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CofE Synod Votes to Rebuke Bishops' Conservative Stance on Marriage * Anglican Church of Canada in Major Decline * Damning Verdict on Child Sex Abuse in Australia * Egyptian Archbishop says Trump is wrong on Immigration

Life in Christ. No-one may dare to claim that he lives in Christ and Christ in him unless he is obedient to the three fundamental commands which John has been expounding (1 Jn. 4:24) which are belief in Christ, love for the brothers and moral righteousness. 'Living in Christ' is not a mystical experience which anyone may claim; its indispensable accompaniments are the confession of Jesus as the Son of God come in the flesh, and a consistent life of holiness and love. --- John R.W. Stott

Reputation and reality. The distinction between reputation and reality, between what human beings see and what God sees, is of great importance to every age and place. Although we have responsibilities to others, we are primarily accountable to God. It is before him that we stand, and to him that one day we must give an account. We should not therefore rate human opinion too highly, becoming depressed when criticized and elated when flattered. We need to remember that 'The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart' (1 Sa. 16:7). He reads our thoughts and knows our motives. He can see how much reality there is behind our profession, how much life behind our facade. --- John R.W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
February 17, 2017

THE EXPLOSIVE news development of the week was the Church of England's Synod vote which rebuked the bishops' conservative line view on marriage and its report on sexuality.

In a major revolt against the CofE's hierarchy, members of the Church's General Synod rejected a report by top bishops that said there was 'little support' for changing the view that marriage was between one man and one woman.

An impassioned debate by the Church of England's General Synod ended with defeat for the bishops.

The shock result plunges the Church into confusion on its stance on marriage with the bishops' report barred from being discussed until the end of this synod in 2020.

Although a majority of members voted in favor overall, a move by campaigners forced the synod to split into its three separate houses -- the laity, the clergy and the bishops -- with all three needing a majority for it to pass.

But the clergy voted by 100 to 93 against, in a rebuke to the bishops' authority.
The Church of England's ruling body has thrown out a controversial report on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The report by the House of Bishops, which was presented to the General Synod on Wednesday, had called for the Church to adopt a "fresh tone and culture of welcome and support" for gay people -- but not to change its opposition to unions between same-sex couples.

More than 400 Church leaders gathered for a "take note" debate on the issue at Church Hall in Westminster, where they voted to symbolically reject the recommendations.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had urged the Synod to approve the report, describing it as a "good basis, a road map" for moving forward.

The report had to gain a majority in the House of Bishops, House of Clergy and House of Laity to be approved.

A total of 242 votes were cast in favor across the three houses, 184 against, along with six abstentions.

But some 100 members of the House of Clergy voted against -- compared with 93 who voted in favor and two who abstained.
The report recommended the Church of England should continue to consider marriage as "a union, permanent and lifelong, of one man with one woman".

The Bishop of Norwich, Graham James, said there had been "very little appetite" for changing the doctrine, as he introduced the debate.

However, a story broke soon after the vote that said a number of bishops did not exactly know what they were voting for.

The crucial vote on gay marriage was thrown into doubt after the Bishop of Coventry admitted he accidentally voted against the report and several others may have made the same mistake.

The Right Reverend Dr. Christopher Cocksworth apologized for the mistake last night, which he said was because of "a moment of distraction and some confusion over the voting process".

The bishop insisted that he did, in fact, support the report written by his colleagues and was "embarrassed" to have accidentally rejected it.

It has since emerged that some members have suggested that clergy had made the same mistake.

How they voted:

House of Laity: 106 for, 83 against, 4 abstentions
House of Clergy: 93 for, 100 against, 2 abstentions
House of Bishops: 43 for, 1 against, 0 abstentions
Given the number of members registered for this meeting of General Synod, the numbers suggest that 21 members were absent, or refused to vote or record an abstention.

Naturally the Church's pansexualist campaigners said they were not seeking gay marriage, but only approval for blessings. We think that is not true based on what we saw in The Episcopal Church which has now placed in canon law that marriage shall be extended to same-sex partners. The CofE is headed down the same road and nothing will stop the pansexual steam roller in the Church of England.

For the moment, the status quo remains the status quo. It was a "Take Note" report, not a new Canon or Measure. The Bishops will now go away and write a teaching document -- a replacement for Issues. The BBC will present it as a victory for the liberal lobby -- but it changes nothing.

Following the vote in General Synod, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York weighed in saying they wanted to set out the way forward in the next few months.

"First, we want to be clear about some underlying principles. In these discussions no person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no 'problems', there are simply people called to redeemed humanity in Christ.

"To deal with that disagreement and to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.

"We need to work together - not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone -- to move forward with confidence."

We have heard this line before. 'Radical new inclusion' is just buzz and spin for brokering sodomy into the church under new house rules. If sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is now not sin, where do these archbishops then draw the line? What sexuality in the pantheon of sexualities is now no longer sinful behavior -- bestiality, polygamy. Who's to say if the lines can now be drawn anywhere one wants to draw them?

I have posted a number of stories on this historic event in today's digest with some excellent commentary on what it all means.

*****

VOL recently exposed the sexual rot in the Anglican Church of Australia and this week came a damning verdict on response to child abuse in Australia.

A Royal Commission examining allegations of child sexual abuse delivered a verdict on a system which enabled a culture of abuse to flourish.

The report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse comes after public hearings into how the Church of England's Boys' Society (CEBS) and the Anglican dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney dealt with claims of abuse. The hearings, in Hobart, Tasmania, were told of allegations of abuse by lay people and clergy associated with CEBS in the 1970s and 1980s.

The report concluded that most CEBS branches were able to operate in an autonomous and unregulated way. As a result, a culture developed in which attackers had easy access to boys and opportunities to sexually abuse them. It found the abuse often happened at camps, on sailing and fishing trips and on overnight stays at rectories and private homes. You can read the full report in today's digest.

*****

Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, says a recent decision of President Donald Trump to restrict entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations, and to prioritize the refugee applications of Christians in the Middle East is a mistake and will not contribute to the security of the United States in any way.

"I appreciate the right of the government to protect the nation from terrorism, but this will not happen by preventing Muslims from coming to the country. The Oklahoma City bombing, we recall, was conducted by an American, not a Muslim.

"President Trump's policy is a naïve solution based on generalization and discrimination. The risk of terrorism should be dealt with by the security agencies on an individual basis and in cooperation with other nations. This decision will result in innocent people being barred entry, and refugees will suffer greatly.

"Under so much pressure in their home countries, refugees need a refuge. Much poorer nations like Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt have been accommodating the thousands that the United States is turning away.

"This decision is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, which requires us to welcome the stranger and treat him well. Jesus Christ, we must remember, was once a refugee in Egypt.

"But President Trump's decision to prioritize Christian refugee application will not help. Deep in my heart I do not want to see Christians leaving the place where Jesus was born, lived, and was crucified.

"The Middle East will not be the Middle East without Middle Eastern Christians. It will change, and in more than just demographics. The beautiful mosaic will suffer, as will the church's witness to Christ's love among all the peoples of the region.

*****

A number of TEC bishops have weighed in on the recent decision of President Donald Trump to restrict entry to the United States.

The Diocese of Olympia welcomes refugees and is pursuing a separate lawsuit against the president's executive order to keep resettlement efforts alive.

A federal appeals court ruling Feb. 9 that blocked reinstatement of the Trump administration's temporary ban on refugee admissions was welcomed by Episcopal Church leaders in Washington, where the Diocese of Olympia is helping to coordinate the resettlement of 190 refugees each year. Of the refugees now preparing to arrive in the Seattle area, about 90 percent are expected to come from one of the seven Muslim-majority countries singled out in President Donald Trump's Jan. 27 order, which also banned visitors and visa holders from those nations.

Both the Diocese of Olympia and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a separate lawsuit Feb. 7 challenging the executive order.

Refugees who had been held up at airports overseas when Trump first signed the executive order, are now making their way to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Still, the legal uncertainty threatens to shutter the diocese's Refugee Resettlement Office, a scenario Bishop Greg Rickel said would run counter to the Episcopal Church's mission.

*****

The Episcopal Public Policy Network is opposed to the U.S. embassy in Israel moving to Jerusalem.

This would change over 50 years of U.S. foreign policy. Prior to his inauguration, President Trump said that one of the first things he would do is move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Since his inauguration, he has said, "I am thinking about the embassy, I am studying the embassy [issue], and we will see what happens. The embassy is not an easy decision. It has obviously been out there for many, many years, and nobody has wanted to make that decision. I'm thinking about it very seriously, and we will see what happens."

We need you to tell Congress that Jerusalem is important to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and that its final status needs to be negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians with the support of our nation and the international community.

The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations is joining Churches for Middle East Peace in meetings with lawmakers today to raise this issue.

*****

I wrote a story this week on the rapidly diminishing Anglican Church of Canada.

By any measurable standard, the Canadian church is in serious decline with little hope that the numbers can or will be reversed in the foreseeable future.

In one diocese after another, the third largest denomination in Canada is declining, its demise now almost certain as it focuses on a host of social justice issues to the neglect of evangelism, discipleship and church planting.

The Anglican Church of Canada, which is squeamishly shy about publicizing how many people attend its churches, has published no complete statistics for membership and average Sunday attendance since 2001, although the ACoC did claim a membership of 545,957 in 2007. You can my full report in today's digest.

*****

A major player at Vatican II confessed this week to concealing his homosexual life. LifeSiteNews reports that 93-year-old Gregory Baum, a famed Canadian Catholic ex-priest, has in his latest book revealed that he secretly led an active homosexual life for decades.

Baum, who was a periti or expert at the Second Vatican Council, reportedly composed the first draft of the conciliar document Nostra aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions. Baum advocated for the elimination of the Church's efforts to encourage Jews to recognize Christ as the Messiah and has since pushed social justice and liberation theology.

The influential cleric reveals candidly in The Oil Has Not Run Dry: The Story of My Theological Pathway, "I did not profess my own homosexuality in public because such an act of honesty would have reduced my influence as a critical theologian." "I was eager to be heard as a theologian trusting in God as salvator mundi and committed to social justice, liberation theology, and global solidarity."

Baum was also influential in the Catholic Church in Canada, despite his openly heretical positions on sexuality, which he published in various journals. His public dissent from the 1968 declaration of the Church maintaining the ban on contraception -- Humanae Vitae -- was instrumental in the Canadian bishops' own dissent from the encyclical of Pope Paul VI. As the foremost expert on the Canadian bishops' dissent, Monsignor Vincent Foy has written, "If it had not been for the black shadow of Baum over Winnipeg, his influence over some Bishops, the Canadian theological establishment and pressure groups, the Winnipeg Statement of the Canadian Bishops on Humanae Vitae would not have refused to endorse the teaching of the encyclical as it did."

*****

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