Not obscurantism but faith. We need to learn to face problems relating to the Bible as we face problems surrounding other Christian doctrines. If somebody comes to us with a biblical problem (a discrepancy, for example, between theology and science, or between two gospel accounts, or a moral dilemma), what should we do? We should not (from a mistaken integrity) suspend our belief in the truth of Scripture until we have solved the problem. Nor should we place the problem either on a shelf (indefinitely postponing its challenge) or under a carpet (permanently concealing it, even from ourselves). Instead, we should struggle conscientiously with the problem in thought, discussion and prayer. As we do so, some difficulties will be either wholly or partly cleared up, but then, in spite of those which remain, we should retain our belief about Scripture on the ground that Jesus himself taught and exhibited it. If a critic says to me, 'You are an obscurantist to believe the Bible to be the Word of God in defiance of the problems,' I nowadays return the compliment and say, 'OK, if you like, I am. But then you are an obscurantist to believe in the love of God in defiance of the problems.' Actually, however, to believe a Christian doctrine in spite of its problems, because of the acknowledged lordship of Jesus Christ, is not obscurantism (preferring darkness to light) but faith (trusting him who said he was the light of the world). It is more than faith; it is the sober, intellectual integrity of confessing Jesus as Lord. --- John R.W. Stott
When I take stock of my own life, I am concerned that those outside the faith may sense judgment from me before love; that those most entangled in sin feel discouragement when near me, rather than hope. The righteousness of God's people has always been meant - from the time of Israel to the time of the Church - not ultimately to make those living in darkness feel cast away, but invited in (cf, Deut. 4:6-8). --- Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." - John Adams
"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm - but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves." - T. S. Eliot
Scripture, Reason and Tradition. Understanding Scripture. It is by receiving the illumination of the Spirit, by using our own reason and by listening to the teaching of others in the church that we grow in our understanding of Scripture. I am anxious not to be misunderstood. I am emphatically not saying that Scripture, reason and tradition are a threefold authority of equal importance by which we come to know God's truth. No. Scripture alone is God's Word written, and the Holy Spirit its ultimate interpreter. The place of the individual's reason and of the church's tradition lies in the elucidation and application of Scripture. But both are subordinate to God himself as he speaks to us through his word. --- John R.W. Stott
Dear Brothers and Sisters
July 26, 2013
There is something about royalty that captures our attention. Even in an era when the throne wields little political power, the cultural influence of the royal family is enormous. The splendor of the wedding of William to Kate reminded the world of the solemnity of vows. Their first child, George Alexander Louis reminds us that each new life is sacred. If only the world understood that each of us is the child of a King. Perhaps every marriage and every new life would be so appropriately treasured. One can but hope.
What is most fascinating is that the British public seems more enamored of the prince of princes than they are of the King of Kings. Only one million out of 60 million Brits even goes to church and a lot of those are mere nominal Christians. There are more practicing Muslims in the UK than practicing Christians.
Only a third of churchgoers actively practice their faith, as opposed to 80 per cent of Muslims, according to new research by the Office of National Statistics. The number of British Muslims has grown at an astonishing rate, from 1.65 million to 2.87 million since 2001.
A Church of England observer noted that he found all the sycophancy rather delusional. "The English monarchy has long been nothing more than a Ruritanian tourist attraction, as the Queen has recently demonstrated by signing same-sex marriage into law, despite her Coronation Oath to defend the Church and its teaching. "This year, thanks to the liberal zeitgeist which now prevails in the UK, some 200,000 healthy babies will be aborted for reasons which have little or nothing to do with medical emergency. She also signed that Act of Parliament."
That, too, is ironic insofar that the Queen had a close relationship with American evangelist Billy Graham and was said to have been deeply influenced by his evangelical witness to the faith. In 2001 she honored Graham with an honorary knighthood for his service to civic and religious life.
This week the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill was given a third reading by the House of Lords. After the formality of reference back to the House of Commons for sanctioning any amendments, it will inevitably become law.
The three main political machines forced the bill through. In doing so it disallowed every proposed non-government amendment that would, for example, have tightened up the levels of protection for the millions of people who disagree with the bill. It would seem that in politics and culture, gay rights trump many other rights.
"We believe that from the beginning the bill was undemocratic because it has been forced on the British public - as it was in France - despite the majority being against it. It was introduced without a mandate from the voters following a sham consultation which dismissed 500,000 legitimate responses which, if counted, would have shown 84 per cent of the public opposed to redefining marriage," say its opponents.
To demonstrate just how far England has sunk in the moral quagmire, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced this week that he wanted to export gay marriage around the world. He spoke with pride about the passage of the legalizing of same sex marriage
He told guests at a reception that Britain is now "the best place to be gay, lesbian or transgender anywhere in Europe".
He added: "That is a great achievement. That's not my measure; that is an internationally recognized measure. But there's still a lot more work to be done."
He said that he wanted to "export" same sex marriage around the world so other countries could follow suit.
One wonders what a Margaret Thatcher or Winston Churchill would make of a conservative PM lauding a behavior that has the potential to kill you and what Scripture has proscribed and forbids what is contrary to the law of God and Scripture's clear mandate, "male and female made he them". Time will tell how this all plays out.
This is for sure; The Episcopal Church and the Church of England are on the same track to destruction. Breaching God's moral law will bring about these churches' sure demise just as God is doing a new thing with the ACNA. Will an equivalent movement rise up in England that will see the birth of something new?
In a couple of weeks, I will preach on Luke 19: 41-45 on the occasion of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. One wonders if Jesus were walking the streets of London today would he might weep over a city that is more Londonstan than Christian. Forty years after Jesus wept over Jerusalem, it was sacked by the Romans. What power awaits England as it declines into the sunset...no longer even vaguely Christian, spiritually vacuous with a growing and militant Islam. Might disestablishment be a possible answer to the Church of England's spiritual plight and dysfunction?
Here are the words of Luke: And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation."
The Archbishop of Canterbury condemned what he called "unacceptable" attacks on Muslims this week, the Telegraph has reported.
Justin Welby said he does not want to live in a "monocultural" society and condemned "unacceptable" and "inexcusable" attacks on Muslims over recent weeks. The Most Rev Justin Welby said the attacks on mosques were "evil actions."
"The attacks on minority ethnic groups across the country that there have been over the last few weeks are inexcusable, unacceptable and a scandal to a tradition of hospitality in this country of which we should be deeply proud and which has contributed far more to us than it has taken from us," he said. He added: "I want, as I have already done, to acknowledge the pressure that our Muslim friends and colleagues have faced over the last few weeks. "There have been terrible attacks, I know that the vast majority of those in this country and especially people of faith would join me in condemning utterly any act of violence against anyone because of their faith."
Very well, Archbishop, but what about attacks on Christians by Muslim thugs not only in England (you will recall the recent murder of a soldier who had recently returned from active duty overseas) and Christians who are being systematically slaughtered in Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and Egypt to name but a few Muslim countries?
As a VOL reader told me, "That never seems to get a mention here." *****
The Church of England is determined to have women bishops, and its leaders will stop at nothing to make this a reality.
This past week The Church of England reported that the Appointments Committee of General Synod announced the membership of the Steering Committee to take charge of the preparation of draft legislation to enable women to become bishops. The Committee will meet a number of times in September and October to prepare the draft legislation for consideration at the November meeting of the Synod. The newly formed Steering Committee reflects the suggestion from the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt. Rev. Pete Broadbent, urging "facilitated discussions" to continue. Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury's director of reconciliation, who guided the facilitated discussions at Synod, helped advise the appointments committee.
A source in London told VOL that five of the fifteen represent conservative views. "The idea is to have a large group which will go away into retreat with professional mediators, and work on it until they can come up with proposals which will achieve a 2/3 majority in the House of Laity. The absolutist demands made by WATCH have prevented this from happening up to now. If WATCH will budge and accept some diversity in the CofE then women bishops will come about very quickly. "If the group cannot make proposals which will offer sufficient provisions for conservatives, then the legislation will not proceed. There is no point in continuing if it is doomed at Final Approval stage, where the 2/3 special majority is required."
"Women And The Church" (WATCH), the storm troopers of the women's movement, will brook no opposition to women bishops, VOL was told.
GOD and Mammon on a collision course. "We'll put you out of business," the Archbishop of Canterbury said this week, declaring war on Wonga payday lenders. He said he would put them out of business by using the Church to build up Britain's network of credit ... and vowed the Church would compete them "out of existence". Justin Welby vowed to help grow Britain's 500 financial co-operatives. He met with Wonga's boss and challenged him over 5,853% APR.
ON THE HOMEFRONT, Forward in Faith North America met at Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois celebrating 25 years of faithful Anglo-Catholic witness. FiF-NA is an over-arching umbrella ministry that draws together those from various parts in the Anglican renewal who seek to live out their spirituality the Catholic stream of Anglicanism. More than 150 Anglo-Catholics travelled to the Midwest from throughout the United States and across the Anglican spectrum to join together in unified prayer, joyful worship and lessons taught by one of the greatest teaching speakers in Anglicanism today. VOL's correspondent Mary Ann Mueller was there and sent back three reports including an interview with Church of England Bishop Michael Nazir Ali.
"Some of the heaviest Anglo-Catholic hitters in the Anglican realignment were in the shadow of the St. Louis arch last week," she wrote. "They travelled from near and far to celebrate their connectiveness as Christians and to rejoice in their joy at being Anglicans with a common history and shared prayer as Forward in Faith-North America's (FiF-NA) 2013 Assembly played out near the banks of the upper Mississippi River.
"Bishops in purple shirts, priests and deacons in black shirts, monks in flowing black or brown serge habits, and the laity, all sporting a wide spectrum of colors, fabrics and patterns, descended on the 200-acre Our Lady of the Snows, a national Catholic shrine dedicated to providing an oasis for spiritual renewal in an atmosphere of Christian hospitality.
"Some of the bishops present included: ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan, FiF-NA President Bishop Keith Ackerman, Anglican Province of America Presiding Archbishop Walter Grundorf, Anglican Church in America Bishop Stephen Strawn, ACNA Missionary Diocese of All Saints Bishop William Illgenfritz, Diocese of the Holy Cross Bishop Paul Hewett, APA Diocese of the Eastern United States Bishop Chandler Jones, ACNA Bishop Richard Lipka, ACNA Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop Eric Menees, Reformed Episcopal Diocese of the West Bishop Winfield Mott, and three venerable elderly bishops of the American Anglicanism - William Wantland, Donald Parsons, and Ed Mac Burney, all now slowed and bent with age but representing the image of Forward in Faith at its initial flowering.
The special orator for the event was a Church of England Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the 106th Bishop of Rochester (England) and now the director for the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue. He chose as his topic "Ecclesiology at the Crossroads." For three one-hour sessions, the English bishop kept his audience in rapt attention as he spoke eloquently and knowledgably all without benefit of notes. He was thoroughly conversant with his topic and was able to bring forth a wide variety of facts and weaving in dates and personages as he fleshed out his topic. He was also very much a part of the overall experience of Forward in Faith. He blended in as one of many bishops and was accepted as an equal participant, rubbing shoulders with one and all throughout the days and evenings.
"The three-day event was undergirded in prayer. The OLS conference room became many things during the three days, which sped by with incredible speed - change a wall here or move a table there, and, presto, the room is transformed. It was used as a chapel for the recitation of Daily Office, a classroom when Bishop Nazir-Ali was teaching, an assembly hall during FiF-NA business sessions, a comfortable parlor when Bishop Ackerman was with his beloved FiF-NA family, a television studio for Anglican TV's recording of the event, an exhibitor's hall for various FiF-NA and Anglo-Catholic ministries and movements, a movie theatre for the playing of the short film "Surprising Merrily," a banquet hall for the breaking of bread, a parish hall for fellowship and snacks, and a cathedral for the celebration of the closing Eucharist by a Bishop Wantland."
You can read an interview with Bishop Michael in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/k8m32g9 His main point is that GAFCON II, which will draw together orthodox Anglican leaders from across the globe to Nairobi in October, has the power to save Anglicanism even as the West declines into revisionist history.
He is convinced that GAFCON is the way forward in Anglicanism. He feels that as more people participate in the GAFCON experience, Anglicans will be imprinted by GAFCON and the Anglican Communion will be reshaped by the GAFCON experience leading to new ways of gathering, new ways of consulting, and new ways deciding things together as a church and as a communion of churches.
"I think gatherings like GAFCON are so important because that is where you meet global Anglicanism and therefore the future," he said. "So let us continue to celebrate the Christian Faith as Anglicans have received it and let us pray that GAFCON-II will be as impressive as GACFON-I was."
Someone drew VOL's attention to the FiF-NA assembly and its Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose that included belief in all Seven Councils, which are ecumenical and catholic on the basis of the received Tradition of the ancient Undivided Church of East and West.
This sounds great, right? Well, take a look at the 7th Council for a minute and try to use logic to apply it to the Anglican Communion. Canon VII of the Seventh council reads:
"Let relics of the Holy Martyrs be placed in such churches as have been consecrated without them, and this with the accustomed prayers. But whoever shall consecrate a church without these shall be deposed as a transgressor of the traditions of the Church."
This canon assumes that "every" church must contain "relics" and that if it is not consecrated with relics, then whoever consecrated the church is a transgressor of tradition. How is this in any way Scriptural? It is an unnecessary binding of the conscience and makes most Anglican churches in the world illegitimate. Has your parish been consecrated without relics? If so, your priest should be deposed as a transgressor of the traditions of the Church according to FIFNA's logic. Is this an OOPS moment?
Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem announced that he was resigning this week citing "advanced age". He said, "A number of circumstances and conversations have made it very for me not to continue as bishop of a diocese that I have come to love with all my heart." He will go on sabbatical as of December and be out by December 31. Marshall is only 66 hardly an "advanced age" bearing in mind that that the new Pope Francis recently took the helm of the Roman Catholic Church at the age of 76. Is there more to this resignation than we are being told? He could have served till he was 72.
The diocese has not prospered under his leadership. In 2001 baptized membership in the diocese numbered 15,750, by 2011 that figure had plunged to 11,500 a decline of 37%. Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) in 2001 was 5,125 by 2011 it had plunged to 3,750 a decline of 37%. Pledging, however, had remained steady at about $5.6 million.
In July of 2011, the bishop blasted the Presiding Bishop. When news broke that Jefferts Schori had received into the Episcopal Church a known pederast priest from the Roman Catholic Church in 2004 when she was Bishop of Nevada, all hell broke loose.
Marshall blasted the Presiding Bishop saying in bold language, "Now let's be serious. When 815-level lawyers threaten and cajole diocesan bishops not to reveal multiple sex-abuse cover-ups at the highest level lest former leaders be embarrassed, what can we expect, and why do we look down on the RCC?
"As a rector I had to follow a priest who was simply passed along by another bishop, and as a bishop have had the same experience with a staff member who was protected by his bishop, with catastrophic results here.
"On paper, we are a one-strike church, but in reality, too many people have walked. 815 (national church headquarters) refused comment on this story with principled-sounding obfuscation, which essentially tells it all, doesn't it? There is no more transparency at 815 than previously, as some commentators know to their pain."
One wonders if this "heretical act" against the PB has not finally caught up with him.
The Presiding Bishop was in Alaska this week and gave an interview to KCAW radio. Here is an excerpt.
KCAW: So many churches right now are experiencing schisms or division or difficulty dealing with a lot of current social issues, whether it's gay rights, or even just theology differences between a congregation and its pastor. The Episcopal Church is experiencing that; the Anglican Church is experiencing that. Can those be avoided, or is that just a natural evolution of people and an institution?
Jefferts Schori: I believe conflict is an opportunity. It's a sign of the possibility of growth and development, if it's well managed. If it gets too strong and too arduous, if it explodes, it's not being used for the possibilities it has. If there's no conflict, there's no possibility for growth, because there's no tension, there's no invitation to look at things in a different way. We're going through a time, as Phyllis Tickle calls it -- it's the "500-year rummage sale." Every 500 years the church, or religious communities, look at the way things are and discover that something's really not working. You referenced earlier the tension many people see between religion and science. That's a conversation of the Enlightenment. We're coming to a time when people are more comfortable with a variety of viewpoints, and that is in significant tension with people who believe there are only black-and-white answers in the world. We're wrestling with that transition right now.
KCAW: So what's the successful model for handling it?
Jefferts Schori: The Anglican tradition at its best has always said a diversity of viewpoints is a sign of health, that none of us knows the fullness of the truth, but that together in community, we have a greater possibility of discerning something truthful. We've never been black-and-white thinkers. We've insisted that dialogue and conversation is the way to discover and to discern more of God's truth. It's hard work, and it does lead to some conflict - that tension I talked about - but it's creative.
VOL: CREATIVE. So what's creative about sodomy, gay marriages and rites for same when the majority of the Anglican Communion rejects this kind of "diversity"? Well the conflict is "creative" for sure, it has resulted in the formation of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans/GAFCON which will meet later in the year in Nairobi to promote "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" and push for The Great Commission to convert sinners to Christ, which might include a few Episcopalians.
To make that point, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church warned Western governments on Sunday against the legalization of same-sex marriages calling it a sign of the approaching end of the world.
Patriarch Kirill said during a service at Moscow's major cathedral that the recent initiatives in a range of countries to legalize same-sex marriages "is a dangerous and apocalyptic symptom" that should not spread over to Russia, according to Russian media reports.
Those who "fight the laws imposed by the minority [will be] subject to repressions," said Kirill, who leads the Church known for its conservative views.
It is ironic that his nation, which was once in the thrall of communism, now has become one of the leaders of Christian orthodoxy. Clearly repression makes one stronger. The West may well take heed of his words.
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