Easter Message from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya

March 31st, 2013 Posted in News |

To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends
from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of KenyaWABA02
and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus should never fail to move us to the deepest sense of awe and adoration. The empty tomb of Jesus is a great and glorious fact, not simply because of an absence, but also because of a presence. The astounding truth of the resurrection is that is a reality which changes the whole created order, yet at the same time is deeply personal. The risen Christ is the one who makes all things new (Rev 21:5) and he is also the one who makes me new.

In his resurrection from the dead there is the glorious ‘yes’ of the fulfilment, actual and yet to come, of the promises and purposes of God. Through repentance and faith we share in his risen life and at its heart, our calling is to simply say the ‘Amen’ and glorify the God who has triumphed over sin and death.

GAFCON exists as a mission movement to celebrate this great ‘yes’ to the glory of God. It is because of this ‘yes’ that we who say the ‘Amen’ are bound also to have to say ‘no’ to ungodly innovations in the Church which substitute human effort and speculation for divine grace and revealed truth.  It is a profound contradiction to say this ‘Amen’ and then go on, as some do, to deny the real physical resurrection of Jesus. When we have to say ‘no’, it is for the sake of the ‘Amen’; there can be no more positive a movement than one which gives an unqualified ‘Amen’ to the fulfilment of all God promises in Jesus Christ.

Read here

Russian Orthodox tell Archbishop of Canterbury: ordain women bishops and you can forget about unity

Metropolitan HilarionBy Damian Thompson, Telegraph

There’s a quaint Anglican concept of the universal Church known as the “branch theory”. This claims that there are three main branches to apostolic Christianity: Roman, Orthodox and Anglican. It’s much favoured by Church of England clerics who aren’t very keen on “Romans”, as they call Catholics, and convey their anti-Papist sentiment in pro-Orthodox code, forever banging on about the riches of Byzantine spirituality, the mystical power of icons, etc. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, is an example of this breed.
What these pro-Orthodox Anglicans don’t stress is that ordaining women priests was just as great an obstacle to unity with Constantinople and Moscow and it was to unity with Rome. And women bishops? Metropolitan Hilarion, head of ecumenical relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, delivered a pretty blunt message to the new Archbishop of Canterbury last weekend (H/T Gillibrand):
The introduction of the institution of female bishops will lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow patriarchate recognising the church hierarchy of the Anglican church, the communications service of the Department of External Church Relations reported on Saturday.

Pray for Peace – Primate of Tanzania after attack

March 27th, 2013 Posted in News |

Christians are calling for prayers and for peace and reconciliation in Tanzania following a horrific attack on the residence of Archbishop Valentino Mokiwa – the Bishop of Dar Es Salaam and Primate of the Anglican Church of Tanzania.mokiwa

On the night of Saturday 2nd March a security guard at the residence of the Archbishop was attacked by unknown assailants wielding machetes or ‘panga.’ The guard is recovering and the Archbishop has asked for prayers for healing from the physical and mental scars that such an unprovoked attack has caused.

There is no proof who led the attack, but people purporting to be Muslim Fundamentalists had threatened the Archbishop and his name was included on a list of ‘most wanted’ alongside the Archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania.

Dar Es Salaam is Arabic for ‘the abode of peace’ and true Islam is known as the way of peace. The relationship between Christians and Muslims across the country has historically been good. Provincial Secretary Canon Dickson Chilongani said, “For many years we have lived in peace with Muslims and so peace and reconciliation will always be at the forefront.”

The Archbishop said he has only love for those who seek to bring harm and is committed to praying for them and he asks for all Christians and Muslims to join the Anglican Church of Tanzania in praying for peace.

Read here

Chris Sugden writes “The Archbishop gave this personal account to me two days after the attack” – read below Read the rest of this entry »

Sexual Immorality is Rejection of Jesus

 

A very good read, since there is so much confusion around such issues today, especially for Anglicans living in dioceses and provinces that seem to have liberalizing tendencies.

gospel1

One of the arguments being propounded by those who seek to defend Tory Baucum’s “peacemaking/reconciliation” movement towards Shannon Johnston is that there is a clear distinction between false teaching about Jesus and false teaching about sexual morality. The former, they argue, is heretical and brands someone as an enemy of the gospel, the latter is an error but does not in and of itself count as rejection of the Lordship of Jesus.

The problem with this position is that the clear distinction simply does not exist in the New Testament. Rather, teaching the wrong thing on sexual ethics is tantamount to rejection of Jesus Himself and is met by Jesus’ own wrath and eternal punishment – hardly a fate for a Christian.

I have argued previously, in line with the wider Biblical Theology of sexual ethics, that to get this subject wrong is to distort how the Scriptures present the gospel since they distort the Biblical view of the relationship between Christ and His Church. What I want to do here is look at the specific way in which the New Testament equates false teaching about sexual ethics with false teaching about Jesus and outright denial of his Lordship.

Two examples will suffice. First, 2Peter.

2Pet. 2:1   But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

It is clear immediately that the false teachers Peter has in view are of the most dangerous sort. Their heresies are “destructive” (v1) and are tantamount to denying Jesus. The result for them will be “swift destruction”. This false teaching is no basic error  – it is heretical and results in the most extreme of responses from Jesus Himself.

The nature of the false teaching is alluded to by Peter in this opening paragraph. It is “sensuality” (v2), (ασελγεια) which is variously translated as “licentiousness”, “lasciviousness” or “wantonness”. The obvious allusion to sexual immorality is confirmed by what follows. Peter goes on to refer to angels than sinned (v4 – which I take to refer to the fallen “Sons of God” in Genesis 6) and Sodom and Gomorrah – both examples of sexual immorality. As he closes this brief example of other comparable false teachers he summarises their position as “defiling passion” and “despising authority” – again there is a clear link being made between the ethical nature of the teaching (immorality) and an accompanying rejection of the Lordship of Christ.

Examining Jude shows a similar tight connection between sexual immorality and the rejection of Jesus’ truth.

Jude 3   Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Again, notice how the two themes are tightly intertwined. The false teaching is a perversion of grace into “sensuality” (the same term as above) and is also to be viewed as a denial of Jesus. But note carefully how Jude has framed this issue. This is no mere battle over morality or ethics. For Jude getting things right over sexual ethics is to “contend for the faith that was once delivered” – to fight for godly sexual morality is to fight for the gospel. Those who teach sexual immorality are therefore denying that faith, that gospel.

That Jude has sexual immorality in mind is made clear as we progress through the letter:

Jude 5   Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Again, note a very similar line of argument to that presented by Peter. First, these false teachers of immorality face destruction at the hands of Jesus. This is no “mistake” or “error” by believers – this is a categorical mark that the false teacher is a false disciple, an agent of Jesus’ wrath headed straight to hell. The immorality that they are teaching is again compared to the fallen angels (with the same possible ambiguity that exists in the 2Peter2 passage over the intended referent) and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah whose sin is patently clear – they “indulged in sexual immorality” (v7). They serve as an example in that they undergo punishment.

From even this brief survey a few things should be very clear. For these New Testament Apostolic authors to teach falsehood about sexual ethics is tantamount to rejecting Jesus Himself. The end result for the false teacher is not to discover one day in the New Creation that they were badly mistaken about the topic but, rather, to suffer the due consequence for their disobedience for eternity at the hands of an angry Jesus in Hell.

Thus (and aside from other clear problems of consistency we have already raised) those who would argue that Truro/Baucum’s embrace of Shannon Johnston was acceptable since his false teaching was a secondary issue and Johnston was still a Christian believer and brother are simply incorrect. It is not true now and it was never true during any of Baucum’s lengthy and growing relationship with Johnston. Instead, from the start Baucum was publicly affirming as a legitimate Christian leader a man who, according to the Scriptures, was a heretic and outright rejector of Jesus Christ simply because of his views on sexual ethics. Whether Johnston was “creedally orthodox” or not was not even, in some respects, the issue. His false teaching on sexual ethics was a gospel issue and nothing less (it was, after all, the catalysing reason the ACNA was formed in the first place) and public endorsement of such false teachers approaching a betrayal of all those faithful Anglicans in ACNA and elsewhere who have suffered so much at the hands of those false teachers and yet stood firm.

Marriage in the Dock—The Supreme Court Considers Same-Sex Marriage

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The next two days are destined to stand among the most significant days in our nation’s constitutional history, but the issues at stake reach far beyond the U.S. Constitution. Nothing less than marriage is in the dock, with the nation’s highest court set to consider two cases that deal with the question of the legalization of same-sex marriage.

The first time the issue of same-sex marriage came before the Court, back in 1972, the Court dismissed the question succinctly: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.”

But now the Supreme Court is faced with two cases that demand a more substantial response. One case deals with a challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the other addresses Proposition 8, the amendment to the California constitution defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Both cases are significant. Together they represent a monumental set of issues for the justices. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed by huge majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate back in 1996. It was then signed into law by President Bill Clinton. DOMA requires the federal government to define marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman, and it makes clear that no state is obligated to recognize a same-sex union conducted in any other state. President Obama, whose constitutional responsibility requires him to defend the laws of the United States, has ordered his Attorney General not to defend DOMA in court. It will be defended by attorneys representing the House of Representatives.

Proposition 8 was adopted by voters in California in 2008, effectively reversing a decision by that state’s Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage. A federal district court in San Francisco later found Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional and a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sustained that decision. It will now be up to the Supreme Court to decide.

Taken together, these cases threaten nothing less than the redefinition of the most basic and essential institution of human society—any society. Marriage stands at the center of human culture and life, forming the necessary network of relationships upon which society depends. Every society in human history has found its way to the establishment of marriage as the centering institution of all social order. Its exclusively heterosexual character has been challenged only in very recent years and only in a few nations. Now, this institution that has preserved the context for intimacy, procreation, and the raising of children is threatened with a redefinition that would render the state’s conception of marriage at odds with millennia of human wisdom, putting human flourishing at risk.

The very fact that the Supreme Court is considering the question reveals just how far the proponents of same-sex marriage have advanced their cause. The major question now appears to be whether the Court will rule broadly or narrowly on the issues at stake. A finding that DOMA is unconstitutional would lead immediately to a realignment of laws dealing with marriage at the national level and to an avalanche of litigation in the states. Just as urgently, such a decision would put a host of threats to religious liberty into action, threatening the rights of churches, religious institutions, and citizens who are opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

In the Proposition 8 case, the justices could decide not to rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage at all. They could rule that no party has legal standing to appeal the case before the Court, effectively allowing the previous rulings to stand. Such a ruling would limit the scope of the Court’s decision to California. If, however, the Court decides to rule whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, its decision would be sweeping—in either direction. In this case, the Court would decide if same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry and if homosexual persons represent a protected class that deserve the status that triggers heightened scrutiny of any laws that might stigmatize them.

If the Court rules on these questions, the impact cannot be limited to the issue of same-sex marriage. The same “heightened scrutiny” and recognition of protected status would extend to virtually every legal corner of American life.

Just four years ago, even most proponents of same-sex marriage thought an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court would be too dangerous—running the risk of a devastating loss. Now, the movement to legalize same-sex marriage is emboldened by a sense of momentum. Some even claim inevitability for their cause. They have reason for some level of confidence.

A central issue is how the justices of the Supreme Court see their role. In a striking statement, Robert Barnes of The Washington Post wrote of the Court’s “official responsibility as arbiter of the Constitution,” but then went on to describe “it’s unofficial role as interpreter of the nation’s readiness for social change.”

That “unofficial role” is not to be found in the Constitution, but generations of activist judges have asserted this role for the Court. Even some of the justices seem troubled by this kind of judicial supremacy. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the Court’s liberal jurists, has warned that the Court harmed its credibility in 1973 when it handed down the Roe v. Wade decision mandating the legalization of abortion in all fifty states. Ginsburg is an ardent defender of abortion rights, but she felt that the Court terminated a political process that would have led to her desired result. Columbia Law School professor Jamal Greene told The New Yorker that Ginsburg “fundamentally does not believe that large-scale social change should come from the courts.” We shall see.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, widely thought to be a crucial swing vote on this question recently told a group in Sacramento: “A democracy should not be dependent for its major decisions on what nine unelected people from a narrow legal background have to say.” Nevertheless, it was Kennedy who wrote the sweeping decision for gay rights in the 2003 case, Lawrence v. Texas.

From the Court’s conservative wing, Justice Antonin Scalia has commented: “It is one of the unhappy incidents of the federal system that a self-righteous Supreme Court, acting on its Members’ personal view of what would make a ‘more perfect union’ … can impose its own favored social and economic dispositions nationwide.”

No one knows yet how the Court will decide these cases. But this much is clear—the future of marriage in our society is very much at stake. We can hope and pray that the justices will protect marriage and honor its historic reality, but there is reason to believe that huge challenges will face us in the aftermath of the Court’s rulings.

For Christians, the issue of marriage is not merely a legal or constitutional issue. The Bible reveals marriage to be the sacred union of a man and a woman for a lifetime. The goods of marriage are revealed to be intimacy, union, companionship, friendship, procreation, children, and a host of related gifts. Christians must see marriage as essential for human flourishing and not open for human negotiation.

The very fact that the march for same-sex marriage has reached this point is telling. It reveals a fundamental confusion at the very heart of our society. The ideological support for same-sex marriage is deeply embedded in a host of ideas that are driving our society to the point of moral breakdown.

The U.S. Supreme Court may well decide the future of marriage as a legal institution, but the church must hold to marriage as far more, but not less than, a legal reality. Marriage is one of God’s most gracious gifts to humanity. It will be the Church’s responsibility to honor marriage, no matter what the Court may decide.

Britons still believe in prayer – and young lead the way, poll suggests

By John Bingham, Telegraph

Research commissioned by the Church of England found that only one in seven people insist they would “never” resort to prayer in the face of problems in their lives, those of their friends or the wider world.
And when asked to give an example of something they might pray about irrespective of whether or not they were religious, four out of five people ventured a response.
Perhaps significantly, teenagers and people in their early 20s emerged as less likely to reject prayer than their parents’ generation.
The findings emerge from a poll of more than 2,000 people conducted by ICM for the Church of England in the run-up to Easter.
The polling found that women are more likely to believe in prayer than men, with 85 per cent citing something they would pray for.
And only nine per cent of those aged 18 to 24 who were polled said they would never pray for anything, compared with 17 per cent of those in their late 50s and early 60s.
Among pensioners, the proportion who rejected the possibility of prayer falls to nine per cent again, the same as for young adults.

Too Much Bad News?

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

One of the most tragic words found in all of Scripture are those recorded in the book of Jeremiah: “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule truth1by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer 5:31).

What a shocking description of the people of God – they actually preferred lies to truth; false prophets to true prophets; autonomy to divine rule. Not only that, but they loved it that way. The very things they were supposed to delight in they despised, and the things they were supposed to hate they loved.

Preferring false prophets over God’s true prophets is of course a tragic reality we find often addressed in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jeremiah himself spoke regularly about this. Consider just one other passage, Jer. 14:14-16:

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. Therefore this is what the LORD says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, “No sword or famine will touch this land.” Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine. And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword. There will be no one to bury them, their wives, their sons and their daughters. I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve’.”

Not only did ancient Israel receive the false prophets with glee, but they just as routinely rejected the true prophets sent by Yahweh. Jeremiah makes this complaint about his own rejection by the stiff-necked Israelites:

“For twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the LORD has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And though the LORD has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, ‘Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you. But you did not listen to me,’ declares the LORD” (Jer 25:3-7).

The reason for all this is not hard to discover. The people back then preferred the good news of the false prophets to the bad news of the true prophets. They wanted to hear that which made them feel good, not that which made them squirm under the holy and righteous God whom they were disobeying and rebelling against.

They preferred the sweet cotton candy and feel-good bubble gum of the false prophets much more than they did the tough-love realism of God’s prophets. They wanted to believe that Yahweh was happy with them just as they were – with all their sin, carnality, compromise and selfishness.

Yahweh says this of these folks in Jer 6:14: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” Superficial remedies to deep-seated problems were what the people wanted. They wanted to hear that everything was just hunky-dory, that all was well, that peace would prevail. They did not want to hear that judgment was coming for their gross sin and idolatry.

They wanted the superficial dressings of the false prophets instead of the radical surgery needed to deal with their cancerous sin. “Leave us alone” was their plea. “We want to be left alone to do our own thing.” And for that God sent them one prophet after another, and they all basically were treated the same way that Jeremiah was.

And the sad truth is, the church of Jesus Christ today is hardly any different. We are just the same as ancient Israel. We too want the sugar-coated candy and the harmless fluff of feel-good sermons. We don’t want any strong meat of the Word, and we certainly don’t want any words of warning, challenge, rebuke or exhortation.

We just want to be told how to feel good about ourselves. We want to be told the following:
-become a better you
-your best life now
-it’s your time
-everyday a Friday
-how to be happier seven days a week
-living in favor, abundance and joy

We want a totally me-centred gospel in other words. We want the entire message to be about ourselves, our happiness, and our satisfaction. God is nowhere to be found in any of this, except as a celestial butler ever present to do our every bidding, and jump at our every command.

And lest you think I am going a bit overboard here, let me mention that the six points I listed just above all happen to be titles of best-selling books penned by the pastor of the biggest church in all of North America. No other Christian leader gets as many people pouring into his church each week, all to hear these self-centred, feel-good messages. I refer of course to Joel Osteen.

No wonder he is the most popular preacher in America. He tells people exactly what they want to hear. He does not tell them what they need to hear. He almost never mentions the very things the New Testament is always talking about: sin, the cross, self-sacrifice, repentance, denial of self, mortification of the flesh, the cruciform life, judgment, hell, and wrath to come.

And no wonder so many people get angry with a website like mine. People complain that I deal in so much bad news. They say I am too “negative”. They complain about me dealing with unpleasant truths. They don’t like all the politics, the culture wars, and the hard-headed exhortations.

Well, we can always just pretend babies are not being killed, that children are not being abused, that Christians are not being slaughtered, that the church is not going down the gurgler in so many places. We can just shut up about the things that God cares about, such as the sanctity of life, the needs of the poor, and his institutions of marriage and family.

We can just go on living our selfish lives, demanding that our needs and wants be satisfied. Forget about those all over the world who go without food and shelter. Forget about those believers who are being tortured for their faith as well. And forget about the slaughter of the innocents.

I guess living with our heads in the sand is one way to go through life. But just don’t call yourself a Christian if you do, and don’t kid yourself into thinking that when you stand before his judgement seat one day he will say to you, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord”.

The truth is, loving God with our whole being means obeying him, worshipping him, putting him first, and putting ourselves last. And loving your neighbour as yourself means being aware of all the evils, injustices and oppression taking place, and being actively involved in working to prevent or alleviate it.

If that means we will be accused of being a bearer of bad tidings, then so be it. I prefer the words of Leonard Ravenhill to so many of our namby-pamby preachers today: “The Roman orators were very brilliant men; they attacked the emotion. The Greek orator attacked the intellect. The true preacher is not a descendent of the Greek orator nor is he a descendant of the Roman orator. The true preacher is the descendant of the Hebrew prophet; he is not there to tickle emotions, he is not there merely to stir the mind, he gets deeper down than either, he gets to the conscience.”

Or as A W Tozer put it: “Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of.”

Bigger Than We Think

The doctrine of Creation goes deeper than just explaining how the world began.
David Wilkinson
Bigger Than We Think Illustration by Keith Negley

It was a moment of crisis in my faith. As a young doctoral student in astrophysics, I had just read some work by Stephen Hawking that would eventually go into his classic A Brief History of Time. Up to this point in my Christian life, I had relied on a solid argument to use with my atheist friends. In response to, “The universe began with a Big Bang,” I countered with, “But who started it all off—who lit the explosion?” And at the time, science seemed to support my answer: There was no way to combine quantum theory and relativity and therefore no way of describing the first moment of the universe.

Hawking, however, was speculating on how the universe might have lit its own Big Bang. If that was true, did I need a Creator anymore? I asked Sir Robert Boyd, a leading physicist and Christian, about whether Hawking might be wrong. Sir Robert simply replied, “The biblical Creator doesn’t need to hide in little gaps in science.”

The Christian doctrine of Creation has often been hijacked by controversies over how old the universe is. It has been hollowed out by the theory that God simply ignites the universe and then goes off for a cup of coffee, never touching his masterwork again. It is interesting that attacks on belief in a Creator, whether from Hawking, Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, or Lawrence M. Krauss’s recent A Universe from Nothing, tend to target this diminished deity. But the Bible has a much bigger understanding of God as Creator. Not only does the doctrine of Creation feature in Scripture beyond just Genesis 1, God’s creative activity permeates every moment of the history of the universe.

My Hawking-induced crisis of faith spurred me to move beyond a “God of the gaps”—a shrunken deity enlisted merely to fill any remaining pockets of mystery that science has yet to illuminate. Indeed, my experience has been that recapturing the doctrine of Creation in its scriptural fullness points us toward a much more exciting understanding of creation. It points us toward a God for whom science is a gift rather than a stumbling block. And perhaps most importantly, it points to a Creator God who is worthy of worship, enjoyment, and trust.

Let me identify a number of themes within the Bible that have been foundational in Christian history to understanding this Creator God.

A Dynamic and Practical Doctrine

First, the Christian doctrine of Creation is never an abstract, academic concept. Western thought loves a simple philosophical understanding of things. But Scripture employs a rich diversity of styles in discussing creation. Even within the Old Testament, the relevant texts (Gen. 1-3; Prov. 8:22-36; Pss. 8, 19, and 148; Gen. 9:8-17; Job 38-42; Isa. 40:9-31) run a broad stylistic gamut, drawing from both the wisdom and prophetic traditions. This diversity testifies to the doctrine’s dynamic and practical nature. The Bible’s discussions of Creation always have a larger purpose: to inspire worship, to encourage the weak, to call for holiness, and to offer reassurance in times of trouble. Too often, Christians have forgotten this, especially when they have reduced creation narratives to attempted proof texts for God’s existence. Christians have disagreed, for instance, over the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis. I am saddened, though, that such controversy has obscured their power as hymns of praise, capable of engulfing us in wonder at such an amazing God.

New Anglican Archbishop named

The Anglican church has elected a new archbishop to lead its New Zealand congregation.

Philip Richardson, the Bishop of Taranaki, was confirmed at a meeting in Wellington of representatives of the country’s seven dioceses.

“It is overwhelming. I think to have the confidence of your peers, to have the confidence of the church in this way, is both encouraging and a little bit daunting,” said Richardson.

“I think when God calls you, you’ve got no option but to respond.”

News of his appointment came through a text message – an indication that this is 2013 and times are changing.

“We certainly have to be fresh and creative in the way that we articulate,” the 55-year-old said.

“Our ability to communicate this message of peace and reconciliation, of justice and love, has never been at one level easier to communicate.”

At the last census there were close to 555,000 registered Anglicans in New Zealand, a fall of 5% in five years.

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Richardson will be one of three Archbishops leading the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia from May 1.

He will continue as Bishop of Taranaki and carry out his dual role from his New Plymouth base.

He will work alongside Archbishop Brown Turei, who leads Tikanga Maori, and Archbishop Winston Halapua, who is the Bishop of Polynesia.

Richardson replaces Archbishop David Moxon who is taking up a post in Rome.

Justin Welby doesn’t do fluffy spirituality – he’s the tough leader the church needs

The new archbishop of Canterbury will not be easily fazed by the burdens thrust upon him. Welby is a decisive man of action

By Andrew Atherstone
www.guardian.co.uk

The new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby is a risk-taker and reconciler by nature. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Rowan Williams’ parting wish, as he bid farewell to Lambeth Palace after a difficult decade, was that his successor might be blessed with “the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros”. Many are wondering how the new archbishop of Canterbury will cope under similar stress. Justin Welby, a risk-taker and reconciler by nature, is gifted with unusual mental toughness, shaped through personal suffering. His background at Eton, Cambridge and Kensington gives the impression of untroubled privilege, but must be set alongside a broken home, an alcoholic father, and the tragic death of his firstborn daughter aged just seven months.

While triumphalistic Christians sing exuberant choruses and talk of miraculous healing, Welby knows from firsthand experience that bereavement and tears and unanswered prayers are part of the reality of life. His confidence in the Christian message is wholehearted, but not superficial. He talks freely, not just of social reform and economic regeneration, but of relationship with Jesus Christ as the answer to humanity’s deepest needs. His ultimate aim is the reconversion of Britain and his adamantine resilience springs from his faith.

Welby’s doctrinal foundations as an undergraduate were laid at conservative evangelical house-parties, more like a boot-camp than a holiday. The Bible teaching was combined with peeling potatoes, sweeping floors and cleaning lavatories. It instilled both humility and discipline. Another profound influence was Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, imprisoned for 12 years by the communist regime in Vietnam, nine of them in solitary.

Thuan’s example of Christian persistence in extreme hardship is a familiar refrain in Welby’s teaching. The archbishop’s spiritual director is a Roman Catholic monk in Switzerland who goes to bed at midnight and rises at 4am every morning to pray.

To prepare himself for high office, Welby recently undertook a gruelling spiritual retreat at a French monastery, not for the fainthearted. One of the many things he and the new Jesuit pope, Francis I, hold in common is admiration for Ignatius Loyola, the soldier-saint. They don’t do fluffy spirituality.

So archbishop Welby is not easily fazed by the tremendous burdens now thrust upon him as primate of all England and leader of the worldwide Anglican communion. He is unimpressed by holders of power, political or ecclesiastical. His withering put-downs and witty repartee at the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has warmed him to the public.

He is happy to embarrass the chancellor of the exchequer and the big banks, or to tackle the coalition on its economic policies. Welby is his own man, determined to speak his mind. His years as a treasurer in the oil industry, and negotiating with militia in the Niger Delta, taught him to be decisive. Where Rowan Williams was obfuscatory, Welby’s communication is crystal clear.

Where Williams was ill at ease with the press, Welby rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck in. Within the Anglican communion, Canterbury’s role has become a political football in the tug-of-war between North American revisionists and African conservatives.

The archbishop likens it to the brutal conflicts he has encountered during his reconciliation ministry in Nigeria and the Middle East, “only without guns”. Standing in the crossfire, he is likely to receive a pummelling, but won’t take kindly to being kicked about. He begins his public ministry on a wave of optimism amongst those calling for strong spiritual leadership for church and nation.