As the memory of fire does not warm the body, so faith without love does not bring about the illumination of knowledge in the soul. --- St. Maximus the Confessor, +662
Unchanging grace. St. Paul is confident of the believer's eternal security, only because he is confident in God's unchanging grace. 'Whom he foreknew, he predestined ... whom he predestined, he called; whom he called, he justified, he also glorified' (Rom. 8:29-30). This chain of divine grace cannot be broken at any of its links.--- From "Men with a Message" John R.W. Stott
Prayer and the Bible. The road to maturity. I do not hesitate to say that the Bible is indispensable to every Christian's health and growth. Christians who neglect the Bible simply do not mature. ---- "The Bible: Book for Today" by John R.W. Stott
Life in the Spirit. Speaking in tongues. What, then, about the contemporary practice of private tongue-speaking as an aid to personal devotion? Many are claiming to discover through it a new degree of fluency in their approach to God. Others have spoken of a kind of 'psychic release' which they have found liberating and which one would not want to deny them. On the other hand, it needs to be said (from 1 Cor. 14) that if Paul completely forbids public tongue-speaking without interpretation, he strongly discourages private tongue-speaking if the speaker does not understand what he is saying. Verse 13 is often overlooked: 'He who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret'. Otherwise his mind will be 'unfruitful' or unproductive. So what is he to do? Paul asks himself. His reply is that he will pray and sing 'with the Spirit', but he will do so 'with the mind also'. It is clear that he simply cannot contemplate Christian prayer and praise in which the mind is not actively engaged. --- From "Baptism and Fullness" John R.W. Stott
Gene Robinson is little more than a radical homosexual activist in a clergyman's clothing. --– Matt Barber, Director of Cultural Affairs with both Liberty Alliance Action
Why progress is slow. I sometimes wonder if the comparatively slow progress towards world peace, world equity and world evangelization is not due, more than anything else, to the prayerlessness of the people of God. --- From "The Message of Thessalonians" John R.W. Stott
Dear Brothers and Sisters
God is using the rise of Islam and secularism as a chastisement of his people. This was the distilled wisdom of a number of speakers at a Mere Anglican Conference in Charleston, SC, earlier this week. If we are to demonstrate the plausibility of the Christian faith, we need to demonstrate the living of it in communities of those reflecting the self-giving nature of the trinity and a life to be displayed. We are to live in transformed communities and not as nominal Christians.
What are we going to do, asked Rochester Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali? "Is it possible for the West and Europe to recover the Judeo-Christian discourse in its public life?" We find overtly and covertly that there is an appeal to the tradition that has been set aside, he said. "Is there any situation of a living human that personhood is no longer attached to its human entity? The truth is personhood can never been taken away, it is part of the Judea-Christian image."
In his lecture on Islam, the Pakistani-born Church of England bishop, who many believe should have been the Archbishop of Canterbury but was blown off by the British press with false accusations about his past, claims that the collapse of a 'Christian nation' has left Britain in a moral vacuum. The bishop says that the marginalization of Christianity as the recognized rudder for British life has created a loss of sustainable moral values, and that a radical form of Islam is threatening to fill the gap.
The bishop believes, the trajectory produced by the "social and sexual" revolution of the 1960s has led to a steep decline in the influence of Christianity over a society church leaders have failed to resist. The nation is now gripped by the doctrine of "endless self-indulgence" which has led to rising crime and the decline of the traditional family, he says.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali made three observations about the recent engagement of Islam by Dr. Rowan Williams. He particularly criticized Williams for:
(A) Capitulating to the Muslim view of the world and universe.
(B) Never hinting of Soteriology, or doctrine of salvation in his lectures; he only addresses epistemology (Doctrine of Knowledge).
(C) Never referring to it as the Word of God in his doctrine of the Bible.
When Bishop Nazir Ali was asked how he would preach the gospel to the Muslim world, he said we should preach the gospel positively rather than criticizing Islam. Islam is a conformist society. We can offer freedom in Christ.
This writer wanted to ask the question about dreams than many Muslims are having about Jesus leading many to faith, but was denied the opportunity. Later, when I spoke to the bishop, he acknowledged it as a central question and wished it could have been discussed openly. He said thousands of Muslims are finding Christ through dreams and miracles of healing.
The bishop said he came from a Shia'a family saying the West in particular underestimates the number of Shia'a in the world. The bishop stressed the importance of Trinitarian theology in addressing Islam.
Do Muslims and Christians believe in the same God? According to Methodist theologian Dr. William Abraham, Christians and Muslims believe the same God exists, but they do not worship the same God. The Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins School of Theology and an Islamic scholar told the Mere Anglican conference meeting in St. Luke's Cathedral that Christians and Muslims believe the same God exists. "Christians and Muslims can identify their God as the one and only creator of the universe worthy of worship and obedience and they disagree with atheists and agnostics. " "The question revolves around the issue of sameness of identity. Is the God of Christianity the same God as the God of Islam? Is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the same God as the God of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad?
"My thesis is this: Christians and Muslims believe in the same God; they do not worship the same God. Christians and Muslims can both identify their God as the one and only Creator of the world who is all good, all powerful, and worthy of worship and obedience. Both Christians and Muslims believe that this God exists; they disagree with atheists and agnostics on this score. Both Christians and Muslims are realists with respect to truth."
You can read the full story as well as a number of other very important papers delivered at the Mere Anglican Conference in today's digest including those by Dr. Stephen Noll and Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker who spoke eloquently on the future of a new North American Anglican Province. He said there would be no women bishops. His article is must reading. You can read my interview with one of America's leading Christian culture wars experts, Dr. Albert Mohler. Dr. Mohler was a guest speaker at the Mere Anglican Conference and offered a lot of wisdom about the vital role a renewed Anglicanism could play in the revival of America.
A panel of speakers noted that people are divided on issues of conscience and the Church is indeed broken and scattered. They said that people are moving in advance of the denominational frontiers. "Something is happening. The church is under judgment and being scattered...God wants us to turn back and to turn home to Him," said Trinity School for Ministry Professor Leander Harding.
Kenyan Bishop Bill Atwood said the Global South has called us to a fidelity of witness. "We are called not to shatter, but to build a unified collaborative work here." He said Bishop Bob Duncan has called people to come to stay at the table and witness. He said the coalition of orthodox believers is stronger now than at any other time. "The movement is a godly movement to bring people together and to collaborate in the Spirit," he said.
The beat goes on in The Episcopal Church. My lead article, the second in a multi-part series on the financial crisis in The Episcopal Church, reveals that whole dioceses and parishes are facing the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression. Dioceses and parishes with a decidedly liberal bent are facing huge budget deficits and shortfalls. Many are cutting back services and staff as rectors and vestries face declining and aging congregations, an economy in free fall, and emptying endowments. Some parishes are even admitting that the crisis might actually be about what the church is teaching or failing to teach.
The tragedy is that the accounts of failing parishes are just the tip of the iceberg. Reading vestry minutes from dozens of parishes with large endowments, it becomes clear that many 2009 parish budgets, were decided before the really large market declines. No attempt has been made to adjust them to reflect the fact that their endowments are 30-40% down on the year.
In the DIOCESE OF FT. WORTH, an ecclesiastical battle looms as bishops, clergy and laity clash over property. At the center of the conflict is the large parish of All Saints and its rector Fr. Christopher Jambor who won't allow a free vote by the laity to decide whether they want to stay with the diocese under Bishop Jack Iker and the Province of the Southern Cone or opt to go with Mrs. Jefferts Schori. Canon 32 demands that he take a vote to decide their future. He wants fealty to TEC without the vote. This is going to be a protracted battle over property.
Mrs. Jefferts Schori is establishing a new faux diocese in early February with a handful of parishes. The lawsuits have yet to fly, but they will, we can be assured of that.
Katie Sherrod, a blogger who opposes the actions of Bishop Iker, posted a number of letters between the bishop and Mrs. Jefferts Schori. She concluded her tirade insulting the bishop by calling him "delusional." The Rev. Susan Russell, the lesbian priestess from All Saints, Pasadena, CA, wrote Sherrod saying, "I've known you long enough to know you have a really vivid imagination, but even YOU couldn't make this s**t up."
If you think some archbishops might be hallucinating about the rise of orthodoxy in their liberal provinces, you will want to read my article on the paranoid delusions of CANADIAN ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP Fred Hiltz and his conspiratorial belief that there are dark forces at work in his church.
He told a gathering(which was recorded privately) in the DIOCESE OF NIAGARA that Anglican churches across Canada are being "infiltrated" and that there is an "agenda" and "strategies for withdrawing from the Anglican denomination." In his talk, Hiltz opined that special meetings have been called to lure people away from the national church. He did not name names, but it is clear he was referring to Bishop Donald Harvey and the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), a growing group of orthodox churches that have left the liberal denomination to come under the Province of the Southern Cone and Archbishop Gregory Venables because of the Canadian church's leftward swing over matters of pansexual behavior. You can read that story in today's digest.
All this left me wondering what Screwtape might have to say to Wormwood. You can read that satirical essay in today's digest.
It's finally dawning on THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH that they are facing declining membership. There are plans afoot to look at emergent church models in an effort to reach "new generations," according to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Reflecting on the state of the church in a wide-ranging interview with Episcopal Life Media, the PB said there are "many plans to address the trend" of decreasing attendance. "Among the new staff at church center [in New York] are ones dedicated to church planting work, one dedicated to work in evangelism, and one for work with small congregations," Bishop Jefferts Schori said. "We're going to bring aboard another person who will help to teach the rest of us and challenge the rest of us to think about emergent church models-how the church can, as a whole, be more effective in presenting the gospel in language and images and idioms that can be more readily understood by new generations."
Now here's the rub. What "gospel" exactly does she have in mind? Is it the The Gospel of God's salvation in Christ's substitutionary death or will it be Louie Crew and Gene Robinson's "gospel" of inclusion. If it is the latter, they are wasting their money and time. She also acknowledged that "many parish clergy are exceedingly nervous about their annual fund drives" during the nation's ongoing economic crisis, but noted that "we're not seeing a major impact yet at the church-wide level. "History tells us that churches are usually the last to suffer in terms of bad economic times," she said. "People's generosity continues and particularly in their faith communities. Serving the needs of those with even less continues or grows in bad economic times. We are hopeful." Hopeful she might be, but VOL's analysis shows that hundreds of churches are in serious financial trouble and many will close in the next five years.
In the DIOCESE OF LONG ISLAND where they are looking for a new bishop, VOL got wind that The Rt. Rev. Johnny Itty, Acting Director of the George Mercer Jr. Memorial School of Theology, Garden City, NY, and the former Bishop of Oregon just might want the job. VOL got word this week that he is a Petition Nominee for Bishop Coadjutor. Stay tuned.
THE OTHER great event of the week was the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Two New England bishops participated in inauguration events. The first and most public was Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire who gave the invocation at the opening event on Monday and prayed to the "god of many understandings" which just about says it all. Retired Massachusetts bishop suffragan Barbara C. Harris was also present for the inaugural festivities. Harris was among 25 church leaders receiving a Keepers of the Flame Award during the African American Church Inaugural Ball. She is also the bishop who said of orthodox African bishops at the 1998 Lambeth Conference that if "a**holes could fly, this place would be an airport." One bright moment occurred when Robinson's "prayer" got clipped by HBO and many at the back of the Lincoln Memorial did not hear it. They missed nothing. It was the Rev. Rick Warren, a conservative evangelical who delivered the invocation at the actual inauguration ceremony. He mentioned Jesus five times at the end of his invocation. What a contrast.
In one side show that failed because of Internet outrage was a planned homosexual "pig sex" party celebrating Obama's inauguration at the Doubletree Hotel in Washington. Images of devices were made available at a Washington party for homosexuals. Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, urged the hotel to not allow this unbelievably depraved and unhealthy homosexual event to occur in its public conference rooms. He and thousands of outraged Americans prompted the hotel to nix the event.
One wag noted that in Gene Robinson's "prayer" to "the god of many understandings" the homogenital bishop was in fact offering a prayer to a god of his own creation.
The GLOBAL SOUTH continues to grow and flourish. They are consecrating new bishops for whole new dioceses in Nigeria and Rwanda even as Episcopal dioceses wither and contract. The Rev. Nathan Kamusiime Gasatura was recently consecrated Bishop of Butare Anglican Diocese in Rwanda. The consecration service was held in Butare Stadium and was attended by thousands of Christians from the dioceses of Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and Uganda. The occasion was presided over by the Archbishop of the Anglican province of Rwanda, The Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini. Bishop Edward Muhima from the North Kigezi Diocese in Uganda, who preached, asked the Ugandan-born Gasatura to remain steadfast in times of trial. "God is not asking for your ability because you are not able. He is asking for your availability," Muhima told Gasatura.
IN ENGLAND, a bus driver refused to drive a bus with an atheist slogan proclaiming "There's probably no God". Ron Heather, from Southampton, Hampshire, responded with "shock" and "horror" at the message and walked out of his shift in protest. First Bus said it would do everything in its power to ensure Mr. Heather does not have to drive the buses. Buses across Britain started displaying atheist messages in an advertising campaign launched earlier this month.
OUT THE DOOR they go. The bishop of the DIOCESE OF UTAH says she will retire on Sept. 11, 2010. The Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish has been bishop since 1996. She was baptized a Mormon, but was never re-baptized into the Episcopal Church. Her entire diocese of 22 parishes and 6,000 members across Utah and one parish in northern Arizona is smaller than the 8,200 member parish of the Rev. Russell Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, now the largest parish in the denomination. Irish is one of only 12 female bishops in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Bishop of the DIOCESE OF UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA Dorsey F. Henderson recently announced his retirement. The Bishop of the DIOCESE OF LOUISIANA, The Rt. Rev Charles Jenkins also announced he was leaving citing health reasons following the Katrina disaster. You can read a moving story of his departure in today's digest.
MSNBC is conducting a poll on whether to keep or discard "In God We Trust" on the currency. You can participate at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10103521/
Apparently, the conference on "Radical Abundance" has been cancelled. Evidently, there was not an abundant interest in it. Here is the announcement: "To Parishioners and Friends of Good Shepherd: The live webcast conference here at Good Shepherd of the Trinity Institute conference "Radical Abundance" on Jan. 22-23 has been canceled due to lack of response." Apparently there isn't enough "abundance" in TEC as churches rein in their spending.
NEWSWEEK magazine's recent blast at historic Christian orthodoxy is not doing it any service. Eleanor Clift is an archenemy of anything conservative. Said a VOL reader, "Her piece is merely a continuation of the Meecham agenda to legitimize homosexuality, certainly within the Episcopal Church ((the sole focus of this piece). Of course, she trumpets the 'normalcy' of the former physician, a typical tactic to lend moral equivalence to the sexual behavior."
In the DIOCESE OF WESTERN NEW YORK, only two people from St. Bart's Tonawanda,The Rev. Art Ward's former building, attended the first meeting with Bishop Michael J. Garrison. The diocese has changed the building's name. This "church" http://www.holyapostlesmission.org/ is dead on arrival. By contrast, Ward's parish move is thriving. It is a church on fire. You can see it here: http://forministry.com/stbartusasbecs/
It had to happen sooner or later. A Canada man charged with polygamy is using the Gay Marriage defense. The lawyer for a British Columbia man charged with having 20 wives says he'll use the same-sex marriage law as a defense. The lawyer, Blair Suffredine, says gays can marry in Canada, so why can't a man have more than one wife? The lawyer says standards have changed. He's representing 52-year-old Winson Blackmore, leader of a polygamous group in Bountiful, in southeastern British Columbia. Another man from a rival polygamous group in Bountiful, James Oler, also appeared in court, charged with marrying two women. Oler is a follower of Warren Jeffs and a bishop in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As if New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson needed to be more outrageous than he already is, on the "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart he added a little "comic" sentence to his resumé. Following President Barack Obama's inauguration and about his dream of one day seeing a gay or lesbian president, Stewart asked Robinson how he managed to negotiate the inaugural crowds given that bishops (at least on a chess board) can only move diagonally. Not missing a beat, Robinson replied, "Don't forget there is a queen on the board as well."
The DIOCESE OF THE BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLAND will get a new bishop following the retirement of Archbishop Drexel Gomez. Bishop Laish Z. Boyd will lead the Diocese following his enthronement in a concelebrated mass at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, February 8.
"Like any locale, we have many, many, many challenges," Bishop Boyd said. "The Bahamas is a wonderful nation and I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world. It's a wonderful spot. But we have some problems and we have some issues and so praying for the city's well-being and the citizens is always very, very important, with all the challenges which the city and country faces." "All of these, I expect the church to continue to take a leadership role in addressing as we pastor and minister to our people through the clergy and lay people, as they are sent in their parishes," he said in an interview. Archbishop Gomez retired on December 31, 2008.
CHURCHES FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE issued a challenge for new president Barack Obama. Following the recently announced temporary cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, a "much-needed end to the unbearable violence of recent weeks" is called for, they said in a joint statement.
The coalition, which includes 22 Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant national church bodies, including the Episcopal Church, called on President Obama to fulfill his recent statements to engage in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts "from day one" of his administration. "The Gaza crisis demonstrates the need for strong U.S. leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian arena," CMEP said. "We will do everything possible to encourage and support peacemaking efforts." The recent fighting began with the firing of Hamas rockets into southern Israel. On December 27, Israel responded with air strikes and began a ground assault on January 3. The temporary cease-fire was announced January 18.
The WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES U.S. leaders have offered to "roll up our sleeves" to help Obama. The U.S. Conference of the World Council of Churches, of which the Episcopal Church is a member, has sent a letter to President Obama promising help in facing what it calls the "enormous and formidable" challenges facing him and the world. "Ours is not to point fingers at your new administration and say 'Fix it.' Rather, ours is to roll up our sleeves and partner with you to help bring about the changes that are so desperately needed for the United States and the world to more closely reflect God's vision for humankind and all of creation," wrote the Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, the conference's moderator. "Ours is to call us all into account when we do not follow that vision." Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Christopher Epting, the Episcopal Church's program officer for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, signed the letter along with the other members and associate members of the U.S. Conference board and the heads of the member churches.
An interesting legal development has reared its head in the DIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES. The Supreme Court did not order St. James to vacate its property. In a complicated ruling, remanded to trial court, the California Supreme Court has been asked to clarify its ruling. You can read this report from Mr. A. S Haley an attorney in California in today's digest. Or you can review it here: Link: http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/01/california-supreme-court-asked-to.html
Church leaders in SOUTHERN AFRICA want a new facilitator for Zimbabwe talks. A forum of South African church leaders has said former president Thabo Mbeki must step down as mediator after years of failure to resolve the political crisis in Zimbabwe. "We respectfully call for the intervention of the African Union and the appointment of a new facilitator of the talks in Zimbabwe," said the National Church Leaders Consultation after a two-day meeting in Stellenbosch. "Zimbabwe has collapsed ... Former president Thabo Mbeki is compromised and no longer suitable for the mediation process." The group of more than 30 church leaders includes Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Dutch Reformed, Lutheran and Rhema officials. They met in Stellenbosch near Cape Town for two days and issued their statement on January 20.
This is the 36th anniversary of ROE V. WADE. There have been an estimated 50 plus million preborn children killed. President Obama is not showing himself on the side of the angels on this issue. A VOL reader said the March for Life is considerably bigger this year. The hope is that the Mothers Day March this spring will increase the crowd size by twice and then some.
THE PRIMATES of the Anglican Communion will meet in Egypt between February 1 and 5. The meeting, held at the Helnan Palestine Hotel, Alexandria, will be chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East and Bishop in Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa will host the event. VirtueOnline will be there to report the news as it breaks.
Please consider a tax deductible donation to help defray the costs of this trip. I will be accompanying the Archbishop of Rwanda, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini, from the Anglican Mission in the Americas conference being held in Greensboro, NC. This godly leader has been in the forefront of the battle for orthodoxy and helped birth the AMIA in 2,000 at a critical time in the Episcopal Church's history. VOL will be at the AMiA conference, as well.
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In His Service
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