The offence of the cross. The 'stumbling block of the cross' remains. Sinners hate it because it tells them that they cannot save themselves. Preachers are tempted to avoid it because of its offensiveness to the proud. It is easier to preach man's merits than Christ's, because men greatly prefer it that way. --- From "Our Guilty Silence" John R.W. Stott
One of the laments I hear most often is about numbers of Episcopalians. When asked by a reporter about the small numbers of Episcopalians in his diocese, one Western bishop was heard to reply, "Well, look at who those Episcopalians are. They include many of the judges, the leaders in local government and the school principals. We may not be many, but we have a remarkable part in caring for the whole community." --- Katharine Jefferts Schori, TEC Presiding Bishop
"Robinson 'is not the only gay-partnered bishop. He's the only one who's open about it." ---Katharine Jefferts Schori, TEC Presiding Bishop
Preaching the law. Before we preach the gospel we must preach the law. Indeed this has never been more necessary than it is today when we are witnessing a widespread revolt against authority. The gospel can only justify those the law condemns. These are the respective functions of law and gospel; as Luther puts it, it is the work of the law to 'terrify', and the work of the gospel to 'justify'(1). Thus every man's spiritual history becomes a microcosm of God's dealings with the human race. God did not immediately send his Son; nor can we immediately preach him. A long programme of education and preparation came first, in particular the giving of the law to expose the fact and gravity of sin. And the law still performs the same function. 'It is only when one submits to the law', wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in prison, 'that one can speak of grace ... I don't think it is Christian to want to get to the New Testament too soon or too directly.'(2) To bypass the law is to cheapen the gospel. We must meet Moses before we are ready to meet Christ. ---- "Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians" John R.W. Stott
Evangelism and Social Action. An unbiblical dualism. The recent debate about the rival merits of evangelism and social responsibility was never necessary. It expressed an unbiblical dualism between body and soul, this world and the next. In any case we are called both to witness and to serve; both are part of our Christian ministry and mission. --- From "Your Confirmation" by John R. W. Stott
Dear Brothers and Sisters
November 13, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Constitution for Anglicans wishing to convert was published this week. The scope of its ambitions and its extraordinary tributes to Anglican spirituality, elements of which the Pope believes will greatly enrich the Catholic Church, surprised everyone. There is a sense that Rome is recognizing, for the first time, that you can be Anglican and Roman Catholic, wrote Damian Thompson of the Telegraph.
But are there that many takers? Well, not really. So far, no one in the U.S. or Canada has publicly stepped forward in either The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada to take up the Pope's offer. Only one Episcopal congregation outside Philadelphia is ready to make the move. The parish, however, is divided with not everyone ready and willing to proceed to Rome. This offer is not all it is cracked up to be. Stay tuned.
Details of the "Personal Ordinariate", Anglicanorum Coetibus ("Towards a Congregation of Anglicans"), can be found in today's digest. One or two difficulties lie ahead. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate. In other words, members of the Ordinariate will have to accept every detail of the Catechism, just as do ordinary Roman Catholics. That being the case, why not just become a Roman Catholic? Indeed.
Furthermore, what liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition have been approved by the Holy See? We do not know at this point in time. Will it include the 1662 Book of Common Prayer? Doubtful.
One is left wondering which books will be approved and if there will be enough left to give an Anglican identity to what remains. The fundamental question which must be asked is why anyone who wanted to be adopted into the Ordinariate would not, on these conditions, simply go the whole way.
But the Vatican on Monday confirmed that opening the door to married Anglican priests doesn't mean the Roman Catholic Church is easing the requirement for celibacy for its clergy.
Under the Vatican's initiative, Anglicans, turned off by their own church's embrace of openly gay clerics, women priests and blessing of same-sex unions, can join new parishes, called "personal ordinariates" that are headed by former Anglican prelates
Vatican officials had previously stressed that married Anglican priests would be allowed to remain in the priesthood on a case-by-case basis as they join the Roman Catholic fold.
Still, the Vatican's decision to allow Anglicans to keep some aspects of their liturgy and identity has raised questions over whether the Roman Catholic requirement for celibacy might change.
On Monday, the Vatican reaffirmed its resolve to leave the celibacy requirement unchanged.
So, where does this leave Evangelical Anglicans in this ecclesiastical shuffle? The answer is that it leaves them right where they are - staying in the Anglican Communion and fighting for the gospel. I have written extensively about this in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/yeyogyr The chairman of the GAFCON Council of Primates, Peter Akinola put it succinctly enough when he wrote, "We are convinced that this is not the time to abandon the Anglican Communion. Our Anglican identity of reformed catholicity, that gives supreme authority to the Holy Scriptures and acknowledgement that our sole representative and advocate before God is the Lord Jesus Christ, stands as a beacon of hope for millions of people. We remain proud inheritors of the Anglican Reformation. This is a time for all Christians to persevere confident of our Lord's promise that nothing, not even the gates of hell, will prevail against His Church." *****
The 27th annual convention of the Episcopal DIOCESE OF FT. WORTH, meeting at St. Peter and St. Paul's church in Arlington this past week passed two resolutions pledging continued affiliation with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, and the broader Anglican Communion. A further two resolutions committed the diocese to ecumenical dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in North America (OCA).
The diocese, acknowledging a desire for "the highest degree of communion possible with other Anglicans in North America and throughout the world," resolved to maintain its "status as a member diocese" in the Province of the Southern Cone.
VOL correspondent Fr. Michael Heidt covered the event. You can read two stories by him in today's digest.
The DIOCESE OF SOUTHERN OHIO announced that they will begin blessing gay relationships next year. The Right Rev. Thomas Breidenthal told delegates to the diocesan convention Friday they should not be surprised since he had written in support of same-sex unions before he was elected bishop in 2006, "The Cincinnati Enquirer" reported. He said the blessings would begin after Easter in 2010.
VOL took a look at all 100 dioceses of The Episcopal Church and you can read the surprising results in today's digest.
This week a San Diego Superior Court ruled in favor of the Episcopal DIOCESE OF SAN DIEGO in a property dispute involving the congregations of two churches that have left the Episcopal Church, taking church property with them.
The dissenting congregations in the San Diego Diocese were members of St. Anne's in Oceanside and Holy Trinity in Ocean Beach. In January 2006 and September 2006 respectively, leaders of these congregations renounced their membership in the Episcopal Church and aligned themselves instead with a foreign diocese.
The Rev Joe Rees, rector of the parish told VOL, "We are of course disappointed but in faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ we are moving forward in preparation for the growth that this will give our parish.
"It's amazing what happens when the Lord liberates His people from the oppression of the Evil One. We are a community of believers in Jesus Christ, and His Word and its authority over our lives. We are not buildings and grounds. We are the living Body of Christ and we represent Him to the world to bring them His salvation."
The diocese has lost more than 25% of its congregants in disputes over doctrinal and moral matters. While Bishop Mathes has been able to keep the properties he had lost, the diocese continues to lose parishioners. All told some 10 parishes out of 40 have fled TEC.
To tax or not to tax closed churches and religious schools. There is a growing consensus that it should happen. Churches and religious schools will likely be taxed in Luzerne County in Scranton, PA next year, says the county Assessment Director Tony Alu.
Although this applies to any religion, the impact would essentially be felt by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton, which has already started implementing a plan to close some schools and half of the 90 churches in Luzerne County.
A long time VOL reader waded into this story. Stephen James, an Anglo-Catholic said he personally had a walk-through of 12-15 RC churches in the counties. "I was looking to purchase a site for the 1st Anglo-Catholic church in this region. The inside and outside of ALL of those churches were in deplorable condition. There was roof leaking, plaster falling, broken windows, mold everywhere, stench, rotted floors. In some the pews had been ripped out and taken to saw mills to see the value of the wood planks they may get out of them. Light fixtures ripped out of the walls with electrical wires hanging out everywhere. I was told by the parish members who joined the walk-through with the realtor that the bishop ordered NO repairs were to be done on these churches without any further explanation until the shock of hearing about their closure several years later.
"I was never so repulsed to see what people of faith had loved so much slowly become a rat's nest and not know why this was happening to them. I know that these are only external problems and the TEC is faced with internal problems of faith, but I witnessed the faces of these RC parishioners shocked to the core. Many have not heeded the command to be herded to another church and I was told if I bought such and such a church that the people would flow to me. I walked away from this mess praying for them and their broken hearts and having much different feelings for their bishops and administration. Tax them. YES.... They should be taxed and not at the deflated value," he said
EPISCOPAL LIFE ONLINE published an article regarding the poll results generated by an Executive Council subcommittee on strategic planning. The poll which saw 6,700 respondents included 5,200 laity.
As with any statistical exercise conducted by polling, the manner of framing the context and the questions had much to do with the outcome. This poll began with the following assumption: "imagine the year as 2019, and the Episcopal Church is even more vital and thriving than it is today". Respondents were then asked to arrange, in order of importance, a series of eleven actions toward achieving that goal.
According to ELO, "The five areas called 'very important' by a clear majority of respondents were, in descending order: reaching youth and young adults; evangelism/proclaiming the good news of Christ; worship, music and liturgy; leadership; and strengthening congregations. The six least important areas, in descending order were: multicultural inclusion; advocacy and social justice; stewardship; clarity of denominational mission; planting new churches and communities of faith; and church administration, coordination and structure."
The report of the results also includes a sampling of what the Committee called "revealing, frank, and informative comments", such as:
* "Remember that the Episcopal Church historically has been tolerant of a broad range of opinion within the faith, conservative and liberal, and any strategic plan should ensure that all remain welcome."
* "Find ways to articulate the uniqueness of the Episcopal Church as one Christian denomination that is truly welcoming to all and truly motivated to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being." * "Our future is with the young people, people who don't have the baggage of the last 30 years of inter-Anglican fights, and who are post-modern enough to understand post-liberal and post-conservative."
Several things should be noted here. By 2019 it is highly doubtful, based on the present rate of decline, whether there will be a significant Episcopal Church left in the U.S. except in those orthodox dioceses where there is some growth like Dallas and South Carolina. Juncturing of dioceses looks to be in the future. Young people are not packing Episcopal churches. The Bishop of Maine, the Rt. Rev. Stephen Lane recently noted that. Unless you have a different message from that of the surrounding culture, then no one will come to your church. The world is far more attractive in what it has to offer than the church if the church has nothing unique to say or offer. Endorsing sodomy and legalizing marriage between persons of the same sex is hardly a party hailer.
The ANGLICAN CHURCH OF CANADA is desperate for anybody who will darken their church doors. They recently had a Back to Church Sunday where some 2,429 newcomers came to Anglican churches in the Diocese of Toronto. Organizers described it as "stunning". Nearly 80 per cent of all the churches in the diocese took part in the event, which saw regular church-goers ask their friends and family members back to church. Those numbers could go even higher as four deaneries still have not reported. "This is beyond our wildest predictions," says Bishop Philip Poole, who headed up efforts in the diocese. "It's thrilling to see that many people accepting our invitation." The College of Bishops is committed to Back to Church Sunday for the next five years. The next one will be held on Sept. 26, 2010. Back to Church Sunday started in the U.K. in 2004 and has spread to thousands of churches in 15 countries around the world. The total worldwide figures for 2009 will be published when they are available.
In the DIOCESE OF OTTAWA, Anglican Bishop John Chapman said he will allow an Ottawa church to offer blessings for same-sex couples who are already civilly married. "My intention is to embrace a liturgical process that will not discriminate between members of the church on the basis of sexual orientation. This will be Ottawa's offering to the ongoing discernment that is happening throughout the Anglican Church of Canada. For me it's an issue of inclusion," Chapman said in an interview with the Sun. Chapman called the blessings "experimental" saying nothing at this point is carved in stone.
The Rt. Rev. William L. Murdoch, Bishop of the ANGLICAN DIOCESE IN NEW ENGLAND, will preside and preach at a service of ordination on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 2 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Norwood, Mass. Alan Bouffard, pastor of the Anglican Church of the Redeemer in Norwood, will be ordained to the priesthood of the Anglican Church in North America. The parish conducts weekly services at the First Baptist Church on Sundays at 8 a.m. Bouffard is a long-time Norwood resident who has been the leader of the Norwood House Church Fellowship since 2003. Information about the Church of the Redeemer is available by contacting Rev. Alan Bouffard at 781-769-7940, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by looking at the parish website, www.redeemeranglicanchurch.org. This parish is a growing sign that orthodox Anglicanism is quietly on the march throughout the U.S. and Canada. ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan recently announced in the New York Times that the number of ACNA parishes had risen from 705 to 755 in recent months. Meanwhile TEC dioceses continue to close parish doors across the country.
The Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Diocese of Aweil, SUDAN, is in the United States to attend a provincial synod of the Anglican Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia. Bishop Wilson Garang who oversees more than 180 churches in Southern Sudan is also here to raise awareness about the plight of the people in Southern Sudan. Garang was a refugee and part of the "Lost Boys," a group of thousands of Sudanese children orphaned by the country's civil war in the 1980s. He ended up living in refugee camps in Ethiopia where he was converted, and became the Christian.Bishop of Aweil, Southern Sudan. Southern Sudan is not in the news, he said, "It is only Darfur that people are talking about but the war in the south [of Sudan] lasted a long time." Bishop Garang said there is a good relationship between the church and the government of Southern Sudan. "There is freedom of worship." But he lamented the lack of basic services, "it is very hard because when you are leading people they expect some services. When people have a problem they expect the church to help them." It is very challenging, Bishop Garang said. "when you see people starving or dying and there is nothing you can do. It is a big challenge."
He stated that many people in Southern Sudan have embraced the faith. "Many people who fled the fighting were able to go to school and go to church and they became believers."
Bishop Garang opined that despite the difficulties people face, the church in Southern Sudan is growing. "We have a lot of people coming to [Jesus] Christ on a daily basis."
KAMPALA. Anglicans in the Province of Uganda (Kampala) will have a new place of worship within the next three-to-five years following the completion of plans to build a picturesque 5,000-seater All Saints Cathedral on Nakasero Hill to replace the existing structure. The Project Coordinator, Rev. Emmanuel Mwesigwa, told the "Daily Monitor" that construction of the new cathedral will be officially flagged off on Sunday, November 15, with a ground breaking ceremony to be presided over by the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi. "The new cathedral will be seven times the size of the current one, and will house more than twice the largest congregation currently," he said. Rev. Mwesigwa added that the cathedral is expected to cost $5 million (about Shs10 billion), with the only envisaged source of funds being contributions from its parishioners. Mwesigwa said the growth of the church's congregation from 1972 when All Saints became a cathedral to today when part of it worships from adjacent tents made it necessary to construct a larger place of worship. "The envisaged 5,000-seater cathedral will additionally house parking in two basements, parish offices and meeting rooms, a restaurant and a shopping centre next to Hilton Hotel on Nakasero Hill."
In the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA comes word that interim Bishop Rodney Michel is planning on restoring the Druid, Bill Melnyk, to the priesthood. A source told VOL that this is being kept hush-hush with the goal that it will be a fait accompli when done. Evidently it relates to the pension that he wants to maintain. In other news, a deal is close on the sale of Camp Wapiti. A figure of $8.6 million is apparently on the table. If the deal closes the loss will run to the millions of dollars. Another in the legacy of Charles E. Bennison. Dying liberal parishes continue to close.
For the Book of Divine Worship go here: http://www.atonementonline.com/bodw.php
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori visited the DIOCESE OF BETHLEHEM recently where, among other things, she lead a discussion on gay clergy and other topics of dispute. At the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, she expostulated about traditionalist Episcopalians and Anglicans going to Rome. "The move makes it easier for traditionalist Anglicans unhappy with the church's embrace of gay and female clergy to enter communion with Rome while retaining certain liturgical traditions. It's a bigger issue in England than the United States, where traditional Episcopalians have already formed conservative structures and are thus unlikely to seek communion with Rome," said Jefferts Schori. She also stated that provisions allowing Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church already exist with four "Anglican Use" congregations operating in the United States. "The two churches have a long history of losing members to each other. The road between Rome and Canterbury is pretty well-traveled."
The Presiding Bishop then dropped a bombshell. She said on the public debate on homosexuality that as Bishop of Nevada that she supported the Diocese of New Hampshire when it elected Gene Robinson -- a gay man in a long-term relationship -- as bishop. Then she stated, "Robinson is not the only gay-partnered bishop. He's the only one who's open about it."
The ANGLICAN CHURCH OF KENYA created its 31st diocese, raising its Chaplaincy to the Armed Forces to the status of a "Military Episcopate". At a service at St Paul's Garrison Church at the Kahawa army barracks outside Nairobi, the Protestant Suffragan Bishop for the Armed Forces, Colonel the Rt Rev Peter Wanyonyi Simiyu was enthroned as Bishop-in-Ordinary for the Armed Forces. A former British Army Garrison chapel, St Paul's will serve as the pro-Cathedral of the new diocese, the ACK reports. In 2007 Bishop Simiyu was appointed the first Protestant suffragan bishop to the armed forces. Born in 1956 in the Bungoma District, Bishop Simiyu was ordained in 1978 in the Diocese of Butere and served as a parish priest before being commissioned as an army chaplain in 1985. His duty stations have included assignments as garrison chaplain at the Isiolo Barracks, Kenyatta Barracks, Lanet Barracks and Moi Barracks. In 2000, he served with the UN's peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, and in 2004 was appointed Principal Chaplain (Protestant) to the Army.
The Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF), the Episcopal Church Building Fund (ECBF), and the DIOCESE OF NORTHWESTERN PENNSYLVANIA are teaming up to develop what they say will be "a thoughtful and spiritually grounded process to assist congregations with the discernment of the ministry of buildings."
Like other Episcopal dioceses in the Northeast and Midwest, many of the parishes in Northwestern Pennsylvania are in buildings that are too large for the size of their congregation, and have significant maintenance, repair, and restoration costs that are beyond their financial capacity, according to an ECF-ECBF news release.
INTERPRETATION. Episcopal churches are emptying, none of the hoped for homosexuals in America are pouring in through its red doors. No evangelism is taking place. Ditto for discipleship. ALPHA is eschewed in most liberal Episcopal dioceses, so the buildings are being closed down. The only upside is the money bishops will get from the sale of churches that they can use to pay bills, pensions and medical for full-time priests. The Diocese of Long Island has made a fortune selling off schools, a nunnery, a hospital and closed churches. Bishop Orris Walker has left the diocese financially healthy but a spiritual wasteland. PS. Trust funds are also drying up. VOL was told that Fr. Matt Kennedy's former parish in the Diocese of Central New York is up for sale. The diocese won the property in a lawsuit. He and his congregation moved on. Now the diocese can't find a buyer. A diocesan spokesman said they are looking for the appropriate organization to buy it, which might be hard in this depression driven industrial town of Binghamton.
The process for building a closer relationship between the Episcopal and MORAVIAN churches is taking place in the denominations' decision-making bodies, but the realities of that work will bear fruit in their congregations and beyond. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Rev. Thomas Ferguson, associate deputy to the Presiding Bishop for ecumenical and interreligious relations, and the Rev. David Bennett, president of the Moravian Church's Eastern District Executive Board, talked with a group of about 50 Episcopalians, Moravians and seminary students of other denominations recently. After a conversation that ranged from envisioning mission partnerships to how members of both churches could get to know each other, Jefferts Schori said, "We have only scratched the surface of the riches of this possibility."
The nature of a full communion relationship "will play out in different ways," Ferguson said. The possibilities range from specific outreach opportunities in the parts of the country where Moravians and Episcopalians are concentrated to other places where, he suggested, the partnership may center on sharing resources such as theological education.
SOME HIERARCHY. Allan S. Haley of Curmudgeon writes, "Now, THIS Is a Hierarchical Church. The Vatican's publication of the much-awaited Apostolic Constitution creating personal ordinariates for Anglicans wishing to realign with Rome shows how things are done in a truly hierarchical Church. No folderol about Cardinals, Congregations, etc., or even concerns about how this might affect the decrees issued by previous Popes -- or even this Pope. (Check out the last clause -- "even those requiring special mention or derogation".)
"No, there is a definitive bull, issued by just one person, which immediately is recognized by everyone throughout the entire Catholic Church. Rather makes a mockery of the supposed "hierarchy" of ECUSA, doesn't it?"
Note: the reference to "the society structured with hierarchical organs" in the third paragraph. (When the Pope says it, everyone knows he means it, and has the authority to back it up; but when the Presiding Bishop and her Chancellor say it, they have to go to a secular court to obtain a judgment first, and borrow its authority to enforce their claim. And in doing so, they have to misrepresent the history and polity of ECUSA. That's some hierarchy.) For more from his blog go here: http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/11/now-this-is-hierarchical-church.html
PERSECUTION might actually be good for the church. Consider the following. The Church is growing rapidly in troubled areas of the world: Viet Nam; China; Africa; even in places like Colombia and Mexico, where the Church stands up against the drug lords, proof that where the Church stands up, despite persecution, it thrives. Where it does not (Europe, etc.), it does not. Consider the country of Vietnam where its Dominican "diocese" recently hit 100,000 professed lay people. Vietnam's Dominican community has reached "the population of a diocese", according to Provincial Fr Joseph Ngo Si Dinh. And this is the same country we killed 1.25 million of their people while losing 56,000 Americans and where many Americans are still dying from the effects of Agent Orange. The church grows despite it all. This shows the power of Christ in the world, despite Satan's control of the world.
TRADITIONAL ANGLICAN COMMUNION (TAC) Archbishop John Hepworth wants people to chill out about what he will do with his Continuing Anglican church re Rome's offer. In a note he wrote, "This Constitution has a life span into the indefinite future. Speculators and detractors should take a Bex and a good lie down until all the detail is worked out." He said he will publish a statement today (Friday) on the Anglicanorum Coetibus - The Apostolic Constitution offered up by the Vatican. "This is a complex and detailed Constitution and Provision, and precisely responds to our Petition of two years ago. Since this matter was largely set in train by the Traditional Anglican Communion, our response will be pastoral and intended to lead to implementation. The Traditional Anglican Communion is also waiting for a specific response from the CDF giving that is understood to give guidance on applying the Constitution (which is deliberately generic and applies to all Anglicans) to our specific situation. This is anticipated from three to six weeks from the publication of the Constitution."
I had the privilege of attending a conference of lay Anglicans this past week in northern Maryland hosted by Episcopal layman David Bickel. It was an excellent occasion that saw presentations on the legal state of TEC property grabs and the future of Episcopal Communion Partners and much more. I hope to publish some of the papers coming out of this conference in the coming days.
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