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SCOTUS Gorsuch is an Episcopalian * Welby Spins CofE Canon Law Vote on Marriage * TEC leaders Challenge ACC on Sanctions * Welsh Archbishop Steps Down * Sex Scandals in Australia * Welby issues more Apologies * ACNA Archbishop Issues calls for Prayer

No casual discipleship. Holiness is not a condition into which we drift. --- John R.W. Stott

More and more, what Christians are reading in church and what Christians are seeing in politics are at odds. But what happens when your spiritual worldview and your tribal duties come into conflict? Choosing the right moral path is not always easy. But then again, that's what houses of worship are for. --- Matt Lewis

If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent a financier; if pleasure, an entertainer. As it is forgiveness, He sent a Saviour. --- Nicky Gumbel

What we are witnessing in Trump's America (whether you love him or loathe him) is the collapse of the liberal lie. The liberals lied about sex. They lied about family. They lied about race. They lied about poverty. They lied about riches. They lied about almost everything because their philosophy is built on the foundational lie of relativism. --- Dwight Longenecker

The next four years are going to be a street fight. The Left has caricatured Trump as some grotesque dictator, and the shouting is now so loud it is almost impossible for facts to pierce the din. The Second American Civil War is underway, and the fault lines could not possibly be more defined: The brazen hypocrisy of the Left combined with their swooning hysteria have revealed that they have lost their ability to see those they disagree with in political terms. --- Jonathon van Maren

Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it's also a right under threat all around us. My administration will do everything in its power to protect religious liberty in this land." --- President Donald Trump

The battle in the mind. It is not enough to *know* what we should be ... We must go further and set our minds upon it. The battle is nearly always won in the mind. It is by the renewal of our mind that our character and behaviour become transformed. So Scripture calls us again and again to mental discipline in this respect. 'Whatever is true,' it says, 'whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things' (Phil. 4:8). --- John R.W. Stott

Dear Brothers and sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
February 3, 2017

IMMIGRATION. However you might feel about President Donald Trump, his comments on immigration need to be double checked. He said the United States will resume the intake of refugees and Christians would receive priority. Until recently, "If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible," he told Christian Broadcasting News.

In fact, the United States accepts tens of thousands of Christian refugees.

According to the Pew Research Center. almost as many Christian refugees (37,521) were admitted as Muslim refugees (38,901) in the 2016 fiscal year - a difference of 1380.

The Cato Institute published a very thorough risk analysis on terrorism and immigration that tells us that the odds of an American citizen being killed by a refugee-turned-terrorist is 1 in 3.64 billion per year. New America also compiled a profile that shows us the overwhelming majority of terrorist acts in the U.S. did not come from foreign infiltrators. These are the types of statistics that we need to know before we start shutting our doors to those who need help.

You are more likely to be killed by your next door neighbor who owns a semi-automatic weapon than an ISIS terrorist. There are entire areas of Chicago, Newark and Philadelphia (where I live) that you dare not venture into day or night.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey breaks down statistics by victims. For 2013 (the most recent year available), it shows that whites accounted for 71 percent of all sexual assaults documented (above their total percentage of 63 percent of the U.S. population), while Latinos accounted for 9 percent, far below their total percentage of 17 percent. And as a percentage of all "serious violent victimizations," sexual assaults represent 11 percent of the violent crimes against Latinos.

For the record, I am an immigrant. I came to this country nearly 40 years ago, and by any measurable standard I have done well. For me, America is a "shining city on the hill" that seeks to do good in the world and I applaud that. I also contribute by tithing to my church, my bishop and a variety of non-profit organizations that seek to help the poorest and downtrodden. I don't say that to boast. It is just a simple fact. Over the years, my wife and I have had Mexicans and Guatemalans mow our lawn, redo our driveway, build stone wall fences (when we lived in the burbs) and they were polite to a fault, did not ravish our daughter and treated me and my family with great respect. My wife and I travel to Mexico occasionally and again we are treated with great respect.

I say this not to upset people who may have voted for Mr. Trump, but facts are important and double checking what he says never hurts either.

Significantly, Pope Francis weighed in and said you cannot reject refugees and call yourself a Christian. He condemned the hypocrisy from Christians who are merciless to refugees and people of other faiths. Francis rebuked "the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions."

"The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian," he said.

*****

The new SCOTUS nomination, Judge Neil Gorsuch, is going to present a huge dilemma for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the HOB. YUGE. Here's the problem. Judge Gorsuch is an Episcopalian who regularly attends St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two daughters. The priest there is a woman who is liberal as the day is long. So how can a man who attends a liberal Episcopal parish be so conservative on abortion and be pro-life! Down the road from where he lives is an ACNA parish he could attend. This is also the same church that JonBenet Ramsey's family attended!

Think for a moment about John Kasich, a Republican presidential wannabee. He attends an ACNA parish in Ohio. So what is Gorsuch doing attending a liberal parish with his conservative views? Clarence Thomas left The Episcopal Church to become Roman Catholic before he joined the High Court.

PB Curry and Colorado Bishop Rob O'Neill had better tread carefully because they don't want to do in one of their own -- a blue blood Episcopalian who still writes out checks to his parish. But Gorsuch's views are definitely at odds with TEC's views on a host of issues, especially when a former Episcopal seminary woman leader screams, "abortion is a blessing and our work is not done."

It will be interesting to see if the Episcopal hierarchy issues any kind of formal reaction to this nomination. Watch this space.

As Julia Duin writes, "The Episcopal Church, for anyone who's not been following religion trends in recent decades, has been careening to the theological and cultural left for years and its membership statistics show it. Thousands have left TEC and joined alternative Anglican churches."

So, the fact that the judge and his family has remained at St. John's says something. VOL will keep you posted.

*****

The Church of England's House of Bishops have upheld canon law on marriage this past week, declaring that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

Hold the congratulations. Why? Because that is what they should have said and believed all along. No qualification, no ifs ands or buts. Just a simple declaration that this is what the Bible teaches, has always taught, that God has not changed his mind and that no LGBTQI sexualities permitted.

That should have been an end to it. Not so fast. This is the Church of England where fudge, prevarication and subtle interpretations are needed to parse what they passed.

The document they produced to come to this simple conclusion came to 8500 words.

In biblical terms, that's the equivalent of the Book of Romans and the Book of Colossians put together (8693) words. OR, the books of I & II Thess, I & II Timothy, the books of Titus, Philemon, James, Jude and II and III John, put together total (8333) words, a tad less than 8,500.

Welby said the Church of England has not "reached the end of the road" over its position on gay marriage. But GAFCON has reached the end of the road with the Church of England and Welby and that, in turn, could mean the end of the road of a single united communion. You can read my full take on this in today's digest.

*****

Three Episcopal Church leaders got into a real snit this week when the Anglican Consultative Council repeated that TEC had been told to step back from voting on issues of doctrine and polity and they now say that was a wrong understanding of what happened and believe they are being falsely penalized over their stance on homosexual marriage, now enshrined in canon law in TEC.

Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, Ian Douglas and Gay Clark Jennings, who attended the 16th Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, last April on behalf of The Episcopal Church, said in a post on the Episcopal Digital Network, that they were dismayed to read on the Anglican Communion News Service "an article that claims we did not vote on matters of doctrine or polity at the most recent meeting of the ACC."

They state that each one of them attended the entire ACC meeting and voted on every resolution that came before it, including a number that concerned the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion.
"As the duly elected ACC members of a province of the Anglican Communion, this was our responsibility and we fulfilled it."

They add: "It could be inferred from the ACNS story that we did not fulfill our voting responsibilities at ACC-16 to comply with a communique issued by the primates of the Anglican Communion in January. 2016. The communique sought to impose consequences on the Episcopal Church for its adoption of marriage equality at our 2015 General Convention. Such an inference would be incorrect."

But the raw naked truth is that TEC and its leader were told to step back for three years from voting on anything in the Anglican Communion and they are whining and now saying they were not. That's not true. They were, and this was brought about in January when the Primates met in Canterbury and told TEC that "consequences" would be imposed. Welby hated the word "sanctions", but sanctions they were. Now the fat hit the fan and TEC is flexing its ecclesiastical muscle.

The latest row came after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote to every Anglican primate setting out his hopes for the next Primates' Meeting, in Canterbury next October.

He referred to the recommendation by Church of England bishops last week that the current teaching on marriage should remain unchanged, meaning there can be no same-sex weddings in the Church of England.

He also noted that the current advice on pastoral provision for same-sex couples needs clarification and that the Church needs to repent of the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke.

*****

The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, is stepping down...finally. One blogger noted that this no doubt will make many happy that he is retiring. From the outside it appears that he has taken his inspiration from the Hajj in Mecca, which will not surprise readers who recall his preference for putting the interests of his Muslim chums before members of his own church who have remained faithful to the wider Anglican Communion.

"Whatever your views, 31 January 2017 is a great day for the Church in Wales. One which has not come soon enough for many who have despaired of Dr. Morgan's complete disregard for anyone who disagrees with his vision of a secularized church. As usual Llandaff diocesan office has gone into overdrive, leading with their own valedictory appraisal of Morgan's ministry, which has been dutifully picked up as an Establishment item by the BBC and ITV, but much slower in the press, example here. Perhaps they have rumbled him at last after reading the official release.

"An unelected politician in vestments, Dr. Morgan has used the influence of his office to push a personal, liberal agenda. He has appointed acolytes eager to do his bidding advancing their own careers at the expense of others. A glaring example is seen in the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff's letter to diocesan clergy in preparation for Barry's ticket only leaving ceremony in Llandaff Cathedral on Sunday, in which he appears to liken Barry Morgan to Jesus Christ. A typical example of deluded obsequiousness, here is an extract from the letter in which the Ass+ claims "The Archbishop's final service on Sunday will rightly be his hour":

"Archbishop Barry is supremely a mountain top person, who has looked wide to horizons far beyond those who toil on the plain. Volcanoes are exciting if dangerous places, and surprise us with heat and light and molten rocks which change the landscape forever, and the Archbishop has had the nerve and courage to do that. In the words of Cardinal Basil Hume, he has been a bishop who has come to where people are and taken them to places they have never dreamt of going.

"Of all the five archbishops I have worked with, Barry is the one who has most displayed the hallmarks of our Lord, surely the ultimate mountain with attitude! Unashamed of his own tenderness, he has a deep and genuine compassion for the underdog and marginalized, and has been a champion for the people of Wales, so often down-trodden. Prophetic to the core of his being, he has been unafraid to overturn tables and fiercely denounce white-washed sepulchers. It seems fitting that Candlemas is on the horizon for his final days as Archbishop, a faithful servant of the one whom Simeon predicted 'was destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, to be a sign to be opposed, with the inner thoughts of many laid bare -- and a sword will pierce your own soul too.'"

Much has been made of Dr. Morgan being the longest serving Archbishop in the Anglican Communion. If length of service were a measure of success, Robert Mugabe would be way out in front. Based on Church in Wales own membership figures, over 99% of the population do not attend Barry Morgan's church, so any understanding of the Anglican faith by the population at large and the media in particular will be negligible at best. From a position of profound ignorance, they confidently report on matters of faith as if it were a secular issue affecting people in the workplace.

*****

The Archbishop of Canterbury is now formally in the apology business. In his latest apology, Justin Welby has issued an "unequivocal" apology on behalf of the Church and says he was "completely unaware" of allegations that the Church of England failed for not reporting the head of a Christian charity who has been accused of physically abusing young boys and men.

He said the Church had "failed terribly" over its handling of the case. True, but why does he need to apologize for something he personally has not done. Regret yes, apology no. You cannot repent of something you have not personally committed. This is faux repentance. The man who committed these horrible offenses against these young men should repent and go to jail for the rest of his life. But it is not the business of the ABC to apologize for something he has not done. More recently, Welby apologized for the excesses of the Reformation. Will the apologies ever end?

*****

Trump may be readying dramatic religious freedom order. Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast this week, President Donald Trump suggested his administration may be preparing an executive order offering broad protections to individuals and organizations that oppose same-sex marriage, contraception coverage and more based on religion.

Trump did not directly address the rumored executive order at the breakfast, but he did issue a ringing defense of religious freedom.

"Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it's also a right under threat all around us," he said. "My administration will do everything in its power to protect religious liberty in this land."

The president spent much of his address defending his recent executive order on refugees, insisting that procedures will be put in place to ensure that all new entries to the country "fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and reject every form of persecution and oppression."

"We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation," he said, and added that terrorism must also be confronted abroad, "viciously if we have to."

Trump did announce one new domestic move with implications for religious freedom, vowing to eliminate a 1954 amendment to the tax code barring 501(c)3 tax-exempt religious organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

"I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment, and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution," Trump said. "I will do that."

IN OTHER NEWS... Despite rumors that President Donald Trump would overturn the previous president's executive order that furthered "rights" of federal LGBTQ employees and contractors, the White House issued a statement Tuesday saying Trump would make no changes.

The president has hinted in the past that the gay marriage issue is not as important an issue to him as others. The White House confirmed January 31, Trump is "determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community."

The White House released the statement after rumors the president would overturn Obama's 2014 Executive Order 13672, which "protects" employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors. The executive order is broad and affects more than 28 million workers

*****

Will the Accession Declaration be changed for Prince Charles after comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury? The text was altered in 1910 from being anti-Catholic to being pro-Protestant. Ephraim Hardcastle writing in the Daily Mail, says the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, offers "remorse" for the violence suffered by Roman Catholics during the Reformation 500 years ago -- a pointless gesture, says RC convert Ann Widdecombe.

But royal watchers wonder if it'll prompt Prince Charles to ask Welby's advice about amending the Accession Declaration.

As a new monarch, he'll be obliged to say: 'I do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of my Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.'

The text was altered in 1910 (for George V) from being virulently anti-Catholic to being pro-Protestant. Might a new toning-down be on the cards?

*****

ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach issued a call to prayer for our neighbors and our nations, this week. "As a province that spans Canada, the United States, and Mexico we face unique challenges on issues affecting refugees and immigration. I am thankful for our congregations that are a part of the Anglican Immigrant Initiative. They have taken the lead in caring for those in our communities who are refugees and immigrants, showing the love of Christ to the most vulnerable.

"This week, I encourage you to follow their example, and make a special effort to reach out to refugees and immigrants in your local community. In these divisive times, we have the opportunity to demonstrate a compassion that builds bridges, and overcomes fear.

"In our province we also have lawmakers who face a different, but related set of challenging moral issues. As public servants, they are called to carefully discern how best to respond to the global humanitarian need while also maintaining the appropriate role of government in protecting its citizens. There are no easy answers to how our nations should balance these priorities, and our leaders need your prayers.

"In light of the Syrian refugee crisis, changes in US immigration policy, and the way these changes will affect us all, I ask you to join me in prayer. Please pray for the poor, the refugee, and all immigrant families whose lives are made more complex, and sometimes more desperate by these events. Please also join me in praying for all those in positions of public trust who seek wisdom in the formation of the laws and policies of our respective governments."

*****

Anglicans in Canada and other Christian leaders expressed their "sympathy and solidarity" with Muslims following a deadly attack Sunday night on a mosque in the Ste-Foy neighbourhood of Quebec City.

The attack, which left six people dead and 19 others wounded, occurred just before 8 p.m., Jan.29, when a gunman opened fire while evening prayers were underway at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec. Police have charged Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

In a January 30 statement, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said his heart "goes out to all Muslims across Canada as they struggle with this terrible attack." The church holds in its prayers the victims of the attack, their families and their imams, he said.

Hiltz also led national office staff in a 15-minute candlelight service at the Chapel of the Holy Apostles in Toronto to pray for the victims, their families, the Muslim community, the people of Quebec and Canada.

A tweet put out by FOX news that it was a Moroccan who did the shooting, was withdrawn after one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's senior officials took Fox News to task for describing the alleged gunman in the Quebec City shooting as Moroccan.

Kate Purchase, director of communications in the Prime Minister's Office, pointed out the "false and misleading language" in a letter to Fox News Channel co-president Bill Shine.

*****

Episcopalians in and around the Standing Rock Sioux Nation Reservation are seeing their ministry change as the camps formed by water protectors along the Missouri River protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline are slowly closing.

The temperature in the area may have climbed to 40 degrees on Jan. 30, but it is still the bleak midwinter in North Dakota, and March can be the state's snowiest month, according to the National Weather Service. Tribal officials have said that the harshness of the winter is making the camps unsafe and they are worried about the protectors' safety when spring melts the snow and the Missouri runs high.

The tribe's statement acknowledged that many people want to return to the camps because of Trump's Jan. 24 actions. "We stress, however, that further actions at the camp and at the bridge and drill pad are not where we will find success in this struggle moving forward," the tribe said. "We need to be able to focus our energy on the intense government-to-government political situation and not the camps. Please do not return, but instead put your heart and effort into supporting the battle for clean water from your various homes around the globe."

The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline is poised to carry up to 570,000 gallons of oil a day from the Bakken oil field in northwestern North Dakota -- through South Dakota and Iowa -- to Illinois where it will be shipped to refineries. The pipeline was to pass within one-half mile of the Standing Rock Reservation and Sioux tribal leaders repeatedly expressed concerns over the potential for an oil spill that would damage the reservation's water supply, and the threat the pipeline posed to sacred sites and treaty rights. The company developing the pipeline, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says it will be safe.

*****

The Anglican Communion Office in London is looking for a new Chief Operating Officer to assist the Secretary General ,Josiah Idowu-Fearon. His primary responsibility for the management and administration of the Anglican Communion Office (ACO), is to help the Secretary General from not putting both feet in his mouth when he does media interviews, but of course, it might now be too late. Serving the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the Primates' Meeting and the Lambeth Conference, supporting the work of the Anglican Communion across the world and liaising with the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Lambeth Palace) is all too late as the GAFCON primates won't have anything to do with the Anglican Communion Office, so propping it up is a lost cause. The job probably doesn't pay that well ,either.

*****

A Greek Orthodox Church-run hostel for unaccompanied child refugees in Greece has been given a lifeline following a cash injection from Anglican and ecumenical Christian agencies. The Hestia Boys Hostel in Athens has been providing accommodation and training for child refugees from Afghanistan, Congo, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria since 2011. But a restructuring by the European Union meant that its funding had been suspended. Now, the Diocese in Europe's Athens' chaplaincy has stepped in to keep the centre open, with the support of the Anglican mission agency, USPG and the British ecumenical agency, Christian Aid.

*****

We have not reached the financial level necessary for a working budget for 2017. This is regrettable. VOL is thinking seriously of making its news service available through a PAYWALL in order to raise the necessary funding. It works for most major news outlets and we believe it would work for VOL. We will wait another month or so before putting this in place, but with the thousands who come daily to the website and only a handful supporting us, this makes it an economic necessity for us to continue.

If you are a regular reader then think seriously if you want to keep the news coming FREE into your e-mail inbox each week or being able to go daily to VOL's website.

You can send a tax-deductible donation to VOL via PAYPAL at the link here: http://www.virtueonline.org/support-vol/

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Thank you for your support.

David

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