VIRTUOSITY Digest - 9 Feb 2004 to 14 Feb 2004 (#2004-13)
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There are 21 messages totalling 2981 lines in this issue.
Topics of the day:
1. Virtuosity Viewpoints 2-14-2003
2. ADEQUATE EPISCOPAL OVERSIGHT OFFERED IN DIOCESE OF SPRINGFIELD
3. NINE CANADIAN CLERGY OBTAIN SPIRITUAL SHELTER FROM REVISIONIST BISHOP
4. NEW ANGLICAN PARISH FORMS IN JACKSON TENNESSEE
5. PERSECUTION OF ORTHODOX PRIESTS HEATS UP IN PUERTO RICO
6. New Anglican Parish in Atlanta Opens with a Bolivian Bang
7. An Interview with the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner (Part One)
8. An Interview with the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner (Part Two)
9. The "Miracle Church" of Morehead City
10. Episcopal protest hits collection plate
11. SOUTHERN VIRGINIA: Diocese won't reject gay bishop
12. FIFNA COUNCIL STATEMENT COMMENDS NETWORK
13. AS EYE SEE IT: An imperative to leave by Charles Echols III
14. AAC Commends Williams for support of Network and AEO
15. As we enter this divisive debate, what are the rules?
16. Eames Warns of Divisions over Gay Clergy
17. TEXAS: Episcopal bishop requests shelving of 4 resolutions
18. What Social Science Says of Same Sex Marriage by Mike McManus
19. Prince of Peace Anglican Church Launches with Joy and Excitement
20. Archbishop hears regular church-goers call for an inclusive church
21. DEVOTIONAL: Biblical Prayer - The Example of Hezekiah
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 18:35:38 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: Virtuosity Viewpoints 2-14-2003
"These difficulties are not all of a merely disciplinary nature, some extend to essential matters of faith and morals." Pope John Paul II to Archbishop Rowan Williams
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Three important events transpired this week. THE FIRST was that the Archbishop of Canterbury said at the Church of England Synod meeting in Windsor that he supports the new network of orthodox dioceses, clergy and parishes set up in the US that oppose the homosexual consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson.
This is in direct contradiction to what Frank Griswold said in an interview with Beliefnet.
Dr. Williams, addressing the General Synod of the Church of England said that he had been following "sympathetically" the discussions about setting up a network to operate within the Episcopal Church of the United States.
THE SECOND EVENT was the meeting of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council in Tampa which reported a shortfall of $3 million in the 2004 budget, a drop of over 6 percent of the $48 million expected revenue.
The cause: parishes and dioceses withholding funds to protest the Robinson ordination. The revised budget was dropped to $45.1 million.
Julia Duin at the Washington TIMES observed that if 107 dioceses followed the lead of the Diocese of Virginia, the country's largest, which recently shaved $257,428 off its annual contribution to the New York-based denomination, the losses could be in the millions.
The national church headquarters alone has about $300 million in assets, its finance officer said. Denominational assets run into the billions when added to assets from 7,305 parishes: everything from the stained glass to the pews, altars and carpets.
Kurt Barnes, the national church's treasurer, called the lower contributions "almost not material" in the effect on church operations.
"The reduction is well below what nay-sayers and doomsdayers were predicting last August," Barnes said.
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said the church intends to keep some vacant jobs open and trim other expenses, but added that its religious and charity missions will not be affected. He said church operations would be "slightly curtailed."
The national church has pledges of $16 million from 51 dioceses, along with pledges of future support from another 33 dioceses totaling $8.1 million. Two dioceses, Pittsburgh and Dallas, have refused to send any money to the national church in protest.
Bruce Mason, spokesman for the American Anglican Council, a conservative group of Episcopalians, said the reduction in financial support for the national church might be slight this year but that doesn't mean it will remain so.
Mason said some dioceses have tapped endowments to make up for parishioners' cutbacks.
The more than 7,000 congregations of the Episcopal Church receive $2.14 billion in offerings a year, and forward a portion to the national church. Individual dioceses are asked to send 21 percent of their income, but about half of the dioceses who have already made their financial pledges to the national church fall below that threshold.
And while the budget shortfall is small and will not effect much of anything, you can be sure that this is only just the beginning.
Virtuosity is receiving reports from across the country of parish and cathedral budgets experiencing dramatic drops in income. And it can only get worse. Every time a parish splits and the majority of its member leaves, that is a direct income loss to the parish, the diocese and ultimately to the national church. There is no escaping it.
Oftentimes it will cost more. In the end The Episcopal Church will operate more and more on Dead Men's Money, spent by a generation of Spiritually Dead Men and Women.
THE THIRD EVENT occurred at the Church of England Synod in Windsor where a report by four bishops called for "interpretive charity" between reformers and conservatives and a balancing of biblical teaching with social reality.
"Christian tradition is dynamic and not static," said revisionist Oxford Bishop Richard Harries. It was Harries, you will recall, that tried to broker in Jeffrey John as the next Bishop of Reading and got destroyed by Oxford's Evangelicals.
The report he and three other bishops compiled says the debate on sexuality will not go away and he urges Christians to remember that "real people really do have homosexual and bisexual desires."
The bishop is right of course, and occasionally this writer has a real desire to be a millionaire, but fantasy must give way to reality, and it ain't gonna happen.
Funnily enough, Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said the report was "very deficient". "No self-respecting gay or lesbian person has put their name to it. It talks to, rather than with or about, gay people, in any meaningful sense," he said.
So Harries report is being shot at from both sides. One sincerely hopes retirement is just around the corner for this bishop. He has done enough damage as Bishop of Oxford.
IN A QUESTION AND ANSWER PERIOD THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY again reiterated that he would not license New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson to officiate in England even though he was duly elected by ECUSA, but has said he will license Fr. David Moyer to officiate even though he was fraudulently "deposed" by Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison - a double rebuke of ECUSA.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF CHURCH SPLITS there is some oddly good news.
In almost every instance a parish that has left the Episcopal Church and gone to the AMIA or come under the authority of another Anglican jurisdiction they have started out in good financial shape. I am posting two stories of churches that are doing very well thank you very much.
Local communities and other churches kick in organs, chairs, hymn books, prayer books, start up money and a place to worship and much more. The Prince of Peace parish that split from St. John's in Melbourne, Florida met last week for the first time and when they had finished passing the hat around they had taken in $100,000! The new parish in Morehead City, North Carolina has been dubbed the "miracle church" for the abundance of riches bestowed upon them, and in Atlanta the new Light of Christ Church had pledges of $270,000 from 100 people. And a parish split in Jackson Tennessee already has a new group looking for a church to buy. There is clearly something galvanic about starting over free from the clutches of ECUSA that has people reaching deep into their pockets.
ON THE ECUSA SIDE OF THE FENCE comes this news from a Virtuosity reader. It is typical of most dioceses. A report from the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Mississippi shows giving to the National Church will decline about $150,000 in 2004. The bishop is balancing his budget (as Virtuosity predicted) with trust funds.
AND THEN THERE'S THIS FROM A VIRTUOSITY READER in Williamsburg, VA. "There is lots of talk about money, but no one is really talking about the decline in volunteerism. One symptom in our church is that there are not enough volunteers to serve a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper - the people just don't have the heart to involve themselves with church business. The minister has responded by scrapping the pancake supper and substituting a bring your own meal dinner. There is no question that the church is hurting more than just financially. The 2003 convention has ripped the very heart out of most congregations and substituted suspicion and angst in its place. As far as I can tell, the revisionist inclusiveness doctrine would accept incest, bestiality and polygamy if modern society said it was OK - really sick."
FINALLY THERE'S A REPORT OUT OF THE ENGLISH SYNOD that the three wise men who visited Jesus might not have been men. The Magi could refer to three women, queens perhaps? I suppose we should be grateful that in the slightly crazed world of professional theologizing that the Magi's historic genealogy does not reach ECUSA's very own Quean Lutibelle.
AND IN A DESPERATE ATTEMPT TO SPIN THE LIBERAL LINE in the Anglican Communion, something called the Anglican Telecommunications Commission, dreamed up by John Peterson and the Anglican Consultative Council, as "an instrument of community" will attempt to use the Internet to push its "gospel", that is, " find meaning and significance in community with one another."
They use the term telecommunications in a broad sense to mean office and wider area networks, multimedia, online collaboration tools and other Internet and web-based services. A whole range of liberal Anglican illuminati can be found on this board. One insider said the real motivator for the emergence of this group is the rapid growth of orthodoxy on the Internet that is seriously damaging the liberal agenda.
They recently met in Canterbury where representatives from across the communion came to the inaugural meeting. The idea is that linking ECUSA's website with Nigeria will create Anglican clubiness! I can assure you that linking these two provinces is like connecting a spider web with a black widow in the middle. The imbalance, often called the Digital Divide is being addressed in dramatic ways by the Trinity Grants Program, of Trinity Church in NY, the richest church in the world, who will pour a ton of money into this project to see if they can undo the likes of Virtuosity. It's off to war we go.
And UPI Religious Affairs Editor Uwe Siemon-Netto reports that more than 50 million Americans, perhaps even twice as many, including a substantial segment of Catholics, consider themselves evangelicals, according to the Rev. Gerald R. McDermott, an Episcopal scholar. You can that story today.
I AM POSTING A NUMBER OF STORIES on churches dissolving, new ones forming and much more. From Puerto Rico comes fresh word that the Bishop there one David A. Alvarez is stepping up his campaign against two orthodox priests who did not approve of last year's General Convention votes on sexuality issues. He started this campaign once before but stopped when Virtuosity got wind of the story. Now he is trying for a second run at the Rev. Professor Dennis Paris, author and priest. Whoever said the revisionists believe in inclusion clearly is not reading from the same script as the rest of us. Inclusion means stamping out the opposition by any means possible or whipping them into line so they pay for the church's revisionist agenda. I have also done a lengthy interview (in two parts) with the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, orthodox Episcopal theologian. He makes the case for staying in the ECUSA torn as it is 'by heresies distressed.' And in LATE-BREAKING NEWS nine clergy in Western Canada have obtained Alternative Episcopal Oversight from four Anglican Primates. You can read all these stories and more in today's digest.
CORRECTIONS: From Bishop William J. Cox (ret.) Oklahoma. "I need to correct an article published on line by VIRTUOSITY VIEWPOINTS 1-31-2004. It is not true that Bishop Moody of Oklahoma "has stripped me of my Episcopal functions" The Bishop does not have that authority, although he could prohibit my ministry in congregations in his diocese. If he were to do that, I would respect his decision since he is the Bishop of Oklahoma and he has jurisdiction. Yet, he has not done that. I celebrate the Holy Eucharist almost every Sunday at St. John's Church in Tulsa. It is no secret that the Bishop and I are in disagreement on the issue of the Consecration of Vicky Gene Robinson in New Hampshire. I can never accept that decision of the General Convention for many reasons.
Guatemala is a diocese in the province of IARCA (IGLESIA ANGLICANA DE LA REGION CENTRAL DE AMERICA), it is not a province on its own. Virtuosity wrote: "A NUMBER OF ANGLICAN PROVINCES including Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, Kenya and the Sudan all expressed themselves in profound disagreement with the actions of the Episcopal Church this week. We are happy to correct the record.
In the story on Women and the cost to the C of E, the figures were wrong. Jonathan Petre's story said A326m which is $ 48.3m. The number 3 was in fact a pound sign. My error.
WELCOME TO VIRTUOSITY. If you are a first time reader and like what you read please pass the good word around and invite others to sign up. You can do so by pointing them to the website: www.virtuosityonline.org.
PLEASE CONSIDER SUPPORTING VIRTUOSITY. Without your donations Virtuosity would not exist. Please give generously. You can support this ministry in one of two ways. Through PAYPAL at the website www.virtuosityonline.org or by sending your tax-deductible check to: VIRTUOSITY, 1236 Waterford Rd., West Chester, PA 19380.
Thank you for your support,
David W. Virtue DD
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 18:41:16 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: ADEQUATE EPISCOPAL OVERSIGHT OFFERED IN DIOCESE OF SPRINGFIELD
ADEQUATE EPISCOPAL OVERSIGHT OFFERED IN DIOCESE OF SPRINGFIELD
By David W. Virtue
EVANSVILLE, IN-In what might be the first test case of Adequate Episcopal Oversight in the Episcopal Church, a fellowship has been formed in the Diocese of Indianapolis, under the oversight of the Diocese of Springfield that is drawing parishioners from four parishes primarily in the Dioceses of Indianapolis and some from the Diocese of Kentucky.
"It is the first of its kind," said the Rev. Robert Todd Giffin, 33, an orthodox priest who will lead the 60 plus parishioners under the banner of Faithful Anglicans in the Heartland (FAITH) Inc. They are meeting at Evansville's West Side Fairfield Inn, but its future location will be the former St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on Stringtown Road. Faithful Anglicans in the Heartland confirmed it had successfully bid $150,000 on the church.
The newly formed fellowship, which has the blessing of the orthodox Bishop of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith is drawing people from liberal parishes in St. Paul's Henderson, Ky, St. Paul's Evansville, In; St. Stephen's, New Harmony, Ind. and St. John's Mt. Vernon, Ind.
The decisive issue for these Episcopalians who left their Tri-State churches was the confirmation of an openly homosexual bishop to the ECUSA episcopacy as well as the promotion of same-sex blessings by General Convention.
The two dioceses of Indianapolis and Kentucky have revisionist bishops unacceptable to this new group of parishioners who are crossing diocesan lines to attend the FAITH parish.
The Rev. Robert Todd Giffin is the new Episcopal priest for the 60 orthodox Episcopalians. They will now worship under the banner of Faithful Anglicans in the Heartland (FAITH) Inc. Giffin said he expects the number to swell to over 150 in the next few months. The new members of the group have decided to change their memberships from liberal dioceses and parishes to the Diocese of Springfield and to worship as a satellite fellowship of the adjoining, more traditional diocese.
Fr. Giffin said that one parish priest, Fr. Phil Lewis, formally of the Diocese of Albany at St. John's, Mt. Vernon in the Diocese of Indianapolis is orthodox, but the revisionist Bishop of Indianapolis, Catherine Waynick was forcing these people to look elsewhere for spiritual leadership.
The Rev. Giffin is presently in charge of two missions in eastern Illinois - St. Mary's in Robinson, Ill and St. Alban's, in Olney, both under Bishop Beckwith. "This new group is meeting on a Saturday, so it won't conflict with my other duties," he told Virtuosity. Giffin will continue his two-hour commute to his church, operating the Evansville center as a satellite of his parish.
"I am functioning with the full authority and blessing of the Bishop of Springfield, The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith. We are offering pastoral care to those in southern Indiana and the Tri-State area that feel estranged from their church since General Convention. This is a temporary provision being offered to faithful Anglicans in this region until adequate Episcopal oversight is accomplished through the Network of Communion Dioceses and Parishes," he told Virtuosity.
"Up till now diocesan boundaries were defined by state lines," now that is changing.
"We're excited to get Fr. Giffin," said John Lippert, a member of the new fellowship's steering committee.
Lippert is listed as the sole incorporator of Faithful Anglicans in the Heartland, according to the nonprofit domestic corporation application through the Indiana secretary of state.
Giffin, originally of Indianapolis and now a Newburgh resident, said he was unaware of the traditional Episcopalians until he read about them in the newspaper. "The intent was to remain who they were and what they believe and worship the way they did last year," said Giffin, whose diocese has rebuked the confirmation of openly gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson.
Members of the new fellowship - they are careful not to call themselves a church, which could bring opposition from both diocesan leaderships in Kentucky and Indianapolis - said they represent the true worldwide Anglican Communion.
"This is not a group of splintered Anglicans or a breakaway group. This is the mainstream," Giffin said. "This is not a reactionary movement or an aggressive movement. ... No one has broken away from anything."
"Not everyone in FAITH Inc. will transfer," Ward said. "These people will move, though. If they don't, they still will be welcome." He said patience will be key to the group's success. "God called the Israelites to walk in the desert a long while," Ward said. "This is hardly a challenge. There's a lot of work that needs to be done and now we can do it."
Bishop Beckwith was unavailable for comment.
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 18:42:46 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: NINE CANADIAN CLERGY OBTAIN SPIRITUAL SHELTER FROM REVISIONIST BISHOP
NINE CANADIAN CLERGY OBTAIN SPIRITUAL SHELTER FROM REVISIONIST BISHOP
By David W. Virtue
VANCOUVER, BC--Nine clergy from six biblically orthodox parishes and a disciple-making ministry from Calgary, Alberta, have been granted adequate episcopal oversight, albeit temporary, from four Anglican Primates of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
They are: The Revd Charles Alexander, Timothy Institute of Ministry, Calgary, Alberta; Dr David Bowler, Comox, Vancouver Island, a Church Plant; Revd Paul Carter, Immanuel Church, Westside; Revd Ron Gibbs, St Simon s, Deep Cove; Revd Ed Hird, St Simon s, Deep Cove; Revd David Hollebone, Living Waters Church, Victoria, Vancouver Island; Revd John Lombard, St Simon s, Deep Cove; Revd Barclay Mayo, St Andrews, Pender Harbour; Revd Silas Ng, Emmanuel Church, Richmond.
The clergy, churches and ministry are in two dioceses - New Westminster, BC and Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The offer of pastoral help to these parishes and clergy comes at a time when eight of the clergy are under siege from New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham because they refuse to support the Diocese of New Westminster in its decision to bless same-sex unions. They say it is in violation of, and contrary to, Holy Scripture.
"This alliance of Anglican Primates has heard the plight of those who have been in a state of 'impaired communion' with their own diocese since the decision to bless same-sex unions was handed down in June of 2002-a divisive and unprecedented move that was vigorously denounced throughout the Anglican Communion," said the Rev. Paul Carter, a spokesman for the group.
The Primates include the Most Rev. Bernard Malango of Central Africa, the Most Rev. Fidele Dirokpa of Congo, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, and the Most Rev. Datuk Yong Ping Chung of South East Asia., who will serve as Chair. The Archbishops have asked the Rt. Rev. Thomas W. Johnston, bishop in the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA to provide oversight and be the representative for the four Primates on practical matters.
The Canadian clergy sought oversight out of religious conscience and this was extended to them on a temporary basis until a more satisfactory solution is found for those who dissent from the Anglican Church of Canada's growing acceptance of pansexuality.
"The offer effectively allows those congregations and clergy to remain connected to the global Anglican Communion," said Carter by phone from Vancouver.
This temporary and emergency offer of assistance by four international Anglican leaders insulates these churches and clergy in Canada from the often abusive power structures that have worked against them for the last 20 months, said Carter.
"Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster has already closed one church and brought significant pressure against the others because of their stand for the orthodox Christian faith and their desire for oversight from an alternative bishop and renewed structures," he said.
When the synod made its novel decision in June of 2002, representatives of eight churches walked out of the meeting, declaring that by its action the diocese had strayed from its Christian roots and was in 'impaired communion' with them and the rest of the Anglican Communion, said Carter.
The eight churches formed the Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW) and began to seek alternative Episcopal oversight-an arrangement whereby a bishop from outside the diocese would provide spiritual covering and oversight with full jurisdiction for their ministries.
This type of alternative oversight has been consistently opposed by Bishop Ingham and the Canadian House of Bishops. Because of the disregard by Ingham of the pleas of leadership from around the Anglican Communion, several internal attempts to find a Canadian solution have failed.
The situation in Canada and the Diocese of New Westminster, in particular, has created tension throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion. At 1998's Lambeth Conference of all Anglican bishops gathered from around the world, it was overwhelmingly declared that homosexual practice was incompatible with Scripture, and that the church was not free to bless such unions.
The move by the Diocese of New Westminster to flaunt this directive has been denounced at the highest levels of the Anglican Communion, including two successive Archbishops of Canterbury. Last fall in a global meeting of the Primates, the New Westminster crisis was once again on the agenda, and a statement issued at the conclusion of that meeting declared that the actions of the diocese were divisive and contrary to the mind of the Communion.
"We're extremely grateful to the Primates for this gracious and long-needed offer," said Carter, whose parish, Immanuel Church, Westside, (Vancouver) is not officially recognized by Ingham. The Rev. Carter's license was not renewed by Ingham.
"We have been without a bishop for almost 20 months. Our people and clergy are in great need of Episcopal oversight. People of deep religious conscience are tired and disillusioned with the system that many are leaving Anglicanism altogether. When our internal efforts failed, we were on the verge of having to leave Anglicanism completely. This will now enable us to have relief and move forward in mission while the wider Anglican Communion works out how to deal with false teaching in its midst, and the impending re-alignment."
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 18:44:05 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: NEW ANGLICAN PARISH FORMS IN JACKSON TENNESSEE
NEW ANGLICAN PARISH FORMS IN JACKSON TENNESSEE
By David W. Virtue
JACKSON, TN--St. Luke's, an Evangelical Episcopal parish that was ripped apart by a tornado last May, has suffered another tornado, this time a human one.
Sixty-five of its most active members and 22 young people, including half the vestry, have upped and left to form All Saints Anglican Church in Jackson because of General Convention's twin decisions to approve a homosexual to the episcopacy and same-sex blessings.
St. Luke's became another casualty in the doctrinal and moral wars in The Episcopal Church. "It's painful", the Rev. Chuck Filiatreau told Virtuosity. "Bishop Don Johnson's pastoral letter was the straw that broke the camel's back. An inclusive church has no place for these orthodox people, and now they have gone."
The double tragedy is that the Rev. Filiatreau is thoroughly orthodox himself, making it all the more painful. "When I try to tell him [the bishop] he listens but never says anything", said the Evangelical rector.
"The greatest feeling I have is sadness. The tornado that destroyed us was a piece of cake compared to what General Convention did to our church."
Bob Hudson, a leader in the breakaway movement said that a gathering of eight-five adults and children had left and had begun meeting in a member's home in late November. "Word spread and we increased in size by 75 percent. The moment of truth for many came in mid-November when the Vestry of St. Luke's Episcopal Church voted down the following resolution: "The Episcopal Church has grievously erred in consecrating a non-celibate homosexual as Bishop and has thereby wounded the Body of Christ."
"People could no longer standby and watch their witness go up in smoke. The choices were limited: go to another denomination, or drive 160-miles round-trip to church each week, or form our own Anglican Church. So that is what we did," he told Virtuosity.
The founding members are in the process of establishing their Anglican affiliation, obtaining a worship space, conducting time, talent and treasure surveys, establishing teams to deploy the gifts and talents of the parishioners within the community and all those other necessities of being a church. "We are actively looking to buy a church."
"We have looked at the Anglican Mission in America but we are also considering coming under a bishop in Bolivia or Kenya," Hudson told Virtuosity.
"The National Church (ECUSA) has continued its path toward irrelevance by turning its back on the faith, order practice and discipline of the catholic faith. As a result there are families and individuals that can no longer "wait and see", they are called to action, to step out in faith. I just couldn't stand by anymore and let the church destroy my witness and what I believe," he said.
The ECUSA spiral of tragedy gained speed last summer when the national church chose to depart from 4,500 years of Judeo-Christian teachings by elevating sin to being "good" and "acceptable"; as opposed to that Christian doctrine which has been believed "everywhere, always, and by all" to be against God's Holy Law and desire for his children. ECUSA further held itself above the pleadings and wishes of the world's Primates when it proceeded with the consecration of V.G. Robinson in November, said Hudson.
"Symptoms of the national church malaise are now seen more broadly in West Tennessee in the January 16 Pastoral Letter of Rt. Rev. Don Johnson, and his invitation to the Rt. Rev. Chilton Knudsen, Bishop of Maine and one of the Co-consecrators of V.G. Robinson, to be the keynote celebrant and homilist at the 23rd Annual Diocesan Convention on February 20."
This was unacceptable, he told Virtuosity.
The founding members of All Saints Anglican Church were all members in good standing of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Jackson, some for as long as 72 years.
"The energy and calling of these individuals in the service of the Lord has been phenomenal. The gifts and the talents include outreach (both local and international), pastoral care, Christian education, Sunday School teachers, bible study leaders, choir and choirmaster and organist, vestry service, senior and junior warden, chalice bearers, lectors, lay readers, acolytes, altar guild, youth advisors, as well as Alpha course team leaders and intercessory prayer leaders."
The parish of All Saints looks forward to sharing the transforming word of God in Jackson and beyond to all of God's people. "Our movement forward is not about us. It is about God."
When someone asks, "Will you all be okay? Will you be able to make it?" We believe our mission statement answers that nicely: Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we will be disciples for Christ, said Hudson.
Fr. Filiatreau noted that the Diocese of West Tennessee had seven of the finest orthodox priests still active in the diocese, four of them rectors, "and they have their heads on the line because they are standing up for the gospel."
The rector said the toll in income will be substantial. We have not rebuilt following the tornado that struck us, and our average attendance is about 200 with some 504 on the roles.
"Our budget will be affected. Because of General Convention we were already down $30,000, now we expect a deficit of $70,000. Overall the budget has gone from $500,000 to $250,000. I expect my salary will be affected. We were looking for an associate but now we can't fund it."
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 18:45:32 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: PERSECUTION OF ORTHODOX PRIESTS HEATS UP IN PUERTO RICO
PERSECUTION OF ORTHODOX PRIESTS HEATS UP IN PUERTO RICO
By David W. Virtue
The Bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico of the Episcopal Church, David A. Alvarez, has escalated his persecution of two orthodox priests, by submitting formal accusations against them to the Standing Committee.
The Rev. Dr. Dennis Paris told Virtuosity that the Rev. Dr. Manuel A. Rivera and he had received letters from the president of the Standing Committee summoning them to appear before the committee on February 19, to defend themselves against the bishop s accusations.
Dr. Paris wrote a book against the arguments given to favor the consent for Gene Robinson and presented it at the University of Puerto Rico, where he is a full time graduate professor, teaching Counseling and Human Sexuality courses. A day before the local Diocesan Convention, which was held last October 25, Bishop Alvarez sent Dr. Paris a letter inhibiting him in the diocese, for writing and presenting the book. The Rev. Dr. Rivera and another priest, the Rev. Pedro Balleste, were also inhibited on the same day, for participating in a panel discussion of the book, at the University of Puerto Rico.
Dr. Paris shared with us that the Rev. Balleste, a senior cleric, submitted his resignation a few months ago and now Bishop Alvarez is looking to depose Dr. Rivera and me, to use us as examples to intimidate any other dissenters amongst the priests in the diocese, he told Virtuosity.
At this point in time, deposing the two priests is a strategy used by the Bishop to send a message to other dissenters and serves no other purpose, since Dr. Paris and Dr. Rivera are not participating in any way with the Diocese of Puerto Rico.
Bishop Alvarez waited three months to submit the charges, so the new Standing Committee would deal with the accusations. Most of the new members on the committee are more favorable to his views than previous members. This is just another example of the killing time strategy used by ECUSA revisionists, to wait for a favorable tide.
Dr. Paris is currently translating his book from Spanish into English and hopes to make it available this year. He has also made arrangements with a local Evangelical Church, to use their facilities to start the Anglican Mission of the Resurrection, in San Juan, under the oversight of the Anglican Mission in America. Dr. Paris sent a letter to the Standing Committee with the following reply:
LETTER TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE
February 9, 2004 To The Standing Committee Diocese of Puerto Rico Episcopal Church of the United States of America
Dear members of the Standing Committee:
I have received a letter from your president, the Rev. Fernández-Pola, summoning me to appear before the committee on the 19th of February, to defend myself against the charges brought upon me by your bishop, David A. Alvarez. I have read the account given by Mr. Alvarez, in support of the charges, with great sadness.
The inclination to meet with you and offer proof of how the truth has been distorted, is one that, I must confess, has made me think considerably. Even so, I have come to the conclusion that our encounter would be of little use, considering our respective situations.
In your case, the committee, by itself, is perfectly capable of establishing the lack of truthfulness in the arguments presented by Mr. Alvarez to fabricate his case. The accusations against the Rev. Dr. Manuel A. Rivera and me rest on the violation of a supposed agreement to limit the discussion of the consent for Gene Robinson, to internal meetings, where the matters discussed would be kept secret. Members of the Standing Committee who were not present at that meeting, where Mr. Alvarez claims such an agreement took place, can consult any of the more than two dozen clergy that were present. Unless they subscribe to the notion that truth is relative, they will have to admit that the oath to secrecy never took place. Mr. Alvarez himself was the first to speak to the press, on the radio and to write in the Church magazine, defending his position. He also distributed, free of charge, a pamphlet justifying his position, which was published with funds from the diocese. Most of these things happened after the imaginary agreement to have closed doors discussions on the matter.
On the other hand, it seems to me that the committee will definitely have a hard time believing that the Rev. Rivera agreed to the secret conversations in that first meeting, since he was not present, despite Mr. Alvarez claims to the contrary. How can a person agree to something at a meeting where he was not present? I am sure the Standing Committee can answer that, without my help. To determine what is true and what is false in Mr. Alvarez arguments, you do not need my help either; and if, by any chance, you do not want to arrive at the truth, then you definitely do not need my help.
As to my current situation, I will be clear and honest. I will not belong to a Church that has abandoned the faith. This is what your bishop did, abandon the Christian faith, when he disregarded the witness of Scripture, twenty centuries of Christian tradition, the consensus of present day Christendom and the clear and direct teaching of the vast majority of the Bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 1998 and the Primates of the Anglican Communion. By commission or omission you have all followed your pastoral leader on this road to schism and apostasy. Some of you believed the situation would end with Gene Robinson s consecration. It has not; three months after, there are, already, more than 38 million Anglicans in impaired or broken communion with you. Ecumenical dialogues between you (ECUSA) and the Russian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox Churches have been suspended. The ecumenical dialogue between Anglicans and Roman Catholics has been postponed. Many have left ECUSA and a good number of those who have stayed are torn by the doctrinal deviations of a denomination that has decided to follow the world, instead of the Lord. All this has occurred because of the position taken by men like your bishop. Even so, I am afraid that the worse is yet to come. In your case, people in Puerto Rico are now waiting to see when your diocese will officially bless same sex unions. Impossible? I m afraid not.
In conclusion, I will not stay or follow the way you have chosen. As of January 22, 2004, I have been licensed by the Anglican Mission in America, to work as an Anglican missionary in Puerto Rico. I am soon to be received in the Province of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda, of the Anglican Communion, which is under the leadership of Archbishop Emmanuel Mbona Kolini. The Province of Rwanda has broken communion with the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.
With all respect and charity, I must inform your Standing Committee that I am no longer under the authority of your bishop or of any other organism of your Church. I will not attend your meeting on the 19th of February.
Know that you are all in my prayers.
Sincerely in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. Dennis Paris Anglican Priest
Cc The Right Rev. Alexander Greene The Bishops of the Anglican Mission in America The Rev. Dr. Manuel A. Rivera All interested parties
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 18:50:22 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: New Anglican Parish in Atlanta Opens with a Bolivian Bang
NEW ANGLICAN PARISH IN ATLANTA OPENS WITH A BOLIVIAN BANG
By David W. Virtue
ATLANTA--The split was amicable. There were no hard feelings or fights, just a sense of sadness and loss that it had reached the point that long time friends must now part.
"It was like a death in the family. Most of the congregation was on the same side, making the parting just that much sadder and harder," a departing member said after seeing the devastating moral blunder committed by the Episcopal Church in consecrating a self-proclaimed homosexual to the episcopacy.
"It was sheer madness, and now we are seeing the consequences in busted churches and broken relationships," said Lee Buck a former lay Episcopal evangelist.
St. Jude's in Marietta, an Episcopal Church parish suddenly shrank overnight and down the road, The Light of Christ Anglican Church was born, coming under the ecclesiastical authority of the Bishop of Bolivia, the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons.
Bishop Lyons spent a week with the new parish encouraging them and to receive into ordination as a Bolivian Anglican priest the Rev. Bill DeArtega. However, Lyons made it clear that it was a temporary rescue, "and we don t know what the future holds."
He said he would not desert the orthodox bible-believing people in the US, and specifically at this time in Atlanta. During his stay Bishop Lyons reiterated his criticism of ECUSA for its action in consecrating a non-celibate homosexual priest to the episcopacy.
The action in bringing the parish under his ecclesiastical protection was at the instigation of his boss the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone.
The Rev. Frank Baltz, one of a handful of Evangelical Episcopal rectors in the revisionist Diocese of Atlanta weighed his options and decided to stay on at St. Jude's.
"He did not come with us," said former Episcopal lay evangelist Lee Buck, who left the Episcopal Church after more than half a century, to join the new congregation. "We thought he was coming, but he decided he couldn t. The parting was sad but amicable," he told Virtuosity.
About 100 have joined the new church. This does not include some 70 Hispanic Anglicans who will worship at the 'Light of Christ' with the Rev. Bill DeArtega who also left St. Jude's.
The new church has temporary headquarters in a former bank now called Everett Manor in Smyrna. They already have an office and a secretary. The Rev. DeArtega was ordained an Anglican priest by Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia a week ago. He recognized and validated DeArtega's ecclesiastical orders of the CEEC - the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches.
"I am the temporary rector till they find a full time one," DeArtega told Virtuosity, by phone from Atlanta. "I will serve the Hispanic community here. It will be a multi-racial, Bible-believing, liturgical fellowship of Anglican believers."
The church has committed itself to a budget of $270,000 in its first year, said Buck. "Money is not the primary issue, growing the church is." Buck, 80, a former Insurance executive, has been an evangelist for more than 40 years, says he plans to pull out all the stops to make the new church plant grow. "You are only as old as you feel. I believe God has got a few good years left in me to preach His word right here in Atlanta, particularly Cobb county," he told this reporter.
DeArtega says he feels comfortable with whomever they pick. "They want an Anglo priest and that's fine by me. I will be the Hispanic rector and serve as the church's celebrant till a new priest is found."
DeArtega, the author of several books on church renewal says he wants to appropriate Wesleyan revival into the new church. "The original sin was separating the Wesleyan revivalist tradition from Anglicanism."
Wesleyan Methodism was a convergent church and they are themes DeArtega has written about in his book "Forgotten Power."
"The church of Wesley's time was deeply evangelical and deeply sacramental to the point that they recovered the love feast in Wesley Methodism. They empowered the lay people unknown in Anglicanism today." He has also authored "Quenching the Spirit" on spiritual growth.
"It has been enormously liberating separating from ECUSA and we have a felt a lightness of the spirit and joy in really forming a convergent church."
This church will bring revival to Atlanta, he said. "This church will be self consciously a convergent church, with a strong charismatic element. I want to be self consciously not high church. I want to see a joyous and joyful congregation with the aim of bringing revival to Atlanta." Wesley wrote a book of Eucharistic hymns, which the church has forgotten about, said DeArtega.
DeArtega said the unusual split resulting in them coming under the Southern Cone Primate Greg Venables through one of his bishops Frank Lyons got the interest of TIME magazine. "They are writing a story about us," he told Virtuosity.
"It's going to be the church of Jesus Christ, first and foremost," said Buck.
In response the Rev. Baltz said their departure was a matter of timing. "We are still an orthodox Anglican parish, and we are still within the Episcopal Church attempting to work through this process," he told Virtuosity.
"People in good conscience could not stay in ECUSA and they needed to leave. The timing was one thing. The timing of the rest of the people was another and they decided to leave sooner."
Baltz who is a trustee of the American Anglican Council said the process would take longer. "We are on the same page but not the same timing page."
Baltz said the numbers were not as bad as first thought. "We had an average attendance of 450 (200 on the Anglo-African side and on Sunday afternoon 250 Hispanics). We have now dropped from 450 to 350. We have lost $125,000 or about a third of our budget."
"For the moment we have put the issues on the backburner. On the front burner we are focusing on worship, fellowship and ministry. The School is still functioning, and breaking even and we have some 218 in our Hispanic ministries."
Baltz had nothing but good things to say about those who departed. "We love them and hope they are successful in picking up unchurched people."
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 18:51:40 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: An Interview with the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner (Part One)
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE REV. DR. EPHRAIM RADNER
The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner is Rector Church of the Ascension, Pueblo, Colorado. He holds a Ph.D. in theology from Yale University and is an accomplished violinist and scholar. He was interviewed by VIRTUOSITY on the crisis in the Episcopal Church.
By David W. Virtue
VIRTUOSITY: First of all thank you Dr. Radner for agreeing to being interviewed. I realize this cannot be an easy time for you. You have taken quite a few hits from clergy and a couple from two well-respected Primates and an ECUSA bishop. I suspect you are still reeling. So let me up altogether, suffer the encounter silently, and then walk away. This dynamic has been in existence within EUCSA and other denominations now for decades. It is the way people deal with madness, and I have seen it in many a family. And its final endpoint is not unusually a separation of life altogether, simply for the sake of holding on to depleted energies. This is, surely, where many of us are.
But it is not, it seems to me, where the nuptial character of Christ s own marriage to the Church (Eph. 5) would lead us. There is, after all, yet another way to deal with madness. To move forward simply with what is real and true, to do so decisively and with the willingness to place practical limits on the irrational behavior and claims of the other partner (i.e. a kind of discipline), to live within these limits for oneself with the other as best one can (thus discipline becomes a kind of self-offering) and to let time and the grace of God bring healing if that is His will.
END OF PART ONE
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 18:53:29 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: An Interview with the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner (Part Two)
RADNER INTERVIEW PART TWO
By David W. Virtue
VIRTUOSITY: Should not a man like Spong been publicly rebuked and tossed out of the church?
RADNER: In brief: rebuked: yes; disciplined: yes; if impenitent, permanently stripped of his authority and office (such as it is in retirement): yes, yes, yes.
VIRTUOSITY: You cited the French Revolution and the Roman Catholic Church response, which, by staying, won the day. But what of the Reformation? Are you saying that Martin Luther was wrong to fight the ecclesiastical corruption of his day? He never wanted to split the Church, he wanted a pure church, or at least a better one. Out of it was born Lutheranism and the three great truths, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia and Sola Scriptura. Was Luther wrong?
RADNER: Wrong about what? The truths you enumerate were and are the Church s truths, and Luther articulated and promoted them brilliantly at a time when they had been forgotten or twisted by many. None of this is in dispute, at least for me. I know that there are those who would like somehow to tar me with the brush of being disloyal to the Reformation . But what does that actually mean? We are living in the 21st century, not the 16th. And the Reformation isn t a current reality; we have, rather, ideas, habits, cultures, and the rest which have been left behind by the 16th century and which have evolved out of that period and movement. Including Anglicanism! It is hard to be disloyal to the past, unless of course, you believe in the Communion of Saints in a rather tangible way; which, of course, I do. But in that case, you are also bound to loyalties that go far beyond particular national and temporal movements: Luther, for instance, must be heard, learned from, and responded to within the extent, the embrace, and the constraining grace of the Church Universal.
My interest, in a scholarly way, has been with the fruit of Christian division, not with the integrity of this or that Christian leader (like Luther) in the course of this or that struggle. And my critical focus has been on, among other things, the way that the Catholic-Protestant divisions of the 16th century and beyond actually created modes of thinking theologically and of reading Scripture that obscured rather than illuminated certain basic realities of the Gospel (the figural reading of the Scriptures as a unity of Testaments embracing the life of the whole Church, the character of charity and communion as a vehicle of truth, the shape of the Holy Spirit s work, the nature of conversion, and so on). Like it or not, we are heirs of these modes of thinking and reading, we are bound to them. Is it possible to get outside our skins in this regard, and see ourselves more clearly and thereby hear our vocation more honestly?
One of my contentions is that we both should try to do this, but that it is also deeply difficult to succeed at doing so within a state of multiple and divided Christian communities and churches. This is both a sociological and a spiritual contention. That is, there is a dynamic at work in the Christian church today, embodied in our divisions, that is in fact tied to the work of God in our judgment. It s not just a matter of getting our structures right, or of getting our ideas right, or of being on the right side although we are not free to disregard the obligation we have to make faithful decisions in this regard. What is at stake, at this point, is yet more profoundly how we are going to act under the hand of God , what posture we shall take. And this is the posture in which we should be making our decisions about structures and ideas and sides . My commitment to hearing the Scripture in communion i.e. in the communion of the larger Church as best as we are allowed to be a part of it, in all of its strange and blurred contours and my sense that we are called to exercise our difficult mutual responsibilities and accountabilities within an ordered process of discipline that reflects that communion, all of this is informed by my sense of posture as a penitent before God, demanded by the very history of our churches.
None of us, to my mind, have been placed in the true church among other churches; at least, not so that we could discern it. With respect to Anglicanism, we have been placed here and not somewhere else; and while placed here, we have been entrusted with a wealth of riches, theologically, liturgically, ethically, intellectually from the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Fathers, the Puritans, the Restoration, and so on. We are bound to receive these with humility, gratitude, an ordering of priority even, and the critical spirit of a penitent heart seeking God in the midst, especially now, of assaults upon the Gospel and spiritual wreckage wrought by confusion and unfaithfulness of an extensive kind; and to do so knowing that we are called to something bigger than the preservation of a way of divided life in Christ. For however good God has been in providing us with blessing in the midst of division and God has been good indeed, far beyond our deserving there is no renewal in division , only the hard hand of God, gloved with unmerited mercy. Scripturally, our divisions are simply contrary to the Word of God, the prayers of Jesus, and the mind of His self-offering (cf. Philippians 2:1-11).
I know that not everybody agrees with this, nor should they in any prima facie fashion. But my argument is borne out on a number of historical fronts I believe, and it would be helpful if people attempted to approach it critically, rather than ideologically (which has tended to be the case).
VIRTUOSITY: You say that a second reason why conservatives are staying in the Episcopal Church is their institutional loyalty and obedience. This, you said was branded as "legalistic", "mechanistic", and "structural" -- somehow beneath the spiritual depth of truth-seeking? Are you saying that there is never a time for believers to leave a corrupt institution that preaches against the very things it is supposed to uphold? Should one forever be "loyal and obedient" to a corrupt institution?
RADNER: I would prefer to use the word subjected love , in the sense of Paul s usage in Ephesians 5. Jesus himself was, at least in the minds of the religious authorities, disobedient on matters like the Sabbath law. However, he was subject to their power, in the ultimate way of willingly allowing himself to be arrested, unjustly condemned, and finally executed. We are told rather called -- to follow in his steps and to trust to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21ff). The whole developed philosophy of conscientious objection which can be deeply subversive of unjust structures, as well we know -- is rightfully and in fact historically linked with this reality. It would be odd if Christ were to have bequeathed to the wider world (including Hinduism) a way of life Christians no longer themselves judge worthy of their spirit.
VIRTUOSITY: What if ordinary people sense that their very souls are being jeopardized by staying in a morally and theologically compromised church, what if the Spirit is saying, "begone, the lampstand has been removed, I have gone."
RADNER: The situation you describe is also described in the book of the Prophet Ezekiel. It would be interesting to draw potential similitudes between the experience of a pneumatically abandoned people like Israel placed into captivity and subjected to exile, with our own vocation today. Indeed, that is precisely what I have encouraged us to do. And one response is this: you cannot escape the judgment of God upon your people by trying to find another people more worthy of your affiliation. The accepted and even deliberately pursued division of the church is, ultimately, a way to remain irresponsible.
VIRTUOSITY: You appeal to both Catholic and Reformed traditions, the submission to the "order" and "law" of institutions, especially those of the Church, is a necessary "bridle" upon the innate tendencies of individual pride that lead to sin. Without this submission (or at least acknowledged presumption of subjection), even in cases of individual conscience, the passions of autonomy and rebellion will and must eventually destroy the very means by which truth can be established. IS submission and acquiescence the same thing in the end?
RADNER: Is the Cross of Jesus Christ a form of acquiescence to sin? There are certainly those who believe it is. But not the Christian Church.
VIRTUOSITY: You talk about legal safeguards by which the "rights of the accused" are protected. In the ECUSA the "rights of the orthodox" seem to be anything but protected. Can you draw a direct analogy here?
RADNER: There is a need for the freedom of worship, teaching, and deployed leadership of orthodox Christians within our denomination to be respected and protected. That is a moral obligation of any church, obviously. And it is one that the Primates, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, have formally and publicly upheld, to the point of placing their own authority behind its guarantee. This is a promise we must hold these leaders accountable to keep, and to do so with all the persuasive and importuning means we have.
VIRTUOSITY: You say the Archbishop of Canterbury, is lifting up the supreme value of jurisdictional canons within Anglicanism, but is not thereby diminishing the value of the Gospel's truth in relation to some merely human and self-serving structure. He is rather acknowledging that the truth cannot emerge as determinative, without securing its freedom from the depredations of individual striving and delusion, a security given only in the social contours of a stable institutional life. But what if, at the end of the day the Liberals triumph in the are of morals and try to push pansexuality onto the rest of the communion and they balk, what happens then? Should provinces like Nigeria and Uganda stay?
RADNER: David, you raise one of the more sobering speculative possibilities that we are facing. For the moment, I believe, the Archbishop is indeed working to maintain a context in which the truth may freely be apprehended, shared, and proclaimed within our Communion. His support, and indeed formative encouragement of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes is real and has made a difference to this group s ability to move forward in the face of much opposition within the 815 crowd; his work in keeping the Primates working together, not simply to avoid a problem, but to address it as far as possible within accepted, because historically rooted, commitments and values of Anglicanism, is critical in assuring the edifying outcome to their work for the sake of the Communion as a whole. I could go on, and should, because there are many people working very hard, and providing depths of theological and intellectual resources to this work, much of it going on quietly and persistently. One day, I hope they will be thanked.
Still, it could all come to naught. In such a case, we will see the end of the Anglican experiment of non-centralized and non-coercive Scriptural catholicity in mutual subjection and mission. It has been a grand experiment, I need to say. Marvelously grand! And its failure will be a deep disappointment, not only to day-dreaming individuals like me, but to the nations, who have longed for a testimony to this possibility of life together, and whose salvation is tied to the God who might make such life possible. In the face of this hope now shattered, they will see the visage of God s re-ordering judgment.
But if this happens, the question will be for individuals, not for churches as a whole to answer. There will be nothing for Nigeria or Uganda to stay in . They will go their own way and call themselves what they will. But to individuals I would say: The Anglican Church is dead! Whatever you do, wherever you go, do not call yourself by that name any longer. It has become a byword among the nations.
VIRTUOSITY: You write: "A third reason why most conservative Episcopalians are staying in the Episcopal Church is related to the previous one. To speak bluntly, it is because we have tasted the fruit of unbridled separatism, and the fruit is bitter indeed. Are you referring to the Continuing Churches in this statement that flowed from St. Louis in 1979?
RADNER: I am not pointing to anyone in particular, but to all of us and each of us together.
VIRTUOSITY: You seem to take particular aim at the AMIA. What is your basic beef with them? They seemed to have made off with some 8 parishes in the Diocese of Colorado?
RADNER: I don t have a particular animus against the AMiA. My worry, as is crystal clear, is with the whole habit of division and separatism that permeates our culture, ecclesially and in secular terms, and for reasons I have already enumerated. I believe that the AMiA like the rest of us! -- embodies aspects of this culture. The point you are raising is related, of course, to the fact that these embodiments are known and immediate, and not theoretical. And my concern, in an immediate and deep sense, has been primarily pastoral. The AMiA didn t make off with some 8 parishes in Colorado at all. They formed, from the division of these parishes, new congregations, so that where there was one in each case (by and large), there became two. (The particulars of each congregation s history are not at issue here.) That, in itself, is not even problematic: many churches grow through mitosis, as it were. But these divisions were of the divorce kind: leaving in their wake hurt, anger, mistrust, mutual recrimination, charges and counter-charges, weakened witness, scandal and so on, among conservatives and the unchurched alike. And, as with many divorces, we can list a whole host of good reasons to separate . But it hardly seems reasonable to go the next step and encourage the multiplication of divorce, which is exactly what our culture has done (with the churches happily following along).
The disagreement that has become public between myself along with others! and the leadership of the AMiA is one that helpfully brings into profile in part what is at stake in our larger Anglican conflict: are we a mutually accountable communion, bound by the ordering virtues of Scripture s common hearing and individual deferral? If we are not, there are of course many different paths we could still follow, which would still pit conservative and liberal against each other. But if we are, then this particular doctrinal and ethical conflict we are in must be pursued within a special context of its own conciliar, communal, with the patience that bespeaks passion. And since I believe we are such a communion, I also believe we are making a serious mistake, as I have said over and over, if we do not resolve this conflict within the conciliar context that explicitly defines communion.
As I have also said over and over, the AMiA is filled with faithful and self-sacrificial Christians; certainly no less faithful than anybody else; and far more faithful than I in many respects! I pray that someday there will be an ecclesial reconciliation among us all. I would pray too that none of us make the eternity of such a prayer necessary by our own actions.
VIRTUOSITY: You write: "Finally, driven by passions for success and rapid advance, and unbridled by the slow structures of ecclesial canon, leadership has been recruited and thrust forward without prudent testing, formation, or accountability. This is the bitter fruit of impatience. Are you saying this of the AMIA or of all separatist vagante groups that have left the ECUSA?
RADNER: The issue of formation is fundamental if we are to rebuild a faithful church. Bp. Allison has long drawn out attention to this truth. And failure to get straight the rigorous demands of selection, formation, and accountability have crippled many movements of protest and reform within the church, separatist or not. I have been a student, as you know, of 17th and 18th-century Jansenism, a reform movement within French Catholicism. It was a movement filled with spiritual and theological geniuses, with ascetic virtuosos, and with courageous confessors and martyrs. Their greatest influence came within the limited efforts of their educational and formational ministries; their more extensive failure can be tied directly to the fact that these efforts were as limited as they were, and that the call to formational rigor soon gave way to the more immediate satisfactions of polemical displays and sacrifices. We dare not fall into this trap. One, by the way, that our greatest Reformation teachers did not.
VIRTUOSITY: You say the search for order, is ultimately liberative. Many of those who leave ECUSA for the AMIA and other groups say THEY feel liberated, no longer under the curse of apostate bishops. What would you say to them?
RADNER: I m certainly not in a position to judge how other people feel . The liberative gift of ecclesial order s genuine search is not a subjective reality in the first place, but one that describes the actual character of the spirit formed into the image of Christ through a sharing of His sufferings (cf. Philippians 3:10), something St. Paul places squarely within the experience of seeking a common mind . The freedom for which Christ has set us free , as he writes in Galatians, is governed by a Spirit whose gifts provide fruit, nourished and grown within well-ordered common life (cf. Gal. 5:1, 16ff.). At some point, surely, what the Spirit makes of us, becomes the very thing we are grateful to have become. Then our freedom is turned into the subjective heart of thanksgiving. There is certainly no virtue in feeling bad; nor is there any in feeling better. Virtue lies in the image of Christ.
VIRTUOSITY: What is the correct response to false teaching? What of our Lord's admonition to "take heed that no one leads you astray" (Matthew 24:4). And Paul's injunction about "preaching another gospel" and being declared "anathema". Does this not imply that separation might be necessary in extreme circumstances?
RADNER: I encourage people to read the Pastoral letters of St. Paul 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus -- especially in answer to this question. Chapter 6 of 1 Timothy, for instance, provides a wonderful outline for how to teach in the face of falsities and dissension. The outline, furthermore, is tied to the shape of Paul s own life and body, about which I have already commented.
VIRTUOSITY: How far can we accommodate sin in the church before we say enough is enough?
RADNER: It is God, I believe, who says that enough is enough . We have been accommodating sin all over the place over the centuries. Not necessarily to our credit, mind you. But the line in the sand is a wonderfully adjustable measure, more frequently used for self-protection than for the building up of neighbor. What we are asked to do is provide clarity and example, and discipline where needed, in face of these shifting sands.
VIRTUOSITY: A recent study by the Barna Research Group painted a devastating portrait of the Episcopal Church as scoring at the bottom of the heap of American denominations as to the accuracy of the Bible, sharing the faith with others, the importance of religious faith to them, that Christ was not sinless, and their commitment to Christianity. It would appear that the ECUSA is capitulating to the culture. Can this go on without separation at some point?
RADNER: The details of Barna s picture are indeed dispiriting. But Barna s research indicates a whole range of religious inefficacy that runs across denominations including many evangelical groups. We are in a time when Christianity itself is losing ground in America, and it isn t primarily because of ECUSA that this is so, although she is part of the trend. The response, furthermore, to this trend is not obviously to start new churches as opposed to reforming and renewing current ones. Indeed, the decline of Christianity as a proportion of the American population has taken place when there are actually more denominations of Christian churches than ever before.
Numbers aren t the issue anyway, as you point out earlier. Rather, the integrity of our witness is. And the context of that witness informs its integrity in ways I have been trying to underline. One of the greatest religious turn-offs for young people is the divisive infighting among Christian communities. That is not to say that we are called to avoid conflicts that are over critical matters; rather we are to testify to a way of upholding the truth that can overcome easy division and embody the true form of Christ Jesus. This witness is one that young people yearn after. In fact, they hardly know that it is possible, so distant has its realization been among the churches for so long.
VIRTUOSITY: Thank you Dr. Radner
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 18:54:38 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: The "Miracle Church" of Morehead City
The "Miracle Church" of Morehead City
By David W. Virtue
MOREHEAD CITY, NC--All Saints' Episcopal Church is a "miracle church" according to its leaders and laity.
By any human standard it should not exist.
Its birth grew out of a former Episcopal parish - St. Andrew's - which split from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of East Carolina. After a bitter legal dispute over property ownership, Bishop Clifton Daniel III got possession of the church property, and a treasury of over half a million dollars. But at the end of the day he kept only 25 parishioners, had to put in a new parish priest, and has been forced to reduce the parish to mission status. In time it will die. In the meantime the Bishop is stuck with the bills.
The new All Saints' parish, which is a member of the Anglican Mission in America has over 300 members and goes from strength to strength, according to its rector and parishioners.
Mary Lena Anderegg, whose husband David is on the vestry tells the story. "When we left, our brethren and sisters in Christ in Morehead City reached across denominational and congregational lines to encourage and support us. Seven churches offered to share their facilities with us to worship, even offering to adjust their own worship schedules," she told Virtuosity.
"The first week we were out of St. Andrew's building we had Sunday night praise and worship at a Baptist Church; a Wednesday prayer and communion was held at a medical facility; an interdenominational men's prayer group met at Catholic church, a 10am Sunday service was held at a Methodist church and other Sunday morning services were held in an elementary school gymnasium. One pastor even took a day of his vacation to worship with us the first Sunday we were out of the building."
"We didn t lose the church we gave up the building and kept Jesus," said Anderegg.
Then they were offered a rental warehouse property at Westridge Center on Highway 70. It has three bays of a warehouse, an office complex, sanctuary, and it has been set up permanently for us. "We have adjoining offices for Sunday school rooms, and it's ours till we find land to buy and build."
Things immediately kicked into high gear, said the Rev. H. G. Miller who took over as the rector following the retirement of the evangelical Rev. C. King Cole.
No one could still the excitement or stop the growth. "People came from all over. We were offered four church organs, and people who only worshipped with us occasionally ponied up another $135,000 in interest charges on the treasury (money held in escrow for legal fees) which the court required. It looked like Bishop Daniels had won.
"The usurious interest payment of $135,000 was money that was taken from us. St. Andrew's Church Treasury had $400,000 which we had to turn over plus the interest of $135,000. It was paid off in10 days. They got the money but we kept Jesus."
"But one bank loaned us money for 'start-up expenses' even though we had no physical assets for collateral. Another bank gave us office furniture. A private school gave us classroom equipment and furnishings for our Sunday School and generic office supplies and equipment.
"A lady called and offered us two bishop's chairs from an old church, a lectern as well as donations of fabric for banners, chairs, lumber and foam. We began to collect silver pieces and jewelry to melt to replace the chalices and patina we had to leave with the building. Three Catholic brothers in Christ gave us an ingot each for the chalices because 'we want to be a apart of what you are doing'."
City planners worked with the new church and towage was provided to move the granite rock on which is engraved the church's mission statement. A 'paint day' drew 70 people with non-members and summer folk coming out to help.
"What was sown in tears (receipt of the Appellate Court's decision) has been reaped with songs of joy with a coming together of God's people for his glory. We have finally come home."
Anderegg said she has seen other church splits over a 40-year period, but it was never like this. God has done and is doing a miracle each day. The church holds three services on Sunday plus a praise and worship on Sunday night with a youth group of over 200 attending. The church now has 320 members, more than it did before the split.
The new pastor, the Rev H. G. Miller (he took over from the retired C. King Cole) came from Phoenix Valley Cathedral. He was leading a Pentecostal Church which became an AMIA church when the leaders decided they wanted oversight of a bishop.
Of those who remained in the old church, Anderegg had only this to say, "they are lovely people who just don t get it."
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 19:50:07 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: Episcopal protest hits collection plate
Episcopal protest hits collection plate
By Julia Duin THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Episcopal Church officials yesterday announced a $3 million shortfall in the church's 2004 budget, caused chiefly by parishes and dioceses withholding funds to protest the ordination of a homosexual bishop.
The shortfall equals 6 percent of the $48 million in revenue the church had expected this year. Church officials, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times, have revised the budget to $45.1 million.
Figures released at an Episcopal executive council meeting in Tampa, Fla., showed the denomination's 107 dioceses are giving $2 million less this year. A reduction in government funds for social-service programs produced an additional drop of roughly $900,000.
Conservative Episcopalians say the budget reduction is a direct result of the Nov. 2 consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, the first openly homosexual ordained to such a position by the church. Bishop Robinson, who is divorced, lives with his male companion.
"This is a result of the uproar they said would never happen," said Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, the lead conservative group protesting the Robinson ordination. "If you stand on the air hose, the diver surfaces pretty quickly to see what's going on."
At an October meeting of the AAC, 2,700 Episcopalians pledged to "redirect our financial resources, to the fullest extent possible, toward biblically orthodox mission and ministry, and away from those structures that support the unrighteous actions of the General Convention."
Thus, conservatives say, the revenue losses by the end of 2004 will be even worse than denomination officials predict.
"These are all hopeful numbers put out by the national church by people trying to diminish any effect Robinson might have," said the Rev. Don Armstrong, an AAC leader and rector of the 2,400-member Grace and St. Stephen's Church in Colorado Springs, the largest church in the Diocese of Colorado.
But Kurt Barnes, the national church's treasurer, called the reduced contributions "almost not material" in their effect on church operations. "The reduction is well below what naysayers and doomsdayers were predicting last August," he told the Associated Press.
Only 84 dioceses have told church headquarters in New York what their contributions will be this year, but of those dioceses, 40 have promised to equal or exceed their yearly gift of 21 percent of their budget.
Two dioceses are giving no money, and 42 have reduced their contributions, giving between 3 percent and 20 percent of their income. The Diocese of Virginia, for instance, is giving 16 percent of its budget.
Mr. Armstrong predicted more reductions as Episcopalians continue to divert their offerings to other causes.
"This is just the beginning," he said. "People will be more excited about supporting hospitals in Tanzania and soup kitchens in the United States than [Presiding Episcopal Bishop Frank] Griswold in a limousine."
In a related matter, a group of 14 Anglican archbishops from mostly Third World countries released a statement Friday condemning the Episcopal Church as having departed "from 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian teaching and practice." The primates, from 13 Anglican provinces, represent 45 million parishioners, more than half of the world's 70 million Anglicans.
"We reaffirm our solidarity with faithful bishops, clergy and church members in North America who remain committed to the historic faith and order of the church and have rejected unbiblical innovation," they said. Specifically, the primates praised the newly formed Network of Anglican Dioceses and Parishes, created last month during a meeting of conservative Episcopal bishops, clergy and laity in Plano, Texas. END
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 19:52:21 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: SOUTHERN VIRGINIA: Diocese won't reject gay bishop
SOUTHERN VIRGINIA: Diocese won't reject gay bishop Episcopal group upholds national church's decision
By Michael D. Wamble Daily Press
NORFOLK -- Delegates of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia soundly defeated a resolution Saturday to reject the national church's confirmation of an openly gay bishop.
At its annual meeting in Norfolk, delegates voted to acknowledge "profound differences" over homosexuality and Scripture interpretation. It created a yearlong Reconciliation Commission to discuss differences.
Opinions vary on whether this could dissuade some parishes from leaving the diocese to join a national network of conservative churches likely to form by October.
Bishop David C. Bane Jr. said Saturday's vote - a 3-to-1 margin among clergy delegates - showed that "the vast majority want to stay together to serve Christ together."
The Rev. Coleman Tyler of Galilee Church in Virginia Beach supported the resolution. Tyler said a new commission "prolongs the agony of this discussion." Church members may already have, Tyler said, "irreconcilable differences."
The vote Saturday on Resolution No. 4 ended months of uncertainty over how people in the pews felt about having an openly gay bishop in their denomination.
But tension over this issue didn't begin last year.
Since the mid-'90s, the broader issue of homosexuality has sparked debate in several mainline Protestant denominations, including the United Methodist Church and Episcopal Church. Most of the discussion concerns the status of gay clergy and same-sex unions.
In 1996 conservative Episcopalians formed the American Anglican Council, a network to "affirm Biblical authority and Anglican orthodoxy within the Episcopal Church."
In August 2003, the issues of Biblical authority and homosexuality inched the Episcopal Church closer to a possible rift. A big issue at the General Convention in August was the confirmation of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. A majority of the lay people, clergy and bishops at the convention confirmed his election.
Three of the eight Southern Virginia deputies who voted on Robinson's fate represented churches in Newport News and Hampton.
All eight of the diocese's lay and clergy deputies voted to confirm Robinson.
Bishop Bane was one of 43 bishops who voted against Robinson's confirmation. The other 64 bishops voted for confirmation. Two bishops who abstained from the vote were counted as "No" votes.
Local Episcopalians remain divided on the issue.
A meeting in September to discuss votes by deputies and the bishop packed the hall at Bruton Episcopal Church in Williamsburg.
In November, Robinson was ordained as the denomination's first openly gay bishop.
Since his ordination, the Diocese of Southern Virginia has lost some members and has weathered a budget shortfall of nearly $200,000. Nine of its 123 congregations have joined the American Anglican Council in hopes of becoming part of a new network of churches that reflects their beliefs.
Clergy and parishioners affiliated with the American Anglican Council submitted Resolution No. 4 to the annual diocesan council.
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 21:05:01 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: FIFNA COUNCIL STATEMENT COMMENDS NETWORK
FIFNA COUNCIL STATEMENT COMMENDS NETWORK
As the members of the Council of Forward in Faith North America we offer greetings in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Mindful of the sacrificial labors of many of our members over several decades; the vision cast in 1989 (in the structure of the formation of the Episcopal Synod of America); sharpened in 1997 (in the Rosemont Statement); we rejoice that vision is now being recast in the cooperative efforts of the emerging clarity provided in our partnership in the Network of ACDP.
The circumstances at Good Shepherd, Rosemont in September 2002 provided an opportunity for new cooperation between Forward in Faith, the American Anglican Council, Ekklesia, many Primates and the former and present Archbishops of Canterbury and offered a providential foreshadowing of our emerging common life.
In response to the specific call from the Archbishop of Canterbury, visionary leaders of the Household of Faith are collaborating in the Network, which is drawing counsel from the deepening relationships among the international Primates. Just as they have faithfully and charitably modeled common life recognizing differing theological perspectives we are encouraged by the maturity of their relationships and seek to manifest the same steadfast commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the Church. This charity is "the very bond of peace and of all virtues without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before Him."
The Network's commitment to the ongoing integrity of Forward in Faith's succession in Holy Orders reinforces our confidence in our common future for orthodox, unified, and missionary endeavor as longstanding divisions are healed to the Glory of God. We commend the Network and our common life to the prayers of all faithful people.
1. The structure and purpose of the Network is virtually identical to that framed by the ESA in 1989.
2. The Rosemont Statement: "We continue to 'be the church. We are not going anywhere.'"
3. Efforts by the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr. to remove The Revd David L. Moyer as Rector of Good Shepherd by attempting to depose him were thwarted by cooperation and collaboration among agencies and international leaders.
4. Varying theological perspectives include evangelical, catholic, and charismatic, as well as differences concerning the ordination of women.
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 21:13:24 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: AS EYE SEE IT: An imperative to leave by Charles Echols III
AS EYE SEE IT: An imperative to leave by Charles Echols III
By Charles Echols III
I am concerned that our leadership is deluded by utopian ideas of 'staying in' and 'reforming' ECUSA [the Episcopal Church, USA]. (See, for example, Article V, sec. e of the NACDP Organizational Charter.) I believe this strategy is misguided. (It is also unclear why a new organization is necessary: wasn't the AAC supposed to be the alternative to ECUSA?)
It is utopian because, to be plain, the revisionists have the votes. Therefore what can we realistically expect from future general conventions.
It is misguided because, in seeking to 'stay in and fight', we lose orthodox Episcopalians, daily and weekly, who might otherwise be able to assist in constructing a sound alternative to ECUSA. True, many affiliate with the AMiA, which I understand will at some point be part of an alternative. But not all. The idea of 'outlasting the revisionists' is both costly and possibly unlikely.
It is also misguided because, by staying in, we are in official communion with an apostate church. This has clear theological, ecclesiastical, and missiological implications. Prior to GC 2003 I deplored those who left ECUSA for para-Anglican institutions or started such churches within the dioceses of orthodox bishops, because ECUSA was still technically orthodox. Now that ECUSA is officially heterodox (to put it mildly), I see no way how any orthodox cleric or layperson can remain and be consistent with Scripture (I cite only 2 Cor 6.14, but the examples can be multiplied) since ECUSA has shown no desire to repent. I am tired of having to qualify my being an Episcopalian, but as much of an embarrassment as it is, it pales in comparison to the harm ECUSA does to missionaries on the field who are trying to win new believers. (I understand that Muslims are keen on exploiting Anglican's revisionist theology for their own mission work.)
In my view the only viable alternative is to formally split with ECUSA.
Clearly this involves costs, not the least of which are financial considerations such as clergy paychecks and pensions; but such a break is advantageous for a number of reasons. First, it would give the Lord a chance to do a 'new thing' (a la Isa 43.19), by blessing orthodox faithfulness with a new church that will nourish the faithful and raise new disciples for Christ. Secondly, it would send a clear message to ECUSA that we regard it as apostate and are unwilling to associate with, or help finance, it. A third reason to consider forming a new institution is that the same issues which have split ECUSA are on the table in areas which were, until now, considered safe havens for the orthodox. I instance United Theological College -- the premiere seminary in India -- which, although multi-denominational, has Anglican affiliation. A colleague on staff there tells me he is one conservative among a school of revisionists. Also, although I cannot state it as fact, my understanding is that the Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu, has also supported at least part of the homosexual agenda. In other words the revisionist agenda is moving into the wider Anglican Communion, and who knows what success it will enjoy in the next decade or two. Moreover, although the Church of England (narrowly) avoided electing a self-acclaimed homosexual bishop (Jeffrey John), the same momentum towards validating this lifestyle for parishioners and clergy is here (England) as well. I believe that these reasons make all the more compelling the establishment of a new church in the west (i.e. the U.S.) which can both rebuild from the ashes of ECUSA as well as provide support for orthodox Anglicanism for the wider Anglican Communion.
I remain in the Church of England because it has not yet (by the grace of God) followed in ECUSA's footsteps. If, when I return to the US, the orthodox have not formally separated from ECUSA, then I, too, will 'throw in the purificator'.
Charles Echols III is completing his Ph.D. dissertation in theology at Cambridge
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 21:18:59 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: AAC Commends Williams for support of Network and AEO
AAC Commends Williams for his support on new orthodox Episcopal Network and AEO
February 10, 2004
The American Anglican Council (AAC) is pleased to learn of the sympathetic reaction that the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes received from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, in his General Synod address yesterday. We are also encouraged that Archbishop Williams spoke of ongoing conversations and work with "several parties" regarding "so me sort of shared future and common witness, so far as possible." This acknowledgement of work with representatives of the Network and the American Anglican Council to help map the direction of North American Anglicanism as well as " to make adequate provision for Episcopal oversight" clearly refutes statements from ECUSA leaders implying no such discussions have occurred.
We applaud Archbishop Williams' remarks affirming his commitment to adequate provision for Episcopal oversight. His vision is consistent with that of the Anglican Primates (as outlined in their October 2003 statement), the new Network and the American Anglican Council, and not with the leadership of EC USA and their proposal for "supplemental pastoral care."
The Archbishop's statement offers much needed clarity as the American Anglican Council moves forward with plans to provide Adequate Episcopal Over sight (AEO) to beleaguered congregations in the Episcopal Church.
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 21:25:23 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: As we enter this divisive debate, what are the rules?
As we enter this divisive debate, what are the rules?
By Rt. Rev. Ronald C. Ferris
Anglicans in Canada are facing a divisive controversy. The issue has come onto the General Synod 2004 agenda following a decision in the diocese of New Westminster, where the bishop and that diocese have implemented the blessing of same-sex unions. This is being done in opposition to the expressed wishes of much of the Anglican world, including the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the 1997 guidelines of the Canadian house of bishops as well as their October 2002 meeting. The global primates, meeting in October 2003, also disapproved.
As we enter a national debate that is potentially divisive, what are the rules?
Many Anglicans believe that the blessing of same-sex unions is contrary to Scripture, that it would overturn a 2,000-year moral tradition of the church, and that it would be contrary to the Articles of Religion, the marriage liturgies, and Marriage Canon. How would such a decision be constitutionally possible? Could General Synod authorize implementation of same-sex blessings by local option on the basis of a simple majority vote? Or by canonical change, as a matter of doctrine, worship, and discipline, requiring a two-thirds majority vote at two General Synods? Or only after fundamental constitutional review and re-agreement by constituent dioceses?
Anglicans view themselves as a comprehensive Christian community encompassing wide polarities, yet bound together in a single, unified structure, built upon a common commitment to Holy Scripture and our constitution.
In the past century, two streams of Anglicanism have co-existed, accommodated to one another, and I believe, enriched one another. These two streams could be characterized as Salvationist and Liberationist. The Salvationist stream emphasizes a unique salvation available only through the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the necessity of conversion to newness of life, and right living as the outflow of receiving the gift of salvation. The Liberationist stream emphasizes the Creator's care for all of humanity, Jesus as a liberator enlightening human progress, and the obligation of all believers to seek justice. These positions are not mutually exclusive, but rather highly compatible. Christ and the Scriptures testify that righteousness and justice are but two sides of the very same thing. "Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other." (Psalm 85:10).
The presenting issue for this unity crisis in the Anglican church is the blessing of same-sex unions. But that is just the first of many issues coming at us. Signals of upcoming issues including bisexuality and the blessing of common-law unions were clearly present in the deliberations of the last General Synod. Inclusion has been one of the principal themes of theological education for the past two decades. Inclusionism taken to the extreme undermines many basic Christian teachings. Ultimately an inclusionist gospel is embarrassed by exclusive claims for Jesus Christ. The bold New Testament proclamations of Jesus as "the way, the truth, the life" become an offence.
The overall unity issue cannot be easily avoided. Every diocese and congregation will ultimately have to face questions about what are the outward boundaries of tolerance. With more and more dioceses taking independent actions, albeit for what they see as justice reasons, are we to give up our vision of a single church which is a bridge to ecumenical unity?
We know (from observing the United Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church of the United States, and the diocese of New Westminster) that wherever a church proceeds to the implementation of same-gender unions, four kinds of division inevitably result. The four kinds of division are attrition, external splits, internal rifts and distancing between congregations and their governing bodies.
Some would argue that these perceived threats to Anglican unity are exaggerated. They argue that we have come through many other changes, and they feel that the talks of disunity are mere posturing. But other changes were largely preceded by widespread consensus and were supportable by some measure of Scriptural warrant. In this instance, division is not simply a risk, but a present reality.
Many are calling for local option and alternate episcopal oversight as solutions to insoluble differences. It will take some time to discover whether these will be devices to keep the church together in the midst of transitory controversies, or whether they are, in fact, separation agreements.
General Synod will feel tremendous pressure to downplay its own constitution and ground rules. It will no doubt be tempted to give rushed or tacit approval of local option. It may well devise some new process of education in the hopes of finding fresh opportunities for compromise. Some are feeling that dialogue easily turns to persuasion and that middle ground is simply a stopping place towards an unacceptable destination.
Though we are Anglicans, our ultimate loyalties are to Christ and his whole church. Our branch is but one vessel of the Holy Catholic Church. We know that our church is coming into a storm that all sides wish we did not have to go through. We do not know what the future holds. Will it be common, or will there be many new expressions of the Anglican church, some flourishing, some floundering? We need to suffer our griefs and losses with charity and good will to all. We need to prepare ourselves to enter unfamiliar terrain.
Ronald Ferris is bishop of Algoma, Canada.
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 21:28:07 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: Eames Warns of Divisions over Gay Clergy
Eames Warns of Divisions over Gay Clergy
Feb 11 2004
By Billy Kennedy Churches Correspondent
CHURCH of Ireland Primate Archbishop Robin Eames has warned that the divisions, which are emerging within Anglicanism on the issue of ordaining homosexual clergy, are very serious.
Dr Eames, however, speaking ahead of the first full meeting of the International Commission set up to examine Anglican structures and relations, said there is a widespread desire to maintain Anglicanism as a world communion.
"Sincerely-held views are being expressed on all sides of the argument, but it is vital that ways are found of dealing with division on any issue which will stand the test of time,'' said Dr Eames, who chairs the 17-member Commission.
"For Anglicanism to remain a world communion, decisions need to be taken which will allow autonomy to relate to communion and relationships, while acknowledging the on-going mission of the church throughout the world,'' he added.
The International Commission, set-up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and consisting of senior clerics, theologians, academics and lawyers, will consider at its deliberations in England this week what ways the highest degree of communion and relationships can be maintained given the serious divisions within the Church.
There has been large-scale disquiet in the Anglican communions since Canon Gene Robinson was elected and ordained as the first openly gay bishop, in the diocese of New Hampshire in the United States.
The Commission's task will be to analysis the implications for Anglicanism from the ordination.
The Commission will report to the Archbishop of Canterbury next September and its findings will be submitted to the various primates and provinces shortly afterwards.
Anglican churches in Africa, the Far East and South America has said they will sever links with the American church. Within the Episcopal Church of the United States a group of those opposed to recent actions have also formed a network in opposition.
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 21:49:31 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: TEXAS: Episcopal bishop requests shelving of 4 resolutions
Episcopal bishop requests shelving of 4 resolutions
By RICHARD VARA Houston Chronicle Religion Editor
Bishop Don Wimberly will ask delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of Texas' annual meeting next week to shelve four resolutions that concern biblical sexual morality and the national church's approval of an openly gay bishop.
In his address to the council, Wimberly also plans to declare out of order a proposed amendment to the diocesan constitution and canons that would nullify any national church assembly action that was "contrary to Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Teaching of the Church."
More than 1,100 clerical and lay delegates will begin meeting in Tyler Thursday to act on diocesan business and policy matters. It will be their first meeting since the national church's General Convention voted in August to approve the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop of New Hampshire.
Not everyone is happy about Wimberly's request on the resolutions.
"There is an elephant in the room, and I wonder if we as a church have to have courage to address it," said the Rev. Lanny Geib, who is among the clergy who submitted the resolutions for council consideration.
"There is a great exodus out of this church right now because people are so disgusted because we don't have the courage of our convictions," said Geib, who has lost 10 families from his 300-member congregation at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Katy over the Robinson issue. Another four families are ready to leave, he said.
"They are sick and tired of it," Geib said.
Nonetheless, Geib said he would not bolt the Episcopal Church.
"I am not leaving the church," Geib said. "Never. I will stand and fight this thing until I can't preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified. Period."
Robinson's consecration provoked a firestorm of controversy in the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church in this country and the worldwide Anglican Communion. Several national Anglican churches have broken ties with the American church and have threatened to leave the worldwide communion if Robinson is not ousted.
In his pre-published council address, Wimberly, who voted against Robinson's consecration, asks delegates not to bring to the floor resolutions that:
Call for affirmation of sexual intimacy between a man and a woman only in marriage.
Repudiate the General Convention's approval of Robinson and acceptance of the blessing of same-sex unions.
Commend the August vote of Diocese of Texas delegates who opposed Robinson and the blessing of same-sex unions.
Affirm historic Anglican doctrines and policies that state Scriptures trump actions of human councils.
"If we learned anything at General Convention, it is that voting against one another will only divide this house further instead of allowing us to name our concerns, fears and opinions in a healthy forum," Wimberly says in the address.
"Bringing them to the floor of Council will only mire us in parliamentary maneuvering rather than addressing the state and welfare of the church as a whole," he states.
The bishop asks delegates to air their differences instead in a special hour-long "conversation."
"We must engage one another in a loving, respectful and honest manner," the address says.
The Rev. Susan Bear, rector of St. George's and St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Houston, is one of the 30 clergy endorsers of the resolutions. But she said she was willing to heed Wimberly's call to lay them aside.
"Part of my ordination vows is that I will be obedient to my bishop, and I trust Bishop Wimberly's judgment," Bear said. "I may have my own ideas in mind, but he is my bishop and I will listen to what he has to say at this council.
"As long as there will be room for some dialogue and some discussion, and it is my understanding that is what we will have," Bear said.
The Rev. Laurens "Larry" Hall, rector of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, is a leader of traditionalist diocesan clergy. His church has recently aligned with the conservative American Anglican Council.
But Hall said he supports the bishop's position. Hall believes the bishop and the church worldwide are waiting for the titular head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, to issue a statement on the Robinson issue this fall.
"In some ways, everybody is waiting for somebody else to make some kind of decision," Hall said.
The Rev. Helen Havens, rector of progressive St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Houston's Montrose area, will support the bishop's request.
"He is simply suggesting, as many people have suggested, that we would be far better off sharing our ideas, praying together, listening to each other, being civil to one another rather than duking it out in a legislative battle on the floor," Havens said.
The Rev. Joe Reynolds, dean of Christ Church Cathedral and a progressive, said debating issues is part of church tradition.
"That is the nature of the Episcopal Church -- we like to fuss," Reynolds said. "I don't think anyone will say the Episcopal Church is terribly united right now. But I don't think the Council will be divisive."
The annual meeting will begin with a service Thursday night at Tyler's First Baptist Church, the only church in the East Texas City large enough to accommodate the delegates. Business sessions will be held Friday and Feb. 14 at Harvey Convention Center.
Wimberly also will ask the diocese to focus on missions and outreach. He plans to convene a diocesan-wide gathering with a goal of increasing average Sunday attendance by 10 percent.
The council will also vote on a $5.6 million diocesan operations budget and a $3.2 million missionary budget, which funds missions, outreach and other programs, said Ron Null, diocesan treasurer. About $400,000 will go to the national church, slightly less than last year, Null said.
The overall missionary budget is down 5 percent from last year's $3.4 million budget. He said that reflects continuing economic woes and some parishes' displeasure with the national church's actions.
"It is not anything that is crippling the ability of the diocese to do good missionary work," Null said.
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 21:55:27 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: What Social Science Says of Same Sex Marriage by Mike McManus
Ethics & Religion
What Social Science Says of Same Sex Marriage
by Michael J. McManus In hours of debate by the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention over whether to legalize "same sex marriage" the more articulate advocates opposed a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to "one man, one woman."
Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, an African American said she was born "one generation removed from slavery" in an Arkansas shack "because the public hospital would not allow blacks to deliver children." She saw same sex marriage as a civil rights issue: "I know the pain of being less than equal and I cannot and will not impose that status on anyone else. I could not in good conscience ever vote to send anyone to that place from which my family fled."
However, marriage is not a civil rights issue. No one at the Constitutional Convention noted that America's major black denominations support a Federal Marriage Amendment which states "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman."
House Speaker Thomas Finneran, a Democrat, was eloquent at one point, "Every society, every culture, every nation in all of recorded history, including Massachusetts, has up until this point at least defined marriage as one man and one woman."
Yes, but why? Social science research can answer that question, but it was not offered.
Outside the Constitutional Convention, Ron Crews, President of the Massachusetts Family Institute said, "The reason we are in this battle to preserve the definition of marriage is that we believe the state should be concerned about the highest good. And we believe that the highest good, the ideal, is that children need a mom and a dad."
That is backed up by a large and growing body of social science research. The Witherspoon Institute at Princeton has posted the "Top 10 Social Scientific Arguments Against Same Sex Marriage (SSM)."
1. Children hunger for their biological parents.
A third of lesbians have children according to the Census. Some do it by In Vitro Fertilization, deliberately creating a class of children who will never know their father. Yale Psychiatrist Kyle Pruett reports that children of IVF often ask, "Mommy, what did you do with my daddy?" "Can I write him a letter?" "Has he ever seen me?" "Didn't he like me?"
2. Children need fathers:
"We know that fathers excel in reducing antisocial behavior/delinquency in boys and sexual activity in girls," says Witherspoon. "Girls who grow up apart from their biological father were much more likely to experience early puberty and a teen pregnancy than girls who spent their entire childhood in an intact family."
3. Children need mothers:
A fifth of gay couples have children. There will be more if SSM is legalized. "Mothers excel in providing children with emotional security and in reading the physical and emotional cues of infants. Obviously, they also give their daughters unique counsel as they confront the physical, emotional and social challenges (of) puberty and adolescence."
4. Evidence suggests children raised in SS homes experience gender and sexual disorders.
Judith Stacey, an advocate for SSM and a sociologist, writes "lesbian parenting may free daughters and sons from a broad but uneven range of traditional gender prescriptions." For example, sons of lesbians are less masculine and daughters of lesbians are more masculine. She found that a "significantly greater proportion of young adult children raised by lesbian mothers than those raised by heterosexual mothers...reported having a homoerotic relationship."
5. Sexual fidelity.
Witherspoon asserts, "One of the biggest threats that SSM poses to marriage is that it would probably undercut the norm of sexual fidelity in marriage." In his book, "Virtually Normal," Andrew Sullivan writes "There is more likely to be greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman." Research of civil unions and marriages in Vermont reveals that while 79 percent of heterosexual men and women value sexual fidelity, "only about 50 percent of gay men in civil unions" felt similarly.
6. Women & marriage domesticate men.
Witherspoon reports, "Men who are married earn more, work harder, drink less, live longer, spend more time attending religious services and are more sexually faithful...It is unlikely that SSM would domesticate men in the way heterosexual marriage does." Gay activists like Andrew Sullivan disagree but are likely "clinging to a foolish hope. This foolish hope does not justify yet another effort to meddle with marriage."
For the other "Top 10" findings, see Witherspoon's website, www.winst.org/toptenlists.htm.
Advocates for traditional marriage need to cite this sort of research if they expect to win the day.
END Copyright 2004 Michael J. McManus
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 22:05:32 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: Prince of Peace Anglican Church Launches with Joy and Excitement
Prince of Peace Anglican Church Launches with Joy and Excitement
February 8, 2004
By Jay Greener
"This is a fantastic day," exclaimed Rita Taubman, one of several hundred who gathered to launch a new mission church in Melbourne, Florida. "There is a lot of life, joy and peace here. It's an exciting beginning!" Her words seem to echo those of other worshipers who came together to mark the first day of a new congregation's journey.
Prince of Peace Anglican Church today held its first worship service since joining the Anglican Mission in America-a beginning that the congregation hopes will enable it to grow and move forward in the work of the gospel. 350 worshipers of all ages were welcomed to the facilities of Our Father's House, a non-denominational church that has offered space to the fledging mission. As a leader of the host church was heard to say, "We can't wait to see how the Lord will bless us by having you here."
The new path chosen by Prince of Peace and its several hundred members beg an several weeks ago at St. John's Episcopal Church, merely five miles from the new location. St. John's leadership, including the Rev. John Miller, ha d become increasingly concerned in recent years by the direction of the parent denomination, the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA), a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Following ECUSA's decision last yea r to install a practicing homosexual into the role of bishop-a move condemned by the Anglican Communion-many at St. John's knew that it would be the last straw.
"A lot of my colleagues in the Episcopal Church have had a hard time under standing what they call 'impatience'", reflected the Rev. Miller. "But they are where I was three years ago. We have been teaching for nearly seven years at St. John's about the real crisis of faith and leadership in the Episcopal Church. Our people know what is going on. Following the actions of last fall, if I had said 'let's just keep on keeping on', I would have had a crisis. My key leadership would have left and the church would have disintegrated."
In a special parish meeting last month about 80% voted to leave the Episcopal Church and form a new congregation under the Anglican Mission in America, a growing missionary movement in the United States sponsored by Anglicans in Africa and Asia. This affiliation allows the members to remain a part of the global Anglican Communion, without having to stay connected to the Episcopal Church-a church that Miller calls "toxic to the work of the gospel."
This decision, however, meant that the people would have to leave their well-loved buildings and surroundings and start over. Many of them had spent decades at St. John's, investing years of their lives in the church.
Patsy Arrouet, a long-time member of St. John's and a key figure in the church's transition team, was asked about any sense of loss: "Yes, there is a grief. But I've been grieving about my church for a long time. I do hate t o leave our beautiful church and property, and also the people who chose to remain, but we must be continually willing to live where God is growing us. For that, I'm excited."
'Excited' seems to be the word of the hour. "Excitement, certainly, but also a lot of freedom," offered John Miller. "I'm not waking up with an agonizing dark pit in my stomach. And I am totally joy-filled by the motivation and enthusiasm I'm seeing in those who have decided to be a part of this new thing." Asked to reflect on those who would stay behind at St. John's, Miller was sympathetic, "My heart and love remain with them. These are people I have served in Christ for eight years, and we have greatly enriched one another's lives. I will miss them, and I understand that leaving a church as warm and lively as St. John's is an extremely difficult thing to do. It's been agonizing for me - the hardest 'yes' I've ever given to God. But I don't see this in terms of those who left are right and those who stayed are wrong.
It's a matter of God building a new thing. And we're in for something truly exciting!"
Prince of Peace Anglican Church worships Sunday mornings at 8:30am at Our Father's House, 535 Cassia Boulevard in Satellite Beach, Florida. Church offices are: 1360 Sarno Road, Melbourne, Florida, 32935. Their phone number is 321-253-9102.
Jay Greener writes for the Anglican Mission in America.
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 22:08:58 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: Archbishop hears regular church-goers call for an inclusive church
Archbishop hears regular church-goers call for an inclusive church
by Mark Vernon
[Special to ENS] The Archbishop of Canterbury received a petition signed by 8,500 individuals from the new Inclusivechurch network of Anglicans on the steps of Church House in London on February 10, during the meeting of the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod.
The handing over of the petition marks the first milestone in the life of a grassroots organization that began in August 2003 in response to the overturning of the appointment of Jeffrey John, a celibate gay priest, as Bishop of Reading in the diocese of Oxford. "We are an organization set up to campaign for an open, honest and generous spirited Anglicanism that has always been the very heart and soul of the Church of England," explained the Rev. Giles Fraser, chair.
Fraser said Inclusivechurch began as a group of friends from Southwark, London and Oxford who, prompted by the Jeffrey John debacle, were increasingly worried about the future direction of the Church of England. They organized an open meeting in the church of St. Mary's Putney in London, site of the 1647 Putney Debates, taken by many historians as the birthplace of modern democracy. Others similarly concerned asked if they could join, including individuals from the evangelical wing of the Church of England. It snowballed very quickly to the 8,500 who have now registered their support on the website, www.inclusivechurch.net.
Fraser said the group's main concern is that the Elizabethan Settlement-the classical Anglican compromise based upon tolerance for diverse points of view-is being called into question and that broad church Anglicans are being forced out of the Church of England. As the Rev. Nick Holtam, Vicar of St. Martin in the Fields in Central London, put it, "I am fighting against being made illegitimate in the church."
"It is excellent that so many people have supported the petition in such a short time, and with such little promotion," Fraser continued. "Liberals are bad campaigners. We're also a bit gutless. But what those of us who are very angry need most of all is a call for action. It is clear that the people of our country will not tolerate a homophobic church at the centre of our spiritual life, nor will they be edified by a theology born of ecclesiastical expediency rather than theological principle."
The vast majority of Inclusivechurch's signatories belong to the Church of England. In addition to individual Anglicans who have signed the petition, more than 100 parishes have signed up too, each having passed motions of support through their Parochial Church Councils, the English equivalent of the vestry in ECUSA. Signatories also come from parishes belonging to conservative organizations like Reform, and Inclusivechurch reports receiving emails from individuals keen to protest against their own churches, notably from places like Pittsburgh in the US, because they fear gay people are not made welcome there.
"People want an inclusive church," says Ann Kiem, a laywoman from All Saints Church, Fulham in London, and a signatory of the petition. "I do not want to belong to an organization that excludes people on any grounds. This is what, I believe, the vast majority of people in the Church of England think too."
The interesting thing about this "diverse middle" of the church, as Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold of ECUSA has put it, is not that they are pro-gay, and for that reason horrified at the treatment of Jeffrey John, said Fraser. It is their sense of common decency that is affronted.
"Grassroots members of the Church of England are now speaking loud and clear to Anglican leaders," says April Alexander, the lay chair of Southwark Diocesan Synod, another signatory. "We believe that it is appalling that some parts of our Church are threatening schism over issues like homosexuality. When secondary issues come to dominate over the church's core beliefs about the loving-kindness of God, something very serious has gone wrong."
After handing in the petition, Inclusivechurch held a Eucharist at St. Matthew's Church, Westminster. The preacher was the newly appointed American priest, the Rev. Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and Canon of Oxford Cathedral. "We who regard gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians, not as the latest problems on the sexuality syllabus, but as spiritual treasures for the whole community, cannot afford to equivocate or temporise," Adams said. "We must support them in their life in Christ, and bear wide and public witness to how we have experienced their partnerships as sacraments of God's love in a broken and divided world. The Body of Christ is pregnant with holy opportunity. We shouldn't want to abort it."
Mark Vernon is a freelance writer based in the UK.
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 22:12:17 -0500
From: David Virtue <dvirtue236@AOL.COM>
Subject: DEVOTIONAL: Biblical Prayer - The Example of Hezekiah
BIBLICAL PRAYER - HEZEKIAH
By Ted Schroder
In 701 BC Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. He invested Jerusalem with the mightiest army in the region. Thousands upon thousands of blood-thirsty troops surrounded the city in the attempt to starve it into submission. Archeological texts describe how he besieged 'Hezekiah the Jew. I shut him up like a caged bird within his royal capital, Jerusalem. I put watch-posts closely round the city and turned back to his fate anyone who came out of the city gate'.
He sent messengers with a letter to King Hezekiah saying: "Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, 'Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.' Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my forefathers deliver them - the gods of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar?" (Isaiah 37:10-12)
Hezekiah took the letter into the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. He prayed: "O LORD almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God." (Isaiah 37:16,17)
Hezekiah and his people are threatened by an enemy who denies the power of their God to save them by comparing him with the gods of other nations that likewise failed to deliver them. Perhaps one of the greatest attacks on the prayer of faith comes from the culture that surrounds us. The secular opinion-makers send us messages that our god is one among many who similarly lack power. What is the point of prayer if our god is simply a localized deity, a myth that we and our forefathers have preserved to give us comfort?
Christians today can be like King Hezekiah - shut up in a cage besieged by skeptics who reduce Christianity to one among many faiths. They say that in this pluralistic world one faith is as good as another, or no good at all. They question the value of praying to God who is only the product of our national culture, when there is no guarantee that he can deliver? They argue that each person has his our own beliefs; that all religions are relative; that certainty about faith is impossible; and that no one has an exclusive claim to truth. Therefore they maintain that Christians should not try to change the beliefs of others or impose their beliefs on others. Some teach that all our knowledge is constructed by us to explain our world. In fact, they claim that our language is a cage in which we are forever locked that functions to describes reality as we experience it.
"There is no true meaning, whether for life, religion, morality or even a text, since the way that a text is interpreted will depend upon the culture within which it is read.. There are no absolutes, no rocks of certainty on which one can stand firm outside the constant sea of change. We are embedded in these tossing and raging waters and reality is merely our own perspective.. The search for certainty or for any rock to cling to is folly. What is needed is. to stop closing [the] mind and to be open to new, and possibly threatening possibilities, to be able to live on a sea of uncertainty with no fixed marks and where nothing abides or endures." (Peter Vardy, What is Truth? pp.100,101)
The only thing that mattered to Sennacherib is the power to dominate others. In a world in which there is no absolute truth, no one, true God to whom to pray, who can deliver, the only value is power. Friedrich Nietzsche criticized Christianity for sapping the energy of the Roman Empire by making people weak. He glorified the super-man, who had the will to power. The Church, he maintained left people as "a caricature of man, like an abortion: he had become a 'sinner', he was caged up, he had been imprisoned behind a host of appalling notions. full of hate for the instincts of life, full of suspicion in regard to all that is still strong and happy." (Twilight of the Idols) That is why he claimed that "If Islam despises Christianity, it is justified a thousand times over; for Islam presupposes men." (The Antichrist)
The culture in which we live proclaims that power is the means to success, that power establishes what is true, and that nothing is sacred. How do you pray for deliverance when you are caged up in this world of change and uncertainty? Who can you depend upon?
Hezekiah calls upon God to hear, see and listen to the words of Sennacherib which insult the living God. If you believe in Almighty God, and that God alone is over all the kingdoms of the earth, and that God made heaven and earth, then you are asserting your belief in an absolute truth. No matter that the enemy has laid waste other peoples and beliefs. No matter that their gods have been thrown into the fire and destroyed. No matter that religion has been discredited, for so many religions have been fashioned by human hands. Hezekiah calls upon God Almighty, his God, to deliver him and his people, "so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God." (Isaiah 37:20)
This confidence in the power of God is echoed in the prayer of the early Christians. They acknowledged that the enemy had conspired against Jesus the anointed one. "They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4:27-30)
The believer has confidence in the power of Almighty God to save them despite the threats of the enemy. The rulers of the nations may rage and the peoples plot in vain (Psalm 2:1,2) but we can be confident in the efficacy of our prayers.
But how do we know that our God is the only God, and that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior? How do we know that the power of our God and Lord can prevail against all those who would devalue our beliefs by saying that we are but one belief among many choices?
St. Paul discussed the claims of other gods in 1 Corinthians 8:4-7. "There is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords'), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone knows this."
In other words, there are many claims to divinity in the world, yet for us there is only one claim that is persuasive and compelling: that there is only one God the Father, the author of existence, and for whom we exist. He called us and the universe into being. We exist for him. That is basic to our belief. Included in this basic belief is that there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, who brought us into existence, and through whom we share in the life of God. He brought us life in all its fullness, eternal life. It is through him that the universe came into being. But not everyone knows this! That is why there is pluralism and uncertainty and confusion about what is true. That is why people find it difficult to pray. They are not confident that there is one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came, and through whom we live.
The boldness of the prayers of Hezekiah and the early Christians depends upon the confidence they have on the God and Lord they are praying to. The LORD replied to the prayer of Hezekiah by saying, "I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant." (Isaiah 37:35) He answers prayer so that all may know that he alone is God, and that his servant is the anointed one. Hezekiah prayed that God would respond to Sennacherib's insults. Our motivation in prayer can arise out of our concern for the reputation of God. We pray that people will turn from insulting God and devaluing Christ, to believing and following him.
What are your grounds for confidence in Christ? Mine are threefold: my personal need, my personal experience, and my personal desire. The Christian is confident in Christ because of his conviction of personal sin and experience of salvation in Jesus. The Christian is confident in Christ because of his experience of conversion by grace through faith in Jesus. The Christian is confident because of his experience of consecration to the life of the Spirit of Jesus in the world.
How was Hezekiah's prayer answered? A plague struck the camp of the Assyrians, Sennacherib broke camp and withdrew. His sons eventually assassinated him.
Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow laid withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
George Gordon, Lord Byron, The Destruction of Sennacherib
Prayer for Christians is only possible if you have confidence in God the Father, and the lordship of Christ. How confident in God are you? What do you do when people insult God? Pray for them? What do you do when people deny the power of Christ to deliver from evil, to change behavior for good, to save people from destruction, to give meaning and hope to life? Pray for them. What do you do when people insinuate that the gospel of Christ is merely one option among many, and no more valid or valuable than any other? Pray for them. Place your entire confidence in Christ so that you can pray with boldness.
End of VIRTUOSITY Digest - 9 Feb 2004 to 14 Feb 2004 (#2004-13) ***************************************************************