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2017 a bad Year for ABC * 2018 Holds little Hope for Anglican Communion Reconciliation * ABC called on to Resign over Bishop Bell allegations * New Welsh Primate says Respectful Disagreement should hold Communion together * ISIS Spooks National Cathedral

'Cheap peace'. Other examples of peacemaking are the work of reunion and the work of evangelism, that is, seeking on the one hand to unite churches and on the other to bring sinners to Christ. In both these, true reconciliation can be degraded into cheap peace. The visible unity of the church is a proper Christian quest, but only if unity is not sought at the expense of doctrine. Jesus prayed for the oneness of his people. He also prayed that they might be kept from evil and in truth. We have no mandate from Christ to seek unity without purity, purity of both doctrine and conduct. If there is such a thing as 'cheap reunion', there is 'cheap evangelism' also, namely the proclamation of the gospel without the cost of discipleship, the demand for faith without repentance. These are forbidden shortcuts. They turn the evangelist into a fraud. They cheapen the gospel and damage the cause of Christ. --- John R.W. Stott

On Episcopal Church shrinkage. A long-time Episcopal rector who's been a leading source of inspiration for his diocese reports that of the 59 parishes in the diocese only four now have full-time rectors. --- Ken Briggs, National Catholic Reporter

Men who are sexually attracted to other men are not capable of being fathers. They see the entire world through their pain, as understandable as that pain may be. But that does not excuse the reality that they should not be priests. And committed Catholics (add Anglicans) really need to hit pause and realize the tidal wave of sodomy and/or all the associated ills that accompany it that have swamped the Church. It is being led --led -- by males whose primary interest is not the salvation of souls but the working out of their own psychological disturbances dressed up as being somehow spiritual. --- Michael Voris of the Vortex

"Beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and broad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible there is no God at all." ― J. C. Ryle

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
December 23, 2017

We are living in an individualistic culture, we are told. Me, my and I are the norms in advertising and personal self-fulfillment. From the latest gadgets in homes, (to make our lives easier), to sultry women walking in shallow pools selling perfume on television, we are consumed by the notion that personal fulfillment, realizing our dreams and aspirations and 'being all we can be' is the summum bonum of life.

The philosopher Charles Taylor uses the term "expressive individualism" to describe the cultural milieu of the secular age. As James K. A. Smith writes, the term denotes an understanding that "'each one of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity,' and that we are called to live that out ('express' it) rather than conform to models imposed by others (especially institutions)."

The offshoot of this attitude is the desire to seek out what speaks to us personally: How am I going to be happy? How am I going to be fulfilled? Journalist David Brooks writes that we have moved away from a culture of humility "to the culture of what you might call the Big Me, from a culture that encouraged people to think humbly of themselves to a culture that encouraged people to see themselves as the center of the universe."

Into this milieu, we are called to preach the gospel, defend the gospel against its culture despisers, use the best apologetic tools we have, and yet nobody seems to care, nobody is listening. The truth is we are beating out heads against a wall, or as Francis Schaeffer put it, "beating the air with our words." Yet we are told the fields are white unto harvest. If they are, we either don't know where to look, and the harvests are not where we think they are. Everybody seems complacent, buying stuff, eating and drinking and making merry with the latest technological toy in hand to keep us up on the latest news and stock market reports. Guilty as charged.

We are given hints, however, that in this complacent world there are pockets of real people who are hurting.

Let me lay out a few.

Loneliness. This might well be one of the biggest issues this century. Millions of people, single men and women are living alone, lonely, feel hopeless and helpless and this has nothing to do with money or sex. They are quite simply without human companionship. The hook up culture isn't working and people are marrying less and having fewer children. My hunch is that if you were to knock on the 10 doors either side of your church's front door you would find a people so lonely they want to die. I for one just can't live with that.

Opioid addiction. Government figures put drug deaths at 63,600, up from about 52,000 in 2015. Things are so bad national life expectancy has dropped.

Victims of abuse. This is a growing 'market' as we see daily on TV and newspapers.

Suicide. Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and 2nd for 24 to 35-year-olds. Who is reaching out to them?

Pornography addiction is growing as people live lonely, isolated lives. This leads to distorted sexuality. More married men have been caught watching child porn.

Prison ministries. Prisons are filling up and there is a real need to minister to such people.

Workaholism. We work hard to fill up the time. It is not always about money.

If the ACNA wants to be truly successful it needs to think more in these terms than traditional ways of doing business.

Here are Eight Ways to Lead Your Church Well in 2018; How to raise up new leaders, cast vision, and plan for the new year, from the editors of CTPastors.com

Diagnose your team
Raise up leaders in-house
Lead from your strengths
Don't ignore your weaknesses. Find ways to apply your strengths as a solution.
Pray for your church
Set clear goals
Share the Pulpit
Commit to training new leaders?

You can read the full story here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2017/december-web-exclusives/6-ways-to-lead-your-church-well.html

****

2017 was a bad year for the Archbishop of Canterbury. It has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis and 2018 is unlikely to be any better for Justin Welby. Despite all his vaunted talk of reconciliation, the Church of England is coming unglued with rebellious movements ready to challenge his hegemonic reign. Furthermore, he himself is being distanced from the broader Anglican Communion through GAFCON that wants less and less to do with him. He is fast becoming a lonely and isolated figure.

The fight for the Church of England's soul over same-sex marriage heated further as bishops defiantly promoted and allowed the blessing of such unions while actually not calling them marriage. We all know where this is going. The CofE is following The Episcopal Church which has changed its canons to allow same sex marriage and the Anglican Church of Canada which is seeing the same defiance from some of its dioceses, but is yet to formally allow same-sex marriage.

A defining moment came in 2017 when a report was released on same-sex marriage that Welby praised as a "road map." While it was narrowly rejected by the Church of England's General Synod that argued that marriage should remain between one man and one woman, acts of defiance will ramp up in 2018 as individual dioceses proclaim their acceptance and bless civil unions.

Church of England congregations are declining at an alarming rate. A report released this week revealed that some 12,200 parishes are in danger of closing and the call was for them to be places that could host multi-faith worship centers (code for Muslim worship) if they are to stay open. More than £2.6 billion has been spent in repairs and building projects on them since 1999.

Then there was the continuing schism in the Church of England with movements like GAFCON-UK, the AMIE, the election of Gavin Ashenden to being a bishop for unhappy Anglicans in the CofE, pose a threat to Welby's rule.

The fallout from the appointment of a woman as the Bishop of London -- Susan Mullally -- the third most senior cleric in the Church of England has yet to be fully realized, despite receiving support from outgoing bishops Richard Chartres, Pete Broadbent and London's largest evangelical Anglican congregation St. Helen's, Bishopsgate. When the story broke that Mullally would not declare her hand on same-sex marriage, the vicar of St. Helen's who first said he would break from the CofE then backed down and offered a rebuttal saying the The Times story was inaccurate.

This prompted Bishop Ashenden to comment, "People of straw." Another observer wrote to say that the Evangelical Group on General Synod, which was showing signs of renewed orthodoxy, totally fell apart at the July meeting. All it took was a couple of speakers inviting us to share their pain. (I have heard that before, somewhere... yes! it was called ECUSA!) How odd to see the same script in use for the Church of England. Has nobody else been watching events unfold across the pond these past 40 years?

The answer is probably not. Conversely is the belief that the Mother Church can weather all the storms and Welby can still remain the titular head of the church and the communion.

The last word came for the Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas who warned that the Church of England could split over homosexual teachings. Appearing on BBC Newsnight Thomas said that while difference in the role of women in the church could be overcome, there can be no compromise on the church's view on homosexual activity.

The same-sex marriage issue came closer to home when the Scottish Episcopal Church voted for it and held its first weddings for same-sex couples.

The consecration of Andy Lines as a bishop earlier in 2017 and then his ordination of nine men to serve in GAFCON-supporting church plants in England -- Welby's backyard -- made it appear, to many, that the Anglican Mission in England is effectively looking more like the Anglican Church in North America.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, chairman of GAFCON, described the ordinations as part of a plan "to help evangelize a nation that was once one of the greatest centers of Christian mission the world has ever seen but is now one of the most secular."

"How can a church be effective in mission when it has muddled the truth of the Gospel?" he asked.

Welby's toughest critics took to cathedral doors and posted declarations, denouncing the Church of England's "corrupt" stance on same-sex relationships, mimicking Martin Luther's nailing of his 95 theses to the door of a chapel in the German town of Wittenberg, and this took place just as the Church of England was marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The document, affirming the supreme authority of Scripture and signed by over 60 priests, claimed that while the church had not changed its doctrine, in practice it was allowing clergy to adopt unorthodox lifestyles. The declaration was posted on the doors of St. Paul's, Southwark, Canterbury, Rochester and Hereford cathedrals.

In time this could lead to large evangelical parishes deciding to withhold their funding of liberal diocesan bishops; it could signal the beginning of the end of the CofE.

A meeting of the Anglican Primates in October saw a boycott from the African GAFCON bishops. These are Welby's fiercest critics who are increasingly distancing themselves from him and his leadership of the Anglican Communion.

On December 20, Welby took a serious hit on the chin when the only surviving relative of a former senior Bishop accused of abusing a young girl called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to resign.

An independent inquiry criticized the Church over its handling of child abuse allegations made against George Bell one-time bishop of Chichester after his death. It said the Church was too quick to accept the claims "without serious investigation or inquiry".

Whitley Barbara Whitley, 93, said she wanted the reputation of her uncle restored and told the BBC that she wanted Justin Welby to stand down, and a face-to-face apology from the Church of England.

"I'm determined to clear his name before I die," she said. She is unlikely to get it, however. Welby stands by his decision.

One final hit came at Welby when former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey attacked Welby for the "shocking" and "quite unjust" demand in June that Carey resign an honorary position in the Church of England over his handling of a high-profile sexual abuse case.

In a Christmas round-robin letter headed 'Greetings from the Careys 2017' and leaked to the Guardian, Lord Carey, 82, told friends of the 'shocking insistence by the archbishop that I should stand down from ministry "for a season" for mistakes he believes were made 24 years ago when bishop Peter Ball abused young potential priests. His decision is quite unjust and eventually will be judged as such,' wrote Carey.

Ball who was released from prison in February this year after serving 16 months for the grooming of young men, sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 vulnerable young men who had sought spiritual guidance from him between 1977 and 1992, said he along with his brother was going to Rome, to avoid further harassment.

If 2017 was pretty much a disaster for Welby, then 2018 will bring little comfort and further consternation to the archbishop. Recent published data revealed that Church of England attendance has now dropped below the 1 million mark, but shows that those who do go to church are strongly committed, rather than nominal Anglicans. Bad news, good news. The deeper question is will the "strongly committed" stay in the CofE if he pushes the homosexual agenda to its logical conclusion!

In June 2018, the GAFCON primates will meet in Jerusalem and they represent more than 70% of the communion. Welby has not been invited. (Who knows, perhaps PB Michael Curry will send a progressive Episcopal bishop to Israel to make sure Suheil Dawani, the Bishop of Jerusalem, is a no show at this GAFCON gabfest. You will recall that Katharine Jefferts Schori sent Rob O'Neill Bishop of Colorado to keep Dawani's feet to the Episcopal fire at GAFCON II.)

While Welby has no papal powers, he could avoid greater disunity by siding with his orthodox wing and let the liberals and progressives go their own way. What has he got to lose? Liberals are withering and dying with "good disagreement" just a lot of verbal flummery.

Welby might well have to face another kind of protest in 2018 -- and one that is likely to hurt the Church of England's coffers. Some parishes and their clergy are considering withholding their diocesan contributions over the controversies in the church, which would add financial headaches to the church's theological ones.

As Martin Bashir, the religious affairs correspondent of the BBC who has traveled regularly with Welby this year, put it: "There is a move away from faith by inheritance to faith by choice. People are much more committed if they belong, rather than being just nominal Christians."

*****

You will recall that earlier this month VOL called on the University of the South at Sewanee to remove an honorary degree from broadcast journalist and former CBS anchor Charlie Rose in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment.

Well, a student petition at a Tennessee university is seeking to remove the degree from him after accusations from eight women who worked for or aspired to work for Rose.

Sewanee Purple stole VOL's idea and failed to give credit to VOL. Vice-chancellor John McCardell has shamefully ignored this issue, but perhaps not surprising. After all, Sewanee students were just living into the ugliest stereotype - nobody trusts them any longer, so they acted just as expected.

Let me tell the Purple what will happen: Rose will return the Honorary Degree just to get Jon Meacham out of a bad place and salvage some of Meacham's reputation at Sewanee.

Perhaps then the students should deem the returned Degree as scam to protect Meacham and McCardell from pain and exposure of Revoking the degree, and immediately start petition for Sewanee to reveal McCardell's excessively over privileged, total Compensation package. How much money does he make? McCardell is getting rich and not revoking the Degree. Shameful disgrace.

Actions by other universities have been swift. Since the allegations were made public, Arizona State University, Duke University and the University of Kansas have revoked journalism awards given to Rose. The Bairnwick Women's Center, a student-led organization dedicated to women's issues and gender equality at Sewanee, posted a message on its Facebook page earlier this month with a link to the petition saying that "sexual misconduct violates the EQB guidelines put forth by the university."

It was also reported on by the student newspaper, the Sewanee Purple, over the weekend.

"Students, faculty, staff, community members, and alumni must preserve the sanctity of the university motto, 'Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity,' and tell the Board of Regents and Vice Chancellor that we believe Charlie Rose's honorary degree must be revoked as soon as possible," the women's center said in its Facebook post.

The petition has 660 signatures so far. Sewanee has a student population of about 1,700 undergraduates.

What does it take to revoke a degree?

"I think we need to be very careful and thoughtful before we start revoking honorary degrees," said Sewanee Vice-Chancellor John McCardell, in a statement issued to the student newspaper.

He said the university has a process for nominating, selecting and inviting honorary degree recipients that includes consideration by a board of regents and Faculty Senate committee not scheduled to meet again until February.

This reminds me of a definitive statement by some evangelicals about homosexuality. It was called the Nashville Statement, and it affirmed uniquely that marriage was between a man and a woman. When I asked the evangelical bishop of Central Florida why he hadn't signed it, he said wasn't nuanced enough. Really.

*****

The Islamic State shared a chilling poster on social media that shows an armed militant standing outside the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The propaganda ad states, "Wait for us. We meet at Christmas in New York... soon," and shows the historic house of worship on fire.

Another new poster shows a masked man standing by Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and warns that the group plans to "burn" Christmas markets in Berlin, according to the Daily Mail.

A third poster features a man dressed like Santa Claus with the text, "Soon your holidays. Soon, very soon."

The Islamic State group has increasingly made threats against the U.S. and Europe over the past month as western nations celebrate Christian and Jewish holidays in December.

*****

The new Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, says it won't be business as usual, but his remedy for fixing the problem is just more of the same, namely focus on more social issues but nothing about 'the faith once for all delivered to the saints.'

In his Christmas message he said we must try to live our lives demonstrating a genuine, welcoming and loving concern for those around us. His message for those who have responsibility for leading and governing the world's societies is that power is to be exercised within the framework of that concern as, even in our own society, divisions between the haves and the have-nots appear to grow ever wider, and as the voices suggesting that we should be concerned only for ourselves seem to get louder and louder. No mention of faith, or dealing with the sin that reigns in all our hearts and the redemption available in Christ. Don't look for any growth in this small province.

In an interview with Christian Today he was asked what he thought about groups like GAFCON and AMiE, set up in opposition to traditional Church structures. Davies answered as follows.

"I can answer that by going back to the primates meeting in Canterbury in October -- the media thought there would be a bloodbath. In the event, it was characterized by honest but respectful disagreement. The image of the Church as a family that can't get on is one we need to ditch. I would hope that with the good offices of Church leaders, those groups that are in 'opposition' to others would have quite frankly the Christian decency to get round the table." Really, that's his solution to the fact that what GAFCON sees at stake is the very nature of the faith itself that they are calling Welby into question!

For the record nonconformity in Wales has largely collapsed in the valleys and rural areas.

*****

JOB OPENING. St Paul's Anglican Church in Los Altos, California is looking for a rector owing to the untimely death of Bishop Ronald Johnson for the small congregation and Headmaster of Canterbury Christian School a K-6 mission of the church with 80+ students.

St Paul's is a bible centered church using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and adhering to the 39 Articles of Religion. The church is a founding member of the Anglican Churches of America and Associates (ACA&A). Details can be found at www.stpaulsanglicanchurch.org and www canterburychristianschool.org (or canterburycs.org). Interested parties are requested to contact either Peter Wood at woodpr@yahoo.com or Les Burdick at 4les@att.net.

*****

We continue to need funding going into 2018. VOL's unique crowdfunding is reaching and drawing a new and interested audience. Please help us get the word out. You can contribute here:

https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/help-build-virtueonline-2-0-thank-david-virtue

In Christ,

David

VOL WISHES ALL ITS READERS IN 170 COUNTRIES AROUND THRE WORLD A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.

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