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Coptic Christians Slaughtered in Egypt: Anglicans respond * Episcopal Dioceses Crumble * Top TEC officials take home $3 million * Jailed Maryland Former Bishop Eligible for Parole * Canadian Anglicans among the Ruins * Quarter of Brits Reject Resurrection

The peril of isolation. The greatest peril to which any thinker is exposed is the isolation of his ivory tower --– John R.W. Stott

A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment. ---
Pope Benedict XVI

The Problem of “Echo Chambers”. A problem with contemporary American society is that most people tend only to listen to people with whom they already agree. The result is almost complete ignorance. --- Roger E. Olson

Diversity and harmony. The church as a multi-racial, multi-cultural community is like a beautiful tapestry. Its members come from a wide range of colorful backgrounds. No other human community resembles it. Its diversity and harmony are unique. It is God's new society. And the many-coloured fellowship of the church is a reflection of the many-coloured (or 'many-splendoured', to use Francis Thompson's word) wisdom of God. --- John R.W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
April 14, 2017

At 9.30 on (Palm Sunday) during Mass at St George’s Church in Tanto, north of Cairo, dozens of Coptic Christians were celebrating the joyful entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Then, in the twinkling of an eye, our Lord welcomed at least 25 of them into His kingdom, as a bomb went off inside the church, narrowly missing the Coptic Church’s Patriarch, Pope Tawadros II.

That, at least, is what hundreds of millions of Christians believe; as Holy Week begins. They will be praying for the slaughtered men, women and children of St Mark’s – and also for the victims of a suicide bombing outside St Mark’s Cathedral, Alexandria, that happened soon after and where 18 are reported to have been slain.

A spokesman for the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs tweeted that the Palm Sunday massacres were “another obnoxious but failed attempts against all Egyptians”. Really? It looks very like an attack on Christians simply because they are Christians. It would be equally fatuous to claim that Boko Haram’s unrelenting slaughter of Christians is directed “against all Nigerians”, noted Damian Thompson in The Spectator.

The impulse to wipe them from the face of the earth is growing stronger, and Muslim fanatics are delighted that the extinction of Christianity from its ancient heartlands is tantalizingly close to happening.

The slaughter brought forth anguish from Egyptian Anglican Bishop, Mouneer Anis, who noted with “sadness” the killing of 45, with a further injured 129, some of whom were Muslim policemen and guards. “Sadness overshadowed all Palm Sunday celebrations all over Egypt,” he said.

“Both terrorist attacks were done by suicide bombers. In Tanta, the suicide bomber succeeded in entering the Church, while in Alexandria, the metal detector gates beeped as the bomber was going through and to avoid being arrested, he detonated the bomb.

“In view of these terrorist attacks, we expect that tourist numbers to Egypt will drop considerably although Egypt is still considered a much safer destination than other countries in the region,” wrote Anis. I have posted several stories on this brutal slaying from an Anglican perspective in today’s digest.

*****

Episcopal Dioceses are starting to crumble as parishes decline and there are fewer paid rectors.

Following recent revelations by Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, that her diocese is in free fall with only a dozen or so viable parishes out of 88, VOL has received reports from other dioceses that reflect similar decline.

The Diocese of Nthn. Michigan, for example, has a total ASA of 475 (as of 2015) from a handful of parishes. The diocese is being sustained financially by the national church.

However, it is not always the bishop that is so forthcoming. VOL has received a report from another TEC diocese in the northeast. In this case, news comes from a clergy person who agreed to talk to VOL on the basis of anonymity, fearing retribution by the diocesan bishop.

This person wrote: “Of the approximately 80 parishes within the diocese, there have been over 30 rector and/or clergy changes since January 2015, with two additional parishes making changes in the coming months. This represents almost 40% of the diocese in transition within a space of just over 24 months. Furthermore, within this diocese, salaries are coming down and there are difficulties in employing interims as a result. Meanwhile, the diocesan office is hiring additional staff and seeking enlarged office space.”

When one considers that the cost of bringing in a new rector involves the considerable expense of moving, rectory refurbishment, final payments to the previous rector or interim, this game of musical chairs is doing little for the financial health of either the individual parishes or the diocese as a whole!

“Yes, we're coming apart,” the source told VOL. You can read the full story in today’s digest.

*****

Top TEC Officials pull down nearly $3 million a year in salaries, official sources revealed this week.

For an institution that is slowly dying, with nary a diocese that is growing, you might be amazed, perhaps even shocked, at what the principal players in The Episcopal Church pull down in terms of salaries, not including housing allowances, which is a tax-free benefit.

The top five players including the Presiding Bishop, Chief Financial Officer, Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer and President of the House of Deputies (the latter gets nothing), pull down close to $1 million a year, (the exact amount is $920,430).

Bishop Michael Curry gets $280,500, (bear in mind that the Jesus Movement has yet to show an evangelistic profit); the Chief Financial Officer pulls down $230,830; The Executive Officer gets $209,100; the Chief Operating Officer gets $200,000 and HOD president Gay Jennings is branded a “volunteer,” does a lot of the heavy lifting and gets paid nothing.

Then there are the principal employees numbering some thirteen, beginning with the Director of Development who pulls down a mere $191,250, followed by the top legal counsel who gets $190,382. Three Canons to the Presiding Bishop pull in a total of $505,715. The lowest paid is the General Convention Manager who pulls in a mere $137,489. The Canonical Archivist pulls down $137,553. The total is almost $2 million. The Bishop-in-Charge, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe pulls down a mere $74,468.

This does not include housing allowances totaling $75,000. You can read the full story in today’s digest.

*****

Heather Cook, the former Episcopal bishop who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the December, 2014, killing of a cyclist in a drunken crash in North Baltimore, is eligible for parole next month.

Cook, 60, who has been incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Jessup, is scheduled to appear before the Parole Board on May 9, according to a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), according to newspaper reports.

Cook had been sentenced on October 27, 2015, to seven years in prison for the crash, which claimed the life of Thomas Palermo, a married father of two who had been out riding his bike two days after Christmas.

Cook pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, driving while under the influence and texting while driving.

Asked how the state calculated her eligibility for parole, less than two years into her prison term, DPSCS media relations specialist Gerard Shields explained it this way: “She has a seven-year sentence, but because the crime is considered non-violent, she is eligible for parole after serving 25% of it,” Shields said. “It does seem quick,” he agreed.

So, the killing of a man on a bicycle while you’re drunk is non-violent? I guess in this crazy country it is only violent if you use a semi-automatic weapon capable of killing dozens of people at a single sweep.

*****

Barbara Rice Thompson, 56, a former editor of Penthouse, an iconic pornographic magazine, has taken up a position as program director for a Mother and Child Ministry at a local Episcopal Church, with the blessing of the priest and Long Island Bishop, Lawrence Provenzano. She is a resident of North Wantagh.

She said she had spoken with the Rev. Christopher Hofer, the rector of the Church of St. Jude, about how she wanted to “give back on a more real level — other than providing porn.” You can read the full story in today’s digest.

*****

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry named Bishop Todd Ousley of Eastern Michigan as Bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development, a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff.

“Bishop Ousley is an experienced bishop with a depth of pastoral and leadership skills,” Presiding Bishop Curry said. “I am very thankful to him for his willingness to assume this particular ministry which is vital to the spiritual life and vitality of our bishops and, through them, the Episcopal Church. I have known and worked with him for several years and, like my brothers and sisters in the community of bishops and spouses, Bishop Ousley has my deep respect, affection and trust.”

Based on diocesan statistics, Ousley’s leadership skills are decidedly wanting. The Diocese of Eastern Michigan under his leadership has seen decline year after year. In 2005, the diocese had 8,133 baptized members; by 2015. it was down to 5,888. Between 2005 and 2015, the loss was 27.6%. Between 2014-2015, the loss was 5.6%. Total loss is 33.2%; fully a third of the diocese has disappeared.

Eastern Michigan’s ASA has also plunged dramatically. In 2005, it was 3,124. By 2015, it was down to 1,991, a loss of 36.3%. Between 2014-2015, the loss was a further 5.0%. Baptisms totaled 90, confirmations totaled 33. Twenty people were received into the churches, marriages totaled 55. Altogether the number is 178. Funerals, on the other hand, totaled 212. The real kicker is the average age of all active priests: it is 66 in 40 parishes. In the next five years, they will be begging laypeople who have been specially trained and approved, to serve as Lay Eucharistic Ministers.

And Ousley is going to be in charge of Pastoral Development for the whole Episcopal Church!

*****

You will recall the trauma over Bishop David Moyer and the Anglo-Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, PA. that briefly turned the Diocese of Pennsylvania into a living hell. Moyer fought and sued Bishop Charles Bennison and lost, he sued his lawyer and lost, he attempted to join the Ordinariate hoping to get to Rome and failed, now he drives a limo to make a living. His life is in pieces. In time, Bennison got his head handed to him by Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and was levered out of the diocese.

Time marches on and the parish now flounders with just a handful of old Anglo-Catholics and some real estate holdings the parish owns. With the church in trouble, the Vestry decided to rent the parish hall to – are you ready - a Vineyard church. Now, The Association of Vineyard Churches, also known as the Vineyard Movement, is a neocharismatic evangelical Christian denomination. It has over 1,500 affiliated churches worldwide. It is rooted in the charismatic renewal and historic evangelicalism. Its founder, John Wimber, died twenty years ago, but he must be chortling from the grave with the irony of it all. Moyer despised evangelicals, and now it would appear that the Episcopal parish’s future existence depends on a non-denominational evangelical church! You might be forgiven if you thought God didn’t have a sense of humor.

*****

Canadian Anglicans among the ruins. David of Samizdat reports that the Anglican Church of Canada can’t afford to maintain its buildings: they are crumbling around the clergy and bishops are collecting plaster dust in their rainbow mitres.

Ottawa’s cathedral has buttress woes.

One of the most critical areas are buttresses located on the west wall of the cloister garden, also known as the Garth, where mortar is crumbling and cracks are appearing.

“Not far in the future, the gaps and cracking could cause individual stones to fall, leading to the collapse of the walls,” says Blair Seaborn, who is chair of Restoration 120, a fundraising campaign to raise $120,000 for repairs.

“We’ve been told over and over by engineers that they’re not decorative,” said Seaborn. “The buttresses are rather critical in holding up the roof and walls.”

Even though Huron’s St. Paul’s cathedral is raising money by inviting the Pride Men's Chorus to sing, it still can’t seem to find the cash to fix the roof and the rot in the cathedral trusses is exceeded only by the rot in the diocesan theology.

Owen Sound is closing churches, Niagara is closing churches, or “celebrating mergers” to quote the preferred euphemism, as is Peterborough and Brantford, while the Diocese of Niagara continues to endear itself to the residents of Guelph by pressing ahead with the sale of St. Matthias, in spite of vigorous opposition. The list goes on.

VOL has more here:

By any measurable standard, the Anglican Church of Canada 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.

Today, by all measurable standards the average Sunday attendance in the Anglican Church of Canada is around 320,000. If this is correct, in 40 years the average attendance will be 19,200 or less. As there is no wave of Millennials aching to fill Anglican pews, this figure is probably exaggerated.

Ironically, the vitriolic battles that the Anglican Church of Canada launched against ANiC churches in 2008 was over the ownership of buildings. The ACoC won the battle in 2008, only to lose it in 2017: it doesn't have the income for the upkeep of the buildings it claimed were so essential to its ministry.

*****

A quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, a survey commissioned by the BBC suggests.

However, almost one in 10 people of no religion say they do believe the Easter story, but it has "some content that should not be taken literally".

Exactly half of all people surveyed did not believe in the resurrection at all
46% of people say they believe in some form of life after death and 46% do not
20% of non-religious people say they believe in some form of life after death
9% of non-religious people believe in the Resurrection, 1% of whom say they believe it literally

Well, if you don’t believe in the Resurrection, you are not a Christian, says the Rev. Dr. Gavin Ashenden; and he is right:

A former chaplain to the Queen has said that the quarter of Christians who say they do not believe in the Resurrection "cannot be Christians".

The Rev Dr. Gavin Ashenden said in a letter to the Times that a survey which found that one in four self-proclaimed Christians do not believe in Jesus's Resurrection "made the mistake of confusing British culture with Christianity".

He said: "Those people who neither believe in the Resurrection nor go anywhere near a church cannot be 'Christians'.

"As with so many things, the key is in the definition of terms. Discovering the evidence for the Resurrection having taken place to be wholly compelling is one of the things that makes you a Christian; ergo, if you haven’t, you are not."

*****

The Union School of Theology has been formed in Tunbridge Wells, England. Their mission statement states the following: “Through our approved Learning Communities, Union aims to serve the Church by providing an affordable, flexible, accessible option for formal theological education. Our state-of-the-art online platform makes this possible as never before, and with excellent mentors and local tutors provides an enhanced way of learning in the context of the local church.

“The Learning Community is hosted by the Anglican Partnership Synod – a group of evangelical Churches in Kent and Sussex. All of our churches subscribe to the Jerusalem Statement as an expression of orthodox belief. Students are welcome from any church – Anglican or otherwise.

“The Lead Mentor is Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon. He is the author of a number of theology books, including ‘Simply God’ (IVP) and has contributed to volumes edited by Michael Reeves, such as ‘Adam, the Fall and Original Sin’ (Eerdmans). For three years, Peter taught Doctrine and Church History at Oak Hill College. For the past three years, he has been the vicar of St Mark’s Church, Tunbridge Wells.

“Our facilities for the community make for a relaxed, friendly experience of study and mutual encouragement.”

The background to this news, is a story VOL ran in August of 2016, when a number of Church of England parishes considered their first step towards a formal split in the Church of England over issues such as homosexuality, with the creation of a new “shadow synod” vowing to uphold traditional teaching.

Representatives of almost a dozen congregations in the Home Counties met in a church hall in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in a first session of what they say could eventually develop into an alternative Anglican church in England.

Organizers, drawn from the conservative evangelical wing of Anglicanism, say they have no immediate plans to break away - but are setting up the “embryonic” structures that could be used to do so if the established church moves further in what they see as a liberal direction.

This, of course is Welby’s worst nightmare. He has problems enough with GAFCON and Nigerian Archbishop, Nicholas Okoh. Now he’s got a fifth column right under his nose.

Congregations from three dioceses – Rochester, Canterbury and Chichester – are to become founder members of the new grouping, which does not yet have a name, but they expect others to join.

They claim the Church of England’s leadership is progressively “watering down” centuries-old teaching, not just over the issue of sexuality but many core beliefs including the authority of the Bible.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Gavin Ashenden, a royal chaplain, said: "The energy behind this new jurisdiction comes from a growing perception that the CofE is so desperate to remain chaplain to a country that is turning its back on Christian ethics, that there comes a point when it fails to be faithful to Christ and in particular his teaching on marriage.

"At that point, and it may already have arrived, there will be a rupture and the orthodox will make arrangements to safeguard the integrity of the Church for the future."

A spokesman for the Church of England said a recent process of “shared conversations” involving bishops, clergy and laity would lay the foundations for “further formal discussions” about sexuality in the Church of England.

*****

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, launched a stinging attack on 'politically correct' aid officials who are 'institutionally biased' against helping Christians.

Lord Carey warned ministers risk breaking the law by discriminating against Christians facing oppression in Syria.

He claimed Syrian Christians are not benefiting from British help as they avoid UN refugee camps, funded with UK aid, because of fears of persecution from rogue Islamist groups operating inside or Muslim officials who are hostile to converts to Christianity.

By staying away from the camps, Christians are missing out on food, shelter and opportunities to come to Britain in a relocation scheme.

Lord Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, said: 'In the run-up to Easter, British taxpayers will be appalled by this institutional bias against Christians by politically correct officials.

*****

TEMPORARY MARRIAGE: No longer ‘till death us do part’? Colin Hart writing for the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) says the well-known author and academic Jeanette Winterson has called for fixed-term marriages.

Professor Winterson entered a same-sex marriage in 2015 with Susie Orbach, despite being initially “unsure about gay marriage” because of its association with “heterosexual, patriarchal norms” (The Guardian, 8 April 2017).

Jeanette Winterson is now seeking to further redefine marriage by throwing overboard the idea of lifelong commitment, asking: “why not discuss fixed-term contracts? ... A fixed term might allow both parents to feel less pressure and more responsibility”.

The concept of a ‘fixed-term marriage’ must be firmly resisted. Marriage requires total commitment, not temporary assent.

C4M always warned that, once marriage was redefined for same-sex couples, there would be further redefinitions down the line. We need to continue speaking out for the true definition of marriage – the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

*****

The Vatican selected a prominent LGBT-pushing Jesuit priest to be a consultor to its communications office. The priest selected is Fr. James Martin, a progressive Jesuit who's the editor-at-large of America magazine. Martin's new book is titled Building A Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.

In it, Martin argues Church employees shouldn't be fired for going against Church teaching by endorsing homosexual acts or openly professing homosexuality because "such firings selectively target LGBT people." He also says, "church leaders should address LGBT people by the term they call themselves."

Several Pope Francis-appointed cardinals endorsed the book, along with far-left dissident nun, Sister Jeannine Gramick, who said it "shows how the Rosary and the rainbow flag can peacefully meet each other."

*****

The Anglican Church in North Americas’ Assembly 2017 will be the largest Anglican event in North America this year. With a dynamic lineup of speakers and ministry-specific workshops, there is something for everyone, writes Archbishop Foley Beach.

This years’ Assembly will be held in Wheaton, Ill., June 28 – 30.

Speakers include: Ed Stetzer, Ben Kwashi, Louie Giglio, Lisa Espineli Chinn, Michael Nazir-Ali, Dave Ferguson, Tito Zavala, Daniel Carroll Rodas, and Miguel Uchoa. There will be tracks for youth, Latino ministry, campus outreach, multi-ethnic ministry, healing prayer and many more.

*****

Burundi Archbishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho led a delegation from the Anglican Church of Burundi in a public march of several hundred people last month, in a public demonstration against gender-based violence (GBV). Archbishop Martin was joined on the march by the Bishop of Rumonge, Pedaculi Birakengana and members of both provincial and diocesan staff and many school children.

The march, through the province of Rumonge, followed International Women’s Day and sent a loud message: yes, for the rights of women and “no” to discrimination and violence against them.

The Anglican Church of Burundi has been working with Christian Aid since the end of last year on a program to mobilize people to end violence against women in the community.,” the Province said on its website.

The Governor of Rumonge described the Anglican Church of Burundi as “the pioneer in this fight against gender-based violence.”

Archbishop Martin emphasized the importance of the partnership to ending GBV, saying: “We are aware of the importance of women in our society. We know what the gender issue is like, but the result we want is a society where men and women will say ‘Together we are able’”.

*****

VOL wishes all its readers in 170 countries around the world a very blessed and holy Easter.

David

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