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Welby calls Primates to Second Meeting in Canterbury * Diocese of Tennessee weighs Same-Sex Marriage * Diocese of South Carolina to Vote on ACNA Affiliation * VP Pence and Anglicans in March for Life *Diocese of Niagara ditches Faith

Adorning the gospel. There are many pastors today who, for fear of being branded 'legalists', give their congregation no ethical teaching. How far we have strayed from the apostles! 'Legalism' is the misguided attempt to earn our salvation by obedience to the law. 'Pharisaism' is a preoccupation with the externals and the minutiae of religious duty. To teach the standards of moral conduct which adorn the gospel is neither legalism not pharisaism but plain apostolic Christianity. --- John R.W. Stott

All history is a struggle between two loves: love of self to the point of despising God; and love of God to the point of despising oneself, in martyrdom. --- St Augustine

It is easy to succumb to despair in evangelicalism because well-meaning people generate so much kitsch. But seeing the ugliness in kitsch is just the beginning of wisdom. It hardly takes any work. When you have truly arrived you can see the beauty in it again. -- C.R. Wiley

It is quite interesting how often those who are inclusive toward the practice of homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. do so under the auspices of love -- especially when the apostle John connects loving others with obedience to the commands of scripture (1 Jn. 3:24-25). --- Grayson Gilbert

Holiness defined. Where today is the old evangelical emphasis on holiness? ... I suspect it has been replaced by an emphasis on experience. Now experience is good, but holiness is better. For holiness is Christlikeness, and Christlikeness is God's eternal purpose for his children. --- John R. W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
January 27, 2018

Searching for a new church is a common experience for Americans. Nearly half have done so at least once in their life and a quarter have done so within the last five years, according to a new study by Pew Religion. But why do they leave and why do they decide where to attend?

Pew found that Americans changed churches or places of worship for a variety of reasons. The most common reason was because they moved (34%), got divorced (11%), or for other pragmatic reasons (3%). Ideological reasons were also frequently cited, including disagreements with clergy (11%) and changes in beliefs (5%).

Perhaps even more insightfully, Pew asked what characteristics played an "important role" in picking a new church. Respondents cite four major reasons: quality of the sermons (83%), feeling welcomed by the church's leaders (79%), the style of the worship services (74%), and the location of the church (70%).

Sermon quality was particularly important for Protestant church seekers (92%), especially evangelicals (94%). Interestingly, this was also most important for atheists and agnostics (76%) when seeking a new faith community.

*****

A letter, written by Archbishop Justin Welby but not well publicized, slipped in a request for another meeting of the Primates following the lackluster meeting of the same primates last January in Canterbury. The ABC has scheduled it for October 2-6, and again in Canterbury Cathedral.

But VOL has been told that it is most unlikely that the GAFCON Primates will be attending the meeting, leaving it to moderates and liberals to hear what the ABC has to say. The issue is the misinformation about the Church of England's stand on homosexual marriage, which to date, the Church of England has not accepted or allowed. There are moves afoot to wink, wink, nod, and turn a blind eye to openly homosexual priests by not asking the question. Typical British compromise.

But VOL has learned that the GAFCON primates will probably not be attending; "I'm trying to consult with the others to see how things are going. The general mood is no," a Primate who asked not be named, told VOL.

Many of the GAFCON primates felt they got burned and blind-sided by Welby when he called the first such meeting in January in Canterbury and they don't want to get humiliated again. They see no future for more talks with the ABC, especially as American Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be present.

Last January the Primates decided that TEC should be removed from any decision making on "issues pertaining to doctrine or polity" for three years. That promise has not been kept.

Another Primate told VOL that the GAFCON primates feel that Justin has failed to follow through the meeting in January, 2016. Which is true. He has not. He personally invited Curry to Rome to meet the Pope, even as a group of orthodox primates, bishops and clergy met in Cairo for the 6th Global South Conference. Welby said he could not attend, citing other commitments. You can read the full story in today's digest.

*****

In the Diocese of Tennessee, the issue has erupted as to whether or not the diocese, under Bishop John Bauerschmidt, will allow homosexual marriages to be recognized or continue to disbar clergy from performing them.

Part of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee's members want to change Bishop Bauerschmidt's decision barring clergy from marrying same-sex couples.

Clergy and lay members from the Middle Tennessee diocese will take up the issue this week during their Annual Convention, which is Friday and Saturday at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Nashville. Two resolutions related to the Episcopal Church's long-simmering, same-sex marriage debate are before the body.

"Episcopalians continue to be divided on this issue. Last year, we appointed a diocesan task force to promote prayer, reflection, and conversation about these matters," said Bauerschmidt, in an email to The Tennessean.

But then came news The Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee has turned to the National LGBTQ Task Force to review the Church's ongoing issues with ministers officiating at same-sex marriages. Although The Episcopal Church at the national level has given official permission in 2015 to all Episcopalian churches to accept gay marriages, it had also allowed bishops to choose whether or not they will accept same-sex marriages at the diocesan level or not.

It was under this provision that the Bishop of Tennessee, John Bauerschmidt, banned the clergy in his diocese from officiating at same-sex marriages. Although he hasn't said the diocese won't be accepting these couples, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee feel that the ban is an impediment to the progress The Episcopal Church has been making.

Bishop Bauerschmidt has asked same-sex couples who want to get married, to do so in another diocese. As the power to allow same-sex marriages rests with the bishops, same-sex couples are forced to look for dioceses where same-sex marriages are allowed and get married there. The Bishop, himself, refers the couples to neighboring Kentucky.

Clergy and lay people from the diocese desired the bishop to lift the ban. Instead of the usual submission of a proposal to the National Church, the Episcopalians selected a task force which would study same-sex marriages closely; possibly with an aim to come up with a way to encourage the bishop to lift the ban. The decision to create a task force was approved by over two-thirds of the delegates who attended the Annual Convention that was held at Christ Church in Nashville on January 21, 2017.

My prediction is that Bauerschmidt will fold his tent under pressure from the non-inclusive LGBTQI crowd, who brook no opposition to the pansexual steam roller making its inevitable way across the Episcopal Church. There are only a handful of dioceses left that won't compromise, but given time and retirement, the inevitable will occur and TEC, which once proudly announced that its doors are open to all, will find that by killing off its orthodox wing, the only ones incidentally capable of making churches grow, they will have suffocated themselves. It's death by a thousand cuts. Bishop Bertram Herlong was the last truly faithful bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee. The diocese will not see his like again.

*****

It's official. The Diocese of South Carolina will vote on affiliation with the Anglican Church in North America at their 226th annual Diocesan Convention, at St. Paul's church in Summerville, South Carolina, March 10-11, 2017.

The Provincial Affiliation Task Force, which had been studying issues surrounding affiliation for the past three years, recommended the diocese pursue affiliation with the ACNA during the previous convention in March 2016. Bishop Mark Lawrence also endorsed that recommendation.

*****

A Rainbow fish was vandalized on a church sign recently. The Church of The Ascension in Port Perry, Ontario, Canada likes to think of itself as a church that welcomes same-sex couples and to advertise that fact -- so rare today in the Anglican Church of Canada, after all -- it placed a couple of rainbow fish on its sign.

Someone is systematically removing the fish, writes David of Samizdat. "The rector sees this as a sign of intolerance towards same-sex couples, although it could just as easily be a sign of intolerance towards a church that encourages acts of which the Bible is intolerant. A newspaper article bills it as a "hate crime". However satisfying these pilchard pilferers find their protest, it is almost certainly giving the Church of the Ascension more free advertising than it deserves and it could result in prosecution under Canada's Section 319 "hate crime" law. If the vandals are so frustrated they feel they simply must destroy something, they should join an anti-Trump women's march in their area and smash some windows; there they will be immune from prosecution.

*****

The first woman to be ordained as a bishop by the Church in Wales has described her consecration at the weekend as "awe inspiring." Joanna Penberthy remarked: "I didn't think at the beginning of my ministry that I would ever see women in the episcopate but you had to keep believing. What was important was living out the calling that we had at that time and by doing so, opening people's eyes to the fact that God doesn't just call men, God calls all of us to his ministry in a way which fits our own particular gifts and talents."

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, paid tribute to the Church's women clergy for "daring to trust and hope" during what had been a "long and hard journey" to ordination. More than 500 people attended the bilingual service at Llandaff Cathedral, during which the Archbishop, assisted by the Church's five other bishops, ordained Joanna, anointed her with the oil of Chrism and presented her with the symbols of office -- the episcopal ring, pectoral cross and mitre.

*****

A new era of Christianity dawns in the Diocese of Niagara, writes David of Samizdat. The diocesan rag (page 6) lays before the Niagara faithful, the path of progress and enlightenment.

Original sin is out, as is propitiatory sacrifice and substitutionary atonement -- what is there to atone for, after all? Gone is the Fall, the uniqueness of Christ and, it seems, theism itself. What is left, you might be wondering -- evolution.

Change, of course, is difficult, so for those feeling a little queasy about tossing out every major tenet of our belief system, the authors of this recipe for interfaith advancement, Rev Wayne Fraser and ACoC Partnership in Mission Officer, Dr. Eleanor Johnson, offer the comfort of Missa Gaia. If that doesn't do it for you, try listening to John Lennon's "Imagine": its emetic properties will induce the inevitable and help quell the waves of theological nausea.

The concept of Original Sin is the key to obsolete beliefs, including propitiatory sacrifice and substitutionary atonement.

Likewise, to blame afflicted people for their personal torments is presumptuous in the extreme. God did not create us evil and prone to diseases as punishment for our fallen state.

Humanity is not fallen. Original Sin is not a concept even mentioned in the Bible. Original Blessing, its opposite, is, yet we allow ourselves to be "guilted" about Jesus dying for our sins. Instead, we see the Bible's claim that God created the human race, all other species, our habitats and "saw that they were very good."

The God we worship and serve is not an old man living above the clouds. We can call ourselves "a-theists," people who do not worship a human-like, a human-made God. Many who have left church have done so because of the traditional image of God. Non-theism for most of us still attending church is uncharted territory, a new theological creation. Who or what do we worship?

We must start with a humble reading of the New Testament, with the brilliant hope, peace, joy and love put before us by Jesus. We experience God as an evolving Ground of Being, and the key word is evolution. Here's where the most radical concept comes in: God is Love, is giving and receiving. God plunges into the breakdown of humanity's connection to creation as Love in our loving.

We seek the wisdom and faith to explore our human understandings of God, for kindred spirits of other world religions and for this fragile earth, our island home. We see the destruction of the ecosystems and the mass extinctions of fellow creatures as crimes against God and all creation. We believe in caring for all species of creatures and their habitats. We welcome interfaith peace and inclusive justice for all.

A new era of Christianity is here and now, but many are afraid to acknowledge it. It is here in our ecumenical and interfaith worship. We must give up our fantasy that Christianity is superior to other religions.

People of all faiths have in common an evolving experience of the Divine. True worship does not care a whit for the forms of our rituals. God gives no one the right to be militant. Jesus commands us to love God, our neighbors and ourselves. Change is difficult, in anything we do. It seems especially challenging in matters of faith.

We must, however, change or atrophy. Instead of condoning all the fears, threats and guilt induced in the past, let us rejoice in the complexity, beauty and mystery of all creation. All people come from God, we are imitators of Emmanuel and we are co-workers with the Holy Spirit.

For the beauty of the Earth,
sing oh sing today.
Of the sky and of our birth,
sing oh sing today.
Nature human and divine,
all around us lies.
Lord of all, to thee we raise
grateful hymns of praise.

--Paul Winter, Missa Gaia

And you thought that only The Episcopal Church had all the crazies. They are now evenly spread to include the north.

*****

The South Island of New Zealand has a new Maori bishop. He is the Rev. Richard Wallace. About 400 people visited the tiny Onuku Marae, near Akaroa, on Saturday to see Wallace ordained as Bishop of Waipounamu..

He will be the second Bishop of Waipounamu and first Ngai Tahu leader in active iwi governance to serve as a bishop. He was elected to the role in October last year and succeeds the late Bishop John Gray, who had links to Ngati Porou.

Gray died in November after a long illness. In February, he was suspended from his role after comments that offended Jewish and Muslim communities.

Known as the Bishop of Te Waipounamu, Richard Wallace will have spiritual responsibility for Maori Anglicans from Picton to Bluff as well as Rakiura and the Chatham Islands.

*****

Growth and decline in the church of England. Here are some figures.

Top five Church of England dioceses by electoral roll for 2013, compared to 1990

2013 1990
1. London 68.3k 45.1k
2. Oxford 51.9k 58.7k
3. Chichester 48.4k 62.7k
4. Southwark 46.7k 46.1k
5. Chelmsford 43.4k 51.1k

Note the uptick for London. There are two reasons for this, and they have nothing to do with the number of homosexual priests that make up a goodly number of parishes. One is the uptick from ALPHA converts and the other are immigrants. In short, growth has nothing to do with regular English folk returning to the fold. Nothing. So no credit to the exiting Bishop of London, Richard Chartres.

*****

The Anglican Diocese of Egypt announced a partnership with Bibliotheca Alexandrina, this week.

The modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) is intended to recapture the spirit of the original Library of Alexandria as a center for learning, dialogue, and rationality, writes Egyptian Archbishop Mouneer Anis.

Alexandria was selected by Alexander the Great as the capital of his empire in 320 BC, and it soon became the most powerful and influential city in the region. The original Library of Alexandria was founded in 288 BC by Ptolemy I (Soter) under the guidance of Demetrius of Phaleron. It functioned as an academy, research center, and library. The great thinkers of the age flocked to Alexandria to study and exchange ideas.

Under the leadership of Dr. Serageldin, BA is now playing a very significant role in dialogue, enlightenment and scientific research in the Middle Eastern region as well as the rest of the world.
The Diocese of Egypt, through its interfaith dialogue programs, plays an important role in bridge building and peace making. Both Gusour Culture Centre in Cairo and Arkan Centre in Alexandria, are Anglican institutions which promote national unity among Christian and Muslim youth. The centers organize many music, art and sport programs.

"I believe that this partnership will enhance all these programs which will shape the future of Egypt," said Anis.

*****

In his very first pro-life action, President Donald Trump signed an executive order today reinstating the "Mexico City Policy" banning government funding of foreign pro-abortion groups like the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

A cultural political football, the policy was first enacted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, and was maintained by President George H.W. Bush, until it was rescinded first by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993. Eight years later, President George W. Bush reinstated Mexico City, and it was in effect until Barack Obama reversed it upon entering office in 2009.

The Mexico City Policy bans funding to organizations that perform abortions overseas or lobby for legalizing them in foreign nations.

Trump's pro-life action comes a day after the 44th anniversary of the notorious Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, which, along with the Court's Doe v. Bolton decision, established abortion-on-demand as the law of the land.

In other news, Vice-President Mike Pence will march and speak at the March for Life rally later this month. In attendance will be a goodly number of Anglican bishops.

*****

The former Primate of Kenya, Bishop Eliud Wabukala, has been sworn in as the new chair of the country's Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). The judiciary's chief registrar, Anne Amadi, conducted the brief swearing-in ceremony in Kenya's Supreme Court, witnessed by Chief Justice David Maraga and Attorney Githu Muigai. The EACC exists to "combat and prevent corruption and economic crime in Kenya through law enforcement, preventive measures, public education and promotion of standards and practices of integrity, ethics and anti-corruption."

"Fighting corruption should not be left entirely to the commission," Dr. Wabukala said after he was sworn in. "Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries, executive officers, governors and accounting officers must take responsibility and should also be held answerable for what happens in their ministries, departments and counties."

Dr. Wabukala was nominated for the position by Kenya's President, Uhuru Kenyatta, in December, after the country's Public Service Commission interviewed a short-list of six candidates in November. His appointment was approved by the country's Parliament last week. He succeeds former chair, Peter Kinisu, who was forced to stand down after companies he was involved with became the subject of EACC investigations.

*****

Many Christmas services across the Iran region were packed to the brim. At one Persian-speaking church in a country near Iran, over 1,200 attended the Christmas celebration. A few hundred had to be turned away, such was the desire to learn more about Jesus, in a report out of that region.

So far, at least 100 Iranians gave their lives to the Lord during Christmas in churches in the Iran region. Many more commitments may come to light soon. 300 other new believers from a Muslim-background will go through the waters of baptism in the near future in a country near Iran.

"We praise God that for the first time in years we have not received reports of house church raids or the arrest of believers in Iran over Christmas. It really has been a remarkable Christmas, and we trust the Lord that this momentum will only keep building during 2017."

*****

Boys who think they are girls will be allowed to join the Guides for the first time in the organization's 107-year history.

Adult men who also identify their gender as female could become leaders, too, under radical new proposals to the traditional single-sex policy of girlguiding.

The details were revealed in a document sent to all leaders this week, which explained how members would be accepted on the gender they "self-identify" with, rather than their biological sex.

*****

The presiding bishop and the director of Episcopal Migration Ministries both spoke out Jan. 25, in anticipation of President Donald Trump's actions on immigration.

In addition, the Episcopal Public Policy Network issued a policy alert offering Episcopalians ways to become advocates on immigration and refugees.

Those efforts came on a day when Trump signed executive orders to begin construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall and block federal grants from immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities." The Washington Post reported that Trump, in an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security, also signed the first of a series of directives to put new restrictions on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.

*****

The Episcopal Church in South Sudan and Sudan has warned of the deteriorating security situation in the town of Kajo Keji within the past week. It says three violent incidents have prompted local people to flee their homes and head for refuge in neighboring northern Uganda.

A communique from the Diocese of Kajo Keji said that on Friday armed men attacked and killed a local official; on Sunday, government forces were ambushed about 10 km from Kajo Keji and, in the resulting gunfire, five civilians were killed. Local residents fled and many sought refuge in Emmanuel Cathedral, in Romogi, the nearby diocesan headquarters. Then, overnight on Tuesday, there was an attack on police, in which two members of the security forces were killed.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Kajo Keji, the Rt Revd Canon Emmanuel Murye, said that the Church would continue to care for its flock in the most difficult circumstances, but he called on the international community to intervene quickly: "We the church strongly condemn both warring sides and call on both sides to refrain from such atrocities on the civilians whom each respective side claim to protect and fight for their rights."

The Diocese of Kajo-Keji is one of the 43 Dioceses of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan.

*****

The Rev. Dr. Gavin Ashenden was one of many who criticized Glasgow Cathedral's decision to invite a Muslim to read from the Koran during an Epiphany service. Now, having resigned as a chaplain to the Queen over the issue, Gavin explains why he believes a three-cornered struggle for the public space is taking place between Christianity, secularism and Islam.

"I resigned to be able to speak more freely about the struggle that Christianity is facing in our culture. I had no idea that there were plans afoot by a Scottish Cathedral to "reach out to Muslims" by scrapping a Bible reading from their worship on the Feast of the Epiphany (when Christ's Lordship is celebrated as the Light of the World) and replacing it with a part of the Koran that denied Jesus was the Son of God."

Ashenden has taken a lot of heat, including some of it from Lambeth Palace. He gave an interview to the Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes, which you can read in today's digest.

You can see a FOX news interview with Dr. Ashenden here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZnH896OVQA&feature=youtu.be

*****

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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