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Gay Rites Episcopal Story of the Year*Kenyan ABC Says Take Gospel to West*More

The God of the gaps. The God of the biblical Christian has sometimes been termed the 'God of the gaps' because it is supposed that we resort to him only when we cannot fill the *lacunae* in our knowledge. Now that scientific discovery is steadily reducing the number of these gaps, the argument runs, God is being squeezed out. One day there will be no gaps left, and we shall then be able to dispense with him altogether. Long before the current fashion of the 'death of God' theology had been thought of, this notion had been expressed. In a manifesto adopted by the Secularist League at Liege in 1865 it was said: 'science has made God unnecessary.' What is utterly bogus about this confident claim to have closed the gaps and dispensed with God is that at least two gaps are as wide as ever and will never be filled by human ingenuity. The first is the gulf between God and man caused by man's sin and God's judgment upon it, and the second is the gulf between man as he is and man as God meant him to be. Technology cannot span these gaps, nor can secular education teach us to build our own bridges. Only God can cross this great divide. And he has taken the initiative in Christ to do so. - John R.W. Stott

A jealous God? It is written that Yahweh, 'whose name is jealous, is a jealous God' (Ex. 34:14). Now jealousy is the resentment of rivals, and whether it is good or evil depends on whether the rival has any business to be there. To be jealous of someone who threatens to outshine us in beauty, brains or sport is sinful, because we cannot claim a monopoly of talent in those areas. If, on the other hand, a third party enters a marriage, the jealousy of the injured person, who is being displaced, is righteous, because the intruder has no right to be there. It is the same with God, who says, 'I am the LORD, that is my name. I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols' (Is. 42:8). Our Creator and Redeemer has a right to our exclusive allegiance, and is 'jealous' if we transfer it to anyone or anything else. - John R. W. Stott

Righteousness and Love. The righteousness of God. 'The righteousness of God' can be thought of as a divine attribute (our God is a righteous God), or activity (he comes to our rescue), or achievement (he bestows on us a righteous status). All three are true and have been held by different scholars, sometimes in relation to each other. For myself, I have never been able to see why we have to choose, and why all three should not be combined ... it is at one and the same time a quality, an activity and a gift. - John R. W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
January 4, 2013

The Chinese might just need a new Zodiac sign for The Episcopal Church: The Year of the Whiny Lesbian, Susan Russell. Her foot stomping anger and indignation is, of course, directed at anybody who dares to oppose the pansexual agenda of the Episcopal Church in the name of justice, rights or whatever. Heaven forbid that one should have an opinion contrary to hers and her gay and lesbian sisters who breathe the prurient air of unsullied self-righteousness. Why, if it is good enough for Russell and her ilk to think they can change God's mind for Him about how human beings should behave sexually, the very least orthodox Episcopalians should do is get on board with the program. After all, why get left behind in the new and improved liturgical septic system of The Episcopal Church? That wouldn't be cricket, now would it?

"[A] liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships brings gay and lesbian couples fully into the life of the Church and proclaims that the Episcopal Church considers that their lives can be holy and blessed by God," the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, president of Integrity, stated as the majority of delegates climaxed 40 years of pansexual push last summer in Indianapolis.

So to the altar, Jane and Judy, Bob and Ted, Susan and Alice, Fred and Guido, God loves you just the way you are. You don't have to change one bit because that would be, er, unchristian. Dance your way to glory...or is that hell you can see just ahead of you?

Indeed, it was a defining moment at GC2012 in Indianapolis. Now all the X-rated sexually explicit cards are on the table and everybody's (transgendered) hand is known. No more mystery. Ye shall have sex wherever ye go and with whomever ye please. God loves absolutely everybody so you can do as you damn well please. We no longer grieve the Holy Spirit; we make Him/Her over into our own image and then dance our way to glory discarding used condoms to the left and right as we wing our way upward. Oh, what joy. Oh, what death.

The first place Episcopal story for 2012 was the passage of a resolution that approved provisional blessings for same sex unions. It was the fulfillment and climax of decades of pansexual push that began with the acceptance of homosexuality to the full inclusion of lesbitransgay behaviors (LGBTQI) allowing persons of whatever sexual orientation to make it to all levels of the Episcopal Church.

Other Episcopal stories included the departure of yet another diocese (South Carolina), continuing litigation over properties, declining TEC numbers, millions wasted on lawyers, and a definition of mission that could have been written by members of any political party caucus.

One can only conclude that Katharine Jefferts Schori and Thomas Jefferson suddenly appeared in the West Wing of the White House, each with a pair of scissors and triumphantly snipped out all those nasty supernatural bits of the NT together and presented the final version to their hero Walter Rauschenbusch, that great luminary of the Social Gospel Movement.

Each in their own way has compiled a Bible without miracles that ends with Jesus' burial, but no resurrection.

WELCOME TO 2013

Christianity Today released its editors' picks for the top 10 religion news stories of 2012. CT decided No. 1 was the controversy-and lawsuits-over the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act and its narrow exemption for employer-provided contraceptives (including emergency contraceptives that many evangelicals believe act as an abortifacient).

LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer also listed the contraceptive mandate as his top newsmaker. (Stetzer is a missiologist and frequent speaker at Anglican missions conferences.) So did the Associated Baptist Press.

Members of the Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) also voted that the legal battle over the contraceptive mandate as the No. 1 religion story of 2012-but that vote occurred before the December 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. In the release of its annual list on Dec. 18, RNA reported that "the No. 1 U.S. religion story in December 2012 was, without a doubt, the school attack and the mournful search for meaning that follows."

Religion News Service (RNS) ranked "Gun violence as a new 'pro-life' issue" as its top religion made news in 2012, with the second being the rise of the "nones"-the religiously unaffiliated-as the fastest-growing portion of the population. RNS included contraceptive lawsuits over religious freedom as "unexpected entrants" into the 2012 news cycle.

Mass murder also made the list-in third place-for The Gospel Coalition's editorial director Collin Hansen. According to Hansen, though, the most important theology news of 2012 was President Obama's decision to back gay marriage. (In response to Hansen's list, Stetzer notes that the president's evolution on the controversial issue was "unsurprising, but still important.")

Meanwhile, Baptist Press (BP) readers couldn't get enough Chick-fil-A. Stories related to the Christian-run fast food chain, which made headlines this summer when it swam "against the cultural tide" of support for gay marriage. It occupied 4 of the 10 slots on the organization's annual most-read list. The top story, "'Guilty as charged,' Cathy says of Chick-fil-A's stand on biblical & family values," is the most-read story in BP history.

From an Anglican perspective, the No.1 news story of the year was the passage of provisional Rites for same sex blessings at General Convention. Add to that the failed attempt by the Church of England to allow women bishops, the exodus of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury, and the entrance of an Evangelical who will now lead the Anglican Communion, one might say the year ended on a fairly high note that augurs well for 2013. The year to come won't be without pitfalls, however. Coming out of the sexual morass we are in won't be easy, perhaps even unattainable, but with an Evangelical in charge, the moral mess we are in might be stemmed. We can hope and pray.

A big open question remains, will Archbishop-elect Justin Welby pull it off and sweep the Church of England back to the faith and obtain the blessing of the orthodox-driven Global South?

One observer, fully acquainted with the thinking of the GAFCON leadership concerning Welby, is that people are being polite, with the prevailing mood one of cautious optimism, with the emphasis on the cautious. "There is certainly no rejoicing about a new dawn despite the extravagant language being used by some in the UK. His track record re TEC, especially the lamentable 'accord' at Truro, is not encouraging and I find it difficult to imagine him really upsetting the people who provide most of the ACO's funding. However, his background is good and he is smart, so we'll keep an open mind."

*****

As if to reinforce that view, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya, says the tables have turned in the Anglican Communion thus it is time for the Global South to assert itself and take the gospel back to the West.

In his New Year sermon delivered at All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi, The Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala commented that, "...in our modern context we need now to be thinking of mission beyond our borders. In the past we have been the recipients of missionary endeavour and we thank God for those who brought the gospel to this land, but now the sending nations of the West are in deep spiritual and moral crisis and it is time for us to take a lead in global mission."

One wonders how that will be received by Archbishop-elect Justin Welby. The new ABC will have a heavy ball to pick up when he begins his job. There is the unfinished business of women bishops there are gay men and women serving in various roles throughout the Church of England. Some are volunteers; others are in training for the priesthood, some as serving priests and others as bishops. The CofE E distinguishes sexual orientation from sexual conduct where all Christians, whether straight or gay, are encouraged to live their lives in fidelity to biblical principles.

Among the issues being considered in the review of the 2005 statement is the hotly debated question of whether clergy in civil partnerships should be eligible for nomination to the episcopate. The dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John - a gay man in a celibate civil partnership - has been twice in line to become a bishop only to see his appointment founder amid outrage from conservatives.

Tucked away within a wider press release just before Christmas it has been announced that at their December meeting the Church of England's House of Bishops decided that "the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships" and that "the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate". What follows seeks to set this decision in context and highlight important questions that remain unanswered and issues that need addressing.

It is, however, intriguing that no mention is made of the group chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man that was specifically tasked by the House to provide "a review of the 2005 statement in the light of subsequent developments" and to "include examination of whether priests in civil partnerships should be eligible for appointment as bishops".

Welby will have his hands full and the Global South will be watching as well...and listening.

*****

Moratorium on Women Deacons. The Diocese of Ft. Worth has announced it will no longer ordain women to the Diaconate. Speaking at the Dioceses' 38th Annual Convention, Bishop Jack Iker stated that he was in a small minority of bishops in the Anglican Church in North America who ordained women to the Diaconate and that the practice was "an issue", especially among diocesan clergy. To resolve this and to bring its practice into line with the majority of ACNA jurisdictions, the Diocese of Ft. Worth will discontinue such ordinations. Women who are currently service as Deacons will remain in ordained ministry; Bishop Iker assured the Convention that they would have his "love, respect and support."

*****

The Muslim Council of Britain has a more prominent role in public debate than the Archbishop of Canterbury, according to a study. According to an article in THE TELEGRAPH, the decline of the Anglican Church as the country's main religious voice is confirmed by findings from the Henry Jackson Society.

The study, which monitored statements by religious groups and media coverage of religion over the past decade, also found that the Roman Catholic Church has a more prominent role in public debate about religious issues than does the Church of England.

Catholics focus heavily on pro-life issues and personal morality. Statements made by the C of E, in contrast, were more likely to be about overseas aid, foreign policy, or poverty.

The findings come after figures from the 2011 census showed a 13 percentage-point drop in people identifying themselves as Christian, from 72 to 59 per cent.

About one in four was identified as having no religion, a rise of nine per cent and the second largest group. Yet despite the decline in Christian belief, the number of religious statements - across all faiths - increased as religions became more assertive.

*****

Even as he departs from Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury is meant to be unpopular, said Rowan Williams. The outgoing Archbishop has described the role as providing Britons with "someone to get angry with."

Williams, who will step down from the post on Monday, said that "risking unpopularity" and "taking the flak" were what the job was all about.

His warning comes weeks before the Bishop of Durham, the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, a former oil executive, is due to take over as spiritual head of the Church.

Of course, some of Williams' unpopularity is the result of self-inflicted wounds that he got by taking stands that got him in a boatload of trouble with his orthodox brethren in the Global South. It's hard not to forget the less than rousing farewell he got from Nigerian Primate Nicholas Okoh, words that will haunt Williams for the rest of his life. In a blistering attack not seen in modern memory, the Metropolitan and Primate of the Anglican Province of Nigeria ripped the Archbishop of Canterbury saying his sudden resignation announcement will leave behind a Communion in tatters, highly polarized, bitterly factionalized, and with issues of revisionist interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and human sexuality as stumbling blocks to oneness.

Archbishop Okoh noted that when Dr. Rowan Williams took over the leadership of the Anglican Communion in 2002, it was a happy family. "He is leaving it with decisions and actions that are stumbling blocks to oneness, evangelism and mission all around the Anglican world."

There is no love lost between these two men. Williams was the master of prevarication and compromise that in the end left the church desolate and empty. He resigned eight years ahead of schedule, leaving behind a mess that one doubts anyone can fix. We shall see.

*****

It is ironic that in London, just a few blocks down the road, Roman Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, London announced that Masses organized in Soho for gay people are to end. He also revealed that the church where the Masses took place will be entrusted to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. (The whole ordinariate issue blind-sided Williams when he learned it just prior to visiting the Pope.)

The fortnightly "Soho Masses" at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street were established by the diocese almost six years ago. They were intended to be "particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, their parents, friends and families".

Archbishop Nichols said that while the Masses will stop, pastoral care of the community will continue at the Jesuit Farm Street church in Mayfair on Sunday evenings.

He also announced that in Lent, Our Lady of the Assumption church will be "dedicated to the life" of the ordinariate. The archbishop said, "I hope that the use of this beautiful church, in which the young John Henry Newman first attended Mass, will enable Catholics in the ordinariate to prosper and to offer to others the particular gifts of the ordinariate."

Columnist Damian Thompson said both these moves should be welcomed. The "gay Masses" were an embarrassment, a relic of old-style gay rights campaigning that scandalized large numbers of Catholics. To give this lovely 18th-century church to the Ordinariate is a huge boost for ex-Anglicans who are setting up their own structure, worshipping as Catholics in a style informed by Anglican spirituality. Archbishop Vincent Nichols should be congratulated, he wrote.

*****

The Newtown massacre is now exercising the minds of college presidents across the country. A Presidential Pledge on Guns has emerged following President Obama's promise to do everything in his power to curb gun violence. Now, several hundred college presidents are throwing their weight behind him. As of Wednesday evening, more than 300 of them had signed two letters, one written by the president of Emerson College and the other by the leaders of Agnes Scott College and Oglethorpe University, that urged Obama to -- with their help -- actually do something about gun violence this time. It's not unusual to hear a college president here or there speak out against weapons specifically on campus, particularly when courts rule (as they have been wont to do lately) that campus gun bans are illegal. But many college presidents hesitate from speaking on public policy issues beyond those that are clearly higher education-related, such as student aid or visas for foreign students. Presidents said in interviews Wednesday that they hope enthusiastic support for the letters signifies that in the days to come, college presidents will take a more united and broad front on gun control as well. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/12/20/college-presidents-urge-obama-act-gun-violence-pledge-support

*****

A recent article on the name change of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) to Us (United Society) has met with push back from VOL's readers and missionaries, many of whom reside in the Global South.

The article, which can be seen here http://tinyurl.com/a26dvpc, noted the 311-year old milestone of the Christian charity with the organization's Chief Executive Janette O'Neill saying that the USPG name had become a barrier. "People thought we were old fashioned and preachy. In fact, we have always been a radical organization - breaking down barriers and taking bold steps together with our church partners.

Not so say a number of bloggers and Latin American missionaries who say the change of name means a change in both the theology and direction of the USPG to little more than a social service agency. You can read the full story in today's digest.

*****

THE SACRAMENTO BEE reported this week that the Roseville City School District has settled its suit against St. John's Parish and the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California for a little over $100,000 - about half the amount owed to the district.

The suit, filed last summer, originally asked for more than $200,000 to cover two years of unpaid rent for St. John's School, as well as for utilities, insurance, interest and attorneys fees.

School district and church officials say a prolonged court battle would have cost all parties much more in the end. Attorneys in the case applauded the leaders of all three organizations for their efforts to resolve the suit amicably.

The settlement is the latest chapter in the demise of the private Episcopal school, which closed abruptly in May because it could not pay its bills. School officials filed for bankruptcy protection in September, listing nearly $1 million of debt.

Parish and diocese officials have always said that the school was independent of the church and that they were not responsible for the debt; but they opted to work "cooperatively with the district to resolve this dispute for the benefit of the community," according to a joint statement.

*****

Martin Sigillito, the American Anglican Bishop and lawyer based in St. Louis, Missouri who was accused of being at the center of a massive real estate Ponzi scheme that fleeced more than 100 wealthy and working class alike of over $52 million, was found guilty on 20 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.

The Riverfront Times first broke the story of Martin Sigillito in the 2010 feature, "White Collar Crime." It was the biggest Ponzi scheme in St. Louis history, the feds said.

Federal prosecutors are going to ask for a life sentence for the 63-year-old Sigillito.

*****

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