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WAR IN ECUSA HEATS UP...Florida...Ct...LA...more...

"We should all take issue with the notion that man inherits the right to update and revise Scripture as he sees fit. This is what the revisionist movement is all about, changing God to accommodate man." Charles W. Slaton in "Biblical Malnutrition & Today's Episcopal Church"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The tragedy of modern Episcopalianism is that in many churches throughout the land clergy ignore sin but guarantee salvation. It is the cry and mantra of activist Episcopal pansexualists that "God loves simply everybody," and by repeating it often enough, a benevolent God will excuse all manner of behaviors in the name of being free "in Christ." Any attempt to proscribe certain behaviors is met with cries of "law," "legalism," "fundamentalism," and "homophobia" and with failing to keep up with the latest in scientific investigation or discovery.

But the plain truth is, if we choose to ignore Scripture at one point in history there is no stopping what we might want to ignore or change in Scripture if, at any other period in history, the cultural mood so suits us. It is a devilish argument, and it is being played out in one Episcopal diocese after another as bishops waver on sexuality and the finality of Scripture's being authoritative and choose the cultural mandate because a majority of ECUSA's House of Bishops says so.

The war in the Episcopal Church, reflected in sexuality issues, bespeaks a deeper issue of authority, and that is whether the church's revisionists will come under the authority of Holy Scripture or ignore or twist it to suit their purposes. To do either of the latter two casts one adrift from the prescribed moral teaching of Scripture and the timeless role history has played in the development of a moral teaching.

In today's digest I look at the recent interview the presiding bishop gave to a newspaper and the answers he gave the reporter. It reminds one of the statement Frank Griswold made after 911 in which he said, "We inhabit many realities." Of course the only people inhabiting "many realities" are in asylums tucked up in strait jackets banging their heads against many walls.

THE FIGHT for the soul of the church is now going on seriously in three dioceses as each revisionist bishop begins to tighten the screws on priests and parishes that seek alternative Episcopal Oversight.

In the DIOCESE OF FLORIDA, Bishop John Howard, through his spokesman Kurt Dunkle, said that he is demanding personal loyalty from two vicars or he will consider their future ministries in his diocese to be extremely short. He he has blown off five rectors who are seeking protection from the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of reference, saying that regardless of how the panel rules, it would have no effect on how he chooses to deal with his priests. The heavy cudgel of the canons shall have pre-eminence over all other (pluriform) truths, biblical or otherwise. On April 28 of this year Howard issued a Letter of Agreement demanding that all his rectors show allegiance to the Episcopal Church. While there is nothing new in this, it does indicate that Howard will brook no opposition either to himself or the ECUSA, and he will come down with a heavy hand if any parish decides to leave with its property. Watch for the heavy hand of Howard over the next few weeks. VirtueOnline will keep you posted.

In the DIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES, Bishop J. Jon Bruno lost the first round in a property fight with St. James, Newport Beach, but he is fighting back with all guns blazing. He disputes the notion of free speech and says it is simply a matter of who owns the property, which he, of course, maintains that he does. One VirtueOnline reader observed that Bruno's caterwauling about losing in court did not cite any grounds for appeal -- only the opinion that the ruling was in "error." Could it be that Frank Griswold pushed for the appeal? Said the observer, "Nine times out of 10 when you lose in the circuit court -- you've lost. Generally, appeals courts don't overturn the rulings of lower courts. That's why appeals that triumph are such big news."

In the DIOCESE OF CONNECTICUT VirtueOnline got early word that a presentment by the "Connecticut 6" against Bishop Andrew Smith was sent to the presiding gishop. Griswold is obliged to send it up to the Title IV Review Committee, but based on past experience when this has happened it will be quickly buried. The only presentment to make it to "trial" was the Righter trial, and one doubts Griswold will let that happen again. The presentment will fail. We sincerely wait for criminal charges to be brought against Smith in the civil courts.

In the DIOCESE OF NORTH CAROLINA, Bishop Michael Curry has sold the Summit, a 210-acre diocesan camp and conference center for a cool $4.1 million. A spokesman for the State of NC told VirtueOnline that it had been purchased by the Parks and Recreation Trust, which will now manage the facility. The diocese is not taking in enough money from dying parishes to support itself and had to unload it. The diocese put its best spin on it, saying that the facility would still be available at special rates. However, an article in the diocesan newspaper said that some donors have requested their donated items be returned. Some $600,000 will be used to reimburse the diocese.

THE new Episcopal Church marketing campaign ads were previewed in New Orleans, in the DIOCESE OF LOUISIANA, this past week. Tens of thousands of dollars are being spent to make the ads and fund them on prime time in order to get people to join the ECUSA. But a source told VirtueOnline that Jesus is not mentioned once. "It looked like a bunch of Unitarian wonks sitting around a table, more self-impressed with being right and making a point than actually sharing faith in Christ," the source said. "They made Unitarians look evangelical." Although the national church paid for the entire campaign and is sending it out to each diocese, the dioceses are then to pay for the air time -- TV and radio. All clergy pictured are women. One of the ads features the slogan, "A woman's place is at the altar." The rest were generally about lollipops and pixie dust, the sourcewrote.

LAST Thursday night, while the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team held its third annual "Gay Community Night" at Citizens Bank Park, the pro-family group Repent America declared its biblical counter-message outside and inside the ballpark. The story made the Philadelphia Daily News. In previous years, members of the Christian group have been ejected from the ballpark for displaying a banner declaring freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ. In August of 2003 and 2004, during the Phillies' first and second annual celebrations of the homosexuality-affirming event, Repent America members were thrown out after displaying from their stadium seats a banner that read, "Homosexuality is sin, Christ can set you free!" Michael Marcavage, director of the Christian group, says that in this third consecutive year of the Philadelphia sports club's "Gay Community Night," Repent America "returned to minister the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are in bondage to this self-destructive lifestyle and to call on the Phillies to end their promotion of homosexuality." Prior to the game, Repent America engaged in distributing literature, individual conversation, open-air preaching, and displaying banners. During the game, the group unfurled a banner from its seats, and although some who opposed its message demanded the banner's removal or rose to block it, stadium security officials refused to interfere and ordered the opposing protesters back to their seats. (Repent America contributed to this report.)

While the Episcopal Church continues to decline, the ANGLICAN CHURCH OF NIGERIA continues to grow. A report received from a Nigerian Anglican priest in Chicago revealed that the province recently elected four new bishops and one new archbishop. Also elected into the episcopate were three "venerable" priests, and three new dioceses were also created. Archbishop Peter Akinola has committed his province to doubling its membership from 18 million to 36 million in three years! In three years the entire Episcopal Church could be down as low as 600,000 actual practicing Episcopalians, perhaps lower. According to a release from the office of the primate, the consecration of the new bishops will take place on September 11, 2005 at Cathedral Church of All Saints, Onitsha, at the opening of the 8th General synod.

THE archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has expressed his shock and sadness on learning of the horrific death (murder) of Brother Roger of Taizé: "This is an indescribable shock. Brother Roger was one of the best loved Christian leaders of our time, and hundreds of thousands will be feeling his loss very personally, and remembering him in prayer and gratitude. But the shock and trauma for the community at Taizé will be heavy –- and it will be for all the young people who witnessed this event. All of them are in our prayers."

THE POPE told Muslim leaders this past week to fight "new barbarism," adding that they must help defeat terrorism and turn back the "wave of cruel fanaticism" that uses religion to incite hatred. Pope Benedict, in his first address to Muslim leaders, said that the world would be exposed to "the darkness of a new barbarism" unless religions united to combat terrorism.

Now why don't we get the same message from Anglican leaders? Perhaps it is the "multiple realities" and "pluriform truths" notions that make it impossible for our archbishops to speak out about Islamic treachery.

Pope Benedict also met with Jews, making good interreligious relations one of the aims of his papacy. Ironically the Anglican Communion has been accused of betraying the Jews. You can read an article in today's digest by Dr. Irene Lancaster outlining those charges.

To top the absurdity a Muslim accused of anti-Semitism is to be appointed to a British government role in charge of rooting out extremism in the wake of last month's suicide bombings in London.

IT'S been nearly two years since the Episcopal Church passed Resolution D006 to align itself with the United Nations' (U.N.) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which pledges to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and more. The hope was that every diocese would contribute 0.7 percent of its income for international development to fighting poverty, achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women. According to the National Church only 44 of 100 dioceses have given anything close to 0.7 percent. One wonders if fleeing parishioners and pocketbooks are not the cause of the Episcopal Church's loss of largess.

A CONFERENCE ON NORTH AMERICAN ANGLICANISM -- Hope and a Future -- scheduled for November has as its main speaker, Saddleback pastor and church growth guru Rick Warren. Mr. Warren is author of the best seller "The Purpose Driven Life." He will join key leaders from around the globe speaking in support of "Our Hope in Jesus Christ and His mission, our Future!"

"Mobilizing and empowering everyone -- especially the laity - is essential to the rebirth of a Biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America," writes Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh. "This is the vocation of the Anglican Communion Network, and this is what the Hope and a Future Conference is all about. As we move toward the challenges of 2006, I believe this conference will also be a key witness to the strength of our movement."

It should be noted that Mr. Warren and his church, while Baptist, has very little accountable to any authority except to himself and his board. He is free to improvise without reference to anything or anybody!

That he has been successful is undeniable, and while Mr. Warren understands evangelism and church growth he understands nothing about how Anglicans worship, and while he might be successful in California it would not impress the Anglican Church in Nigeria, which also knows how to make churches grow in the context of Anglicanism. Twenty thousand member churches don't make much for true fellowship or discipleship. There is also no record in the New Testament of churches being that large.

Anglicans (and that includes Episcopalians) uniquely blend evangelism, discipleship and worship, and this has been done successfully with such movements as ALPHA and Christianity Explored.

When Mr. Warren has finished firing up the troops, Episcopalians will go right back to doing business as they have always done because they can never integrate the Saddleback methodology in a local Episcopal parish. It simply won't work. Mr. Warren can improvise like any mega church with worship styles, but Anglicans are locked into a form of worship with a Prayer Book and more. My own church improvises with four different types of services to meet varying generational needs, and a growing congregation of 1,500, but it stays within the parameters of Anglicanism. Mr. Warren won't play in Anglican circles unless you are a charismatic loner who can draw people, functioning in a high-rent district with a lot of rich evangelicals looking for a new church. In California you can start a church on a whim and a prayer and make it grow, even a glass menagerie like Robert Schuller's Crystal cathedral but that won't play in Albany, New York. What one needs is not the 'purpose-driven church' but the worship-driven church, and one doubts Mr. Warren knows much about that.

These folk should ask how the AMIA leadership has been successful starting 80 churches in a few short years and invite Bishop Thad Barnum, a first-rate preacher who serves as missionary bishop in the Anglican Mission in America, and Canon Michael Green, a nuts-and-bolts evangelist, scholar, church planter and author who was the confidant of two archbishops of Canterbury. These are two of the finest Anglican preachers in the world, who could teach them how to do church growth a la Anglicanism. I think this conference would get a better bang for its buck and all in the framework of Anglicanism.

The Hope and A Future conference will be held at the David L. Lawerence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA November 10 12, 2005. The cost of the conference is $95 (with special rates for youth -- 24 and under -- and seminarians. The conference begins Thursday afternoon at 2 PM, concluding at noon on Saturday. http://www.anglicanhope.org/index.php?section=1

SEVERAL of you have written asking who makes up Common Cause Coalition. Here is the list: The American Anglican Council; Anglican Communion in Canada (ACiC); Anglican Communion Network; Anglican Mission in America (AMIA); Anglican Province in America (APA); Essentials Federation in Canada; Forward in Faith North America (FiFNA); Network in Canada; Reformed Episcopal Church; CONAAB (Conference of North American Anglican Bishops). Missionary Participants include the Church Army USA; Episcopal Church Missionary Community/New Wineskins Missionary Network and South American Missionary Society.

AT THE LOCAL LEVEL a breakaway AMiA Church in Hudson, Ohio, closed on a building purchase recently, 18 months after its founding. "God has brought us a long way since the "Ohio 5" ishops service in March 2004. We are truly blessed," says the founding rector, the Rev. David "Doc" Loomis. Perhaps Doc Loomis will write the book, "Why Good Things Happen to Good People in Bad Dioceses."

IN THE DIOCESE OF RECIFE, BRAZIL, good things happen even when the archbishop of the province wants to dump your bishop and steal your diocese. The Rev. Miguel Uchoa, the charismatic preacher of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Recife, has seen significant growth and development of his parish. As it celebrates its ninth anniversary the church recalls starting out with 25 people who gathered in 1996 to see the building of the former Babylon night club grow to 1,000 people. "The Lord is preparing new things, new challenges and new hopes," said Uchoa.

AND THEN THERE was "Frank the Monk" making poverty history. Griswold's contribution to the ad campaign to rid the world of poverty was given one word to say -- "together." A pity he couldn't apply that to the Episcopal Church.

IN LONDON at St. James Piccadilly, a ceremony of blessing and commitment of two homosexuals took place this week. "This is first instance I have so far found of a pagan blessing in England," noted a VirtueOnline reader and Anglican priest. "Tragic to think that William Temple was the rector of St James Piccadilly at one time." Indeed.

THE POPE may have condemned the Harry Potter series for its praise of witchcraft, but that is not stopping an Episcopal parish in Carlisle, PA, from using the Harry Potter theme in its Bible School. This summer the theme is "Wizards and Wonders: The Journey with Harry Potter," as preschoolers take flying lessons on miniature broomsticks at a makeshift Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. Older students play a game of Quidditch, and more than 100 youngsters get Bible verses in their daily owl mail. The female priest said the Bible and the Harry Potter stories have what she calls "a slew of parallel lessons,"

TODAY'S DIGEST includes articles on the present state of the Episcopal Church and a statement by the Anglican Communion Institute on the crossroads ECUSA faces. Will it obey the call of the Windsor Report or will it not? Two excellent articles, "We've had Dessert" by Charles W. Slaton and "Differences Exposed" by Kevin Allen, are must reading. We close as usual with a devotional.

For those of you with a funny bone, you can read a satirical essay on the recent Civil Partnership bill passed in England and endorsed by the Church of England. Read it here: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2812

If you are a first-time reader of VirtueOnline please feel free to go to the Web site: http://www.virtueonline.org, where more than 70 stories can be found on the front page and archives to look for more stories about how the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are faring around the world.

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All blessings,

David W. Virtue, DD

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