Recent research has shown that frequent church- or synagogue-goers were more likely to give money to charity, do volunteer work, help the homeless, donate blood, help a neighbor with housework, spend time with someone who was feeling depressed, offer a seat to a stranger or help someone find a job. Religiosity as measured by church or synagogue attendance is found a better predictor of altruism than education, age, income, gender or race. - political scientist Robert D. Putnam
Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history and, now, evolutionary biology. This may go to show that God has a sense of humor. It certainly shows that the free societies of the West must never lose their sense of God. - Jonathan Sacks, England's Chief Rabbi
Creation and stewardship. The living God of the Bible is the God of both creation and redemption, and is concerned for the totality of our well-being. Put another way, the older theologians used to say that God has written two books, one called 'nature' and the other called 'Scripture', through which he has revealed himself. Moreover, he has given us these two books to study. The study of the natural order is 'science', and of the biblical revelation 'theology' ... Christian people should surely have been in the vanguard of the movement for environmental responsibility, because of our doctrines of creation and stewardship. Did God make the world? Does he sustain it? Has he committed its resources to our care? His personal concern for his own creation should be sufficient to inspire us to be equally concerned. - John R. W. Stott
Other than through the original Christmas event, no religious teaching crosses this seemingly definitive division - the marked chasm between the natural and the supernatural. The Hindu "avatars" are claimed as brief appearances of the divine, but all the avatars insist that they are not in real human flesh. Islam directly denies that anyone can be both God and human. In Quran 5:17, the very belief that Mary's first son is also divine is definitive of infidelity against Allah, a capital offense. Taoism focuses on nature, and denies the supernatural altogether. Buddhism, Confucianism and secular humanism generally seek to avoid any serious consideration of our Creator anyway - since God does not play a significant role in their beliefs - so they ignore this marked chasm between the supernatural and natural, too. - Christian Post
Dear Brothers and Sisters
December 28, 2012
We are days away from the New Year and I am asking for your financial support to take VOL strongly into 2013. We need readership support now. Some 4,000 of you go DAILY to VOL's website. That is no small number. If just 400 of you would commit $50.00 ($1.00 per weekly digest) it would relieve this writer from having to beg and brow beat readers into keeping us going in 2013.
No blog or news service in the Anglican Communion produces more original content from multiple sources around the globe than VOL. You will get original stories and documents found nowhere else. Along with it is unique commentary, including much political intrigue that surrounds a lot of the news that never gets reported. Where else would you learn about the trials and tribulations of the Diocese of Washington and the Soper Fund trial, get commentary on the situation in the diocese of South Carolina by local columnists and the uncertain future of the Presiding Bishop whom many liberals feel has now gone too far in her grab for properties? Or what of the efforts to legitimize same sex marriage rites at Sewanee's historic chapel while the vice chancellor attempts to raise a quarter of a billion dollars, yes billion, to endow the university's future.
Many of you have been reading VOL for years and have never made a contribution. Some of you live in the Global South; some of you are students; and others have limited incomes relying mostly on Social Security. We understand that. We are happy that you read and then forward stories to others.
Some of you are more fortunate and can help keep VOL. Please consider a tax deductible donation at this time. There will be the historic enthronement to cover this coming year of evangelical Archbishop Justin Welty, as well as a host of emerging Anglican conferences looking to jump start Anglicanism in North America. It will be another busy year. Will Welby recognize the ACNA? It would be TEC's worst nightmare if he did. So it's game on. You can make a PAYPAL contribution here at this link: www.virtueonline.org/donate.html or you can send a check by snail mail to:
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One of the biggest stories that will pop early in 2013 is what the Texas Supreme Court will decide over who owns 52 Fort Worth-area churches - the national Episcopal Church or the diocese that broke away in protest of the consecration of a gay bishop, the ordination of women and other liberal policies.
The properties at stake are worth more than $100 million, making this the largest church-property dispute in Texas history, and probably in U.S. history as well, lawyers say.
What's more, the court decision will affect the way Texas handles future church disputes by further pinning down a moving legal target: the dividing line between the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, and state laws affecting property, nonprofits and related areas.
"It's not the amount of money that makes the case important," Scott Brister, a lawyer for the breakaway diocese, told the court during oral arguments in October. "Churches are, of course, an important part of this state. After all, what does it profit a state to gain the whole world if you lose your soul?" Indeed.
In 2008, traditionalist Bishop Jack Iker and the majority of the members of the Fort Worth diocese overwhelmingly voted to leave the national church, joining an exodus involving dozens of individual congregations and three other U.S. dioceses, which are regional collections of churches. (It is now four including the diocese of South Carolina).
The Iker-led diocese also claimed to hold the deeds to all church properties, including 48 congregations that followed Iker into schism and eight churches that remained loyal to the national body.
Iker eventually transferred ownership of four loyalist churches to their members, but many congregations that had not already separated along liberal and conservative lines went through a painful split that continues today.
If the Dennis Canon is laid to rest in Texas (there is already precedent with a Presbyterian church in another state), it will have enormous repercussions across the country and for The Episcopal Church.
As we say, it ain't over till it's over. This has been a long hard fought battle that will, in all likelihood, heat up further in the Diocese of South Carolina. It's going to be a long legal year for TEC with other dioceses like Quincy and San Joaquin still unresolved. A VOL reader and attorney told VOL that by 2015, ECUSA and its dioceses will have spent $30 million in legal fees, (and that doesn't include what will happen in South Carolina) money that could have been better spent on the mission of the church to save souls, spread the gospel and make disciples of all nations including the US.
In one very real sense, there will be no winners. Whoever does "win" will be so exhausted that it will take years for those dioceses to get back on their feet. By then, it might be too late. Meantime the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is busy planting 1000 new Anglican churches across the country, picking up the Anglican ball, and running with it. This is the new reformation that many are talking about, not the reformation of progressive folk like Katharine Jefferts Schori who have ditched the gospel in favor of inclusivity, diversity, pansexuality and what is euphemistically called a "generous orthodoxy". As we say, watch this space.
Even as he leaves office, the Archbishop of Canterbury lamented the recently failed female bishop vote. Delivering his final Christmas Day sermon from Canterbury Cathedral, Rowan Williams said the General Synod's vote against allowing women to become bishops last month had damaged the credibility of the church. Really.
I wonder if he had given any thought as to what women bishops have done (or not done) for The Episcopal Church. Not a single one has made a diocese grow. Not one. Bishop Barbara Harris (Mass.) pushed through a resolution on women priests making it mandatory for every diocese to accept them, consciences be damned. As a result of this and other actions by TEC, the Diocese of Ft. Worth is no longer in the Episcopal Church. Will the CofE look forward, in time, to its first lesbian bishop? They will say, "no", of course, but they're wrong. Sooner or later, it will happen. Changing Attitude folk will start pushing the inclusion button as soon as women bishops become a reality. Mark my words. And what of the Bishop of El Camino Real with her fiddle faddle nonsense or Bishop Catherine Waynick of Indianapolis who has so alienated the orthodox in her diocese that Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh inaugurated the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity to absorb them right under nose. Finally, there is the recently departed Bishop Jane Dixon of the Diocese of Washington who spent more than $1 million of the Soper Fund to rid herself of one traditionalist priest in Accokeek, Md. Some legacy.
Not surprisingly, the Church of England's REFORM movement bemoaned the lack of Evangelicals to the House of Bishops working Groups. Reform chairman Rod Thomas wrote to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York reaffirming Reform's commitment to the process of seeking a new way forward on women bishops legislation, but says that the membership of the working group leaves it feeling "apprehensive".
Prebendary Rod Thomas said he was "nonplussed as to why the membership of the working group does not contain anybody who shares our convictions about male headship - despite the fact that this was a key concern underlying the vote on 20th November.
"We very much wish to contribute to fresh proposals that will command broader agreement in the General Synod than was achieved last month. Achieving such an outcome depends on hearing clearly the needs of those who were both for and against the draft Measure. Our fear is that the constitution of the working group might make this more difficult. Nevertheless we will seek to contribute positively during the discussions that are planned for next February."
The Archbishop of Canterbury tried to put a good face on English Christianity this week when he pointed out a reason to be positive over the recently published census statistics, which indicated that 59% of people still identified themselves as Christian. Referring to the 2011 census, he said that "faith is not about what public opinion decides," and Christians should not lose heart.
"It remains true that three-quarters of the public still want to identify themselves as having a religious faith of some kind," he added. He might have added that little more than one million out of Britain's 60 million attend a place of worship on Sunday and other reports say that the CofE will be out of business in two generations unless there is a genuine revival.
Another bewildering statement made by Dr. Williams over the women bishops vote was his statement saying that he had great difficulty in explaining the position of his church to what he called "wider society." Since when does the church EVER have to explain itself to a secular society? Rather it is for that society to explain itself to the church, and, in the end be judged by the Lord of the Church. Does anyone think that Dietrich Bonhoeffer a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, dissident anti-Nazi, and founding member of the Confessing Church had to explain the birth and the actions of his church to Adolf Hitler.
It's not hard to imagine why English political leaders chose an evangelical who stands in the lineage of George Carey and Donald Coggan to lead a fragmented Anglican Communion. Welby's real test will come when he talks to Global South Anglican leaders and hears what they have to say about Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. Now that will be a test of his mettle and actions.
In a move that will raise eyebrows, if not close check books among conservative Episcopalians, All Saints Chapel at SEWANEE, the University of the South, a five-story Gothic church at the center of the college campus, will formally allow the blessing of same-sex couples, embracing the decision of General Convention last summer which approved controversial Rites for homosexuals and lesbians.
The controversy has placed Sewanee in a tricky position, said John McCardell Jr., Sewanee's vice chancellor and president. His friends say he is orthodox in faith and morals and that this decision undoubtedly places him in a personal theological quandary. He was a speaker last Winter at Mere Anglicanism, a gathering of world class orthodox Episcopalians and Anglicans who meet in Charleston, SC, to consider weighty matters of the faith, church and culture.
The college itself isn't part of any one diocese. Its religious governing authority is the chancellor, a post that rotates among the bishops of the 28 owning dioceses. In the midst of this announcement, McCardell is calling on alumnus to give $250 to $300 million dollars in a campaign to ensure the university's future, a future that might be jeopardized by this action that many consider outside the bounds of Biblical faith even though culturally acceptable.
"An absolute yes or an absolute no was just not possible," McCardell said. The college feared its chapel could become a sort of Las Vegas for blessings of gay unions -- an end-run for couples whose bishops won't permit the rite in their own diocese.
The compromise: Gay and lesbian couples who meet the other eligibility requirements for a Sewanee wedding will be able to have their union blessed in the college chapel, as long as their bishops are supportive.
And McCardell hopes to raise a quarter of a billion dollars on that news.
The leader of the Anglican Church of Canada had a "just say no" message to the new Archbishop of Canterbury-elect Justin Welby in discussions on the Anglican Church in North America when the two men met recently.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is petrified that the new evangelical archbishop will recognize Archbishop Bob Duncan and the Anglican Church in North America as an emerging province thus diluting the influence of both the ACoC and The Episcopal Church USA. He and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori both maintain their jurisdictions are the sole legitimate expressions of Anglicanism in North America.
Following legal actions by the ultra-liberal Diocese of New Westminster on sexuality, two new Anglican groups formed in Canada. They are the Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC) and the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). The ANiC is a constituent member of the ACNA.
While saying he was feeling "very optimistic about his leadership," Hiltz is worried that the evangelical leader of the Anglican Communion, who clearly has more in common theologically with Duncan than he does with Hiltz or Katharine Jefferts Schori, will give full recognition to the ACNA thus deepening an already dislocated Anglicanism. A formal statement by the Anglican Communion as to who is an Anglican means fidelity to the doctrines and disciplines set forth in the Book of Common Prayer something Archbishop Duncan and his HOB have had no difficulty endorsing or adhering to. The same cannot be said for either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada that have caused a crisis with aberrant actions on human sexuality.
The ACNA is composed of Anglicans who have left the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the U.S. ACNA describes itself as "an emerging Province in the global Anglican Communion," though it is not formally recognized by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). The ACNA is recognized by the FCA/GAFCON and Archbishop Duncan sits on the Primates Council of GAFCON that includes the largest Anglican provinces in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
A High Court judge in the UK criticized same-sex marriage plans. Ministers are pursuing the "wrong policy" on gay marriage, and should be focusing on family breakdown, the judge said. Sir Paul Coleridge told the Times same-sex unions are a "minority issue".
The comments come after the Roman Catholic Church's leader in England and Wales denounced the plans. Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols told the BBC that the government has no mandate to push through same-sex marriage laws in England and Wales.
In his Christmas Eve sermon he said that marriage between men and women shares in "the creative love of God". Sir Paul told the Times newspaper, "So much energy and time has been put into this debate for 0.1% of the population, when we have a crisis of family breakdown.
Washington Bishop suffragan Jane Holmes Dixon died this week. She was elected in 1992 and served till she retired in 2002. Dixon was the second woman bishop in the Episcopal Church and the third in the Anglican Communion. "I am a symbol of the inclusiveness of God," she said at a press conference on the morning of her consecration.
Orthodox Episcopalians however will remember her very differently. To them, she was known as "Jack-Boot Jane" for her forced visitations on traditionalist parishes, in spite of the fact she promised when elected suffragan she would never do that. Former Bishop Ronald Haines also promised no forced visitations. He died several years ago.
At the first of the forced visitations in 1996, Dixon was met with protests from all three parishes. She brought a portable congregation with her to Ascension & St. Agnes and St. Luke's Bladensburg. She served Wonder Bread in a makeshift communion at St. Luke's.
She epitomized everything wicked and vile about the revisionist agenda -- but alas, few heeded the signs of the time, wrote one Washington Episcopal blogger.
"Would that the damage Dixon and Haines did would die with them. But, alas, that is not the case. Now, Jane has met her maker and held to final account for her despicable anti-Christian behavior."
During her tenure as Bishop pro tempore, Dixon sued in federal court to remove a priest, Samuel Edwards, from a rectorship in Accokeek, Maryland. Dixon had refused to approve Edward's appointment early in 2001, since Edwards opposed the Church's beliefs about female and homosexual ministers. Following several months of acrimony, Dixon filed suit to have Edwards removed. The court ruled in the Bishop's favor in October. After several appeals, the lawsuit was dropped. Bishop Dixon retired following the election of Bishop John B. Chane who moved to calm the waters by allowing the parish to elect its own rector if it stayed in TEC.
One of the three parishes -- St. Luke's in Bladensburg -- has survived as a traditionalist church and is now part of the Roman Catholic Ordinariate in the United States for services in the Anglican tradition.
The folk at St. Andrew's Parish in Nashville, TN bade farewell this past week to their parish, another victim of the Episcopal Church's slash and burn tactics to retain empty parishes that eventually get sold off to mega Evangelical churches, mosques or boutiques. Black tape covered the word "Episcopal" on the signs around St. Andrew's Church on Woodmont Boulevard.
The congregation held worship services on Sunday and Christmas Day and then said goodbye to the property that has been its home for more than 50 years.
"There's a lot of grieving going on here," said the Rev. James Guill, pastor of St. Andrew's.
In 2006, the congregation decided to leave the Episcopal Church, claiming that the denomination had strayed from its traditional beliefs about sexuality and the Bible. They joined the Diocese of Quincy, Illinois, which is part of the Anglican Church in North America.
The congregation bought its property at 3700 Woodmont Blvd. in Nashville from the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee in 1966 for about $15,000. They hoped to retain possession after leaving the denomination.
But a 1979 Episcopal Church rule, known as the Dennis Canon, holds that all church property is held in trust for the denomination. If a congregation leaves, it loses its property, the rule says.
In 2009, the diocese of Tennessee sued to regain the property.
St. Andrew's argued that the dispute was a simple property matter - they had a deed to the property, so it was theirs. The Episcopalians claimed that since St. Andrew's agreed in the past to abide by the denomination's rules, it forfeited its rights to the property.
The diocese won in Chancery Court in 2010, and then won again on appeal this past spring. The state Supreme Court turned down an appeal request from St. Andrew's.
Beginning Dec. 30, St. Andrew's will have its 8:30 a.m. Sunday services at Concordia Lutheran Church, at 3501 Central Ave. in Nashville.
Not surprisingly, when members of the Religion Newswriters Association, the world's oldest and largest professional non-denominational association for journalists who write about religion, picked the U.S. Catholic bishops' opposition to national health care legislation mandating contraception coverage as the No. 1 religion story of 2012. They also chose Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York as the year's top newsmaker in their annual poll.
Voted No. 8 was the Episcopal Church's adoption of Rites for same sex blessings. Earlier, the United Methodists failed to vote on approving gay clergy, and the Presbyterians (USA) voted to study, rather than sanction, same-sex marriage ceremonies.
More than 100 members of the organization responded. RNA has conducted the poll for nearly 40 years.
Cardinal Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, became the point man for Catholic objections to required coverage of contraception, sterilization and morning after drugs in Affordable Health Care Act.
The No. 2 story was the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey that shows that "nones," that is people with no religious affiliation, is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, rising to 19.6 percent of the population.
I must confess to liking flash mobs. This one of the Hallelujah Chorus sung in a food court in Ontario I thought was particularly well done and you can watch it here: http://spectator.org/blog/2012/12/21/surprised-by-joy-in-the-food-c
We close these VIEWPOINTS with words from the Queen's Christmas message. "Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person - neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.
"Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God's love."
VOL WISHES ALL ITS READERS IN 204 COUNTRIES A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR.
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