Why God is not always known. Just as it is the nature of light to shine, so it is the nature of God to reveal himself. True, he hides himself from the wise and clever, but only because they are proud and do not want to know him; he reveals himself to 'babies', that is, to those humble enough to receive his self-disclosure ... The chief reason why people do not know God is not because he hides from them, but because they hide from him. --- John R.W. Stott
God in his fullness. The Areopagus address reveals the comprehensiveness of Paul's message. He proclaimed God in his fullness as Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Father and Judge. He took in the whole of time in review, from the creation to the consummation. He emphasized the greatness of God, not only as the beginning and the end of all things, but as the One to whom we owe our being and to whom we must give account. He argued that human beings already know these things by natural or general revelation, and that their ignorance and idolatry are therefore inexcusable. So he called on them with great solemnity, before it was too late, to repent.
The One Eternal God. Unity and Trinity. God is both one and three. He is the one God ... Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There can be no question of his unity. The Christian affirms this as strongly as any Jew or Muslim. 'The LORD our God is one LORD' (Dt. 6:4). He says, 'I am the LORD, and there is no other, beside me there is no God' (Is. 45:5). The unity of the Godhead is fundamental to all evangelism. It is because 'there is one God' that he demands and deserves the total allegiance of all mankind. Yet this one God revealed himself in three stages (first as the God of Israel, then as the incarnate Lord, then as the Holy Spirit) in such a way as to show that he exists eternally in these three personal modes of being. So the risen Jesus has commanded us to baptize converts 'in the name (note the singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' (Mt. 28:19).
Dear Brothers and Sisters
December 21, 2012
The news of the week is, without question, the horrible massacre in Newtown, Ct. While it is not exactly "Episcopal news", three bishops from the Diocese of Connecticut took off for Newtown and offered spiritual comfort to the parents of 20 children and the children of the six mothers who lost their lives in this terrible, violent slaughter.
Please join us in praying for the victims of and families affected by Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
Anglican Church in North America Archbishop Robert Duncan offered up this prayer, "Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
In truth, there are few words one can write about this (though I tried and found myself eaten alive) -- the bane of being a writer. Among the questions that must be asked are, Do Americans have the right to own and carry semi-automatic weapons? If so, for what reason? These are not hunting rifles which I don't think anyone wants to ban. But an assault weapon can only be used to kill people. So the question remains, what possible reason would one own a Bushmaster, or build an arsenal, unless you think that your neighbor is so crazy and might kill you before you kill him. When I think of what happened in Newtown, I thought of the notorious mobster Al Capone and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Different players, different decade except Adam Lanza was not a mobster and this was not a mob hit.
He was an ordinary man with access to guns owned by his mother with survivalist beliefs...six guns in all. She was killed by her son who clearly didn't share her survivalist notions. He shot her in bed with one of her own guns.
A VOL reader had this to say: "The issue is a moral one. To bear arms or not to bear arms falls squarely in the vicinity of Christian ethics. To bear arms in a state of war is one thing, but to bear arms for the sake of bearing arms, aside from policing or hunting for food, is another matter. The right to bear arms was in response to the aftermath of the American Revolution. We're a long way down the road from 1776."
Now pro-gun lobbies and politicians are being forced to rethink what it means to own a gun in America where some 300 million weapons are already freely circulating, many of them assault rifles.
I hope you will read my own take, endorsed by Rick Warren, and then read the Rev. Albert Mohler's take.
Here are some of his thoughts: "We affirm the sinfulness of sin and the full reality of human evil. We cannot accept the inevitable claims that this young murderer is to be understood as merely sick. His heinous acts will be dismissed and minimized by some as the result of psychiatric or psychological causation, or mitigated by cultural, economic, political or emotional factors. His crimes were sick beyond words, and he was undoubtedly unbalanced, but he pulled off a cold, calculated and premeditated crime, monstrous in its design and accomplishment.
"Christians know that this is the result of sin and the horrifying effects of The Fall. Every answer for this evil must affirm the reality and power of sin. The sinfulness of sin is never more clearly revealed than when we look into the heart of a crime like this and see the hatred toward God that precedes the murderous hatred the gunman poured out on his little victims.
"Beyond this, the Christian must affirm the grace of moral restraint, knowing that the real question is not why some isolated persons commit such crimes but why such massacres are not more common. We must be thankful for the restraint of the law, operating on the human conscience. Such a crime serves to warn us that putting a curve in the law will inevitably produce a curve in the conscience. We must be thankful for the restraining grace of God that limits human evil and, rightly understood, keeps us all from killing each other.
"A tragedy like this cannot be answered with superficial and sentimental Christian emotivism or with glib dismissals of the enormity and transience of this crime. Such a tragedy calls for the most Gospel-centered Christian thinking, for the substance of biblical theology and the solace that only the full wealth of Christian conviction can provide.
"In the face of such horror, we are driven again and again to the cross and resurrection of Christ, knowing that the reconciling power of God in Christ is the only adequate answer to such a depraved and diabolical power."
America's pastor Rick Warren talked about how we as a nation can heal in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
He described the grieving process, saying, "What comforts us is the presence of others, the presence of God, and the first thing we have to do is we have to learn how to release our grief and we need to do that right now.
"What I've discovered is that grief is actually a good thing for us, it's a transition that helps us move through the losses of life. If you don't grieve, if you just stuff it down, then what happens is it comes out sideways somewhere later on in life."
Warren addressed how God could let such an atrocity happen, saying that God gave us free will. He said, "God wanted us to choose to love him - giving us a choice, I often make bad choices and so do other people [...] and because of that everything in this world is broken, nothing works perfectly."
He also said that God's will is rarely evident on earth, "God's will is done perfectly and always done in Heaven. And almost rarely done on earth. People say, 'Well, that must be God's will.' That's nonsense. God's will is almost never done on earth because I have a will, and you have a will, we all have a will and we frequently choose to not do God's will."
I have posted a number of reflections and commentary on this horrendous act. They are among the best of the best that can be found on the Internet. They are written by Christian men and women, mostly Anglicans who understand human depravity and God's grace.
The second piece of news that captured our attention was an appeal by some five Continuing Anglican Church bishops that they sent to Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America.
Their central concern was the ordination of women to the priesthood which they believe violates Anglican polity. "The gulf between us concerns mostly the changes accepted in the Episcopal Church (and the Canadian Church) between the mid-1970s and 2010. Those of us who left the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in the 1970s did so due to the adoption in those years of the ordination of women to the priesthood by General Convention (1976) and General Synod (1975).
"More generally, in the roughly 30 years between the Congress of Saint Louis and ACNA's formation, the people who eventually formed ACNA lived in ecclesial bodies which increasingly abandoned elements of classical Anglicanism."
The ACNA is in a period of reception over this issue and a theological commission has been formed to look into it.
This is important. The Rev. Dr. John Rodgers of the AMIA has done the seminal work on women's ordination and concluded that women should not be priested as only a male priesthood is theologically possible. See his take here: http://tinyurl.com/cg53oat
If the ACNA does not resolve the issue, then it could find rebellion within its own ranks with bishops like Jack Iker, Keith Ackerman and William Wantland who are decidedly opposed to women's ordination. In fact, this one issue could blow up ACNA unless it is resolved.
Now it should be pointed out that a relatively new phenomenon has emerged on this subject. It is the practical issue of the feminization of the church that it is seeing dark consequences in England, which has women priests and is negotiating to push through women bishops. For every 10 persons attending a Church of England parish, 7 are women, 3 are men. What does that tell you? If the church is becoming irrelevant to men who feel that football scores and newspapers on Sunday morning are more important than church, what hope is there for the Church of England's future short of a revival? What it says is that men do not want to hear mushy sermons on God's love for absolutely everybody. The Vicar of Dibley isn't working.
What is happening here in North America is that the Continuing churches that have been fragmenting since 1977 are finally coming together, or at least five of the largest groups are. If they and the ACNA could agree on this one issue, perhaps, for the first time in decades, one legitimate orthodox Anglican body representing ALL Anglicans could be a reality. Now that would be a story. It would begin to seriously challenge TEC's Anglican dominance in North America. We await new developments with great expectation.
In case you were wondering, the presiding bishop's Christmas message does not mention the name of Jesus even once. A STUNNING OMISSION. Here is the text of her message. Perhaps he's the "divine light" in the 4th paragraph. I suppose if you believe Jesus is merely human and not divine, then why bother mentioning Jesus.
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined." Isaiah 9:2
'These words were spoken long ago to people living in anxiety, fear, and despair, people feeling bereft of security, safety, and any sense of God's presence. We hear them early on Christmas, forgetting that they were first spoken hundreds of years before the birth we celebrate. Human beings across this planet still yearn to know that a more gracious and divine reality is active and evident in our lives.
"The birth we celebrate is meant for this world mired in darkness and fear, yet it also becomes easier to discover in a tiny voice crying in protest over being cold and wet and hungry. We hear that cry in the midst of war's ravages in Congo and Afghanistan, in the rubble of hurricane and earthquake, in the demeaning of chronic poverty, behind prison bars. That flickering of hope surges as the world turns to investigate this surprising new life, one heart at a time. The light grows as hearts catch fire with the same light that illumines the stars, pulsing hope and new life, even out of black holes.
"Those who search in dark and despair, in dank dungeon and deep devastation, will find divine light given for the world. Light that will not be put out, so long as any creature remains to receive it, until and beyond the end of time. The darkness will never put it out.
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5 Go and look - and discover the love of God poured into our world in human form. Hope reigns abroad, in the cosmos and in human hearts. And rejoice, for a child of the light is born in our midst.
"The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori"
The ongoing collapse of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut has been stunning to behold, writes an Anglican priest who resides in the state. Recently the Dean of the cathedral resigned citing fewer parishioners and money. The cathedral once had a decent endowment. It will eventually close unless there is a turnaround, joining other cathedrals around the country. Then there is the closing of Christ Church, Avon, the closing of Christ Church, Canaan, the takeover and closing of Bishop Seabury. On top of this Diocesan House is for sale for a low ball price with the plan to move the diocesan staff to a "strip mall" or even into Bishop Seabury Church recently vacated by Fr. Ron Gauss and his vibrant evangelical flock. Still vacant is Trinity Church, Bristol, whose former congregation is now worshipping in a gymnasium. Bishop Seabury's congregation is also worshipping in another space. The "Ct. Six" as they became known are all thriving even though they are not in their original buildings.
Clearly the gospel is worth more than properties. One wonders when the penny will drop for Ct. Bishop Ian Douglas. How many more parishes is he prepared to lose and with them the parishioners and their checkbooks? Will he wake up when it is too late? What will he do if and when the Rev. Chris Leighton and his charismatic congregation of St. Paul's, Darien decide to flee TEC. The future of this diocese without a clear apostolic witness - sodomy and new inclusive liturgies don't make churches grow - is limited. Old Connecticut blue blood families are becoming fewer. When one departs from orthodoxy, the Holy Spirit leaves and churches dry up.
In yet another development in the ongoing saga of the Diocese of South Carolina, the Steering Committee Primates of the Global South now recognize Bishop Mark Lawrence as the legitimate Episcopal oversight in that area.
Lawrence received the letter of support from the Steering Committee of the orthodox Primates which said "We want to assure you that we recognize your Episcopal orders and your legitimate Episcopal oversight of the Diocese of South Carolina within the Anglican Communion." The letter was signed by The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East; The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Primate of All Nigeria; The Most Rev. Ian Ernest, Primate of the Indian Ocean; The Most Rev. Datuk Bolly Lapok, Primate of South East Asia; The Most Rev. Stephen Than Myint Oo, Primate of Myanmar; The Most Rev. Dr. Eluid Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and The Most Rev. Hector "Tito" Zavala, Primate of the Southern Cone.
This is another slap in the face at Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church that just further alienates her from the Global South. Archbishop elect Justin Welby clearly has his work cut out for him.
Not to be outdone the Presiding Bishop announced that she will be convening, on her own authority, a special convention of the "Diocese of South Carolina." Not so fast says Bishop Lawrence. She has no authority to call any convention in the Diocese of South Carolina under its corporate bylaws and canons, he wrote in a letter to the diocese and released to the media.
Under South Carolina law, only Bishop Lawrence and the Standing Committee, acting as the Board of Directors can call a convention of the Diocese. "We have not called any convention for January 2013," explained Bishop Lawrence.
"What the Presiding Bishop is trying to do is to organize a new diocese of the Episcopal Church in this area," he said. "We in the Diocese of South Carolina have nothing to do with that undertaking.
Bishop Lawrence explained that the continued use of the Dioceses' corporate name and identity by TEC is causing confusion among the members of the Diocese and the wider South Carolina public.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has backed freedom of speech, up to a point. In a sermon delivered last week marking the 80th anniversary of the BBC World Service at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square, London, Dr. Rowan Williams said free speech is one of the pillars of a free and democratic society, but this freedom can be curtailed when it i offensive and abusive.
Dr. Williams began his remarks in his 12 Dec 2012 address by noting a recent government backed press inquiry into press abuses of privacy - the Leveson Inquiry - had placed the issue of free speech before the British public. "We in the UK are in the middle of a lively argument about free speech and the regulation of the media. It's easy to get bogged down in the pros and cons of press regulation and the exact degree of legal backing it needs. But we risk forgetting the all-important issue of why free speech really matters," he said.
"Real freedom of speech, the kind that is morally important and politically essential," he said, "involves two things - freedom to stand back from any particular loyalty in the name of loyalty to the truth, and freedom to speak truths that the powerful want hidden or ignored."
The former Primate of Nigeria Archbishop, the Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye passed away peacefully in his sleep at his Millennium house country home, this week. I met him on a visit to Nigeria. He was a gracious host. It was he more than any other Archbishop that got his province to be evangelistically aggressive with a push to bring the gospel to every Nigerian. He lived long enough to see his missionary zeal rewarded.
He was a graduate of Kings College, University of London in UK, and began his ministry from very humble beginnings. He was Vice Principal of Immanuel College of Theology in Ibadan. He was later appointed the Provost of St. James' the Great Cathedral, Oke-Bola Ibadan under the Episcopal leadership of the Rt. Revd. S.O. Odutola. He was consecrated Bishop and enthroned to the See of Ekiti in 1970 succeeding the late Bishop H.A. Osanyin. He was consecrated Bishop of Lagos in 1985. He was elected Primate of All Nigeria and Archbishop, Metropolitan Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion in 1988. Nigeria is the Anglican Communion's largest most vital province in the Anglican Communion. He was 83.
Thousands of worshippers took part in an historic thanksgiving service in Harare, Zimbabwe this week to celebrate the return of St Mary and All Saints Cathedral and other properties to the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) and Zimbabwe Anglicans.
The special service, marked by joyful singing and praise, followed the CPCA's recent victory in a long running legal battle with excommunicated former bishop Dr. Nolbert Kunonga who broke away from the CPCA in 2007 to form his own church. Kunonga and his supporters seized cars, churches, orphanages and other properties belonging to the CPCA claiming they belonged to him. Zimbabwe's Supreme Court ruled that he should return all the properties to the Diocese of Harare.
Anglican Bishop of Harare, the Rt. Rev. Chad Gandiya recalled the challenging times that the church went through. He said that, "all those five years we were driven from our churches and went into exile, life was not easy but God was with us. We survived and found grace in exile."
The Primate of the Province, Archbishop Albert Chama, encouraged all Christians from the Diocese of Harare to continue being a testimony to the works of God. He said, "You are going back to your churches to worship God in dignity as it was intended to be. Be strong as you are a testimony to the rest of the church. Continue and never relent because wherever we are we say we are learning from the church in Zimbabwe."
The head of the worldwide Anglican Communion Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams sent a congratulatory message to the Diocese of Harare. In it he said, "I am absolutely delighted to be able to send my warmest congratulations on this momentous day for the Diocese of Harare, the Church of the Province of Central Africa and the whole of the worldwide Anglican Communion."
The crisis over women bishops in the Church of England deepened this week after a clergyman announced he would not be taking up the post of Bishop of Whitby over the issue.
Anglo-Catholic Father Philip North said he was withdrawing from the role of Bishop of Whitby following the General Synod vote last month over women bishops which has exposed deep splits in the Anglican church.
The team rector at Old Saint Pancras Church in London was among a group of General Synod clergy members who voted against giving final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops.
Fr. North said in a statement: "It was a great honour to be chosen for this role and I had been very much looking forward to taking up the position. However, in the light of the recent vote in the General Synod and having listened to the views of people in the archdeaconry of Cleveland, I have concluded that it is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity. I have therefore decided that it is better to step aside at this stage."
Language matters. Last week, a blogger tweeted about the "human being" growing inside Kate Middleton, under the hash tag "#baby". A quick glance through some of the site's most recently posted articles about abortion, however, reveals that when a newly conceived human person is unwanted, it suddenly becomes a fetus, an embryo, a "cell clump," or a "bundle of undifferentiated cells." It's a classic instance of the baby/fetus switch: that handy little mental device that allows us to embrace the wanted baby but flip to "fetus" mode when it's convenient to dehumanize that inconvenient little person. It's like flipping a light switch, apparently. It's just that easy.
Marriage Decline Weakens Middle Class. As politicians compete to prove who loves the middle class more, they're missing the elephant and the donkey in the room.
The middle class needs not just tax breaks and jobs, but also marriage.
This is the finding of a new University of Virginia and Institute for American Values report, "The State of Our Unions," which tracks the decline of marriage among the nearly 60 percent of Americans who have high school but not college educations. This not only has far-reaching societal repercussions, but economic as well. By one estimate cited in the report, which was authored by five family scholars, the cost to taxpayers when stable families fail to form is about $112 billion annually - or more than $1 trillion per decade.
Mere Anglicanism will be held January 25-26 at St. Philip's Church, Charleston. Behold the Man: The Person and Work of Jesus Christ is the theme for this year's conference. It is all about witnessing to the God who, amidst the ups and downs of church history, has called us -- whether as laity or clergy, whether locally or globally -- to renew our witness to the One who gave us His Word and who across many centuries has providentially provided for the Anglican Way of faithfulness to that Word. The keynote speakers include the Rt. Rev. Dr. Paul W. Barnett (retired Bishop of North Sydney, Dr. Allen Ross (Professor of Old Testament and Divinity, Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama), the Rev. Dr. David Wenham (Senior Lecturer in New Testament at Trinity College, Bristol, UK), the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali (Visiting Bishop to South Carolina and retired Bishop of Rochester, UK), and Mr. Eric Metaxas (noted author and lecturer). The Rev. Dr. Leander Harding will again serve as Conference Chaplain. Learn more.
What Does the X in Xmas Mean? Theologian R. C. Sproul of LIGONIER MINISTRIES says that the X in Christmas is used like the R in R.C. My given name at birth was Robert Charles, although before I was even taken home from the hospital my parents called me by my initials, R.C., and nobody seems to be too scandalized by that.
X can mean so many things. For example, when we want to denote an unknown quantity, we use the symbol X. It can refer to an obscene level of films, something that is X-rated. People seem to express chagrin about seeing Christ's name dropped and replaced by this symbol for an unknown quantity X. Every year you see the signs and the bumper stickers saying, "Put Christ back into Christmas" as a response to this substitution of the letter X for the name of Christ.
There's no X in Christmas
First of all, you have to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. We see the English letter X there, but actually what it involves is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. Christos is the New Testament Greek for Christ. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ.
We don't see people protesting the use of the Greek letter theta, which is an O with a line across the middle. We use that as a shorthand abbreviation for God because it is the first letter of the word Theos, the Greek word for God.
X has a long and sacred history
The idea of X as an abbreviation for the name of Christ came into use in our culture with no intent to show any disrespect for Jesus. The church has used the symbol of the fish historically because it is an acronym. Fish in Greek (ichthus) involved the use of the first letters for the Greek phrase "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior." So the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word for fish. That's how the symbol of the fish became the universal symbol of Christendom. There's a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.
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Advent blessings to all our readers,
We are happy to report that the world did not end today, December 21st, despite the best efforts of those who follow the Mayan Calendar.
THEREFORE VOL WISHES ALL ITS READERS AROUND THE WORLD A VERY HAPPY AND BLESSED CHRISTMAS
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