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TEC faces fiscal cliff*Hilarion rips ecumenical abyss*ACNA & ANIC forge ahead

While the emergent and the PoMo alike gaze inward to the endless morass of their own subjectivity, and while the immoral pursue their cravings, and while the materialistic pretends to acknowledge nothing beyond "molecules in motion," their pursuit is a charade. We can self-realize and self-actualize and self-affirm and self-love all we like, but we are creatures of a sovereign God. Our choices are only two: believe Him and think accordingly; or to come up with a diverting ruse. --- Dan Phillips

We are not only a Christian country, we are a tolerant one - but it seems the new secularism has no room for toleration. --- Telegraph editorial on the state of the United Kingdom

THE HOPE OF GLORY. The divine Wisdom. In our search for wisdom we cannot stay in the Old Testament, or even in the wisdom literature. We have to move on to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. For he is made unto us wisdom, and in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are to be found. Especially the cross, which is foolishness to the proud, is the wisdom and the power of God. For the two chief blessings of Jesus' death and resurrection are the knowledge of God and deliverance from evil. And so we are back where we started: the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. -- John R.W. Stott

Our convictions and claims concerning life and marriage are not outdated notions of a past era but provide the path to the future. Nor is our position simply religious. We insist upon the existence of a Natural Moral Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason. This is not only a Christian position. It is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built. --- Pope Benedict XVI

If the bishops lift the ban on blessings it will result in deep divisions of a kind that has not been seen in the Church of England for centuries. People are already close to setting up an alternative Church. --- A senior cleric in the Church of England

There is a growing intolerance spreading across the Nations of the West against our rights to free expression, association and participation. This is reflected in a brazen effort to censor any speech which questions the cultural slide into the abyss of relativism. Efforts to prevent our vocal and public defense of the objective truth about marriage and the family are multiplying. However, they are not succeeding. That was evident this past weekend in the streets of Paris, France where hundreds of thousands gathered to defend marriage and the family and society founded upon them. --- Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueoneline.org
January 18, 2103

The Church of England might be in turmoil over the possibility of Gay (but celibate) bishops, but what got the British truly disturbed this past week is that the Queen's belligerent Bentley wouldn't start when she was leaving after a church service in Sandringham. The driver attempted to get the car moving and after seven failed attempts it is alleged the Bishop of Chelmsford blessed it and the engine sprang into life immediately. One wag noted that this might be the Church of England's biggest success since the Reformation. Another wag noted "At last, a practical use for the Bishop of Chelmsford."

*****

Many, perhaps most, Christian congregations in the United States are approaching an ecclesial fiscal cliff, says George Clifford an ethicist and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. "For specifics, consider The Episcopal Church (TEC). From 2007 through 2011 (the last year for which data is available), the number of parishes declined from 7055 to 6736 (6.5%), the number of Episcopalians declined from 2.1 to 1.9 million (9.1%), and average Sunday attendance declined from 727,822 to 657,887 (9.6%). The 2011 mean average Sunday attendance was 97; median average Sunday attendance was 65 (half of all congregations were above 65 and half below); and 68% of our congregations reported an average Sunday attendance of fewer than 100.

"If those numbers are insufficiently grim, consider attendance in the context of finances.

"The average pledge in 2011 was $2410. Optimistically assuming that a congregation's number of pledging units equals its average Sunday attendance, then the average income for Episcopal congregations in 2011 was $233,770. (Surprisingly, that assumption is not too far off the mark in terms of total income per congregation. In 2010 (last available year), average income per TEC congregation was $244,719.) For an Episcopal congregation whose average Sunday attendance was 67 (the median for TEC, with half of our congregations being larger and half-smaller), income from 67 pledgers who gave the denominational average would be $161,470. (All data from the TEC research office's website.)

"What can $162,000 - or even $244,000 - in revenue support for an Episcopal congregation in 2012 or 2013? The diocesan asking is generally 10% or more of pledge income. A full-time priest can easily cost a congregation $100,000 in stipend, housing, pension, healthcare coverage, and any other benefits. Operating a building (utilities, insurance, cleaning, perhaps a mortgage) probably runs upward, and perhaps substantially upwards, of $30,000. Allowing for other items deemed essential (audits, music, religious education materials, etc.), an average sized congregation can quickly find itself in a position of having insufficient funds to operate in accordance with members' expectations.

"A growing number of congregations, perhaps already a plurality within TEC, are insufficient to pay the diocesan asking, fund a full-time priest, and properly maintain their physical plant. Deferred maintenance on the physical plant is perhaps the most common means of covering a revenue shortfall. Other options include spending endowment funds' principal, reneging on the diocesan asking, and eliminating perceived "essentials" (such as a paid musician, fresh religious education materials, etc.). Many congregations rely on several of these strategies.

"Each year, the speed with which this ecclesial fiscal cliff approaches accelerates. Attendance declines, expenses increase, and options for covering financial shortfalls diminish. Episcopalians' average age, perhaps somewhere between 50 and 60, which portends growing numbers of losses from death, seems likely to compound the speed with which the ecclesial fiscal cliff draws near because TEC membership gains widely lag losses due to death and other causes."

*****

The Inaugural Committee for President Barack Obama has tapped an Episcopal priest to offer the inaugural prayer following Evangelical Pastor Louis Giglio withdrawal from the inaugural ceremony. The Rev. Luis León of St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, will now offer the benediction. León previously offered an opening prayer at the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush. The first family occasionally attends services at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.

The selection of the Cuban-born liberal Episcopal priest should satisfy homosexual activists upset over the initial choice of the Evangelical Giglio. While the Atlanta-based founder of the anti-trafficking Passion movement was criticized for a 1995 sermon in which he referenced scripture verses naming homosexual practices as sinful, León does have a record of advocating on behalf of homosexual causes.

In 2009, León served as one of five clergy spokespersons as well as on the steering committee of D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality, a campaign that supported the ultimately successful effort to recognize same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia in 2010.

*****

The future of ecumenism is in great peril with the gap widening between orthodox and progressives, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church, a noted theologian and church historian, said this week. The Orthodox leader blasted Anglicans for renouncing the Faith and said Orthodox and Anglican Churches are on different sides of the abyss.

Speaking before an audience at Villanova University, a Catholic institution on Philadelphia's historic mainline and one of the oldest in the US, Hilarion said that when the holy fathers of the first millennium abided in unity and while it was subjected to many serious trials, it was the foundation upon which dialogue between Christians was successful and fruitful. "Fidelity to the Christian tradition is the proper means for the restoration of unity among Christ's disciples."

You can read the full story here: http://tinyurl.com/ayggjky or in today's digest.

*****

The Anglican Church in North America College of Bishops met in Orlando, Florida this past week and made some significant pronouncements. Archbishop Bob Duncan announced that bishops Thad Barnum, Terrell Glenn and Todd Hunter were restored back into full fellowship of the College following the split in the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA). The College also approved the consecrations of the Rev. Quigg Lawrence (Atlantic Regional Network of PEARUSA), the Rev. Ken Ross (Western Regional Network of PEARUSA), and the Very Rev. Clark Lowenfield (ACNA Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast in Formation).

Among the special guest speakers was former Rochester Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali who served as Biblical expositor, focusing on Ephesians and how it shapes our ministry to share the transforming love of Jesus Christ in North America.

The College also saw the presence and witness of Bishop Azad Marshall of the Anglican Diocese of Iran.

The College received reports from task forces on a variety of topics including the thorny issue of women's ordination. "A Task Force will discuss the arguments, pro and con, related to the ordination of women, considering the relevant Scriptural texts and historical arguments, and reviewing studies conducted within and without the Anglican tradition."

*****

From Charleston SC comes word that the battle is o'er, but is the victory won? Bishop Mark Lawrence seems to think so. With years of angst and controversy now over, the split of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina from the national church has brought clarity and allows the faithful to look to the future, Bishop Mark Lawrence said recently

"We as a diocese can begin to dream," he said in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press. "We can dream of how God would have us fulfill our vision. We can dream of planting new churches and strengthening existing churches and working with Anglicans around the world."

The diocese in eastern and lower South Carolina, one of the oldest Episcopal dioceses in the nation, left the more liberal national church after years of disagreements over doctrine, including the ordination of gays. "It's been a tremendous distraction," Lawrence said. "Personally, now there is clarity. It's time to move forward."

The diocese has sued the national church in state court seeking to protect the estimated half-billion dollars worth of church property held by parishes that are leaving. It also wants a judge to declare that the diocese has the legal right to the name The Diocese of South Carolina.

This coming week, Mrs. Jefferts Schori will make her way to Charleston to jump start a diocese for the remnant parishes in the diocese who do not want to be a part of Lawrence's diocese. She will rubber stamp retired Bishop Charles vonRosenberg to head up a new rump diocese.

Presumably, she will then start litigating for the properties. Litigation has only just begun. Charleston has more Episcopal parishes than almost any city in the US. If she should win, there will be a lot of empty properties in the heart of this city.

*****

This week the European Court of Human Rights published its judgments on four cases relating to the freedom of conscience and religion of employees in the United Kingdom. Two of these cases concerned employees' freedom to wear a small cross around their neck in the workplace, while the other two concerned the freedom to object in conscience to the celebration of a civil union between persons of the same sex and to conjugal counseling for couples of the same sex. In only one case did the Court hold in favor of the applicant.

These cases show that questions relating to freedom of conscience and religion are complex, in particular in European society, which is marked by an increase of religious diversity along with the corresponding hardening of secularism. There is a real risk that moral relativism, which imposes itself as a new social norm, will come to undermine the foundations of individual freedom of conscience and religion. The Church seeks to defend individual freedoms of conscience and religion in all circumstances, even in the face of the "dictatorship of relativism", said a Vatican spokesman.

While addressing the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See last week, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that: "In order effectively to safeguard the exercise of religious liberty it is essential to respect the right of conscientious objection. This "frontier" of liberty touches upon principles of great importance of an ethical and religious character, rooted in the very dignity of the human person. They are, as it were, the "bearing walls" of any society that wishes to be truly free and democratic. Thus, outlawing individual and institutional conscientious objection in the name of liberty and pluralism paradoxically opens by contrast the door to intolerance and forced uniformity."

*****

"We all are born from a man and a woman." 1.3 million demonstrate against same-sex "marriage" and adoption in Paris. There was no predicting it. The turnout was overwhelming and dwarfed even the most optimistic forecasts. While official police sources, apparently under pressure from the government, sought to downplay the number of demonstrators who, despite the biting cold, came to Paris last Sunday to rally against the socialist-led government's plans to legislate for same-sex "marriages" (including a pretended "right" for homosexuals to adopt children or to obtain them through medically assisted procreation techniques), it now turns out that the number of protesters amounted to 1.3 million rather than the official number of 340.000. The Champ de Mars at the feet of the emblematic Eiffel Tower was cracking full, while busloads of demonstrators from all corners of France still kept arriving.

While whatever efforts continue to be made to downplay the event, one thing is clear: opposition against the government's controversial social agenda can no more be dubbed as "homophobic", nor can it be pretended that it is voiced only by disgruntled residual reactionaries, or by a small minority of people who are unable or unwilling to adapt to modern times. Also, while the government, referring to some opinion polls of obscure origin and quality, continues to assert that "a majority of Frenchmen supports gay marriage", those assertions look increasingly ridiculous and out of touch with reality.

The reality is: in France, one of the most secularized countries on this planet's most secularized continent, opposition against same-sex "marriage" is not limited to religious believers, be they Catholic or Muslim. It comes from the heart of society, including many atheists and secularists, supporters of President Hollande's Socialist Party and from many homosexuals who say that they, having never wanted to marry and adopt children, do not feel represented by the President's radical social agenda.

The co-founder of a new French homosexual organization, Homovox says that most homosexuals do not want to marry or adopt children, and are not supporters of the socialist government's proposed legislation to create homosexual "marriage."

French lesbian Nathalie de Williencourt says she decided to create the group as a result of her frustration over a vocal homosexual lobby that has been unquestioningly accepted as the mouthpiece of all of the country's homosexuals. The homosexuals Williencourt knows "don't have any desire to marry nor to adopt."

*****

The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) continues to forge ahead. A forming congregation ministering to Japanese-speaking Canadians joined ANiC in December. Church of All Nations is pastored by the Rev Shihoko Warren, who was ordained to the priest hood on January 13.

Good Shepherd Calgary will officially launch as an ANiC church plant with Bishop Stephen Leung officiating at a Holy Communion service on February 9 (Saturday) at 1pm. The service will be held at St Maronite Roman Catholic Church, 504 - 30th Ave, NW Calgary.

Following this launch, Good Shepherd, a Cantonese-speaking congregation of 35-40 led by Evangelist Tom Lo, will meet regularly at St. Maronite RC Church on Saturdays at 1pm. The group has been meeting for Bible study for two years as an evangelistic outreach ministry. About half of the congregation are seekers. Already one family has been baptized and others are preparing for baptism.

*****

The irony should not be missed. The Episcopal News Service has launched a new section for obituaries. In response to readers' requests, Episcopal News Service is expanding its offerings and now provides a special area of reader-submitted obituaries. "The new section of the Episcopal News Service website has been designed to allow people to submit their own Episcopal-related obituaries in an easy, user-friendly manner."

Meanwhile VOL announces a new link at its website for dying and for sale parishes across North America. Please don't hesitate to send us stories of closing churches. We will publish them promptly.

*****

IN OTHER TEC news, Bishop Tom Shaw has called for the election of his successor following 19 years as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The proposed date for the electing convention is April 5, 2014. Don't look for any change in the direction of that diocese.

In the recent Diocese of Pennsylvania convention, the church affirmed the Rt. Rev. Clifton D. Daniel as its bishop provisional. At the special convention held at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, Bishop Daniel was elected by unanimous consent.

*****

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has joined the House of Lords as a life peer with a title inspired by a village where he grew up. He was officially introduced to the chamber as Baron Williams of Oystermouth on Tuesday.

Dr Williams previously sat in the Lords as one of the Lords Spiritual - the 26 bishops of the Church of England who are members of the House of Lords. He was given a life peerage after retiring as Archbishop on 31 December. His title comes from the village of Oystermouth in Mumbles, near Swansea.

Oystermouth in Mumbles. One doubts one could out satirize this.

*****

Three out of four Christians have lost cases against discrimination in the European Court of Human Rights. Euro-judges ruled against Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele after the UK successfully argued that the rights of the employees were only protected in private. The exception was that British Airways was held to have violated the rights of Nadia Eweida under Article 9 when it told her to remove or cover up a necklace with a cross.

*****

Catholic Archbishop [of San Francisco] Salvatore J. Cordileone is in London for meetings Jan. 16-18 on developing an historic new liturgy for members of the Anglican Church who are choosing to come into communion with the Roman Catholic Church under an initiative by Pope Benedict XVI.

The archbishop is a member of the Subcommission on the Liturgy for the Anglican Ordinariates, a Vatican advisory group that is in the second year of a three-year effort to create proposals for final action by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Divine Worship. Archbishop Cordileone contributes canon law expertise to the group, which includes other prelates as well as expert advisers.

The rites for Mass, marriage, funerals and seasonal prayers will be implemented by newly formed Catholic ordinariates - similar to dioceses, but with national jurisdiction - for Anglicans joining the Roman church. The Catholic Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, based in Houston, was formed Jan. 1, 2012, and now has 1,500 laypeople across the U.S. and Canada, 35 communities and 24 priests. Ordinariates also have been established in England and Australia.

The liturgies under development are designed to respect Anglican traditions and spirituality while conforming to Catholic norms. Worshippers in the new ordinariates will have a choice of following the Revised Roman Missal or an amended Anglican Order of Holy Mass.

*****

Mere Anglicanism meets in Charleston, SC next week. At the same time this major theological event is going on Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will hold an ecclesiastical soiree to put in place her faux bishop Charles vonRosenberg to snap up the dozen or so parishes that wish to remain in The Episcopal Church.

Anglican 1000 is meeting March 4-6 in Wheaton, Illinois. Come and see/hear and reflect on what God is doing in North America. You can register here: http://anglican1000.org/

*****

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Warmly in Christ,

David

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