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Fourth Circuit Weighs in on SC Property Battle * Church Pension Fund Okays Revisions * 'Three Streams' Criticized at PBS Conference * Diocese of Olympia files lawsuit on Immigration Curb * GAFCON roadshow hits US * ABC slammed for 'inclusion' comment

A simple lifestyle. What does it mean for the affluent to develop a simple style of living? ... The truth is that concepts like 'poverty', 'simplicity' and 'generosity' are all relative and are bound to mean different things to different people. For example, running water, let alone constant hot water, is regarded as a wonderful luxury by those who have to queue up for water at the village well, which sometimes dries up. But in other parts of the world it can hardly be regarded as incompatible with 'a simple lifestyle'. Scripture lays down no absolute standards. On the one hand, it gives no encouragement to an austere and negative asceticism, for it does not forbid the possession of the good gifts of our Creator. On the other hand, it implies that some measure of equality is more pleasing to God than disparity, and its appeal to believers to be generous is based on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, because grace means generosity (2 Cor. 8:8-15). --- John R. W. Stott

"Man is not valuable because he loves God. Man is valuable because God loves him" --- Helmut Thielicke

"I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is." -- Sister Joan Chittister

What the Catholic and Anglican quarrels have in common, of course, is that both reflect a vast and growing disconnect between the traditional teaching of the church and the way people actually live in historically Christian countries. --- ERASMUS blog

There is no freedom of the press without the prior and defining freedom of religion. And those in the press have their own religions too. --- The Rev. John C. Rankin

The Evangelicals are just about the only ones in the Church of England who are holding fast to any kind of semblance of historic Christianity. -- Fr. Dwight Longenecker

On February 23, in the year 155, Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was martyred. Reportedly a disciple of the Apostle John, at age 86 he was taken to be burned at the stake. "You try to frighten me with fire that burns for an hour and forget the fire of hell that never burns out," he said. The flames, legend says, would not touch him, and when he was run through with a sword, his blood put the fire out.

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
February 24, 2017

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry returned from Ghana this week, energized by the injustice of slavery. He called going there a "homecoming", and now that he is back in the U.S., he is hoping that throwing a Hail Mary for the Episcopal Church by screaming the joys of the Jesus Movement and linking it to racism, he can reignite a dying church. Rots o' ruck, as my local Chinese restaurant owner, Mr. Ho, would say.

With so many heresies TEC has embraced, we must ask if The Episcopal Church can be any longer called a church, instead we must think of it as The Episcopal Organization (TEO).

Consider the following.

The national headquarters in NYC is in total disarray with its top three leaders fired and one of them, its COO Bishop Stacy Sauls, now suing the church for an undisclosed sum of money, saying he was unjustly let go and now cannot find a job. This is not a happy moment for TEC and its leadership, bearing in mind the President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings, tried twice (at a cost of $1 million) to lever him out of the job. What has gone wrong with all the newly found gracious speak evangelism talk coming from the lips of Curry about the way TEC can move forward holding hands and singing kumbaya for Jesus!

Bishop Jon Bruno, the bully of Los Angeles, faces presentment charges and a secular lawsuit. The Bishop of Lexington, one Douglas Hahn, has been suspended from his position as bishop of the Episcopal diocese after he admitted to committing adultery (the only sexual sin left in the Church that is unforgiveable). His repentance was not enough. His year-long suspension by Curry got extended into infinity by the diocese.

VOL has learned that Curry is using money to prop up dioceses that should long ago have gone out of business. Is the Diocese of N. Michigan really viable with an ASA of 475? There are entire parishes bigger than that! Last year the diocese received 2, performed 15 marriages and buried 35. Now those statistics only prove that they will need a lot of Jesus Movement revival to keep the diocese afloat.

To add to the discussion, TEC is inviting the Church to think out loud about how to get ordained leaders to our churches. You see, the church is running out of clergy because most churches can't afford a full-time clergy any more. In fact, nearly 50% (46.5% actual) churches can no longer afford a full time person. Throw in costly seminary training, a priest with a wife and two kids, a salary, a place to live, full medical benefits, pension and hey, presto, the fount dries up.

So TEC wants you to ponder about clergy transitions. TEC proudly announces that it does not exist for itself but for the glory of God and the transformation of the world. That's yuge...THE WORLD. "We are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement that is out to change the world from the nightmare it is for so many, into the dream God has for it. God's will is to be done "on earth as it is in heaven," TEC proudly announces. The altar guild ladies, aging second career rectors and deacons who look like aging bottles of gin with inclusion on their lips, are breathless in anticipation. Among the topics explored in the document are...wait for it: Aging Church; Dual Call Couples; Energy Beyond the Parish; Diversifying Our Clergy; Interim Ministries; Part-time Clergy Leadership; Full-Communion Partners; Diversity is reality; and Calling is Not "Hiring".

If this is not the kiss of death, I don't know what it is.

Membership in Mainline Protestant denominations, including The Episcopal Church, continues to decline year after year in America. But Mainline decline doesn't mean American Protestantism is doomed. Liberal denominations have simply driven members to more orthodox congregations that remain faithful to the core tenants of Christianity, and, for Episcopalians, it is the ACNA.

You can read Rodney Stark's take here on mainline decline here on Juicy Ecumenism: https://juicyecumenism.com/2017/02/21/mainline-decline-rodney-stark/

*****

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted the Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local subsidiary, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) their appeal of a decision by the Honorable C. Weston Houck. Judge Houck issued a stay in September, 2015, of Federal proceedings until the conclusion of state court litigation. Yesterday's ruling furthers the attempts by TEC to remove the litigation of a state property and identity issue into the Federal courts.

Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg, who retired last summer as Bishop of TECSC, repeatedly alleged that the property and identity of the Diocese of South Carolina belongs to the Episcopal Church and was wrongfully taken. Bishop Mark Lawrence heads the Diocese of South Carolina which left TEC in 2012. In particular, the Federal case alleges that Bishop Lawrence is wrongly presenting himself as a Bishop of TEC which Bishop Lawrence says is a baseless accusation that continues to be used as a means to avoid the issues being addressed in the state courts.

Federal District Judge C. Weston Houck originally dismissed vonRosenberg's claim in 2013, recognizing that the essential issues of the Diocese's identity would be resolved by the South Carolina courts. February 2015, South Carolina Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein ruled the Diocese of South Carolina was, in fact, free to leave the denomination and keep its property and assets. TEC appealed that decision and the appeal was heard by the South Carolina Supreme Court on Sept. 23, 2015.

Meanwhile, TEC has repeatedly appealed Judge Houck's decisions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The appellate panel initially ordered Judge Houck to reconsider his earlier dismissal of the case, using a different legal standard for that decision. After consideration by that standard, Judge Houck ruled to delay any further hearings pending the outcome of a South Carolina Supreme Court decision.

Judge Houck wrote, "Regardless of the [state Supreme Court's] ultimate decision, Bishop vonRosenberg's rights will necessarily be addressed and will be adequately protected in the state court action." He also referred to the Supreme Court hearing, as "the parallel state court action." Given Bishop vonRosenberg's retirement last summer, the validity of the complaint appears further suspect.

"Basically, the Judge was saying that if the Supreme Court upholds the current state court ruling, the case will be dismissed," said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to Bishop Lawrence. You can read more commentary in today's digest.

*****

This past week I spent time in Savannah, GA., attending a Prayer Book Society conference grappling with Anglican Identity. The occasion was an opportunity to discuss Anglicanism Catholic and Reformed: Revisiting the Reformation Legacy 1517-2017.

The popular model of a "Three Streams" hermeneutic to describe present Anglican identity is deeply flawed, an Anglican Grove City College Professor of History told the assembled company. While the model might be a virtue, it is, in fact, "superficial" and "incoherent", Dr. Gillis Harp told his hearers.

"It takes an occasionally helpful (but over-simplified) descriptive model of the Western church during the middle part of the twentieth century and turns it into a prescriptive theological ideal or reads it back (anachronistically) into the past," he said. Harp described it as creating "a kind of Hegelian doctrinal synthesis which actually constitutes opposed positions based upon very different readings of the Bible."

"Nor are the differences between the three streams (at least as commonly identified by its partisans) all simple differences of emphasis; some actually constitute opposed positions based upon very different readings of the Bible."

He said the "three streams" within Christianity usually referred to Catholic, Evangelical (or Protestant) and Pentecostal (or Charismatic) traditions or "tributaries" being channeled into a single "river" or stream. Lately, they had come to mean organic unity between Catholic, Protestant and Pentecostal streams, but more recently, the organ of the ACNA," The Apostle", defined the Three Streams, curiously now designated Protestant, Pentecostal/Holiness, and Anglo-Catholic as flowing together in to a single river.

"Recovering a proper respect for and appreciation of the Protestant Reformation in general and of the English Reformation as it actually happened (and not as the wishful thinking of some used to construe it) is essential to a fuller and deeper appreciation of Anglican identity." You can read my full report on this in today's digest.

*****

Mary Kate Wold, CEO and President of The Church Pension Fund, is revising the church's pension plans to modernize them, to address the realities of a changing Episcopal Church and to simplify administration without reducing the overall value of its benefits. The new rules are expected to take effect in January, 2018.

When The Church Pension Fund was established in 1917, most priests were ordained in their twenties and served, uninterrupted, for 30 to 40 years before retiring. Today, the average age of ordination is 46, many priests serve on a part-time basis, and some experience long breaks in service. The pension plan revisions we are implementing, contemplate these and other emerging trends. Please visit www.cpg.org for details.

A majority of the revisions to the Clergy Pension Plan will be incorporated into The Church Pension Fund International Clergy Pension Plan. In addition, The Episcopal Church Lay Employees' Retirement Plan, The Episcopal Church Lay Employees' Defined Contribution Retirement Plan, and The Episcopal Church Retirement Savings Plan will be amended to ensure that consistent definitions of compensation and Highest Average Compensation are used across all plans.

One retired TEC bishop wrote to VOL and said, "Apparently the demise of the Episcopal Church 'domino' is now impacting the Pension Fund! Of course they can't say that, so they say it's the "demographics" of clergy vocations today. I guess that what Jefferts Schori (former PB) said, ("Truth is what you think it is!") is catching-on. How sad, how pathetic!"

*****

The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia filed a lawsuit earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle. It is suing the federal government over President Donald Trump's executive order curbing immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

In the suit, the Diocese of Olympia argues that the executive order interferes with their ability to minister.

"Plaintiff the Episcopal Diocese brings its claims based on the Executive Order's harm to its own mission activities, as well as the Order's harm to the refugees served by the Diocese, thereby shielding those vulnerable refugee individuals from the retaliation they reasonably fear if they were to assert their claims directly," reads the suit.

"The Individual Plaintiffs, the class they seek to represent, and the Episcopal Diocese (collectively, 'Plaintiffs'), currently suffer serious harm and will continue to suffer such harm until and unless this Court preliminarily and permanently enjoins the Executive Order. Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law."

Josh Hornbeck, communications director for the Diocese of Olympia, told CP in an interview that the diocese has had a Refugee Resettlement Office since 1978.

"The RRO resettles 190 individuals each year out of the 65 million people worldwide who have been displaced by violence, war, famine, and persecution," said Hornbeck.

*****

President Donald Trump rescinded the crazy law that allowed Trannies to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, sending it back to the states to decide. Go to the toilet of the gender you were born with, not what you might like to choose years later. Women and parents do not want boys and men in the girls' room. Period.

The question came down to: Do some people have the right to demand that law -- and the rest of the population -- recognizes their 'identity' that is based solely on their 'feelings'? And must society pay for medical costs associated with individuals achieving that identity? If so, why not race? Or any other immutable biological fact? Most Americans believe that all of us should have the same rights, whereas transgender rights activists and various identity groups want special rights which apply only to them. And that is the line in the sand that many people refused to cross. So Trump tossed it out.

Dr. Kenneth Zucker, long acknowledged as one of the foremost authorities on gender dysphoria in children, spent years helping his patients align their subjective gender identity with their objective biological sex. He used psychosocial treatments (talk therapy, organized play dates, and family counseling) to treat gender dysphoria and had much success.

Dr. Zucker's eminently sound practice is anchored by recognition of the ineradicable reality that each child is immutably either male or female. It is also influenced by the universally recognized fact that gender dysphoria in children is almost always transient: the vast majority of gender dysphoric children naturally reconcile their gender identity with their biological sex. All competent authorities agree that between 80 and 95 percent of children who say that they are transgender naturally come to accept their sex and to enjoy emotional health by late adolescence. The American College of Pediatricians, for example, recently concluded that approximately 98 percent of gender- confused boys, and 88 percent of gender-confused girls, naturally resolve.

Bishops of The Episcopal church, take note.

*****

A North American GAFCON Roadshow is underway in the US. The Most Rev. Dr. Peter Jensen, (General Secretary of GAFCON and the retired Archbishop of Sydney, Australia) together with The Most Rev. Peter J Akinola, (Founding Father of GAFCON and former Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion) are touring North America between March 2-7, 2017.

If you want to celebrate and learn about GAFCON and hear how you might support this vital movement,you can hear both Archbishop Jensen & Archbishop Akinola at the following locations:

Thursday, March 2 - at 7pm in the Greater Toronto area at Saint George's Burlington

Friday, March 3 - at 7pm in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina at St. Andrew's Church

Saturday, March 4 - at 3pm Los Angeles and Orange County area at St. James Costa Mesa

Sunday, March 5 - Preaching: Dr. Peter Jensen All Saints Church in Long Beach; CANA Bishop Julian Dobbs at St Luke's in La Crescenta: Abp Akinola at St David's Church in Burbank

Tuesday, March 7 - at 7pm in the Greater Vancouver area at St John's Anglican Church

Invitations:

In Canada: More details and invitations will be sent to those in the Toronto and Vancouver area. If you live outside these areas, but would like to receive an invitation to attend, please contact Ms. Jessica Underdown at admin@anglicannetwork.ca

In USA: More details and invitations will be sent to those in the South Carolina, Los Angeles and Orange County areas. If you live outside these areas, but would like to receive an invitation to attend, please contact Canon Jay Cayangyang at jcayangyang@gafcon.org

*****

CANADA NEWS. St. Paul's Cathedral in London, Ont., Diocese of Huron, is raising money for structural repairs, but will it save the church from dying for lack of interest? Another London church needs repairs and restorations - St James Westminster Church on Askin St at Wortley Road, London, Ont. Last year, St. James Westminster (which is the largest Anglican Church west of Toronto) had zero new members, three weddings, and 15 funerals.

In the Diocese of Niagara, Anglican writer, David of Samizdat, reports that St. James Anglican Church in Merritton had its final service on Sunday, Jan. 22. The first St. James church was built in 1871, in Port Dalhousie, moved and then, in 1892, the current church on the corner of Merritt Street and Oakdale Avenue was built. It is closing because there is not enough people to fill the pews or serve the community as it once did. The bishop, one Michael Bird, known for terrifying orthodox priests and tossing them out on their ear because they actually believe the gospel, deconsecrated the building.

"Ironically, it was nine years ago that diocesan officials marched into St. Hilda's, and shortly after into Good Shepherd in St. Catharines, to demand the building keys because they wanted to use the churches to continue diocesan services after their congregations had voted to join the Southern Cone and later ANiC.

"When the buildings were finally in the hands of the Diocese of Niagara, Bishop Michael Bird noted: "I am very pleased with this outcome. It affirms that these churches belong to all the generations that built them up and not just a particular group of individuals."

"Of the churches that "belong to all the generations that built them up", Good Shepherd in St. Catharine's now stands empty, cold and desolate and St. Hilda's, in 2013, was torn down:

"In 2017, the lot still stands empty:

"As a fitting finale to the comedic irony, the Diocese of Niagara, having also acquired St. Hilda's rectory, sold it to Daniel Freedman, owner of the largest sex toy company in Canada, PinkCherry Sex Toys."

Bishop Bird will not suffer a salary downturn for his bad stewardship of the diocese, nor a loss of pension. He is, of course, pushing homosexual marriage as a sign of inclusion and keeping up with the times. People who snort coke have a better shot at salvation than bishops like Bird.

In an article I wrote on the rapid decline of the Anglican Church of Canada, I said that the latest Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) figures were about 320,000. An Anglican reader wrote to say that is wrong and high. "The numbers have been kept secret since 2001, but then the ASA was 162,138. The 2007 number slipped out and was reported as 141,827. That's a 2.1% per annum decline. Assuming that continues, 2017 would see an ASA of under 115,000"!!!

*****

The Archbishop of Canterbury is taking it on the nose over his statement about "radical inclusion", following the debacle of a vote at Synod.

Multiple commentators (you will find several in today's digest) have come down like a ton of bricks on the ABC. One archbishop sent a note to a bishop and said this about Welby, "He is always dissembling - deceitful - hiding his real position for political gain..." That just about says it all.

In the Synod vote on same-sex relations: it was female clergy who won it (or lost it). The electronic voting results for the Synod motion on 'Marriage and Same-Sex Relations after the Shared Conversations' have been released. A request was made to count the votes by Houses, and since the report failed to secure a simple majority in the House of Clergy, the motion was lost (or won, depending on one's point of view or democratic objective).

Here's the final vote.
Bishops in favor 43, 1 against; Clergy 93 in favor, 100 against, laity 106 in favor, 83 against.

*****

Church of England bishops are proposing to turn a blind eye to gay clergy who breach its rules by having sex, in an attempt to avert a rift over how it treats gay people.

The church would replace the existing system where lesbian and gay clergy are asked to promise to be celibate when they apply to be ordained, change jobs or seek a promotion. including becoming a bishop.

Under the proposal, the House of Bishops, gay clergy would still be expected to be celibate, but would no longer be questioned about their private lives.

It is the culmination of three years of debates for the Church of England about how to respond to same-sex marriage which first took place...It's also called 'don't ask, don't tell.'

*****

A day conference will take place at the University of Roehampton, in southern England, based on a new academic study into growth and decline in the Anglican Communion over recent decades. The conference follows the recent publication of a new book, "Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion -- 1980 to the Present." The publication was prepared by an international team of researchers based across five continents; the study provides a global overview of Anglicanism alongside twelve detailed case studies of Anglican churches in Australia, Congo, England, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, South America, South India, South Korea, and the US. It was edited by the Rev'd Dr David Goodhew, director of ministerial practice at Cranmer Hall, part of St John's College at Durham University.

An evangelical bishop, the Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood, who globe trots the Anglican communion as an Ambassador for the ACNA, noted; "I bet they've never had to stand in line to get a seat at church like I have in Nigeria!"

Watching the spin grow, even as decline and death is inevitable in branches of the Communion that include the CofE, ACoC, TEC, Wales and Scotland, is mind blowing.

*****

Giving credit where credit is due. There was a changing of the guard this past week with The Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, newly ordained and consecrated as Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries. The congregation gathered at Washington National Cathedral.

The Rev. Harold Lewis, rector emeritus of Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Wright's longtime mentor, punctuated the service's pomp and precision with strong words during his sermon from the Canterbury Pulpit of Washington National Cathedral. Lewis told Wright he was "about to enter a ministry whose challenges may well be unique among those of your sister and brother bishops."

Lewis reminded Wright that he must minister to a microcosm of American society with much higher rate of suicide than the rest of the population.

Then he said this; "In a society with a plethora of religions and theologies and spiritualities from which to choose, fewer and fewer of which bare any resemblance to the faith once delivered to the saints, and in a nation whose leaders more and more exhibit the kind of arrogant, uncharitable and self-serving behavior that plagued the Corinthians and caused Paul to chastise them for thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to think, you will do well, solider of the cross that you are, to stand up, stand up for Jesus."

Kudos to Lewis for this shot across Episcopal bows.

*****

In the Dept. of absurdity, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has been awarded $800,000 by The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to help battle obesity.

Seeds of Hope, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, was awarded the contract which began in December and will continue through September 2019.

Tim Alderson, executive director of Seeds of Hope, told The Christian Post that the center of the program is "garden-based nutrition and physical activity education in 10 low-income communities in Los Angeles."

"We install gardens at each site to teach people how to grow their own food and to provide fresh produce for our nutrition and cooking classes. The gardens also provide ample opportunities for physical activity," explained Alderson.

"In addition to the classes, we work with each site to improve the overall food environment at their location and the surrounding community. This involves improving the nutritional quality of the food served at each site and the food shared with the community through things like food pantries and meal programs."

I suppose eating kale while breathing the exultant fumes of the Jesus Movement will get you the perfect body, allowing you to live forever.

*****

Michael Novak died February 17, at the age of 83, after a battle with cancer. Novak is perhaps best known for his comprehensive examinations of the practical realities and ideals of "democratic capitalism," first advanced in his 1982 masterpiece The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and developed in a series of subsequent books, including The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1993), Business as a Calling (1996), and, most recently, Social Justice Isn't What You Think It Is (2015), co-authored with Paul Adams.

Novak's writings on democratic capitalism fought socialism not just on the level of economic efficiency, but on moral terrain, too. Socialists have long attacked market-based economies for their inequalities and consumerist frenzies, but, as Novak argued, their arguments invariably compared luminous socialist ideals with the often prosaic realities of capitalist societies. Had socialists looked instead at the socialist world as it actually existed, they would have found truncheon-enforced political conformity, economic ruin, and spiritual decay.

*****

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If you are a regular reader, then think about what it means to keep the news coming FREE into your e-mail inbox each week and being able to go daily to VOL's website. A gift of any amount helps keep reporters reporting and allows me to travel and report on conferences you would otherwise not know about.

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David

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