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LENT:Smudge or Ashes*Bethlehem Diocese no Audit Oops*Okoh to Ntagali"Stand Firm"

Sudden conversion? You can become a Christian in a moment, but not a mature Christian. Christ can enter, cleanse and forgive you in a matter of seconds, but it will take much longer for your character to be transformed and molded to his will. It takes only a few minutes for a bride and bridegroom to be married, but in the rough-and-tumble of their home it may take many years for two strong wills to be dovetailed into one. So when we receive Christ, a moment of commitment will lead to a lifetime of adjustment. --- John Stott

It was Russia which led the way to aid the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. It is Russia that defends 'family values' and confronts the secular zeitgeist of moral relativity with an appeal to conservatism. Putin is on a crusade. If millions of your anti-Western co-religionists appeal to you for spiritual liberty, you don't ignore their cries: their salvation is your vocation. --– Archbishop Cranmer Blog

Baptism - the sign of entry. Of our saving union with Christ in his death and resurrection, baptism is the sign or 'sacrament'. But baptism is not the means of union. This is clear from a comparison between baptism and circumcision. Baptism is the sign of entry into the new covenant, as circumcision was the sign of entry into the old covenant. Now circumcision is defined by Paul as 'a sign or seal of the righteousness which he [sc. Abraham] had *by faith* while he was still uncircumcised' (Rom. 4:11). First Abraham received justification by faith. Then he received circumcision as a sign. It is by faith that we are joined to Christ and so justified and of this faith Abraham and David are the best Old Testament examples. –-- John R.W. Stott

After the required three years pass, a new General Convention springs into being -- unable and incapable of maintaining any continuity with all of its predecessors, and once again existing for just the few moments of its delusional triumphs. The Convention disbands, and without anyone left to sustain them, the triumphs of the moment quickly turn into wilted flowers and rotten fruit. --- A.S. Haley

We need to be careful that our commitment to pursuing shalom isn't confused with a progressivism that functionally imagines we bring about the kingdom. Instead, we need to recover an Augustinian sense of living in the saeculum, this time between times in which we long for kingdom come but live without illusions of its being accomplished and perfected before then. This side of the eschaton, we seek proximate justice, which means facing up to the complexity of our decisions, policies, and systems and learning to work within them. --- James K.A. Smith

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www.virtueonline.org
March 7, 2014

LENT: Fudge, smudge and sludge. If you believe US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Lent is not about being sinners in need of repentance, but identifying with the world's poor and, well, trying to fix things. As you enter Lent, consider how you will live in solidarity with those who are hungry, or broken, or ill in one way or another, says Jefferts Schori. Really. That's fudge. Smudge is what Canadian Anglican Archbishop Fred Hiltz says Lent is all about. The Anglican Primate of Canada would like to see the imposing of ashes trashed and, in its place, the Native American practice of SMUDGING instituted. I kid you not. Hiltz thinks churches should have a smudging ceremony every Sunday in Lent. (It's impossible to out satirize this).

Smudging, it turns out, is the burning of various herbs and immersing oneself in the resulting smoke (doesn't sound very green does it?) and is supposed to drive out evil spirits, negative energy and balance energies. As such, the kindest thing one can say about it is that it is harmless nonsense; the unkindest, but perhaps more accurate, is that it is linked to the occult.

Finally, there's sludge, (yours and mine) which is what Lent is really all about. ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Now that's what Lent is all about.

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Ashes to go, or not to go, that is the question. Various Episcopal bishops now feel compelled to go out into the highways and byways of life imposing ashes on commuters and other passers-by on Ash Wednesday. So it came to pass near the Foggy Bottom Metro station in the nation's capital that Mariann Edgar Budde, the brainless (can they get any dumber) Bishop of Washington, was out doing her thing.

But is this the right thing to do? Ah no, says Michael Sniffen in a column on VOL's website. He writes, "My concern is this: I fear that Ashes to Go is a way for cloistered clergy and baby boomer bishops to check the box of relevance while presiding over an institution that is not 'meeting people where they are' in ways that really matter. Ashes to Go risks nothing, it costs us nothing, and it bears witness to a wimpy church.

"Let's agree that if Ashes to Go is the only liturgical street performance we do, it falls a bit short of the Great Commission. Under scrutiny, it appears to be a disconnected feel-good give-away ministry in which we clergy self-importantly smudge our neighbors and go home satisfied."

Finally is anyone passing asked to repent of their sins or is it a quick smudge and run? We think it is the latter. Ashes to go should go.

This past Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, the period of penance and fasting preceding Easter.

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They made a discovery this week in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem. The President of the Standing Committee, Canon Gerns, sent a note to the Vestry Officers and Bethlehem Clergy saying that the diocese's finances have not been audited since 2007. "This came as a shock to us because both our diocesan canons and the canons of The Episcopal Church require an annual audit," he said. Ya think? Is there no one with an accounting or legal brain in the whole diocese who didn't ask Bishop Paul Marshall in 2007/2008 "...excuse me bishop can we see an audit of the diocese's books please? What, you haven't done one". It'll be fascinating to see what they dig up and if any money has been siphoned for whatever purposes by whomever. Stay tuned.

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A special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem on March 1 elected the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe as the provisional bishop of Bethlehem. He also doubles as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania where he has been bishop for seven years. His position in the diocese of Bethlehem will continue for three years.

Apparently, Bethlehem elected him as a "provisional" bishop because that Diocese can't afford to pay a full-time Bishop. Late last year, the Standing Committee in consultation with the Presiding Bishop and the Rt. Rev. Clay Matthews, the bishop for pastoral development in her office, decided that calling a provisional bishop for a term of three years would be the best way for the Diocese of Bethlehem to discern its vision for the future.

Across the church, other dioceses in significant transition-most recently the Diocese of East Carolina-have successfully made use of a provisional bishop to lead a healthy, productive period of reflection and discernment.

Calling a "provisional bishop" is code for the fact the diocese is failing. (The same language was used recently in the Diocese of Easton which saw its bishop retire.) As one by one liberal dioceses with no discernible gospel head towards nowheresville, they are being forced to rethink if they can even afford a bishop with all the trappings. Dioceses are running out of money. The Diocese of PA recently sold Church House and moved in with the Lutherans. The bishop of the Diocese of Connecticut has been reduced to working in headquarters out of a strip mall.

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In Pine Bluff, Arkansas, we learned that the good folk of Grace Church woke up to a transgendered priest in their midst and said, No, thank you, that’s a bridge too far. The Rev Greg Fry wants to be known as the Rev. Gwen Fry, who by the way is married to Lisa Fry. Bishop Larry Benfield wanted the parish to show a little compassionate and upscale inclusivity but the congregation said no so Greg alias Gwen is out the door. You can read the full story by Mary Ann Mueller in today’s digest.

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Terry Star, a 40 year-old deacon in the Diocese of North Dakota and a member of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, has died suddenly at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin, where he was studying for ordination to the priesthood. Cause has not been determined. Star was one of the students who Bishop Salmon says asked him to invite Jefferts Schori to campus.

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An attorney for a Kansas, Episcopal owned military school says the issues brought in a lawsuit in which eleven former students alleged abuse have been resolved. St. John's Military School attorney John Schultz said in an email Monday that the federal case is being dismissed.

The court confirmed that the trial scheduled to begin Tuesday in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, has been cancelled. No details were immediately released.

The lawsuit was filed by former cadets who claimed the school's practice of giving higher ranking cadets the power to discipline younger ones encourages physical and mental abuse.

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The Diocese of South Carolina will hold its 223rd Annual Convention at Christ Church in Mt. Pleasant, March 14-15. Nearly 400 clergy and delegates from 50 congregations across the lower and coastal portion of South Carolina will gather for the two-day event. Mark Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese, said that several important matters would be addressed at the Saturday business meeting. "We will consider resolutions for updating the Diocesan Canons for how we work together as a Diocese - to clarify our structure after leaving The Episcopal Church (TEC)." Other resolutions will address the discernment process for deciding the diocese's provincial relationship within the Anglican Communion, as well as affirming existing relationships within the Communion. Bishop Lawrence emphasized that one of the real highlights of the convention will be the joy of welcoming two new congregations to the Diocesan family - Grace Church Waccamaw in Pawley's Island and Grace Parish in North Myrtle Beach. A third congregation in formation, Resurrection, North Charleston, will also be a special guest at this Convention. "All of these actions are concrete evidence that supports the theme for this weekend: Move Forward With Strength," Lawrence noted.

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The Episcopal Church might be fixable, but it will take more than the current efforts by the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church (TREC) to do it. According to canon lawyer A.S. Haley, the most recent split seems to be between those who view ECUSA as their personal vehicle for "social justice" and those who would like to make General Convention "more efficient."

Haley thinks he knows a way it could work if the deep thinkers would listen to him. I have posted a two-part series on how he thinks it can be done. A Modest Proposal to Reform ECUSA (I) and (II) can be read in today's digest.

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ON THE GLOBAL SOUTH front things got pretty ornery this week. First off, the evangelical Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria wrote a letter to the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali commending him for his stand against the "erroneous teaching and practice of homosexuality."

The Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh called on the Ugandan Archbishop to "stand firm in upholding the authentic Gospel and the historic heritage of our Church by rejecting the erroneous teaching and practice of homosexuality.

"We further wish to encourage you to stand firm in your resolve to please God and not men; to remain immovable and to resist all manner of negative foreign influences," added Archbishop Okoh. He concluded his letter reassuring him of his support, friendship, fellowship and solidarity.

The Church of Nigeria introduced a clause in its constitution to take an oath of allegiance to God denouncing homosexuality. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the public denunciation took place in Abuja on Sunday at St. Matthews, Maitama, during the swearing-in of new members of the Parish Church Council (PCC).

The Vicar of the church, Ven. Ben Idume, who administered the oath to members of the PCC, said the church recognizes that those with such sexual orientation need help and counseling, but they would not be allowed to hold any position in church, he said

The legislation is significant because it applies to members of the laity, clergy and house of bishops of the church. It also banned bisexuals from holding any church office.

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The surviving metropolitan archbishop of the Church of the Province of West Africa has been elevated to become its 10th primate. According to a statement, Daniel Sarfo, archbishop of the internal province of Ghana, becomes the province's new leader following the sudden death of Archbishop S. Tilewa Johnson.

The statement read: "Following the demise of the 9th primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA), the late Most Rev. Dr. S. Tilewa Johnson and by the provisions of our Constitution, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Yinkah Sarfo, the archbishop of the internal province of Ghana, automatically becomes the 10th primate and metropolitan archbishop of the CPWA."

Johnson, 59, was primate, metropolitan archbishop of the internal province of West Africa and bishop of Gambia. A popular figure both home and abroad, he died in Fajara on Jan. 21 while playing tennis - one of his favorite pastimes.

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IN THE UK, VOL has exposed the Bishop of Chelmsford's efforts to undermine the orthodoxy of the Anglican Province of Kenya. Pro-gay Bishop Stephen Cottrell, under the guise of "Engaging in Holistic Mission with Kenya", is asking individuals and parishes to partner in an exciting two-way mission adventure as part of his Lenten Appeal for 2014.

He has invited a group of 20 clergy, ordinands and lay people from partner dioceses in Kenya to come and work with folk in the Diocese of Chelmsford "in mission" for three weeks later in the year. According to Bishop Cottrell, the group will bring a vibrancy of faith and spirituality to support local parish mission initiatives.

What the bishop did not say is that he is a proponent of the Church of England's gay agenda that recently took a huge hit when the Church of England's House of Bishops argued that same-sex marriage is unacceptable affirming the church's historic teaching on sexuality between a man and a woman in holy matrimony. The bishop is a strong advocate of Affirming Catholicism, a group whose leader is the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams.

You can read the full story in today's digest.

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IN CANADA this week they elected a new Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia. "What a travesty," wrote one observer. "A former First-Nations gay clergyman and professor from Vancouver School of Theology (VST) The Rev. Dr. Martin Brokenleg preached the sermon. He talked about how tribal forms of leadership are the way forward for North American Anglicanism. He spoke of First-Nations' spirituality as a deeper form of reality than the colonial model current in Anglicanism. And where was Jesus in all of this? He was not heard from in any of the ceremony. The church of God was the common coin of the message (Jesus was some sort of inconvenient add-on)."

But the new Bishop of New Vancouver-area Melissa Skelton (to be installed this Saturday) got the biggest laugh from buzz on the street over her appointment. It is being said that she is so popular with the current Anglican set in Vancouver, and because she had a lot of disaffected Evangelicals in her former Seattle parish, her election in New Westminster is going to draw the local disaffected Evangelicals back into the fold. Really. Can you see it? Reverends Dan Gifford and David Short leading the long line of their followers back to the Diocese of New Westminster because Melissa is a marketing expert on steroids and has street-cred with a few misguided evangelicals in Washington State? In her dreams. Short had the largest Anglican parish in Canada. It is solidly evangelical and he paid a huge price going up against Bishop Michael Ingham. I doubt he'll re-enlist in Skelton's army. Bishop Skelton is fully supportive of same-sex blessings.

Skelton has already learned from her predecessor that she can glibly ignore the wishes of the majority in the Anglican Communion and be complacently secure in the conviction that she will not be censured by the Anglican Church of Canada, its Primate, Canterbury or the Archbishop of Canterbury. What God thinks about it, as revealed in the book Skelton claims to follow, might be an entirely different matter. Who cares about him when Fred Hiltz is on your side?

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In 2012 the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada Fred Hiltz called for a task force to assist the church in assessing the practice of inviting to communion people who are not baptized. On the strength of this work, the Primate has proposed a time of experiment and reflection. "Becoming the Story we Tell" is a collection of resources for Lent 2014 to assist discernment and discussion. "We invite individual and group responses emerging from Anglican Church of Canada communities."

In reality this is inviting people to come aboard the Titanic on its last voyage. IF the ACoC is so desperate for new people that it is willing to allow people to take communion who have never ackowledged that they have been converted to Christ let alone baptized, why not just ask your friendly neighborhood Imam over for Eucharist. But for goodness sake, don't tell him that the bread and wine have something to do with the broken body and shed blood of the Savior of the universe; he might get a tad offended and try and lop your head off. C'est la vie.

*****

A stone is to be laid in Westminster Abbey in memory of Nelson Mandela, the London royal church said ahead of a memorial service Monday for the former South African president. Around 2,000 people are expected in the abbey for the service celebrating Mandela's life and work, including members of the global statesman's family.

Among those due to attend are British Prime Minister David Cameron and South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. Prince Harry, fourth in line to the throne, will represent Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Commonwealth. South African peace icon Desmond Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town, is to give the address.

*****

Church of England vicar wants to marry his male partner, but the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, an evangelical, might have something to say about that.

The gay vicar from Kilburn has vowed to marry his partner of 14 years despite the risk that he could be thrown out of the Church of England. Fr. Andrew Cain from St Mary's with All Souls revealed his engagement to fiancé Stephen Foreshew, an atheist, on Valentine's Day.

He stated firmly that he plans to ignore edicts sent down from his own church leaders that describes marriage as a "lifelong union between one man and one woman".

One wag suggested that Messrs. Cain and Foreshew move to Canada since the Anglican Church of Canada worships the triune god of Inclusion, Diversity and Homo-erotic sex, along with assorted demigods - eco-justice, utopianism and smudging among others - you will be welcomed with open arms. The additional benefit of your wife-husband being an atheist would make you a shoe-in. I'd start with an application to the Diocese of Montreal, if I were you.

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The newly minted Anglican Church of Canada's Africa relations co-ordinator claims GAFCON is engaged in a campaign of misinformation. It didn't take him very long to come out of the proverbial closet. Canon Kawuki Mukasa is the ACoC's new "Africa relations co-ordinator" and he is about to perform a similar function for TEC.

It would appear that he has been given the rather ambitious task of rebuilding the reputation of the Anglican Church of Canada in Africa. The diminishing of the ACoC's standing in Africa has, according to Mukasa, nothing at all to do with the blessing of same sex marriages, the ordination of openly active homosexual clergy, the numerous lawsuits launched to acquire buildings that others paid for or the diminishing of the centrality of Christ.

No. It is all GAFCON's fault for launching a "campaign of misinformation"; although it isn't entirely clear how the heinous calumnies GAFCON has ingeniously concocted could possibly appear worse than the things the ACoC has already done.

In a letter read out by Bishop Barry Clarke at the January meeting of the Montreal Diocesan Council, Rev. Canon Kawuki Mukasa, global relations officer for Africa, says the Anglican Church of Canada would like to build on the good will that Montreal has helped to sustain in relations with Africa. He invites the diocese to work collaboratively with other Canadian dioceses that have companion links with African dioceses "to explore ways of reclaiming the reputation that Canada used to enjoy in African Provinces" before a "campaign of misinformation" by an international group called the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

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You won't read it in the secular press, but there is more to the Crimea/Ukrainian situation than meets the political eye.

There is a religious dimension to all this. When Russian Orthodox priests sprinkle holy water over the troops, it is because they believe they are defending Christian orthodoxy and traditional morality against social liberal secularism and moral relativity. For many millions of ethnic Russians, this isn't simply a question of gay rights and wrongs, but of good versus evil. It is about the spiritual and moral foundation of civilization itself.

They are being told it is a holy war for Mother Russia. Currently, three major Ukrainian Orthodox Churches coexist, and often compete, in the country: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Additionally, a significant body of Christians belongs to the Eastern Rite Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is in full communion with the Holy See.

The lines are drawn along religious as well as political lines. If Russian soldiers are blessed by the Orthodox Church, then killing Ukrainians might not be viewed as such a bad thing.

Czarist power is long gone, and the Soviet regime that succeeded it has also gone. As that Soviet idea perished in its turn, Russians have turned once more to the religious roots of national ideology. Post-Soviet regimes have worked intimately with the Orthodox Church, which has been happy to support strong government, and to consecrate national occasions. In return, the state has helped the church rebuild Orthodox cathedrals and monasteries aplenty.

Putin is seen as the savior of the Russian Orthodox Church; together they are viewed as a bulwark against modernity and Western decadence. (Witness Pussy Riot's confrontation with the State).

Putin sees the Ukraine's love of the West and all things European as an embracing of Western immorality, especially sodomy, abortion et al. A resurgent orthodoxy by great Russian writers like Nikolai Berdyaev's The Philosophy of Inequality, Vladimir Solovyov's The Justification of the Good, and Ivan Ilyin's Our Tasks all want a new and different Russia. Books like this give Russia new meaning and purpose. I think Alexander Solzhenitsyn would have been pleased. [Would the average America college graduate even know who these writers are?]

The other truth is Russian Orthodox Church has more in common with the orthodox Christianity of the Global South than it has with a decadent Western Protestant liberalism. Putin is no angel for sure and his ambitions might be oligarchic, but he has embraced an orthodox faith that cannot be denied or disputed while Western Christendom has capitulated in the face of a post modernism that is eating its lunch. It should not be missed that within this mix of spiritual lostness The Episcopal Church is a microcosm.

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The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the next Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) has issued information on its timeline for nominations for the next Presiding Bishop. On August 1, 2014, JNCPB will post the Profile and issue a Call for Nominations. Nominations will open October 1 and close October 31, 2014.

So the BIG question is will Katharine Jefferts Schori throw her hat in the ring or will she not? Stay tuned.

JNCPB will announce its nominees in early May 2015.

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Here's a little known bit of history on the personal life of famed pilot Amelia Earhart. She came from a very troubled background with an alcoholic father, but her family was practicing Episcopalians. You can read about her life here: http://www.minnpost.com/stroll/2014/03/fleeting-glimpse-amelia-she-took-flight

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MOONBATTERY: Why should expansionist Muslims have all the fun of being offended? Pat Condell can be offended too: Watch this: http://moonbattery.com/?p=43082

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