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Three Evangelical Groups Merge in UK * No Conspiracy in Sudanese Woman Bishop Election * Billy Graham Dies * Evangelicals Decry US Gun Culture * C of E Statistics Reveal Church in Decline * Anglican Theology Conference to Draw Leading Theologians

Billy Graham was, in my view, the most important evangelist since the Apostle Paul. He preached Christ, not himself, not politics, not prosperity. When many saw evangelicals as just so many Elmer Gantrys, he carried unimpeachable personal integrity. --- Russell Moore

Lent is about a spiritual journey, not a social awareness campaign. --- Michael Voris

"Mass shootings have become routine in the United States and speak to a society that relies on violence to feed the coffers of the merchants of death. Given the profits made by arms manufacturers, the defense industry, gun dealers and the lobbyists who represent them in Congress, it comes as no surprise that the culture of violence cannot be abstracted from either the culture of business or the corruption of politics. Violence runs through US society like an electric current offering instant pleasure from all cultural sources, whether it be the nightly news or a television series that glorifies serial killers."--Professor Henry A. Giroux

The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily--sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children's lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year). The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. --- Garry Wills

One factor studiously ignored by mainstream pundits is the family circumstances of shooters...almost all school shooters come from families where the parents are either divorced or alienated. --- Carolyn Moynihan for Mercatornet.net

In the 20th century, Communism murdered 100 million of its own citizens in the name of class emancipation and class equality, executing evil in the name of good. In the 21st century, feminism has already murdered 100 million babies of its own gender in the name of gender emancipation and gender equality, executing evil in the name of good. -- Dr. Jules Gomes

"God invites all of us to smash our miserable little concordats with sin and its alibis" --- Archbishop Chaput

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
February 23, 2018

In a God-n-Guns culture, evangelicals can usually be counted on to side with guns as part of the call to freedom and "rights" found in the Second Amendment. However, after the recent Florida school shooting which left 17 dead, evangelical leaders have called for action amid what they called a "moral emergency".

A petition calling for 'action' as well as prayer was signed by pastors, church leaders and others with influence who urged the faith community to acknowledge their biblical responsibility to protect life amid the nation's gun violence epidemic.

"As we mourn for our brothers and sisters who have died, we pray fervently for their friends and family who grieve. We also accept and declare that it is time to couple our thoughts and prayers with action," the petition states. "We call on our fellow Christian believers, church leaders, and pastors across the country to declare that we will decisively respond to this problem with both prayer and action."

The petition has already been signed by a number of leaders, including Rev Dr. Rob Schenck, president of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute and the subject of the Emmy award-winning gun violence documentary The Armor of Light; Dr. Joel C Hunter, faith community organizer and retired senior pastor of Northland Church; Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church; Dr. Preston Sprinkle, teacher, speaker and New York Times best-selling author; and Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy, Christian Life Commission, Texas Baptists (The Baptist General Convention).

Schenck said; "If the solution to this deadly disease in American society is more guns, then the United States -- with over 300 million weapons in general circulation -- would be the safest place on earth. We have a moral emergency in our country. It's time we wake up, face it, and fix it. Now. Fellow faith leaders, I hope you'll join myself, along with other church leaders and pastors and sign this petition letting the rest of our nation know that we're committed to responding to the gun violence plaguing our nation with both prayer AND action."

The deeper question is; "If not now, when? When will Christian leaders and all people of faith, the moral leaders of our society, recognize that our culture has so radically changed from the one that established the Second Amendment that its intent would now be better fulfilled with common sense qualifiers.

"In a society that is normalizing violence daily by constant news focus, video games and epidemic anger, why not at least keep weapons of mass murder out of the hands of the insane and the untrained? Such a movement will not start with politicians who are simply angling toward their own reelection. It is up to us."

You can read my take here: http://www.virtueonline.org/gun-madness-america-avoiding-obvious

*****

Three of the most prominent evangelical groups in the UK announced they were merging in a single orthodox force that will change the Church of England landscape in Britain. The three groups, all evangelicals, will merge under the banner of the Church Society.

Reform and the Fellowship of Word and Spirit will come under the banner of the Church Society, a traditionalist Anglican group headed by the Rev. Dr. Lee Gatiss. The move was made in light of 'the challenges of the present time' as many conservative evangelicals feel the Church of England is on a liberalizing trajectory towards accepting same-sex relationships.

The different groups originally splintered over different emphases and over their individual stance on women's ordination.

Dr. Gatiss hailed the change as the "biggest thing to happen in the Anglican evangelical world here [in the UK] for 25 years."

"I rejoice greatly and am so grateful to God that Anglican evangelicals in the UK are combining their strengths to stand firm in the Church of England," he said. "This is a huge story and counters the fiction that orthodox groups are fragmenting and leaving. We're not. We're coming together like never before, as the times demand."

An AGM in May will vote in the new Church Society council which is expected to represent the different groups.

Rod Thomas, the bishop of Maidstone and a leading member of the Reform Council, greeted news of the merger with "real enthusiasm and hopefulness."

Bishop Thomas was appointed in light of legislation to allow women bishops -- a move largely opposed by conservative evangelicals. He said: 'Our new context means that we need to focus our efforts, unite our endeavors, and ensure we maximize the usefulness of our resources.'

Canon David Banting, a prominent member of the Church of England's ruling general synod and former chair of Reform, said divisions among evangelicals "are little short of scandalous or irresponsible".

Now the man to whom this will cause real heartburn is Archbishop Justin Welby. Such a coalition along with GAFCON Bishop Andy Lines hovering in the wings, must be giving him sleepless nights. Evangelicals are also the biggest donors to the Church of England and should they withdraw their financial support, havoc would ensue. Here's hoping.

*****

An Episcopal priest/journalist sought to make mischief and introduce conspiracy theories into why the GAFCON bishops did not reveal the election of a woman bishop in the Sudan which took place more than a year ago.

Andy Gross, ACNA Press secretary, dispelled any conspiracy theory talk and said there wasn't a pact amongst the GAFCON Primates to keep the consecration in South Sudan a secret. "None. The Primates were perfectly free to talk about the event at any time. Second, there has been the suggestion that perhaps there was incompetence; a kind of wishful thinking that the event would never be known. That's not what happened either. GAFCON knew that South Sudan's news would become public knowledge, but it was South Sudan's news to break, not ours."

The decision tree was straightforward, he said.

Is this newsworthy? Yes.
Is the news going to come out eventually? Yes, it is inevitable.
Is it GAFCON's job to break controversial news from one of our provinces? No, it's the responsibility of that individual province, or the press, or both, he wrote.

"In hindsight perhaps GAFCON could have encouraged the South Sudanese Provincial office to make a statement proactively, but, because the situation in South Sudan is so messy and the pressures so huge, we waited. GAFCON certainly never felt threated by Anglican Ink breaking the story. They were doing their job. We value them doing their job. Light is the best sanitizer.

"Only after the press had done their job was it appropriate for GAFCON to speak. In his statement, Archbishop Jensen clearly laid out the timeline by explaining what happened and when."

*****

The following is a 2016 Church of England participation summary. It's a church in decline.

• The Worshipping Community of Church of England churches in 2016 was 1.1 million people, of whom 20% were aged under 18, 49% were aged 18-69, and 31% were aged 70 or over.
• On average, 930,000 people (86% adults, 14% children under 16) attended Church of England services and acts of worship each week in October 2016. A further 180,000 people attended services for schools in Church of England churches each week.
• Usual Sunday attendance at Church of England churches in 2016 was 740,000 people (86% adults, 14% children under 16).
• 1.2 million people attended Church of England churches at Easter 2016 (of whom 71% received communion).
• 2.6 million people attended Church of England churches at Christmas 2016 (of whom 34% received communion). During Advent, 2.5 million people attended special services for the congregation and local community, and 2.8 million people attended special services for civic organizations and schools.
• There were 120,000 Church of England baptisms and services of thanksgiving for the gift of a child during 2016.
• There were 45,000 Church of England marriages and services of prayer and dedication after civil marriages during 2016.
• There were 139,000 Church of England-led funerals during 2016, 57% of which took place in churches and 43% at crematoria/cemeteries. Trends in participation
• Over recent decades, attendance at Church of England church services has gradually fallen. These trends continued in 2016. Most key measures of attendance fell by between 10% and 15% between 2006 and 2016.
• Although the overall pattern is one of gradual decline, this masks the differences in experience in individual parishes over the past 10 years. In 11% of parishes, Usual Sunday attendance has increased. In 38% of parishes, attendance has decreased. In 52% of parishes, there has been no clear trend.

The population of the UK is nearly 66 million. The only question is, who will die first: TEC or the CofE. My money is still on TEC

*****

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu stepped down as an ambassador for Oxfam, citing disappointment at the British aid agency's embroilment in a sex scandal involving staff in Haiti after a massive 2010 earthquake.

The 86-year-old Nobel Peace laureate pulled out of public life in 2010 due to his advancing years, but had continued to represent Oxfam even in retirement.

"The Archbishop is deeply disappointed by allegations of immorality and possible criminality involving humanitarian workers linked to the charity," a statement from his office said.

The Times newspaper reported that some Oxfam staff paid for sex with prostitutes in Haiti after the country's 2010 earthquake. The charity is under threat of losing its British government funding over sexual misconduct accusations in Haiti and Chad.

*****

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Archbishop Allan Migi, spoke out against the increasing number of alleged witches and sorcerers being killed. He said that the recent killing of a child suspected of being a witch was "strongly opposed to the way of Christ", describing it as "child abuse in its worst form." He said: "We strongly call for such practices to cease."

Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, visited PNG, and called for "decisive action" by the government to tackle "difficult human rights challenges, including the endemic gender-based violence and horrific attacks against those accused of sorcery in Papua New Guinea."

"Sorcery and witchcraft-related killing has now become one of the big issues and concerns in Papua New Guinea," Archbishop Allan said. "Killing or taking away somebody's life in suspecting him or her as a sorcerer must not be the way to answer or solve the issue. We have the rule of law in the country that the law breakers can be brought to justice and can be punished.

"As we understand, most sorcery and witchcraft killings are based on suspicion rather than proof. If we are suspecting that somebody is doing wrong we can report the matter to the law. The wrongdoer can be arrested and brought to justice and be judged and put in jail or be punished.

He described the practice of sorcery and witchcraft as "an evil thing"; but added that "the killing of a suspect or taking somebody's life is an act of evil. Both practices are evil in our country which we label as a Christian country."

*****

Samford's Beeson Divinity School to Host Anglican Theology Conference in September. The Institute of Anglican Studies at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School will host its first Anglican Theology Conference, Sept. 25-26. This year's conference, "What is Anglicanism?" will bring together top scholars and church leaders to probe what it means to be Anglican.

With a membership of approximately 85 million worldwide, the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In recent years, its center of gravity has moved to the Global South, where new understandings of Anglicanism have emerged amidst spiritual vitality and dynamic church growth, according to Gerald McDermott, professor of divinity and director of the Institute of Anglican Studies. However, Anglican identity is still contested. The conference will address these issues and more.

Speakers for the conference include Eliud Wabukala, retired archbishop of Kenya; Mouneer Anis, archbishop of Egypt and leader of Anglicanism's Global South; Foley Beach, archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America; Ephraim Radner, professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College in Toronto; Gerald Bray, research professor at Beeson Divinity School; Barbara Gauthier of Anglican News Update; John Yates III, rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Raleigh; Andrew Pearson, dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham; Rusty Reno, editor of First Things (Catholic observer); Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School (Baptist observer); and McDermott.

"Anglicanism is at a pivotal moment, but the shape of Anglican orthodoxy is nevertheless debated," said McDermott. "This conference will help provide a forum for reflection and theological renewal as pastors and leaders propose a new way forward. Theologically-interested Anglicans will not want to miss this."

The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 25, and end at noon on Sept. 26. The cost for the conference is $100 with a $25 discount if registered before June 1. To register for the conference or find more information, visit beesondivinity.com/events/Anglican-Theology-Conference.

*****

UK bishops are starting to wade in on American politics. The Bishop of Chelmsford, The Rt. Rev. Stephen Cottrell, asks, "Do we really want Trump's finger on nuclear button?" Speaking in the House of Lords, the bishop pressed ministers to take part in United Nations discussions on banning nuclear weapons, branding them 'immoral' and a 'lethal extravagance'.

Cottrell said the 'world needs to find another way' and asked whether the UK would attend a high-level UN conference discussing nuclear disarmament in May

Cottrell is a long-time campaigner against nuclear weapons and addressed a fringe meeting at the Church of England's ruling general synod earlier this month, urging pressure on the government to abandon its nuclear deterrent.

'The truth is that these weapons of mass destruction are also weapons of mass deception,' he said. 'They provide the illusion of security, while actually making the world less secure than ever. North Korea now joins the nuclear club. Who will be next? And do we really feel safe with Donald Trump's finger upon the button?

Citing the banning of cluster bombs and chemical weapons under international law as positive progress, Bishop Cottrell said the 'moral arguments about nuclear weapons are just as compelling, if not more so; for to use a nuclear weapon is suicide as well as genocide'.

*****

The next Primate of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, Archbishop-elect Maimbo Mndolwa, is to consult widely with the bishops and lay leaders of the province as it prepares for its half-century anniversary in 2020. The province was created in 1970, when the then-Province of East Africa gave birth to the Provinces of Kenya and Tanzania. After his enthronement on 20 May, Bishop Maimbo will visit the bishops and diocesan leaders as he prepares a new strategy to "revive God's work" in Tanzania.

Upon his enthronement, he will combine his role as primate with his existing role as Bishop of Tanga.

The Church in Tanzania is growing. Its 28 dioceses cover almost the entire country. "We are honored to have among members of the Church who are revivalists, evangelicals, and those who are Anglo-catholics," Bishop Maimbo said. "And with all the traditions that we have, we remain united as one church."

In 2010, the Pew Research Centre published data from four surveys conducted between 2004 and 2008, which, on average, showed that the Christian community had risen to around 61 per cent of the population.

*****

The attention of the Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria has been drawn to publications in social media about the February 6 election of a successor to the incumbent Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos, who retires in August 2018. These publications are obviously not intended to do any good to the church. They are in the least intended to misinform and mislead the unsuspecting public, say officials.

This particular election was held alongside four others at the Cathedral Church of St Barnabas, Ilorin, in the Diocese of Kwara, Kwara State, in accordance with the church's laid down rules and regulations. The event was free and fair.

A total of 161 bishops participated and pursuant to the provisions of Canon V of the Constitution and Canons of the Church of Nigeria 1997, the Rt. Rev. Humphrey Olumakaiye, Bishop of Osun North East, was duly elected for translation to the See of Lagos.

*****

Billy Graham died this week. He was an evangelical icon. While his death has been well covered by the media, here are six things you may not have known about him and what the evangelist believed.

He was an early crusader for civil rights
It was important to reach out to strangers
The Billy Graham rule. Avoid even a hint of impropriety around women
It's possible to find hope in the darkest of moments
Everyone could be saved - even a notorious gangster
He regretted his involvement in politics

Worth thinking about.

You can read VOL's take here: http://www.virtueonline.org/death-american-prophet

Final note. Inmates at one of Louisiana's most notorious prisons in Angola will have a hand in laying Graham to rest. At his request, Angola inmates built his casket back in 2006.

Louisiana State Penitentiary is known as the "Alcatraz of the south." It's home to the state's most notorious criminals, but is also home to a renowned prison ministry.

*****

There is a lovely video embedded in this link of the Rev. John Stott speaking of his conversion and ministry over the years. When David Brooks of The New York Times penned his obituary of Stott, he made the comment that if Protestantism would ever have had a pope it would have been Stott. He was right, but of course Stott would have eschewed any such notion or idea. We have not had his replacement in the Protestant world and probably won't. We will not see his like again. Protestant churches in the UK and US are slowly abandoning Scriptural authority, imbibing the spirit of the age. Stott would have none of it.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/80-years-ago-today-conversion-john-stott/

*****

VOL is making significant changes in the way it brings you the news. We are engaging more with social media and we are seeing a serious uptick in readership. Please support us by making a tax-deductible donation here: https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/help-build-virtueonline-2-0-thank-david-virtue

Thank you for your support.

David

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