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GAFCON meets in Amman and Jerusalem. Leaders Seek Renewed Anglican Communion

America today is in the throes of the greatest and direst transformation in its history. We are becoming an ideological state, a country with an official state ideology enforced by the power of the state. In "hate crimes" we now have people serving jail sentences for political thoughts. Congress is now moving to expand that category ever further. Affirmative action is part of it. The terror against anyone who dissents from Political Correctness on campus is part of it. It's exactly what we have seen happen in Russia, in Germany, in Italy, in China, Canada, and now it's coming here. We don't recognize it because we call it Political Correctness and laugh it off. My message today is that it's not funny, it's here, it's growing and it will eventually destroy everything we have ever defined as our freedom and our culture. --- From The Origins of Political Correctness, An Accuracy in Academia Address by Bill Lind

The origin of human rights. The origin of human rights is creation. Man has never "acquired" them. Nor has any government or other authority conferred them. We have had them from the beginning. We received them with our life from the hand of our Maker. They are inherent in our creation. They have been bestowed on us by our Creator. --- From "Issues Facing Christians Today"

Moral responsibility. Scripture invariably treats us as morally responsible agents. It lays upon us the necessity of choice ... Why is it that people do not come to Christ? Is it that they cannot, or is it that they will not? Jesus taught both. And in this 'cannot' and 'will not' lies the ultimate antinomy between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. But however we state it, we must not eliminate either part. Our responsibility before God is an inalienable aspect of our human dignity. Its final expression will be on the day of judgment. ---From "The Cross of Christ"

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www.virtueonline.org
6/20/2008

The pre-GAFCON conference, which began in Amman, Jordan, was suddenly terminated for reasons beyond the control of those planning the event.

Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola was denied a visa into Jordan and was kept in Jerusalem, owing largely to a bureaucratic snafu. So the 100 pre-Gafcon theological participants decided they should go to Jerusalem and join him. We took off in three buses and headed north through the Jordan Valley to the Sheikh Hussein Bridge crosssing the border late Thursday afternoon. We then drove south around Jericho through the West Bank and into Jerusalem.

My first taste of Arab hospitality came from "crazy Charlie", our minivan driver who took us from the Amman airport to the Marriott Hotel on the Dead Sea. He was a cheerful Christian man with a large family, he told us. He spoke proudly of his country, its cleanliness, and its desire for peace with its neighbors. We raced along clean highways. At one point, he waved a small note pad telling us that he had the power to report any offender who threw litter onto the highway. He said the fine for littering would be $100.00.

As we raced out of the mountain, we came down into the Jordan Valley. The Jordan River is an unusual stream that flows from 3000 feet above sea level at Mt. Hermon in Syria to the Dead Sea at 1300 feet below sea level. As the darkness slowly descended on our van our driver pointed out Mt. Nebo where Moses stood looking over, but denied entry into the Promised Land. The city set on the hill, which Jesus spoke about was another reference point. Off to the right, the lights of Jerusalem twinkled in the distance. Between us, the Dead Sea lay like a sunken lake, our hotel situated on the very edge of the saltiest body of water in the world.

The hotel was both beautiful and beautifully situated. Arab hospitality is second to none. The hotel staff was polite, cheerful and endlessly helpful. Internet access was easy, the food superb and the worship sublime.

My first and only story from Jordan deals with the relocation and the refusal by the Jordanian government to give visa clearance to Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola.

You may read much speculation by the secular media about our being thrown out of the country. That was not the case. We were not thrown out at all. We left in an orderly fashion in three buses and got credit transfer at the Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem. The transition went smoothly.

The short time in Jordan was very valuable for prayer, fellowship, and networking, said Archbishop Peter Jensen, a chief GAFCON organizer who summed up our short time there. This writer can vouch for that.

We arrived late in the afternoon at the Renaissance Hotel in West Jerusalem and moved right into a press conference, after grabbing a quick dinner.

Archbishops Jensen and Akinola both made the point that the upcoming GAFCON conference next week is not about schism and splitting from the Anglican Communion, sending this writer into high gear to dispel two stories in the London TELEGRAPH that the Anglican Communion was on the brink of schism and a new Communion would form out of GAFCON. Not true.

Even the New York Times got it wrong. Laurie Goodstein wrote, "The news conference was called in haste, after the conservatives abandoned a preliminary strategy session in Jordan because two of their most influential members, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, and Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, were denied visas."

This is wrong on several counts. First of all Archbishop Drexel Gomez was never planning to come to GAFCON and is not here. If Ms. Goodstein was referring to Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone, he will be coming, though late, as he has a family situation, which prevented him from being here immediately.

There is no doubt there is a fork in the road, but that fork was started in 2003 when an openly homoerotic priest was consecrated the Bishop of New Hampshire. GAFCON leaders have acknowledged that fact and that is why this conference is taking place. They are not causing the rift. The Anglican Communion's pansexualists have already done that. They are merely reacting to what has become a fait accompli.

Secular media outlets are saying the Anglican Communion is at an end. GAFCON leaders are saying that is not true.

Perhaps, down the road something will emerge, but that is not what these Anglican leaders are presently saying here. What they want is a renewed communion, not a breakaway one. You can also read the paper."The Way, the Truth and The Life" the product of some of the best theological minds in the Anglican Communion. This document forms the basis of this consultation and conference.

I have written three stories you can read in today's digest from Amman and Jerusalem.

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The other big international story this week was the marriage of two homosexual priests in London. It has provoked international outrage and has involved the Archbishops of Canterbury and York as well as possible disciplinary action by the Bishop of London against the priest who conducted the ceremony. One can't help but speculate at the timing of this action, just before GAFCON leaders meet and Lambeth bishops meet next month in Canterbury. In-your-face seems to be becoming a British characteristic not just an American attitude. You can read all the gory details in today's digest.

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Back in the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA, the national Episcopal Church's Title IV Committee concluded this week that there is no basis for charging Bishop Charles E. Bennison with violating the canons or circumventing the Standing Committee in the way he spent the endowments. Bennison still faces Presentment charges that he covered up his brother's sexual abuse of a minor. Next month, he will face a civil trial brought against him by Fr. David L. Moyer for fraud and other charges. The game for Charles Bennison is far from over.

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You can also read how the Episcopal DIOCESE OF SAN JOAQUIN stole a parish away from the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. Inclusivity is a one way street apparently.

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From Newport Beach, CA Bishop Robert Duncan, Moderator of The COMMON CAUSE PARTNERSHIP (CCP), appointed a "Collegiate Vicar" for The Association of Western Anglican Congregations. The decision was announced to the Western Anglicans House of Delegates meeting in Newport Beach, recently. As the Collegiate Vicar, The Rev. Bill Thompson, Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Long Beach, California, will serve as an ambassadorial link between Western Anglicans - a cluster of 21 orthodox Anglican congregations in Southern California and Arizona - and the Common Cause Partnership (CCP).

"The appointment of the Collegiate Vicar is a wonderful step in the process of unifying orthodox Anglican believers in North America," said Ron Speers, Western Anglicans President. "We are modeling at the grass roots what CCP is doing at the national and international level." Thus far, Western Anglican member congregations have canonical ties to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of South America, The Anglican Province of Uganda, and The Reformed Episcopal Church. All Common Cause Partners churches in the region, whatever their jurisdiction, are invited to participate.

"We've already deployed dozens of clergy and laity in shared ministries, as we await developments at the national level," Fr. Bill Thompson explained. "And we're not about to recreate the dysfunctional model of top-down management," he said. Fr. Russell Martin, Rector of St. Timothy and St. Titus Anglican Church in San Diego, California, concurred. "We're all about the historic Christian faith that's based on the deity of Jesus Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture," he said. "Ministry happens person-to-person at the grass roots level. A hierarchy can't make it happen. We're looking forward to bishops who defend the historic faith, who share the faith with the unchurched and plant new churches, not just leaders wielding monarchical power."

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In the wake of declining church attendance in England, churches are being turned into post offices as the result of branch closures. Churches are stepping in to become part-time post offices to help communities hit by the branch closure program. Approximately 2,500 post offices are being closed around the country to save money. To maintain some level of service, the Post Office is proposing 500 "outreach service points", in other buildings. The Church of England, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church are encouraging their congregations to open up their buildings. So far, 12 churches have become "host post offices", but more are expected to follow. "This partnership is very important," said Rebecca Payne, of the Church of England's cathedral and church buildings division.

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You can read a number of fine commentary pieces in today's digest including one by the Rt. Rev. Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison and canon Gary L'Hommedieu. They are solid pieces of writing that are both timely and brilliant.

One question that is coming to the forefront is should orthodox bishops in The Episcopal Church and the Church of England spend thousands of dollars and three weeks in a meeting with these bishops, fellowshipping, eating, praying, studying the Bible, and taking Holy Communion together?

There is little doubt that the behavior of these bishops, in this regard, renders them unacceptable to any council of Christian bishops. Can you imagine the Council of Jerusalem or the Council Nicaea sitting down with these bishops? The question must be raised, on what grounds are the orthodox Bishops prepared to meet with them in this fashion? You can read a story about that in today's digest.

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To honor Shabbat (Sabbath), Virtueonline will have a shortened digest. We wish to respect the Jewish tradition to which we as Christians owe so much.

All blessings,

David W. Virtue in Jerusalem

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