As the Anglican Church in North America continues to grow, many new members have not used a lectionary before in their daily worship. Can you explain what the Daily Lectionary is and why it is part of the Book of Common Prayer?
The Daily Office Lectionary is designed to help Anglicans read through the entire Bible every year. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, in the first Book of Common Prayer, incorporated the daily lectionary in order that “the whole of the Bible or the greatest part thereof” might be read in common in every household and every parish church in the realm.
We often hear the term “Church Year” used. What is the Church Year and how do the readings reflect the different seasons of the year?
The seasons of the Christian (or Church) Year enable believers to follow the events of Jesus’ life—Advent to Ascension—and the content of his teaching—the long Pentecost (Trinity) season—in an orderly progression. The Sunday Lectionary is especially designed to do this in a three-year cycle of readings. By spreading lessons over three years, much of Scripture can be read on Sundays.
Following patterns established in the earliest Christian centuries, Old Testament readings on Sundays are chosen for their fore-shadowing of the day’s gospel passage. The Daily Lectionary is less connected to the seasons, allowing for seriatim reading of the books of the Bible. Feasts (“red-letter days”) associated with specific calendar dates, recalling New Testament figures or events, break into both cycles with special readings and prayers relevant to the observance.
The readings in the lectionary are from both the Old and New Testaments, but it also includes some readings from the Apocrypha. What is the Apocrypha and why is it included in the Daily Office Lectionary?
Both the Anglican and Lutheran Reformations retained the use of books found in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), but not found in the Hebrew Bible. Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles states “the Church doth read [these books] for example of life and instruction of manners, but yet it doth not apply them to establish any doctrine.” Two of the most common canticles at Morning Prayer—the Benedicite, omnia opera Domine and the Benedictus es, Domine—come from the Apochrypha.
Past lectionaries have been criticized for skipping over some parts of the Bible that some might find uncomfortable. How has the new lectionary addressed these concerns?
So-called “uncomfortable passages” eliminated from the Daily Office Lectionary of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer have all been restored. Furthermore, the most egregious omission of the Sunday lectionary—the second half of Romans, chapter 1—is now assigned to the Third Sunday of Lent (alongside John 4) in Year A.
To download the working texts, visit the website of the Anglican Church in North America here.
Provinces: Anglican Church in North America
The Archbishop of Canterbury arrived in Burundi yesterday for a three-day visit to show solidarity with Anglicans and pray for peace and reconciliation in the country amid its ongoing political crisis.
During the visit Archbishop Justin Welby will meet and pray with the leaders of the Anglican Church of Burundi, as well meeting with government leaders and those involved in politics to talk about reconciliation.
This morning Archbishop Justin Welby made a pastoral visit to President Nkurunziza to pray and discuss issues of reconciliation.
Speaking to BBC Africa, the Archbishop said that he and his wife, Caroline Welby, wanted to visit Burundi at this point to show solidarity with the Anglican church there and pray with its leaders, as well as with those in government and politics.
The Archbishop said they wished to “renew the sense that Burundi is a country which many people love and that they are never forgotten – they are never far from our hearts.
“As Christians, we come always carrying the message of reconciliation. And so we come to pray for that reconciliation, and with the leaders of the Church here.”
The Anglican Church of Burundi is “not by any means the biggest church” in the country “but it is an influential Church,” he said.
“It’s part of the Anglican Communion, which is the third biggest of the global churches, with 85 million Christians around the world. Archbishop Bernard [Ntahoturi] and his colleagues are loved and prayed for and respected all the way round the world, and the Church can be part of the solution and will be part of the solution and is part of the solution.”
Speaking about the conflict in the country, he said: “We have to recognise always that people fail and do the wrong things. Attacks on people and violence, they happen all over the world, they’re wrong, whoever does them and in whatever the circumstances. It is the call of the Church to stand clearly for reconciliation, and to call people together, to see each other as human beings, not to demonise their enemies but to love their enemies as Jesus did, and to find ways of building a common future. Not necessarily agreeing – people will always disagree, that’s the nature of human life and political life – and disagreement is fine, but all of us need to learn to disagree in a way that enables human beings to flourish and to live in safety.”
No other book is as important as the Bible and Christians need to make an effort to understand it, the Rev. Billy Graham advises.
When asked for tips on how to better understand the Bible, the evangelical pastor said the Holy Book is the most important text to understand in the entire world, “because it is God’s Word — God’s message — to you, and to all humanity.”
Graham then goes on to give advice for beginning to explore the Bible, suggesting that a first-time reader not start at the beginning, but rather start with one of the Gospels in the New Testament, adding that he often recommends John.
“I suggest you begin with the Bible’s center or focal point, which is Jesus Christ. All the Old Testament points forward to Him, and all the New Testament tells us about Him. He came down from Heaven to forgive us and make us part of his family forever — and through the Bible we discover this great truth,” Graham wrote, adding a reference to John 20:31 that states the Holy Book was “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The reverend further suggests that a first-time Bible reader should select a translation of the Bible that they personally understand.
Graham said that before beginning to read, “ask God to help you understand what you read.”
“In this way you’ll learn who Jesus was and what he did. But more than that, you’ll discover that God loves you,” the Baptist minister concluded, adding that the Bible is a “great gift.”
“God wants to give you an even greater gift: Jesus Christ. Invite Jesus to to come into your life today.”.
In a question posted to the “My Answers” section of the on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s website asking if the Bible needs an update for the 21st century, the religious leader responded by saying the Word of God will never need an update because “it tells us truths about ourselves and about God that will never change.”
“The Bible should be the most exciting book you’ll ever read! The reason is, this isn’t just another book; it is God’s Word, and through its pages God speaks to us. Think of it: The Creator of the universe wants to talk to you!” Graham explained.
The preacher goes on to say that Christians must “humbly ask God to make [the Bible’s] meaning clear” during their reading.
“Most of all, ask God to help you apply its truth to your life, because ‘Your Word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path,’ Psalm 119:105). Don’t let your pride or anything else keep you from Christ, but by a simple prayer of faith open your life to his transforming power.”
Graham, 97, is a world-renowned evangelical preacher and the father of Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
The Anglican Communion has history but it was only in the 19th century that an actual Communion began to emerge. Before that, there were just chaplaincies (both military and ex-pat) and a few indigenous churches springing up. Around 1850, the Church Missionary Society first raised the idea of having a global gathering of all Anglican Bishops. It took a while for the idea to come together, with the first meeting being spurred by concerns from some Canadian Bishops. 76 Bishops met at Lambeth Palace in 1867, and then the pattern of meeting every ten (or so) years developed. Not surprisingly, there was a gap during World War II. The meeting of bishops, known as the Lambeth Conference, is not so much legislative as it was a way to discern “the mind of the Bishops of the Communion.” Rather than having institutional authority like a congress, it was a good natured gathering that sought to address issues of mutual concern with Christian charity and clarity.
In the twentieth century, especially in the second half of the century, the church in the two-thirds world grew to robust size while the churches in the industrial West began to shrink. Here is something I wrote after the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
In 1978 Archbishop Joseph Adetoloye of Nigeria stood at the microphone at the Lambeth Conference for 30 minutes waiting to be recognized. For all that time, the chair continued to recognize bishops from Western Provinces at other microphones and overlooked Archbishop Joseph.
When he was finally recognized, he said, “Here at this meeting, I have struggled to be recognize by the chair, but it will not always be this way.” He went on to prophesy, “In ten years time in 1988 the voice of the Africans will not only be allowed, it will be sought. In 1998,” he said, “The Global South bishops (especially those in Africa) will set the agenda.”
At the Lambeth Conference in 1998, that is exactly what happened. Well organized Global South bishops overwhelmingly passed Lambeth Resolution 1.10 affirming the historic Biblical position on human sexuality. Scrambling liberals were not able to stop the clarity as it emerged and then was expressed in the vote for the resolution of 526-70. Liberals were only able to marshal 70 votes opposing the overwhelming vote from the bishops around the communion.
The liberals were completely surprised by the strength of the orthodox voice. In trying to recover from the stunning strength of the resolution, they latched on to the phrase “We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God…”
That phrase was originally intended to provide pastoral care for those seeking to stop acting out in behavior of same-sex intimacy, but liberals have insisted that the intention of the resolution was to listen to the experience of those practicing same sex intimacy- ostensibly to “listen” until the conservatives are convinced of liberal values.
As a result of Lambeth 1998, the communion moved into new dynamics. Institutionally claiming to maintain the historic teaching of the church, but in fact pursuing practices undermined the Gospel. Part of the strategy was packing the agenda with other issues to keep the crisis from getting on the agenda. They knew that if same-sex blessings were debated they would not be approved.
The course of the Lambeth Bishops’ conference had been dramatically changed by the strong voice of the Global South Anglicans in 1998. Following what they described as “a humiliating defeat” at Lambeth 1998, liberals regrouped and focused on impacting the structures that they were able to control, hoping to insure that such a defeat would never happen again.
Over the next several years, the liberals, aided by Communion bureaucrats, continued to press ahead while maintaining protestations of being orthodox. By 2003, leaders in the Episcopal Church thought they had sufficient strength to approve Gene Robinson’s consecration. In October of that year, Primates gathered in an emergency meeting at Lambeth Palace. In the course of the meeting, the vast majority of the Primates insisted that the consecration was unacceptable. Still at that point, there was great deference still given to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those Primates from conservative Provinces projected the expectation on to Canterbury assuming that he would surely defend the church and the faith.
In 2005, The Primates met at Dromantine, Ireland and called for the “urgent” establishment of a Panel of Reference to protect orthodox Anglicans who were under assault from liberal Anglican Provinces. Though the Primates expected that this panel would be set up within a week, Archbishop Rowan Williams waited more than fifteen months before naming panel members–and then changed their charter and composed the membership to insure that there would be the appearance of balance without actually impacting the conflict in a way that aided the orthodox. Instead, Archbishop Williams acted in ways that preserved institutional structures, even when those structures stand in absolute opposition to the Gospel and Biblical truth. Internal communications from within the Panel surfaced and later showed how the process was being “managed” from the outset not to support the beleaguered orthodox minority in the US, Canada, and Brazil.
In succeeding years and Primates Meetings the historic Biblical perspective was reiterated. The high water mark was the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salam which insisted that TEC be held accountable. Again, sadly, Archbishop Williams used the organizational powers of his office to completely ignore and then systematically dismantle the accountability which had been so hard fought and won by the majority of Primates.
Archbishop Williams’ refusal to implement the decisions of the Primates led to an erosion of confidence in his leadership among increasing numbers of Global South leaders. Despite the broad objections of the majority of the leaders of the communion, Archbishop Williams invited the consecrators of Gene Robinson to Lambeth 2008. This led to a principled decision by many Primates not to attend the Lambeth conference in 2008.
At the same time, these unresolved conflicts and dissatisfaction with the anemic pursuit of mission, led to the gathering of more than 1,000 people (300+ bishops plus other leaders) in Jerusalem. The prayerful and passionate meeting gave rise to the Jerusalem Declaration and the ongoing GAFCON/FCA movement.
In 2010, many Primates decided not to attend Primates Meetings until the Primates themselves are able to participate in the formation of the agendas for their own meetings.
In practical terms, this means that the structures of the Anglican Communion have been illuminated and shown to reflect the same bankruptcy that Archbishop Adetiloye identified in 1978.
Now this year in January 2016 the Primates gathered for the first time in a number of years. Many of the Primates were new. In fact, 21 had never been to a Primates meeting before. They met, prayed, talked, and worked, agreeing to measures to discipline the Episcopal Church for their General Convention decision in 2015 to change marriage to be between any two people, whether same or opposite sexes. There was also a new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Only this time, the new Archbishop actually let the Primates set their own agenda. Many Primates told me that they thought the conversations and prayers were genuine and they did not feel manipulated. Some were less sanguine, but it was certainly better than the last few meetings which were completely manipulated.
The result of the meeting was interesting. There was a very narrow decision to limit the Episcopal Church from participating in Communion life in three areas:
Decisions of Polity
As I said, that was extremely limited and was just a slap on the wrist, but it was very significant because 33 of the Primates wanted to see the Episcopal Church disciplined in one way or another. In addition, the discipline that they imposed was motivated by using Scripture as the standard. That is really huge.
Now, however, there is an institutional crisis. Immediately following the Primates’ Meeting, TEC Presiding Bishop Michael Curry admitted that TEC had changed core doctrine about marriage and that he understood that people would be upset about that. Now that he has been back in the shark pond here at home, suddenly he is now saying that changing the definition of marriage is not a change to core doctrine. Furthermore, he said that the Primates can only decide things that relate to the Primates Meeting. He claims that nothing the Primates said applies to the upcoming Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. That was certainly not the understanding of the Primates! They thought that the discipline to which they agreed would be applied everywhere across the Anglican Communion.
Now, there is a crisis, and it is mostly for Archbishop Justin Welby. Out of integrity, two different times at the Primates’ Meeting, He said to the Primates, “I give you my word that I will follow the directions of this meeting.” Or words to that effect. The people from TEC who view themselves as being “large and in charge,” have already announced that they are going to Lusaka and they are going to participate and vote. Adding to the complexity, former Bishop of Southern Malawi, James Tengatenga who is the elected chair of the ACC has announced that TEC should be seated and should vote in Lusaka. It was a very strategic mistake not to get him on-side with what the Primates decided. Previously, he resigned from his diocese to take a teaching position in the US as a dean at Dartmouth. When homosexual activists discovered that he had voted and spoken in favor of Lambeth Resolution 1.10, declaring homosexual practice at odds with Scripture, his appointment evaporated. Since then, TEC has picked him up as an adjunct professor at several seminaries. I suppose it is asking a lot to expect someone to speak out against the ones who are paying his salary. I don’t know that he was compromised by the fact the Episcopal Church pays him, but it sure is hard to defend.
Now, it is clear that TEC will show up in Lusaka. Some will probably try to keep them from being seated, speaking, or voting, but I suspect that will be very hard. Africans are very gracious people. Western liberal activists are not the least bit gracious. Actually, forgive me. That was judgmental. I have never met a Western liberal activist who was gracious. I suspect that in Lusaka, there will not be enough TEC graciousness to fill a thimble. That is going to put the Archbishop of Canterbury in a very difficult spot. We should all be praying for him. He has a tough row to hoe.
We don’t yet know what will happen in Lusaka, but I can say that one way or another, it will cast the die for the future of the Anglican Communion. By early in May, we should be able to predict with some degree of accuracy what the Communion will look like. One thing for sure. There will be a huge, robust fellowship around GAFCON (the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans). There will be a wonderful orthodox future for those who love the Lord and the Scriptures and desire to live under their authority. How big that group will be may well be largely shaped by what happens in Lusaka.
Bishop Atwood is Bishop of the Anglican Church in North America’s International Diocese and an American Anglican Council contributing author.
For years to come, a range of experts and armchair analysts will likely argue about the origins of same-sex attraction and “gender” confusion and to what extent either counts as a psychological disorder. But there is one aspect of the LGBTQ(etc.) phenomenon that, it seems to me, is beyond dispute: basing identity on attractions and feelings has become the dominant social disorder of our time.
The shorthand answer to the question of why people are willing to let their attractions and emotions become either major or minor components of their identity—who they are rather than what they experience—is a pretty simple chain of consequences: 1) Public self-identification (coming out) as gay or lesbian (or other “out” labels) leads to entry into and acceptance from a community. 2) Participation in the community leads to group identification as a minority. 3) Identification as a minority leads to shaping the conversation regarding rights and discrimination issues. 4) Shaping that conversation then leads to dramatic social change that favors the perspective and agenda of the minority.
Does anyone really wonder why LGBTQ identity language is so incredibly difficult for individuals to set aside? As a social phenomenon, it’s a time-proven method for social change that results in a profound affirmation of the very attractions and feelings one has to deal with on a very personal level. Rather than resisting the feelings, these individuals seek the public affirmation that is achieved by “coming out,” which is eventually amplified a hundred-fold by these four steps.
In secular culture, same-sex “marriage” and gender-neutral bathrooms are the end results of this four-step process. But, how might this apply more specifically to the gay Christian subculture?
Some might be surprised at the thought of a gay Christian subculture. Have you ever thought of it that way before? Let’s take a closer look.
Christians ‘Coming Out’ as Community Passport In the midst of the gazillion different Christian communities on the planet, real, live people experience attractions and feelings that are not in accord with authentic human flourishing. But only a handful of “communities” have coalesced around such attractions. One who struggles with pornography or adultery, for example, has no real prospect of “coming out” to join the pornography community or adultery community. That seems rightly silly at face value.
Not so with LGBTQ “communities” waiting with open arms to embrace any soul courageous enough to publicly “come out.” A subset of these secular communities is their Christian component. Let it be known publicly that you’re gay and Christian. You’ve written your own passport allowing you entry not only into the secular LGBTQ community but also into its Christian subculture.
As part of the gay Christian subculture, you’ll be affirmed in your dual identity, but then you will have to give some thought as to which “sub-subculture” you’ll want to accept—for example, Side A or Side B? Gay Christians who think God is okay with homosexual behavior and even same-sex “marriage” are Side A. Gay Christians who think it’s okay to be gay as long as one doesn’t sexually act out are Side B.
Welcome to the Gay Christian Minority (Pick One)! As long as you are “out,” you’re “in,” by the way. The gay Christian community and even larger secular gay community won’t ever disown you, even though some may think you’re slightly crazy if you try to live celibately as a Side B gay Christian. Even if Christian communities look askance at you and reject your Side A views (too immoral) or your “Side B” views (celibacy? Too Catholic!), the gay communities will be more tolerant. Perhaps this is why it has struck me that many who say they are gay and Christian seem even more deeply allied with the gay subcultures than they are with the broader Christian community to which they belong.
So just pick which end of the pool you want to dip your toe into—which minority within the minority will you identify with? Are you the gay Protestant Christian ready to do battle against those fellow Christians who say the homosexual inclination is itself sinful, along with the sinful behaviors? Or is your concern that your church is too lenient? Are you the gay Catholic who thinks your Church’s teaching is too strict, and you’re ready to join the dissenting fight to get the Church to allow gay Catholics to marry each other?
Or are you among that tinier sliver of a minority—chastity-seeking, celibate gay Catholics who accept Church teaching against homosexual acts, while continuing to affirm the gay identity?
Shaping the Minority Report Regardless of which group you identify with, your group and all the other minorities and sub-minorities will eventually manifest a sort of “credo” that establishes what the group wants from its particular Christian community.
Some such minority manifestos will call for “conservative” Protestant denominations to drop their perennial claims that “orientation change” is possible and desirable, and that reparative therapies can and should result in ex-gays marrying spouses of the other sex. Some might call for greater acceptance of gay couples in churches, or for Catholic teaching to change altogether.
What does the celibate gay Catholic’s minority report look like? While there is no push for changing Church teaching on homosexual acts, there is an implicit (and sometimes explicit) push against the Church’s anthropology. By continuing to embrace an identity based on attraction, the celibate gay Catholic contradicts the Church’s understanding that our sexual identity is either man or woman. Nothing else. Further, there is an effort to make room for expressions of some same-sex attractions that are claimed to be not objectively disordered inclinations. There are also calls for “vowed friendships” between the same-sex-attracted and for seeing the “good” in gay sexual identity.
Change We Can’t Believe In But even the minority report of the celibate gay Catholic is largely overwrought. It’s not really any more sustainable than the more overt and aggressive minority views that call for wholesale changes in Church teaching. Similarly, calls for parishes to have active ministries and support groups for “out” LGBTQ persons are largely misguided, failing to appreciate the serious drawbacks of coming out and of pastoral ministry to those who choose to see their attractions and emotions as who they are rather than what they experience.
Ironically, it’s often the deep attachment to the “out” subcultures and communities that stands in the way of helping a person progress toward a deeper attachment to the larger Christian or Catholic communities to which the person belongs. The attachment to the minority identity can become an obstacle to participation in a larger parish community precisely because the person has been compartmentalized with the “gay” label. I’m not thinking of anti-gay discrimination or “othering” here (though that can happen), but I’m thinking more of the self-imposed compartmentalization that takes place when we’re unwilling to reach beyond the comfort zone we’re in, even if that would be good for our souls. It seems so much easier to remain in the affirming subculture than it is to detach from it and simply blend in with the rest of the saints and sinners in our particular ecclesial community.
Opting Out Instead of Coming Out What if I have same-sex attraction and simply decide not to reveal this experience to the general public? What if I just don’t come out? It’s clear that the gay community doesn’t think too highly of anyone who prefers not to take full advantage of the “identity” passport that is freely offered. Rejecting this club membership is viewed as self-oppressive, shame-based, and damaging.
But here is the too-often hidden truth: Opting out is decidedly more liberating than “coming out.”
Not “coming out” does not equal “hiding the truth” about one’s self. Rather, it’s a means of proclaiming the greatest truth of all: “I know who I am and who I am not in God’s eyes.”
I am a son or daughter of God.I am not the feelings and emotions I experience.
Understanding this key truth is where true freedom is. From this vantage, we are liberated from the subcultures and minority status that too often limit our perspectives. We are free to simply embrace our manly or womanly identity as members of the Body of Christ, alongside the rest of the universal (Catholic) Church, and alongside the rest of our smaller parish communities. We are able to seek and find healing in the private and tender hearts of our communities, via same-sex-attraction support groups that respect confidentiality while offering pastoral care in keeping with our human dignity.
By opting out, we become just like everyone else, all carrying our unique crosses while having in common the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, which he extends equally to all. We can jettison our attachments to minority status and avoid its distracting objective of enshrining unhealthy feelings and desires in the very core of my being, my “I.”
We can avoid that aforementioned four-step pathway toward the worst of social disorder and instead become living icons—clothed not in “gay” but in Christ—reflecting that well-known ancient passage of the Apostle Paul:
For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)
REFORM clergy in the Church of Ireland have written an open letter to their bishops saying that a letter put out by their leaders on same sex marriage is a “dangerous departure from confessing Anglicanism.”
It is dangerous, they say, because of its appearance of orthodoxy, while undermining the principles of our reformed protestant denomination.
The letter from the bishops proposes to encourage mutual respect and attentiveness, but it communicates something quite different, they say. “They make the Church of Ireland its own primary authority and source of unity, and then assume that the church’s teaching on the issue of human sexuality is liable, even certain, to change.”
The bishops make the Church of Ireland’s canons, rites, ceremonies and liturgies, the primary and ultimate authority for doctrinal and moral teaching. If this is true, they argue, the only barrier to a Church of Ireland minister conducting same-sex marriages is the canons and liturgy of the Church of Ireland.
REFORM leaders say the bishops’ letter defends this approach by suggesting this matter is of ‘expressly legal function’. The letter itself cannot sustain this tactic, as it later calls us to ‘offer service and leadership in the things of God.’
“Our bishops’ neglect of Scripture departs from the Church of Ireland’s stated principles in the preamble and declaration to our constitution and our historic reformed protestant doctrine contained in the BCP, articles, ordinal and homilies. The benefit of these Anglican documents is in their agreement with Scripture. Apart from their agreement with Scripture they have no Christian authority and cease to be identifiably Anglican.”
The REFORM priests argue their impediment to supporting, conducting of, or entry into so-called “same-sex marriage” is not the canons, liturgical resources, or others’ consciences as the bishops propose. “Our impediment is the clear and present word of God in Scripture from which our doctrine is derived. If Holy Scripture is not our bishops’ ultimate authority, then they have departed from the reformed Christian faith of which Anglicanism is a wonderful expression.”
The REFORM leaders said they long for a call from their House of Bishops to proper Christian restraint that is obedience to our Lord’s word. “To act without such restraint in this matter is not merely inviting division, it is open rebellion against Christ and a withdrawal from Christian life and doctrine, a willful sinfulness that Scripture and our scriptural Anglican traditions meet with rebuke and discipline.”
SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES CONCERNING SAME SEX MARRIAGE
1. l am writing to you in the light of the Marriage Equality Referendum in the Republic of Ireland and the subsequent legislation. It is recognized that in the Church of Ireland, there are differing opinions and responses to the outcome of the referendum itself. Together with my episcopal colleagues, I seek to encourage a spirit of mutual respect and attentiveness to one another as we move forward together in a context of new civic realities and possibilities in the Republic of Ireland. There will be many new situations of pastoral sensitivity arising.
2. Hitherto, the Church and the State in both jurisdictions have substantially overlapped in their definition of marriage. This is no longer the case in the Republic of Ireland.
3. We also need to understand that under current legislation, involvement of a member of the clergy of the Church of Ireland as a solemnizer (Republic of Ireland) or an officiant (Northern Ireland) in a wedding is an expressly legal function.
4. The following are some questions that have already been raised:
5. Q. Will a member of the clergy who is on the Register of Solemnizers (Republic of Ireland) now be able to conduct a same-sex marriage?
6. REFORM: This will not be possible while the Canons of the Church of Ireland stand as they are. The powers of conducting a marriage as delegated to an ordained minister in the Church of Ireland require that the marriage be conducted according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of Ireland, and therefore the doctrine as reflected in those rites and ceremonies. The Church of Ireland does not have a liturgy of same-sex marriage.
7. Q. Are clergy permitted to conduct a blessing of a same-sex marriage?
8. REFORM: There is no provision in the Book of Common Prayer or other authorized liturgies of the church for the blessing of a same sex marriage. In addition the service known as A Form of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage presupposes the civil marriage of a man and a woman as husband and wife, and cannot be used in this context.
9. Q. If two people who enter a same-sex civil marriage ask a member of the clergy to say prayers with them, how am I to reply and what am I to do?
10. REFORM: It is not possible to proscribe the saying of prayers in personal and pastoral situations, nor would one wish to do so. In fact, in situations of rejoicing and crisis, such prayers often are at the heart of ministry. Any such prayers should remain consonant with the spirit and teaching of the Church of lreland.
11. Q. If I am asked to attend a same-sex marriage, should I go?
12. REFORM: The decision lies with the individual who will bring to this decision criteria of friendship and conscience, following personal prayer and reflection.
13. Q. What is the situation if I, as a member of the clergy serving in the Church of Ireland decide to enter a same-sex marriage?
14. REFORM: All are free to exercise their democratic entitlements once they are enshrined in legislation. However, members of the clergy, are further bound by the Ordinal and by the authority of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland. It is essential that any member of the clergy seeking to explore entering into a same sex marriage should think carefully about the response of others, not only in the immediate locality. This is an extension of the reflection, often requiring restraint in a range of matters, expected of clergy who are both public and private people at the same time.
15. The bishops of the Church of Ireland, acting corporately and individually, are well aware that, in the eyes of many, for an ordained member of the clergy to enter publicly into a civil marriage would be regarded as divisive. The backdrop to this is that such a situation is contrary to what the Church of Ireland currently practices within its own framework of regulation. The situation is that State provision in the Republic of Ireland now differs significantly from that in the Church of Ireland. It is for this reason that we encourage a restraint for the sake of unity that is respectful of the principles of others in the mixed flock to whom clergy offer service and leadership in the things of God.
Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…
One of the hallmarks of biblical Christianity is a very high view of the Word of God. Christians believe that the Bible is divinely inspired and is our final authority on all things, affirming truth on matters of both faith and practice. As Jesus said in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
Obviously anything as vitally important as the Word of God will come under regular, sustained and ferocious attack. Especially since the nineteenth century, attacks on Scripture have been relentless. Christians have long defended God’s Word, and I have already offered a lengthy list of helpful books on this topic back in 2011: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/15/recommended-reading-on-scripture/
Many of the older and newer classics mentioned there can still be highlighted, such as those by Warfield, Blomberg, Packer, Carson, Geisler and Sproul, to name just a few. But since them a number of excellent new volumes have appeared which are well worth mentioning. They are volumes we all should have in our libraries, and used to stand strong for the reliability and trustworthiness of Scripture.
Pride of place has to go to a brand new and massive volume edited by D. A. Carson. The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016), is certainly the newest and most comprehensive treatment of this topic, and all related aspects to it.
In some 1250 pages thirty-seven of our top evangelical scholars deal with all aspects of the Scripture debate. We have experts in theology, biblical studies, Old and New Testament, and so on coming together here to make one of the most important cases to date for the full authority of Scripture.
Scholars include: Carson, John Woodbridge, Richard Lints, Anthony Lane, Kenneth Vanhoozer, Craig Blomberg, Douglas Moo, Graham Cole, Bruce Waltke, Paul Helm, Harold Netland, and many others. Most of the important aspects of the Scripture debate are covered here: historical, biblical, theological, philosophical, and epistemological.
There are solid chapters on a range of issues such as: authority and truth, literary genres, science and scripture, inerrancy, scripture in other religions, canonisation, hermeneutics and so on. Even the final chapter by Carson, “Summarising FAQs” is of great value, digesting all that has gone before in the previous thousand-plus pages.
The importance of this topic cannot be overstated. As Carson reminds us at the end of his preface, Isaiah 66:2 says this: “These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” This superb volume was six long years in the making, and Carson and Co are to be congratulated for making it available.
But let me briefly mention a dozen other volumes which you should be aware of (and in fact be in possession of):
Blomberg, Craig, Can We Still Believe the Bible? Brazos press, 2014.
The New Testament scholar has written a number of important volumes on the reliability of Scripture, and in this helpful work he deals with various topics, such as canonisation, the transmission of Scripture, inerrancy, the miraculous, and other vital issues.
Cowan, Steven and Terry Wilder, eds., In Defense of the Bible. B&H, 2013.
In this substantial volume of nearly 500 pages a range of experts look at philosophical, textual, historical, scientific, ethical, and theological challenges to the Bible. An excellent tool in apologetics with noted authorities such as Paul Copan, William Dembski, Walter Kaiser, Paul Barnett, Darrel Bock and Daniel Wallace.
Ferguson, Sinclair, From the Mouth of God. Banner of Truth, 2014.
This brief (200-page) volume does three things: it examines the reliability and trustworthiness of Scripture; discusses how to read and interpret Scripture, and then offers practical help in how to apply the Bible. A useful, popular level volume by the theology professor and former Presbyterian pastor.
Garner, David, ed., Did God Really Say? Affirming the Truthfulness and Trustworthiness of Scripture. P&R, 2012.
In this brief volume seven scholars from Westminster Theological Seminary and several other schools discuss various issues, including inerrancy, the canon, and God and language.
Geisler, Norman and William Roach, Defending Inerrancy. Baker, 2011.
Norman Geisler has written extensively about Scripture and inerrancy over the years, and in this recent volume he offers a careful exposition of what inerrancy is, its history, its importance, and recent challenges to it.
Grudem, Wayne, C. John Collins and Thomas Schreiner, eds., Understanding Scripture. Crossway, 2012.
In this slim volume various experts such as John Piper, Vern Poythress, Paul Wegner, Daniel Doriani, and Leland Ryken look at a number of topics, including canonisation, archaeology and the Bible, hermeneutics, textual and manuscript issues, and so on.
Hoffmeier, James and Dennis Magary, eds., Do Historical Matters Matter To Faith? A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture. Crossway, 2012.
This very important 550-page volume looks at a number of modern and postmodern approaches and challenges to Scripture. Experts such as Richard Hess, Darrell Bock, Robert Yarbrough, Mark Thompson and Craig Blomberg combine to demonstrate just how reliable, trustworthy and authoritative the Bible really is.
Lillback, Peter and Richard Gaffin, eds., Thy Word Is Still Truth: Essential Writings on the Doctrine of Scripture from the Reformation to Today. P&R, 2013.
This mega-volume of 1400 pages performs an invaluable service by bringing together all the key writings on Scripture from the past 500 years. Thus Calvin, Luther, the various Reformed Confessions, Owen, Edwards, Hodge, Warfield, Bavink, Kuyper, Allis, Murray, Frame, Waltke and many more are found here. An indispensable volume.
Meadowcroft, Tim, The Message of the Word of God. IVP, 2011.
The New Zealand biblical studies lecturer here offers us what Scripture itself says about Scripture. Twenty key passages such as Psalm 19, Nehemiah 8, John 1, Isaiah 55, Matthew 12 and 2 Timothy 3 are discussed in detail.
Poythress, Vern Sheridan, Inerrancy and Worldview. Crossway, 2012.
Poythress examines a number of recent challenges to the Bible, such as philosophical, sociological and scientific. He deals with worldviews and materialism, higher criticism, God language, religious pluralism, the nature of biblical inspiration, Marxist and feminist critiques, and the nature of truth.
My last two books are a bit more specialised. In my bigger bibliographies on Scripture, I have a separate section on canon, canonisation, etc. Two recent volumes are worth mentioning here, both by Michael Kruger:
–Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Crossway, 2012.
–The Question of Canon. IVP, 2013.
These two volumes are excellent in telling us everything we need to know about the New Testament canon: its origins, formation, authors, writing, dating, development, reception, transmission, importance and reliability. While good books already exist on the canon of the NT, these really are now our first port of call.
So happy reading as you equip yourself to more fully appreciate, rely upon, and defend the Word of God.
OK,sometimes a little meme so very nicely encapsulates my thinking that I just want to post it and leave it at that. Indeed, I have posted it elsewhere and it has already been shared kazillions of times in the past
few hours. So I think it is spot on in expressing what so many of us think and feel.
So this will be a rather short post, and I will let the picture speak for itself. And of course it should be obvious that my title can be teased out a bit more. Sin of course is what is wrong with the world, and rebellion against God, truth, reality and common sense.
But the picture nicely embodies so much of that. We live in an age where every idiotic anti-God, anti-family, and anti-sanity idea is held up as a paragon of wisdom and virtue, while everything sensible, godly,
rational and real is dumped on as intolerance, bigotry and hate speech.
Today people can choose to be whatever they want to be. They can pretend to be another sex, or another age, or another race, or another species. That is all just peachy, and anything goes. To even suggest that these choices might be rather problematic is seen as the epitome of
hate and narrowmindedness.
But make a choice for Jesus Christ and Scripture and morality and family and all hell breaks out. Then you have crossed the line and must be punished. You must be put in your place, handed over to the thought police, and re-educated. Such independent thinking is verboten in our
Brave New World.
Anyway, enough waffle from me. This picture is a real winner. It tells us so much about just what is wrong about the West today. And it hints at what we must do to turn things around before it is too late.
“A radical split or division already exists and is irreconcilable whatever ‘conversations’ take place. For this reason I believe that the breech will be formalised soon enough — it may well be in the next five years — indeed I think that likely.”
The Church of England has already liberalised on human sexuality and a split is “almost certain” as a result, according to a damning article from a conservative theologian.
Dr Joe Boot, Wilberforce Director at Christian Concern, has given a withering assessment of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent address to the Church’s governing body and wrote the “conversation on these terms is already over”
“What the Anglican Church’s ‘conversation’ is engaged in… is the attempted rationalisation of sin in order to alleviate the reality of guilt which all those practising sexual immorality feel.”
The Church of England is in an ongoing process of what it calls “shared conversations” to discuss different perspectives on acceptance of homosexuality and “help forge better understanding between different groups over the issue of sexuality”, according to Archbishop of York John Sentamu.
However Sentamu denied the Church is “poised to rethink its centuries-old doctrine of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples”, in a letter to The Telegraph.
But Boot argued the position has already subtly moved and a split is inevitable.
“The truth is that once you have accepted, as the Archbishops clearly do, that “LGBTI” et al. is a real matter of human identity, rather than mere social construction, any denial of the normative character of their actions becomes a denial of ‘human rights’ and an assault on their dignity and person and consequently is ‘homophobic,’ ‘transphobic’ or any other number of regularly enumerated mental crimes and disorders.”
He also said the “bishops’ uncritical adoption of the language of Queer theory” meant a change in the Church’s teaching on homosexuality was “already essentially resolved”.
Boot is a theologian and apologist as well as founding pastor of Westminster Chapel in Toronto and founder of the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity (EICC). He also has a role within UK Christian public policy charity, Christian Concern, as director of the Wilberforce Academy and Wilberforce Publications.
His intervention comes after Jayne Ozanne, a leading gay evangelical Anglican and member of General Synod, wrote a letter to Welby and Sentamu ahead of the recent gathering of Anglican world leaders at the Primates conference.
Along with 105 Church of England members, Ozanne called for the Church’s “repentance for accepting and promoting discrimination on the grounds of sexuality”. The signatures said the Church must acknowledge it has “failed in our duty of care to LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world.
“We have not loved them as we should, and have treated them as a problem to be solved rather than as brothers and sisters in Christ to be embraced and celebrated. We have made them feel second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God, often abandoned and alone.”
However in his article, Boot lambasted Justin Welby for his failure to instil strict “sanctions” on The Episcopal Church in North America who openly endorse same-sex marriages and allow clergy to enter into gay and lesbian unions.
“Justin Welby has been at pains to say that there have been ‘no sanctions’ applied to the North American church for its heretical position on marriage and human sexuality,” he wrote.
“By contrast, St. Paul is abundantly clear that the church is to judge those within it in this matter of sexual immorality, to “purge the evil person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:13).”
He argued the Church has consistently modified its teaching “to agree with moral and social shifts in an unbelieving world” and would do the same on homosexuality. He accused Welby of abandoning the Bible in favour of a “discernment process” which “sets forth an evolving God, not the God of Scripture”.
“It takes little reading between the lines of the Archbishop’s speech to see the defenders of Scripture and orthodoxy being subtly impugned as ‘power-hungry’ elements in the church, hiding their true motives by “masquerading as a desire for order.”
“The truth, however, is that Welby’s doctrine of order and freedom, used as it is to justify a ‘diversity’ in the church leadership that tolerates and promotes homosexual relations as well as a possible embrace of homosexual ‘marriage,’ is antinomian to the core, masquerading as grace and freedom.”
Participants in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and Lutheran Church-Canada’s (LCC) ongoing ecumenical dialogue have released an interim report on their work so far. Entitled “On Closer Acquaintance,” the document is the culmination of six years of regular discussions between the three church bodies, and highlights the discovery of significant doctrinal agreement between the Anglican and Lutheran participants.
The authors are clear that there is still much work to be done before altar and pulpit fellowship between the two sides would be possible. Nevertheless, they have found the discussions promising enough to publicly declare their prayer “that, in the time and manner of His choosing, our Lord would grant each side in our conversations to acknowledge our ‘first cousin’ to be in fact a true sister church, with the result that we would welcome each other wholeheartedly to our respective altars and enjoy the blessed situation in which our clergy and people would be interchangeable with each other as we stand under the grace of God and work for His kingdom.”
In the meantime, they encourage all three church bodies to “consider the ways in which we can cooperate and come together in ways that fall short of full communion but do allow the greatest measure of cooperation while maintaining full theological integrity.”
The leaders of the three churches welcomed the report warmly, reflecting on the growing relationship between confessional Anglicans and Lutherans.
“In a time when so many churches are departing from the teachings of the Bible, it has been refreshing to see the stand for Scriptural Truth that is being made by The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Lutheran Church-Canada,” said ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach. “We agree on the essentials of the Faith, and share a common desire to evangelize North America with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The LCMS’ President Matthew Harrison had a similar perspective. “In these trying times for global Christianity, we were joyously surprised and deeply heartened to learn of ACNA and its struggle to be faithful to the New Testament and historic Christian faith,” he said. “By God’s grace we have found real friends who have encouraged us deeply. We have been inspired by the journey of these men and women out of a church body which had abandoned the New Testament. They have sacrificed greatly, virtually all of them losing the properties of their respective congregations due to the structure of the Episcopal Church. I pray that we would be so courageous facing such difficulties.”
LCC President Robert Bugbee praised the dialogue and the growing theological consensus between confessional Lutherans and Anglicans. “These discussions have been marked by great thoroughness and theological integrity,” he noted. “Nobody reached for easy compromises, nor did anyone paper over matters that needed to be fully worked through on the basis of God’s Word. Biblical Christians throughout North America face many pressures, not only with the secularization of our society, but also because of the doctrinal decay and revisionism in much of mainline Christianity. We thank the Lord for the commitment of our Anglican friends, and ask Him to use our witness to hold Christ the Saviour out to people all around us.”
All three leaders were present for the most recent round of dialogue between the LCMS, ACNA, and LCC, held February 8-9 in St. Louis, Missouri. A major focus of the meeting was finalizing the report on the six-year dialogue so far.
A Comparison of Doctrinal Positions
The report begins by recounting the close history of Anglicans and Lutherans, suggesting that while they are not as yet “sister churches” they are “the closest ecumenical cousins in Christendom.” Moreover, the current divisions in world Anglicanism mirror similar divisions in world Lutheranism. In these situations confessional Anglicans and confessional Lutherans find they have much in common. Each tradition also has much to offer the other: “We note that while Anglicans have been famous for their patterns of prayer and devotion, Lutherans have majored in more precise doctrinal definition and theological precision,” the report states. “While both sides acknowledge the essential quality of both lex credendiand lex orandi, it may be that Lutherans can assist Anglicans toward more careful attention to the first and that Anglicans can help Lutherans to deepen their practice of the second.”
The report continues by comparing the doctrinal positions of the two traditions at length. The churches have found strong agreement on a number of areas, including the subjects of the Trinity, the person of Jesus Christ, the authority of Scripture, the creeds, original sin, justification, and good works.
The talks have also identified areas that require further discussion. In particular, the report notes that “the ordering of the ministry is the area where we have found the most work, study, and discussion needs to be done to reach a common understanding of the connection between our practices.” To that end, the paper encourages Lutherans to “consider the ways in which the ministry of the bishop (as distinct from presbyter) is already at work among them” and encourages Anglicans to consider “how recognition of the office of bishop can go hand in hand with acknowledgement of the unicity of the office instituted by Christ.” Likewise, the report identifies the diaconate as another topic that would be beneficial to discuss.
The two sides also address the topic of female ordination in the report. The LCMS and LCC both understand the ordained ministry to preclude women. The report notes that a majority within ACNA also hold this position even as they are “engaged at the present time in a consensus-seeking discussion with the minority within its midst that takes the opposite view.”
Additional doctrinal stances compared in the report include the Church, Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, Holy Absolution, and the role of Christian rulers.
“When our open-ended conversations began six years ago, some of the signatories to this report approached our task with a mixture of low expectations and a certain nervousness before the unknown,” the report admits in its conclusion. “All of us are somewhat surprised to have discovered the deep common bonds between us in the Body of Christ, and to have registered the large measure of consensus that we have documented above. We regard these things that we have discovered together as a gift of the Lord, and trust Him to use our findings to His glory and to the good of the universal Church. As we commend this report to the people and clergy of ACNA, LCMS, and LCC, we encourage Lutherans and Anglicans to remember each other in prayer, embrace one another in Christian love, to encourage each other to confess Christ boldly in our ever darkening times, and to support each other in mission and outreach in faithfulness to Him who has laid the same Great Commission on us all.”
Elsewhere in the report the authors write, “We earnestly hope that these pages may be read and pondered as widely as possible by the clergy and people of our respective church bodies, not only in private but also in the setting of Bible classes, clergy and theological conferences, and other appropriate forums of Christian education.”