of homosexual practice, no person or church or group should say that biblical texts mean something other than what the church has said all along because both Scripture and the church have consistently said the same thing. The issue comes down to this: the authority of Scripture and the relevance of the church’s teaching. That is where we wish to leave the matter, for that is the point at which some in the church are dividing from the rest of the church universal, from the teaching of the church in other centuries, and from what must indeed be considered the teaching of all Christians.”

In the Episcopal church, people have made the matter much more complicated because the authority of the Bible has been under attack for decades. Rather than trying to support same-sex marriage on the basis of what is found in Holy Scripture, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry claims that it all boils down to “Core Doctrine”.

For me, marriage is not part of core doctrine. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is core doctrine. The doctrine of who Jesus Christ is – wholly God and wholly human – is doctrine. The articles of the Creeds are doctrine. The Holy Scriptures and the Old and New Testament are core doctrine.  Other sections of the Chicago–Lambeth Quadrilateral are core doctrine. Marriage is a sacramental right, it is a solemn and sacred matter of faith and practice.  But it is not core doctrine.

I guess he would throw Marriage into the same basket as Purgatory and Indulgences.

The decision in the 1996 Righter Trial in which Bishop Walter Righter was tried for heresy after ordaining a non celibate homosexual man provides insight into how the Episcopal church twists the meaning of what is not “Core Doctrine” to basically mean “Anything that can be argued about in scripture”, and we all know what that means (in revisionist circles it means everything in the Bible can be disputed).

The following is the court’s not so brief explanation of doctrine which it conveniently splits up into “core doctrine” and “doctrinal teaching” (or not so core doctrine for you simple pewsitters). I have highlighted a few points.

II. Doctrine is the Basic Issue
In a pre-trial hearing held on December 8, 1995, in Hartford, Connecticut, the Presenters and Respondent agreed that the basic issue in this case is the doctrine of the Episcopal Church. The Court gave permission to the parties to submit a paper and cite additional published resources that would guide the Court in deciding the question: ‘What does and does not constitute the doctrine of the Church, particularly as it is binding on what a bishop may or may not teach?’ (Memorandum and Order of the Court, January 10, 1996). The submissions were made and the question of doctrine was the focus of the arguments before the Court in the first session of the trial held in Wilmington, Delaware, on February 27, 1996. The Court has given careful consideration to these arguments, the submissions offered by the parties, the published resources submitted and cited by them, and the Court’s own understanding of doctrine in the Anglican tradition as bishops of the Episcopal Church entrusted with the doctrine and teaching of the Church.

A. The Scope of Doctrine in Relationship to the Church’s Teaching and Discipline

In the case before us the Presenters have argued by submissions and oral argument that doctrine includes the Church’s teaching as well as its Creeds. In their view, all doctrinal teaching comes under the weighty purview of Title IV especially Canon IV.1.1(2) (1994) (cf. Canon IV.1.1(c) [1996]) for ‘holding and teaching publicly or privately and advisedly any doctrine contrary to that held by the Church.’ The Court finds that this is overreaching the Anglican understanding of doctrine. We are not a confessional church which has carefully articulated and identified the entire scope of its teaching and the disciplinary consequences for the violation of its teaching. The Court is bound not to extend this Church in that direction without explicit authority from General Convention of the Church, which is the Church acting corporately.
On the other hand, Respondent makes a sharp distinction between doctrine and discipline. Respondent relies heavily on the close reasoning of the Preface of the Book of Common Prayer which states:
. . . that in his worship different forms and usages may without offense be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that in every church what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline; and therefore by common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people, ‘according to the various exigency of times and occasions.’

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Home/General Secretary Blog/Back to Basics Part 2: Good Reading of the Good Book
To assess the implications of the Primates’ gathering in January and what we have seen subsequently, I am suggesting that we go back to basics. The first point was the authority of the Bible over our consciences and over the churches. It is God’s word written.

But there is a hot contest over the interpretation of the Bible, especially when it comes to God’s expectations about sexual behaviour. What can we say about how we read the Bible?

Good Reading of the Good Book

One of the most wonderful features of our Anglican church is its clear belief that the word of God, the sacred Scriptures belong to us all. They are not the preserve of academics or clergy. Listening to the Bible, reading the Bible and knowing the Bible is a privilege which all share. God trusts us with his word.

Now I always think that there are two basic rules in all reading.

First, read with love. That is, our love for an author should mean that we take them at their word. We should presume that they are trying to communicate. Thus, our aim is not read what we want to into the work, but, as far as we can, what the work actually says. We need to observe such things as genre and language – as we do all the time when we are reading. What we read may fill us with disgust or dismay, but it has to be read for what it says, not for what we want to see in it.

The reader is not the author.

Second, read in context. This, of course flows from reading with love. But it is particularly important to read the Bible this way. The Bible is a unity, inspired by God. It has many facets to it, but it is united in its source (the Spirit), its theme (the kingdom of God), its central character (the Lord Jesus) and its framework (the Covenants of God). There are many rules to good reading, but the basic one is this: the Bible interprets the Bible.

And that is what the Anglican Church says. In the 39 Articles of religion we read: ‘The Old Testament is not contrary to the New…Although the Law given from God by Moses as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral’ (Article 7; see also Article 20).

How do we know that we are now free from the ceremonial law? Because the New Testament releases us. How do we know that we are not free from the Moral law? Because the New Testament binds us to it through Christ. In other words, the Bible interprets the Bible.

Does this matter?

Well it does. One of the really surprising things about current debates is the ignorance displayed about these basic principles, even by Anglican Christians. I can understand media people saying to me, ‘but you eat pork and that is forbidden in the Bible, why don’t you accept sexual permissiveness?’ But I am amazed that those who profess faith should be so unwitting.

Does the Bible itself repeal the practice of the food laws? Yes it does.

Does the Bible itself repeal the laws against sexual intercourse outside of the marriage of a man and woman? No it does not.

And this is not a recent insight. It is exactly what Bible readers down through the ages have observed with no real difficulty. And again, when we read the Bible, we are always advised to ask ourselves what other readers report. Not that they are infallible, but that neither are we, and we can learn from others as they too ask themselves, ‘how does the Bible interpret the Bible on this point?’

As the Jerusalem Declaration says, we read the Bible ‘in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.’


Why does it matter?

There are some things over which Christians disagree which are either not decided by the Bible, or not directly decided by the Bible, or of a relatively trivial matter.

But the present debates over human sexuality do not fall into that category. Thus when Jesus himself condemned immorality (e.g. Mark 7:21) he was using a word which protects our sexual lives by confining relations with another person to marriage.

The rights and wrongs of sexuality are a major issue in the bible from start to finish. And the consistent, unrepented misuse of our sexuality, like greed and idolatry, places us outside the kingdom of God. That is why this matter is so important.

Thus, when we are told that this is a disputed matter in the Bible, two bad things follow:

First we are tampering with the clarity of the Bible. If the Bible is not clear on this point, what is it clear on?

Second, we are placing souls at risk, because we will not call for repentance.

The stakes are that high and that is why I am going back to basics.

March 17th, 2016|General Secretary Blog

WASHINGTON, D.C.: St. Brendan’s in the City, a New Model for the Anglican Communion

By Sarah Frances Ives

While many church leaders wonder how to attract younger members to the Anglican Communion, a vibrant parish in Washington D.C., called St. Brendan’s in the City fills its pews with many in their 20s and 30s. These young adults serve on the vestry, care for the education program, and pray about the future of the Christian faith. St. Brendan’s in the City offers a distinctive ministry close to the Capitol Building in Washington DC and could become a model for future parishes in the Anglican Communion.

What do worshippers find at St. Brendan’s? The parish uses a Capitol Hill sanctuary and worships in the evening at 5 PM. As the sun sets, worshippers of all ages, races, and cultures ascend into the dignified brick edifice to pray the ancient Anglican liturgy with heart-felt conviction. Joyful singing welcomes both the frequent visitors and long-time parishioners at the beginning of the worship service. Engaging sermons and heart-felt prayers fill the hour. The service offers a tender and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ in varied and happy ways. This parish offers the sweet flavor that the Anglican Communion rests in the hands of Christ and all is well.

The young priest, Richard Treacy, occasionally talks of his native Ireland. He humorously describes sitting in evening prayer services in drafty and chilly churches, while sensing the presence of Christ. He offers wise and courageous sermons as he interprets scriptures so he may shed the light of the gospel on the experiences of his vital congregation. He says, “We live our lives with the pursuit of faith in the center of them.” Treacy’s sermons persuasively guide the congregants into new and profound understandings. One Sunday evening, Richard preaches, “When we focus on Christ, we have our identity in him reaffirmed. We are nourished and sent weekly into the world to bring risen life, hope, and light to people.”

St. Brendan’s openly extends its arms to the city surging around it. This church, under the pastoral care of Bishop John Guernsey and a member of ACNA, has succeeded in an area where in recent years an Episcopal Church, St Monica’s, closed and sold its buildings.

Signs of authentic Christian relationships abound at St. Brendan’s. During the giving of the Eucharist, prayer teams reverently wait in the back of the sanctuary for any who wish individual prayers for specific needs. At one evening service, the prayer leaders pray openly for an extraordinarily sick parishioner. “Lord, he is suffering after this operation for a brain tumor. Heal him and surround him with your presence in his hospital bed.” And faithfully the congregation awaits Christ’s intervention to heal.

St. Brendan’s also actively assists at a well known nonprofit in Washington DC, Central Union Mission. On one Sunday Richard introduced a man from the mission who told of his spiritual regeneration after years of drug addition and incarceration. At St. Brendan’s he speaks with sparkle about his new hope of starting a bakery business making muffins.

While spiritual needs receive intense care, the financial needs of the congregation are handled lightly. During a singing of a hymn, if a worshipper wishes to offer a financial contribution, he or she walks forward and quietly places something in a waiting basket. Yet on a recent Sunday, a vestry member quietly stood up and thanked everyone again. “We have met our budget this year,” she peacefully stated.

The congregation draws mainly from 20 and 30 year olds who flood into this parish seeking a deeper and more satisfying communion with Christ. They come alone, in couples, or in family groups. Their conversations deal with careers and ministry and meaning. Some go into international ministry.

Celebrations and meals abound. Richard’s wife, Lisa Treacy, announces a Christmas meal and visitors flood into the reception area. During Epiphany, after a time of Godly Play, kids run back into the congregation, excitedly telling parents of the Three Kings Cake waiting them. Along with many young adults, families also bring their children for the education. Crowds of small children happily worship until the prayer for Godly Play calls them upstairs. The diversity among the children testify to the international concerns of this congregation. Almost half of the children attending St. Brendan’s arrive from domestic and international adoptions. At the passing of the peace, families blended together from different races hug and offer a taste of the Kingdom of heaven where all races and tribes will be joined together throughout eternity. Christ’s mercy is omnipresent at St. Brendan’s.

And all of this happens in Washington DC, a city known for conflicts and divisions. On one Sunday when I visited, Richard preaches, “St. Brendan’s is grounded in the city. We pray that we feel the need and pain and see the opportunities in this city. ”

The peacefully diverse flavor of St. Brendan’s gives to us a sweet taste of what is possible in the future Anglican Communion: a worship full of the reception of the Holy Spirit; a sermon helping us take our experiences and offer them to Christ to receive back a new infusion of wisdom; and a community that nurtures the faith for new generations.

St. Brendan’s in the City kindly and effectively offers a new model of what an Anglican parish could be like in future generations. This church practices genuine reconciliation, a quality not often present in our lives. The person next to me is indeed my brother and my sister in Christ, though our lives may differ substantially one from another.

The peace within this church community not based on similar political beliefs or way of life. Looking around, worshippers see people different yet dwelling peacefully together. Father Richard preaches, “We are all profoundly different but we need each other.” He continues, “Our congregation includes apostles, prophets, those with gifts of healing, and those who have seen miracles.” Following this, brief moment of quiet reigns. He pronounces softly, “Christ is for you all.” Some heads nodded in agreement, while others close their eyes in interior prayers. Truth accompanies his words.

What is this charism of this parish? St. Brendan’s in the City offers the consoling oil of dwelling in the kindness of Christ who has adopted us as his children; of believing that Christ yearns for a closer companionship with us; of accepting that the rigors and challenges of life are met with faith and power; of believing that Christ asks us to respond to human need of any kind; of standing openly in Christ’s presence and asking him to heal us and to bring spiritual gifts; and of accepting the flames of fire offered on the day of Pentecost. As this parish reconciles races and cultures and theologies, people dwell together under the guiding presence of Christ.

Come visit St. Brendan’s in the City when in Washington DC and experience the powerful presence of the living Christ. And while you are there, taste and see the future possibilities in our own beloved Anglican Communion.

For more information, visit

Sarah Frances Ives is a freelance Anglican writer and author. She holds a Ph.D. in Church History

The Anglican Church of Kenya Will Not Participate In the Upcoming ACC Meeting

The Anglican Church of Kenya

To the Bishops, Clergy and all the Faithful of the Anglican Church of Kenya

from the Most Rev’d Dr Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Bishop, All Saints Cathedral Diocese Nairobi

Statement on Anglican Consultative Council 16, Lusaka

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

I am deeply committed to the unity and restoration of our beloved Anglican Communion. It was for this reason that I and brother Primates from GAFCON and other orthodox provinces were willing to accept the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation to a meeting of Primates in Canterbury earlier this year, despite the representation of Provinces with which the Anglican Church of Kenya is in a state of broken communion.

It seemed that this might be an opportunity to restore godly faith and order and, although the resolution agreed by an overwhelming majority of those present was not all we hoped for, it sent a powerful message around the world that the collective mind of the Communion was to remain faithful to the Scriptures and God’s purpose for man and woman in marriage.

In particular, the Episcopal Church in the United States (TEC) was required to withdraw its representatives from groups representing the Anglican Communion ecumenically and it was agreed that TEC should not participate in votes on doctrine and polity in the Communion’s institutions.

However, the Presiding Bishop of TEC has made it clear that his Church will not think again about same sex ‘marriage’ and he expects his Church to play a full part in next month’s Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in Lusaka. This defiance of the Primates’ moral and spiritual authority has been supported by the Chairman of the ACC, Bishop Tengatenga, who has confirmed that TEC will participate fully.

There can be no true walking together with those who persistently refuse to walk in accordance with God’s Word and the Anglican Church of Kenya will not therefore be participating in the forthcoming meeting of the ACC in Lusaka.

An opportunity has been missed to use the ACC for good and it is increasingly clear that the GAFCON movement must continue to provide a focus for that godly unity so many of us desire.

An announcement from Nigeria is expected shortly. VOL will post it as soon as it becomes available.



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