The divine vision. The vision we need is the vision of God himself, the God of the whole biblical revelation, the God of creation who made all things fair and good, and made man male and female to bear his image and subdue his world, the God of the covenant of grace who in spite of human rebellion has been calling out a people for himself, the God of compassion and justice who hates oppression and loves the oppressed, the God of the incarnation who made himself weak, small, limited and vulnerable, and entered our pain and alienation, the God of resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, and so of universal authority and power, the God of the church or the kingdom community to whom he has committed himself for ever, and whom he sends into the world to live, serve, suffer and die, the God of history who is working according to a plan and towards a conclusion, the God of the eschaton, who one day will make all things new. There is no room for pessimism here, or for apathy either. There is room only for worship, for expectant faith, and for practical obedience in witness and service. For once we have seen something of the glory of our God, and of the greatness of his commission, we can only respond, 'I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.' --- John R.W. Stott
The One Eternal God - sovereign, ceaseless, purposeful activity. Perhaps the dominant theme of the whole Bible is the sovereign, ceaseless, purposeful activity of Almighty God. In contrast to the idols, which had eyes, ears, mouths and hands but could neither see nor hear, neither speak nor act, our God is a living and a busy God. In its own dramatic and figurative way the Bible leaves us no doubt of this. The breath of all living creatures is in his hand. The thunder is his voice and the lightning his fire. He causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall. He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field. He makes the clouds his chariot and the winds his messengers. He causes the grass to grow. His trees are well watered. He calms the raging of the sea. He also guides the affairs of people and nations. The mighty empires of Assyria and Babylonia, of Egypt and Persia, of Greece and Rome, were under his overruling control. He called Abraham from Ur. He delivered the Israelites from Egypt, led them across the desert and settled them in the Promised Land. He gave them judges and kings, priests and prophets. Finally he sent his only Son into the world to live, to teach, to die and to rise again. --- John R.W. Stott
We now speak of "gays" rather than homosexuals. We call an abominable practice "choice" instead of abortion. We speak of "at-risk" teens instead of juvenile delinquents. In short, we have sanitized the English language to the point that it can no longer be used to distinguish between right and wrong. If something is wrong, we should be honest enough to say it is wrong. If the facts hurt the feelings of those who are engaging in behavior that is personally or socially destructive, so be it. Where is it written that thou shalt not hurt another's feelings by telling the truth? If the people in question are not doing something they themselves know is wrong, their feelings would not be hurt in the first place. --- David L. Goetsch
Dear Brothers and Sisters
December 14, 2012
There are whispers of revolt that Katharine Jefferts Schori is in trouble with her own constituency - the liberals of her church. Nobody is saying a word out loud or shouting it from the rooftops, but there is the belief by some bishops that she has gone too far and spent too much money on property grabs. They think it is time to reel her in, that is, get rid of her. Easier said than done, of course.
Opposition to her leadership is growing among her fellow liberals. There is the belief that "litigate till they capitulate" is hastening the path of ruin and destruction for the Episcopal Church. The Rev. Ladson Mills III, a regular VOL columnist, recently wrote that while some may abhor the path taken by South Carolina, many secretly hope the diocese will be successful in breaking her power. In the meantime, they will await the finish of her term, hoping the next presiding bishop will prove better. It is a sentiment being voiced regularly from the remaining old guard left.
"But there is the new left with which she must also contend. I am old enough," writes Mills, "to remember when political liberals were generous with their own money and theological conservatives were the ones blocking innovative worship. This has changed. Just as diseases mutate and change those now advancing into positions of leadership within the church are changing and learning to thrive. They may not like Title IV but they are adapting and learning how to operate around it. Lawyers may be even more competitive than clergy but diocesan chancellors do not wish to see their dioceses fail. Parish clergy and vestries do not wish see their money go into lawsuits while youth ministry and programs are sacrificed. Conflict fatigue sets in rapidly.
"This recurring theme and scheme of a property grab on the part of Jefferts Schori will confront in South Carolina has some major obstacles, one of which is the South Carolina Supreme Court re Pawley's Island ruling. With less than three years left on her slash-and-burn tenure, she is hell bent on removing any vestige of Christian charity from TEC and this is starting to get noticed by the moderate wing of her church."
The question is not simply putting a faux bishop into South Carolina, which she will surely do and "rescuing" a dozen or so parishes. It is deeper than that. The questions being asked are where and when will it all end? Will 815 2nd Avenue HAVE to be sold to pay the ongoing legal fees of the church's attorneys? How much of "God's Mission" to save the world that the Presiding Bishop talks endlessly about is just so much hot air, producing nothing. How are 700,000 Episcopalians, whose average age is close to 65, going to save much of anything? Most of them are just trying to save themselves from inevitable decline, hoping the Government doesn't touch Medicare and Social Security.
A recent rip at her in an Open Letter to the Bishops of TEC by Anglican Communion Institute theologians who accused her of un-canonical (and perhaps even unlawful) actions on her part and those of her associates has been met mostly with a yawn.
When VOL inquired of several bishops what they thought of the Open Letter, one of them said "just backdoor conversations" which sound like the kiss of death. The next PB will no doubt continue this fatal trajectory of spending, selling and suing until all "progressive" Episcopalians have leapt off the cliff and into Satan's abyss.
There was a minor bombshell this week when American Anglican Council Canon Phil Ashey posted a photo of ACNA archbishop Robert Duncan and ACNA Bishop Ray Sutton greeting the pope in Rome. On Wednesday, November 28, Pope Benedict XVI extended his weekly audience to include the two men. The picture was taken at the end of the session when Archbishop Duncan and Bishop Sutton were invited to join the Pope's own Archbishops and Bishops to bring personal greetings. What a photo op.
Now try to imagine the Pope being greeted by Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Pope: And who are you ma'am?
KJS: I'm the Metropolitan, Archbishop, Primate and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church with a dozen overseas dioceses...take your pick of titles your Holiness.
Pope: I'm sorry I don't recognize your titles or apostolic orders.
KJS: Whadya mean. I AM THE PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH. I wield enormous power over my bishops. I've even tossed a few out who won't obey me.
Pope: You mean like Archbishop Robert Duncan whom I met and greeted warmly recently?
Canon Ashey asks if a new convergence of confessing Christians might not be emerging from those orthodox Western churches as they separate from largely apostate western mainline denominations.
VOL's exclusive reports on the Diocese of Washington and the Soper Fund heated up again this week. Sarah Frances Ives reports that the long-awaited, adversarial trial between the Diocese of Washington and the PNC bank willbegin the third week of December. From court documents recently released, the trial promises to be a conflicted one as the Diocese of Washington attempts to wrest control of the Soper Trust away from its legally designated manager, PNC Bank. With both sides in this court fight listing the Chief Operating Officer and Canon to the Ordinary Paul E. Cooney as a potential witness, the inner workings and thinking of the Diocese of Washington may be exposed. This fiery engagement will take place in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
You can read her report in today's digest.
BREAKING NEWS: The long-awaited Soper Trust trial that was scheduled to begin on December 18, 2012, has been deleted from the Maryland court calendar.
On December 12, 2012, the Diocese of Washington, PNC Bank, and the judge in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland held a pre-trial conference. Immediately following the meeting, a court official removed the Soper Trust trial from the court docket. It appears that an out-of-court settlement might be in the making. VOL will bring you the latest news as it breaks.
In the Diocese of South Carolina, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will head south in January to set up a new diocese possibly with Bishop Charles von Rosenberger as the faux bishop and a dozen or so FORUM parishes that won't go along with Bishop Lawrence.
Bishop Mark Lawrence responded by saying that the Presiding Bishop's intrusion cannot assume their identity. She will attend a special convention to choose a new provisional bishop in South Carolina; VOL has learned that fresh political intrigue is figuring into the picture, even as Bishop Mark Lawrence maintains he is the lawful bishop of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.
VOL took on one of those who claim Bishop Lawrence is no longer the legitimate heir to the diocesan throne. You can read it here: http://tinyurl.com/cpxjm3c
The madness is almost over in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Bishop Charles E. Bennison is out the door in a couple of weeks and hopefully never more to be heard from. The new disciplinary Canon IV passed at GC2012 last summer made it possible for the diocese to finally get rid of him. Rumor has it Bennison voted for it and it has come back to behead him. It shall henceforth be known as the Bennison Canon. One piece of good news is that when Bennison appeared at the installation of Fr. Rick Alton as the new Rector of the Anglo-Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, (Alton's wife worked for Bennison at the diocesan headquarters) he left behind a check for $25,000 from his discretionary account. Is this atonement for the shabby way he treated Fr. David Moyer, or a ringing endorsement that the parish is back in the diocesan fold and he takes credit for it with a check. Some 300 turned up for the rebirth of the parish. In other news, the parish which was down on its financial luck by $1.5 million because of litigation costs is apparently recovering. The parish which owned several properties sold a couple of them for $850,000, thus securing its future. Whether it will recover lost parishioners is another matter entirely.
The British government announced Tuesday that it will introduce a bill next year legalizing gay marriage - but banning the Church of England from conducting same-sex ceremonies.
Equalities minister Maria Miller said the legislation would authorize same-sex civil marriages as well as religious ceremonies if religions decide to "opt in."
"I feel strongly that, if a couple wish to show their love and commitment to each other, the state should not stand in their way," Miller said. "For me, extending marriage to same-sex couples will strengthen, not weaken, this vital institution."
Some religious groups, such as Quakers and liberal Jews, say they want to conduct same-sex ceremonies. But others, including the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, oppose gay marriage.
Announcing plans to legislate same-sex marriage early next year, the Bill would include a "quadruple lock" of measures that would "protect religious freedom". A statement from Miller, said: "The legal locks, which will be on the face of any primary legislation, are: no religious organization, or individual minister, could be compelled to marry same-sex couples (or to permit this to happen on their premises).
"It will be unlawful for religious organizations, or their ministers, to marry same-sex couples unless the organization's governing body has expressly opted in to do so (and that would mean the religious organization itself opting in, the presiding minister having consented and the premises in which the marriage is to be conducted having been registered.
"The Equality Act 2010 would be amended to ensure that no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organizations or individual minister for refusing to marry a same-sex couple (or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose); and the Bill will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, or to opt-in to do so. Canon law - which bans the marriage of same-sex couples - will continue to apply. That means that it would require a change in both primary and Canon law before Church of England and Church in Wales would be able to opt in to conduct same-sex marriages."
The Bill will allow same-sex couples to get married in civil ceremonies, and for religious organizations - apart from the Church of England and the Church in Wales - to "opt in" and conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
If David Cameron hoped to assuage critics of gay marriage by offering additional legal protection to the Church of England and other religious bodies, he will be taken aback by the reaction in the Commons. Dozens of Conservative MPs made clear their deep unhappiness with the way this matter has been handled, and they clearly represent a sizeable number of traditionalist Tory voters. After all, there was no great public clamor for same-sex marriage: many imagined that the inequality of treatment had been properly dealt with in 2005 by the introduction of civil partnerships. The gay marriage plan is just plain barking mad.
As one British observer told VOL, "Licensed sodomy from the "Conservatives" - as the HIV infection rate soars ever higher, nobody ever considers that chastity might be the answer... and on the same day there are news reports that the same party is considering decriminalizing drugs."
The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan condemned the UK Government's plan to explicitly ban the Church in Wales from performing gay marriages. The Anglican primate said the move - intended to reassure opponents of gay marriage that they will not be forced to perform ceremonies - was a "step too far".
WOMEN BISHOPS again. In England, the House of Bishops met this week and endorsed the view of the Archbishops' Council that the "Church of England now has to resolve this issue through its own processes as a matter of great urgency". Translation. What happened recently with the laity deep-sixing women bishops just simply won't do old chap. Let's try again ol' boy and get it right this time.
Latest research reveals that the Church of England will continue to shrink. In 2000, Sunday attendance was 79 per cent of the total of Sunday and weekly attendance. That percentage dropped to 75 per cent in 2005 and to 73 per cent in 2010. It is likely to continue to decrease, as more and more people seem to prefer attending church on a weekday; by 2030 it could be that just 60 per cent are attending on a Sunday. That would mean about 300,000 people attending C of E churches on a Sunday.
If the statistical implications are calculated, it would mean not only that by 2030 AW(Weekly)A would have dropped to 500,000, but also that the number of larger C of E churches (attendance over 300) in England would have probably declined from about 200 to 100. Some Cathedrals might need to be "decommissioned". Perhaps, 9,000 of the current 16,000 churches will have closed as "unviable", leaving large numbers of redundant church buildings. Half the eight Theological Colleges will have had to close, many dioceses merged, the numbers of Bishops reduced, and so on, unless God revives His work again.
At the conclusion of a year of dramatic developments for converts from Anglicanism, newly ordained Fr. Peter Wilkinson says he has "no regrets" about joining the Catholic Church. Catholic Bishop Richard Gagnon of Victoria recently ordained the former Anglican-Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop of Canada into Catholic priesthood.
A former friend of Wilkinson who knew him intimately wrote, "I love the hype. I knew Peter when he was a very high-flying Anglican with very definite ideas about becoming a Russian or Greek Orthodox. He read scads of Orthodox theologians and tried to get me to read them too. He couldn't see how any right-minded person could not become Orthodox. So, now suddenly it's all Rome and always has been. My, what short memories people have. I'm still left with the question, why didn't Peter just join Rome years ago? Why did he lead a group of people into a breakaway Anglican church only to abandon them somewhere down the road? Why did he cause so much collateral damage to many of his fellow Christians?" Valid questions indeed.
Eleven Anglican Sisters are to be received into the Catholic Church via the ordinariate, it was announced this week. The Sisters, from the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage, Oxfordshire, are to be received into the Church by Mgr Keith Newton, leader of the ordinariate in England and Wales, on New Year's Day. The group, which ranges in age from 45 to 83, includes the mother superior of the community and a Sister who was once a minister in the Church of England. Three are in their 80s.
Did you know that at least one of the members for structural reform of The Episcopal Church is a leading Canadian homosexual who is, perhaps, in line to be the next bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster if the liberal push continues?
Approved at the July General Convention 2012, Resolution C095 calls for development of a 24-member task force charged with presenting a plan to the next General Convention in 2015 "for reforming the Church's structures, governance, and administration."
There is the usual list of liberal suspects. In addition, the Very Rev. Peter Elliott of the Anglican Church of Canada, dean of the Diocese of New Westminster and rector of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver will lend a helping hand. The irony should not be missed. His diocese is in serious decline with the Diocese of British Columbia (on Vancouver Island) almost out of business.
According to resolution C095, "The membership of the Task Force shall reflect the diversity of the Church, and shall include some persons with critical distance from the Church's institutional leadership." Funny thing about diversity, it is not making churches grow.
The Diocese of Recife, Brazil got a new bishop this past week. The Rev. Miguel Uchoa was consecrated the new bishop of the diocese following the murder of Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti earlier this year.
The diocese exists on the edge of slums and has established ministries to care for single mothers and their children, providing education, health care, drug rehab, and spiritual care.
Miguel and I have been friends for years. He is rector of a 1,000- member Church of the Holy Spirit in Recife, the largest Anglican parish in South America. He has been a regular speaker at New Wineskins Missions Conference in the US as well as conferences and churches throughout the world.
Archbishop Rowan Williams, speaking out at UNAIDS for World Aids Day, stated, "What can be done? A lot has already been initiated to challenge the distorted theology that can underlie violent or collusive behaviour. Many churches I know have taken the biblical story of the rape of King David's daughter Tamar as a starting point for rethinking their approach and clarifying the unacceptability of the male behaviour depicted in this and other stories. If we are to make progress here, we have to expose toxic and destructive patterns of masculinity. And for cultures steeped in the Bible, it is important to start by showing that the Bible does not endorse or absolve violence against women.
"But in addition, there needs to be a coherent and persistent message about breaking the silence. The 'Silent No More' campaign has found wide support; and the launch in 2011 of the We Will Speak Out coalition of faith groups and faith leaders, in the wake of the research done by Tearfund's Silent No More, has proved a benchmark for challenging communities and leaders who fail to see this as a priority. Our own Anglican archbishops from DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi have had a leading role in this. And last year's conference of Anglican primates issued a full and robust statement on gender-related violence which has now been strongly reaffirmed by the global Anglican Consultative Council.
"These policy statements rest on a lot of impressive grassroots practice, linking survivors to medical, legal and counseling support, and local livelihood training schemes - and also naming and shaming the culture of impunity, especially the impunity of those who in any way exercise power, in churches or elsewhere. But so often in my own travels I have found the most important service the Church can offer is to be a place where it is safe to speak about what has happened. Last year in DR Congo, and more recently in a Church-based center in Papua New Guinea, I had the painful privilege of spending time with women who had accessed the services offered by the Church and were finding a new voice and new courage to confront those who had humiliated and abused them, and to support one another. These responses by local faith communities are inspiring, but need to be far more widely replicated.
"Building a new culture of openness and mutual support is essential. Out of this grows the sort of comprehensive change we want to see - change in understandings of masculinity, the end of paralyzing stigma, a new approach to legal redress, a place for the leadership and advocacy of survivors themselves, an audible voice for women.
We sometimes speak of a fivefold response - Prevention, Protection, Provision of services, Prosecution and Partnerships. All I have mentioned so far illustrates how this looks in practice. We are morally and religiously bound to give the highest priority to making this response a universal reality, and are glad to have the support and solidarity of UNAIDS in this. It is a calling that has been laid upon us by a God whose will is always for human dignity and compassion."
On Sunday December 2, 2012, The Church of the Holy Communion, in north Dallas, was proclaimed a Pro Cathedral by the Rt. Rev. Royal Grote, Bishop Ordinary of the Reformed Episcopal Church'sDiocese of Mid America.
Bishop Grote recognized the significant role of leadership that Holy Communion has played in the development of the Diocese. He noted that it stands as a testimony to the fact that a traditional Anglican expression of historic prayer book worship can produce a faithful, vibrant, flourishing congregation.
Grote further stated, "The continued and expanded ministry and witness of the Reformed Episcopal Church are of critical importance in efforts to reestablish a faithful, biblical Anglican witness in North America. I believe Holy Communion is an important part of extending that witness in the Dallas Metroplex."
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) has been granted leave to appear before the British Columbia Court of Appeal (B.C.C.A.) as an intervener in the Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) case. The case is a challenge to Canada's laws that prohibit assisting someone to commit suicide.
"The decision of Justice Lynn Smith of the British Columbia Supreme Court was stunning," explains EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson. "A lower court judge reversed the long-standing 1993 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Rodriguez v. British Columbia. Decisions that ignore the precedent established by Canada's top court are highly debatable, both legally and in principle. They create confusion on settled points of law.
"Additionally, the fact that over the last 20 years there have been nine private members' bills voted down in the House Commons which sought to decriminalize euthanasia and assisted suicide did not seem to matter to Justice Smith," continues Hutchinson. "The last attempt, in private member's Bill C-384, was defeated on April 21, 2010 by a wide margin in a vote of 228-59. Are not elected representatives, who are accountable to the public, in a better place to determine these controversial issues? Particularly when the law in question has previously been found to be constitutionally acceptable by Canada's highest court?"
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