Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Books of Homilies of 1547 and 1571: The Forgotten Formularies

The Books of Homilies are those seemingly forgotten volumes, which, together with the Articles of Religion of 1571 and the Prayer Book of 1662, make up the corpus, or body of works, which define Anglican theology, most commonly called the Formularies. For whatever reason, most Anglican clergy and laity, including the most zealous advocates of the Prayer Book and Articles, have sadly forgotten the Homilies. I have to admit that I was one of those zealots who upheld the Articles and Prayer Book with religious diligence; yet, I neglected the Homilies, both as works, which exhort the Christian to godly piety and also build up biblically sound theology in the believer.

The tendency in some circles is to attach particular significance to the decisions of the Church universal over and (perhaps) against the Church particular, or national. This plays out especially in dealing with the Homilies, which are seen as regionally bound documents by some and therefore not really as authoritative as, say, a general council. The Homilies also construct doctrine in a different manner than the Articles of Religion. It is often said that the Articles are a negative response to the Council of Trent or certain medieval abuses. The Homilies, while offering criticism of the abuses of the medieval church, are expressly intended to teach important doctrines of the Church of England. The Homilies are very much foundational to our identity as Anglicans and contain therein the core theology, which shapes us as Anglicans. In referencing the Fathers and councils above, the Homilies (and other Formularies) are the lens through which we read these other documents.

It is important to remember that the Homilies do not possess an individual authority on their own. They derive their strength from their presentation of biblical doctrine for it is the Bible that governs our lives as Christians and from thence we derive our theology. The Homilies are a faithful exposition of God’s Word written and for this reason we owe them our allegiance as Anglicans. Keep reading

Also see
Articles on the Formularies and Their Use
Anglican Homilies
If you have not read the homilies, I definitely recommend that you read them. The language and spelling in places is sixteenth century Tudor English. A number of the words are archaic and have fallen into desuetude. In the Tudor period, which includes the reign of Elizabeth I, no standardized spelling for English words had been adopted. At the same time reading the homilies is worth the effort. 

Which Jesus Are You Preaching?

A few years ago I began a preaching series through the book of James. To be honest, I decided to preach through James because I felt it addressed some issues I wanted to address, from Scripture in our congregation. James is a book that doesn’t mess around. It addresses weak and shallow faith, joy in suffering, and pride and elitism in the body of Christ.

What surprised me, however, was how much James spoke to me, as a pastor. I was especially convicted by the way James 3 challenges the way pastors approach the text when they stand in the pulpit on Sundays.

Most of us are aware of James 3:1’s shot across the bow. “Not many of you,” James writes, “should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who are teachers will be judged with greater strictness.” I’d always read this verse as a warning to pastors to make sure they understand the weight of their calling. But there is more here, I think, in James’ warning. Keep reading

When Carpeting Is Risky

Churches can be legally responsible for injuries suffered from falls due to carpeting, throw rugs, and runners.

Carpeting can cause slips and falls in a number of ways. Throw rugs on a wood or tile floor often slide unless they are positioned on a nonskid mat. Carpeting can curl around the edges and not lie flat on the floor. As a result, people can catch their shoes on the edge and trip and fall. Keep reading

Friday, August 28, 2015

Thomas Cranmer and the fear of death

On 21st March 1556, Thomas Cranmer, was marched out to Oxford’s University Church. However many thousands of services he had attended in over twenty years serving as Archbishop of Canterbury, this was to be his last. Condemned as a heretic, he was to be burned, like so many of his protestant colleagues and friends under the short but bloody reign of Mary. A small cobbled cross on Oxford’s Broad Street still marks the spot to this day. Keep reading

Also see
An Exhortation against the Fear of Death

How Long Will It Take For My Church To Really, Actually Change?

One of the most common questions I hear from church leaders is “How long will it take my church to permanently change?”

It’s such a great question because change sometimes feels, well, impossible. Keep reading

The Importance of What We Do in Secret

According to Jesus, it is what we do in secret that matters most. Jesus is not suggesting that the outward is unimportant—far from it. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14).

The answer is emphatically no. Still, it is also possible to have outward works but no inner reality. In this instance, religion is a pretense. Six times in the Sermon on the Mount, alluding to three distinct exercises, Jesus employs the term secret.... Keep reading

Five Ways to Deepen Your Preaching

I’ve been blessed lately with the opportunity to preach a bit more. I really enjoy preaching, and the homiletics training I received at Covenant Seminary during my M.Div. was excellent. But the more I learn about preaching, the more I feel like I’m just beginning to learn what it even means to preach. Preaching to me is like a vast mountain, the top of which is hidden by clouds and cannot be seen, and the higher I climb, the more it stretches up still higher and higher above me.

I’m not looking for encouragement when I say that, or trying to be deliberately modest. Its honestly how I feel. I think every preacher who has some awareness of the grandness and height of his task feels acutely his own unworthiness. I’ve referenced before the statement by Lloyd-Jones that “any man who has had some glimpse of what it is to preach will inevitably feel that he has never preached.” To that could be added the testimony of Spurgeon: “There is no good preacher who is not moved almost to the point of tears at the end of every sermon at how poor was the message he just delivered.”

And yet, by the grace of God, Sunday by Sunday, we preach. Here are 5 lessons I’m learning along the way. If you are a fellow preacher, trying to climb this vast and steep mountain alongside me, I hope these might be helpful to you. Keep reading

3 Things Churches Love That KILL Outreach

All churches love certain things. Some love fellowship, some worship, some prayer. Those are good loves. Some are neutral loves. Some are not. Other churches love their building, their history or their strategy.

Those can be good or bad, depending on what we mean by love and how we value those things. But, some things that churches love hurt their mission and hinder their call. Here are three I’ve observed from my work with thousands of churches. Keep reading
Sadly a number of denominations, for example, the Anglican Church in North America and the Continuing Anglican Churches, promote two of these outreach KILLERS in their churches--past culture and tradition. 

How to Reach Those Who Think They Don’t Need God

According to this survey, the number of people in Canada who profess “no religion” is now at 24 percent, up from 16.5 percent a decade earlier.

That’s a massive shift in a mere 10 years.

As I reflect on it all, I’m left with this growing realization: People are learning to live comfortably without God.

Want to see where this might be heading? Go to Western Europe, where people have very comfortable lives and only a splinter regularly attend church. They just don’t see their need for God.

Rather than being met with a wall of hostility, Christians are mostly being met with a wall of indifference and perceived irrelevance.

I believe that means a massive shift in attitude and approach for those of us in leadership in the local church. Keep reading
The number of "nones"--those reporting no religion--is on the rise in Australia as well as Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Your Church Must (And Must Not) Be Unique

While some car companies have been experts in luxury, Volkswagen has been about cars for everyday people. Volkswagen literally means “people’s car,” and they branded themselves with economic cars.

For example, the Volkswagen Beetle was a favorite during the hippie movement in the ’60s when many rebelled against extravagant spending. And when they are true to themselves, they do quite well. When their offerings flow from who they are, they make an impact.

But in 2005, Volkswagen decided they wanted to compete in the luxury market and came to the table with the Phaeton. While car critics lauded it as a masterpiece, it did not match Volkswagen’s identity and was a clear signal of drifting from the core. Few consumers bought the car.

In the same way, we must be careful that our churches do not drift from the core of who we are. We must continually ensure that what we offer our people and our communities deeply matches how God has reconciled us to Himself and who God has formed us to be. Keep reading

A Kingdom of Priests

In February, a terrible beheading of twenty-one Egyptian Christians took place. They were executed because they were identified as “the people of the cross.” We are reminded of the possibility of martyrdom and the reality that this side of glory we are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). Consequently, Christians often find themselves in a most difficult position. We are called to love our neighbors— even our neighbors who might better be described as our enemies (Matt. 5:43–45). And we are not to return evil for evil (Rom. 12:17; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9). While most believers do not face the imminent threat of death, testifying to Christ is often far from easy. How, then, are we to live faithfully amid challenging circumstances and among difficult people?

As sons and daughters of the One who is both the eternal King and High Priest, we have assurance that we will never be forgotten or abandoned. We do not need to be absorbed with self-preservation or self-promotion; we are free to live lives shaped by mercy and love for others. To appreciate this vision, we must understand that we are chosen as a people to be a blessing, and we carry out that work in a priestly manner. Keep reading

Congregationalism Doesn’t Stop at 8 p.m.

Tim Challies recommends this article:
This is a very strong article on congregationalism and the responsibilities of each church member to all the others. Don’t let the word “congregationalism” intimidate you—read the article!
I concur with his recommendation. Read the article!

5 Questions on Creating an Organizational Culture

I recently sat down with Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper to discuss leadership and reading for the “Five Questions Leadership Podcast.” You should check out the podcast, which has skyrocketed on iTunes, for some great content. Here are the five questions we discussed about organizational culture, with a few notes I jotted down after each question. Keep reading

Invent a Ministry

The Smiths work hard all week long. Michael’s job usually requires much more than a forty-hour weekly commitment. Susan never imagined such a busy life. And while their children aren’t over-involved, just a couple of school, sports, or music activities per week by each of them puts many extra miles on the family van almost every afternoon and evening.

The Smiths spend most of the rest of their time trying to catch up with “life maintenance”—housework, shopping, paying bills, yard work, running errands, and all the rest. They almost always feel behind or overwhelmed.

And yet, like all those indwelled by the Spirit of Christ, they love what Christ loves—the church. They genuinely want to serve the Lord in and through His church. They have a good sense of the biblical priorities in life, but they struggle with what often seems too many priorities. Keep reading

So You’re Hosting an Outreach Event? Read This First

There’s a great responsibility that comes with gathering people. Everything we do (and don’t do) communicates something. Here are a few things I’ve learned are important (and how they translate to an outsider).... Keep reading

4 Do’s and Don’ts for Engaging New Guests

In what I do, if I don’t know how to communicate with people I don’t already know, I won’t be very successful.

I have an occasion to speak to strangers frequently. Thankfully, our church attracts dozens of new visitors each week, I’m invited to speak other places often, and I encounter new people daily through this blog. I’m learning (it’s a continual process) that there are some specific ways I should and shouldn’t speak publicly to someone who doesn’t know me well. Most of these are true to any audience but especially for an audience of visitors or strangers.

Here are 4 do’s and 4 don’ts when talking to people you’ve never met. Keep reading

9 Reasons We Must Connect our Churches with Cities

Even if you have no interest in urban settings and ministries, I plead with you to continue to read this post. We are called to get the gospel to all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:18-20), and we will not do that if we shy away from the world’s cities. Please read on, and pray about how your church might tackle a city – then encourage others to read this post as well. Keep reading

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

4 Characteristics of Emotionally Healthy Churches

Pastors should follow these practices before making any hasty decisions.

For years I believed if I could simply identify the right planning and decision-making process, we would make good decisions at New Life, the church I pastor. That, it turned out, was both naïve and misguided. Over a 20-year period, however, the dramatic difference between our standard process and emotionally healthy planning and decision-making became crystal clear.

The first is the foundation from which all the others follow — defining success as radically doing God’s will. Keep reading

Disagreements in Your Small Group

In your small groups, it is likely that discussions will happen where people disagree. Passions will flare up and debates may break out. All of that is a good thing. We want the members of our groups to wrestle with the truths of the Bible and to do so together. When we deal with issues that fall inside of our doctrinal consensus as a church but there is disagreement on particular points, we need to learn how to discuss them properly. Your groups may have already had one or plenty of such discussions where interpretations were challenged. Let me give a bit of advice about how to handle such discussions and disagreements. Keep reading

Good Works and the Christian Life

Good works aren’t bad. They are good. As Christians, we should want to do them. Just because we are not saved according to our works doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about pursuing a life of joyful obedience to God’s Word. Jesus emphatically states, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Obedience, however frail and feeble, is evidence of our love for Christ. Far from undermining the gospel of grace, good works are the perfect complement to the gospel. Keep reading

8 Simple Steps to Triple Your Facebook Impact

More and more these days, leaders are finding themselves utilizing social media, and especially facebook and twitter to impact people, and train other leaders.

Michael Hyatt has said, “[Leaders] have to see the use of social media as an integral part of your job. It has to be a tool that enables you to accomplish your work—your real work—more effectively and more efficiently.”

But aside from making time for social media, leaders often find themselves at a loss of how to utilize the technology effectively.

Adding to this, facebook has now begun to cut back the “organic reach” of posts, and some pages find themselves struggling to reach their followers, and at a loss of what to do.

Growing in your knowledge of how to use various platforms for the sake of your leadership is important, and small steps can help you increase your influence and engagement, helping your overall leadership impact tremendously. Keep reading

Kingdom Mission: 4 Steps for Stronger Engagement

I’ve said many times before that if the 1950s were to make a comeback, a lot of churches that could go on without missing a beat. The good news is they found a ministry strategy that works. The bad news is the people they reach are now 70.

Many of these churches have succumbed to the tendency that when something works, people work it. This backfires because the more they “work it,” the more they get trapped in it. Before long, the ministry strategy is 60 years old and the church that once thrived in its innovative community outreach has now shriveled to a handful of people who have completely lost touch with the surrounding neighborhood due to their well-intentioned but often insular focus on strategies and programs within their own walls.

Those leading local church bodies today know there is more to pastoral care than simply caring for the local congregation’s needs. While that is certainly part of it, the church also has to have an effective connection with the community outside its walls. There should be a difference in the community because the church exists, and if it left for some reason, there should be a felt void. Unfortunately, that’s not often the case—we become more about church preservation than community transformation.

When we took on the comprehensive Transformational Church Initiative at LifeWay Research, we surveyed more than 7,000 churches and conducted hundreds of onsite interviews with pastors. We wanted to change the scorecard from strictly looking at numbers to one that really asks if churches and people are being changed. We found that churches known as “transformational” had a number of characteristics in common, including that they engaged their respective communities on mission.

We also found that the common thread was these churches were willing to invest deeper in their mission than other churches. They wanted to move the mission forward with priorities such as engaging the lost, winning the lost and maturing believers to repeat the process. What does that process look like? Four steps are clear. Keep reading

America, the Mission Field: The Nones Are All Around Us

The front page of USA Today read, “Protestants lose majority status in the U.S.” It just happened to catch my eye as I walked past a newsstand. I thought to myself, “Okay, but what could have taken its place? Catholicism is dying – is this about Mormonism?”

The article explained that Protestant numbers are down from 53% in 2007 to 48% today. But these Protestants didn’t switch to a new religious brand. They just let go of any faith affiliation or label. According to the Pew Forum, one in five Americans now claims no religious identity. None. That means there are now more “nones” in the U.S. than any other protestant denomination.

Warren Bird from Leadership Network concludes that: “More than 1 out of every 3 adults (33%) in America is unchurched. This means they haven’t attended a religious service of any type during the past year. This represents some 125 million Americans. That number alone would be the 10th largest country in the world!” (September 9, 2012,

Does that mean the U.S. is now a mission field? I think the more appropriate question is WHEN WAS IT NOT? Keep reading

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Can I Be Sure I’m Saved?

At a practical level, people who are struggling with their assurance of salvation often approach me and ask, “How can I know I am saved?” In response, I ask them three questions. Keep reading

Vacation Resources for Cash-Strapped, Weary Pastors

Don’t let a shortage of funds prevent you from getting away.

Pastor, summer is drawing to a close. Do you feel like everyone can afford a vacation but you?

All pastors need rest and vacation. And the pastors who need them most—pastors of struggling congregations and church plants—often can afford it least. When your church is struggling financially, it means pastors and their families are struggling too. But lack of rest can lead to burnout and inability to adequately lead a struggling or new congregation. It feels like a catch-22; you need to get rest, but you can’t envision a plan in which you could actually get it. Keep reading

Pointers for Preachers; Two Articles

Are You Preaching Like a Pharisee and Don’t Know It?

I have a growing fear for preachers today. I’m afraid that if we’re not careful, we’re going to end up becoming like the Pharisees.

Here’s what I mean.

Preaching, when done correctly, should unburden people. As preachers, our job is to challenge people, yes, but not to burden them. Keep reading

You Don’t Have to Sacrifice the Bible for Your Sermons to Be Creative

I see preachers today erring in one of two directions and rarely finding the balance. That is, some preachers are grounded in the world of the Bible and committed to the text, but when they preach they’re dull and lifeless. They put their people to sleep. On the other hand, there are other preachers who are very creative and passionate and effective communicators, but they are not rooted in the biblical text. I’m seeing both of these extremes. We need to have preachers who marry these two things—a commitment to the biblical text and a commitment to passionate, creative delivery. Keep reading

7 Attributes of a Great Worship Leader or Pastor

I have worked with some great worship leaders and pastors. Jason with Building 429 was once our worship pastor. He is phenomenal at helping people engage in corporate worship. How could I not mention the golden voice of Daniel Doss? I should mention our current worship pastor, Bo Warren, is one of the most gifted people I’ve ever known.

I’m not intending this post, however, to be a shout-out to any of them specifically. I’ve been blessed with many great worship leaders and pastors with whom to work.

I’ve worked with enough now to form som opinions of what makes a great one. Keep reading

Gay Marriage’s Tiny, Noisy Choir

Listen to its advocates and the prohibition of same-sex marriage is a gross injustice perpetrated against a large and oppressed minority. Look at census data, from both here and overseas, and a rather different picture emerges: a crusade owing more to fashion than fact.... Keep reading

Also see
Gay Rights and the Race Analogy

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Anglican Church in North America: Shaped for Mission in the Twenty-First Century?

By Robin G. Jordan

In writing articles about the Anglican Church in North America, I have set for myself four tasks:

1. Dispel common misperceptions of the Anglican Church in North America particularly in regard to the character of the denomination, its adherence to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies;  its acceptance of the tenets of orthodoxy that the Jerusalem Declaration identifies as underpinning Anglican identity; and its commitment to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

2. Draw attention to areas in the Anglican Church in North America in need of reform in particular to such areas as doctrine and practices, form of governance, appointment or election and term of office of bishops, and rites and services; stimulate thinking as to how these areas might be reformed; and advocate specific reforms.

3. Encourage for the purposes of evangelizing North America and furthering authentic historic Anglicanism in North America the formal and informal networking of orthodox Anglican clergy and congregations in the Anglican Church in North America, who fully accept the Bible as their rule of faith and life and the Anglican formularies as their standard of doctrine and worship.

4. Promote the establishment of an ecclesiastical province that is either an autonomous part of the Anglican Church in North America or independent of that denomination, which embodies the Protestant, reformed, and evangelical character of authentic historic Anglicanism, which holds to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies, is committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and has its own declaration of principles, governing documents, general synod, standing committee, moderator, bishops, Prayer Book, and catechism.

The outcome that I hope to see is a flourishing network of churches that is biblically faithful and genuinely Anglican, which is expanding throughout North America, which is not hampered by conventional thinking about the local church and its ministry and witness, and which is reaching and engaging the unreached and unengaged in all segments of the North American population—in the inner city, small towns, and rural areas as well as urban areas and the suburbs.

A denomination cannot hope to reach and engage the unchurched population of Canada and the United States if it is wed to solely one model of the local church. The late twentieth century model of the local church found in the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church in North America and the Episcopal Church and centered upon the sacramental ministry of an ordained priest and the weekly celebration of the Eucharist has limited usefulness in the twenty-first century. It is a model that is resource-intensive and is not sustainable in a number of areas of Canada and the United States. It has become an impediment to the advancement of the Gospel in North America. Simpler, more flexible models are needed, models that enable every community and neighborhood to have a thriving Anglican church that gathers around God’s Word on Sunday or whenever it meets.

As long as a denomination clings to this model, its own expansion will be limited by its ability to supply congregations with ordained priests and congregations' ability to pay their stipends. Whether such a model facilitates the spread of the Gospel and the making of disciples is questionable. What it does is cater to a particular form of consumer Christianity in which ambiance and sacramental grace are the two goods that the local church is expected to provide. It damages both the local church and those pastoring it.

This is one of the reasons that I am concerned about the direction in which the College of Bishops is taking the Anglican Church in North America. The theology that the College of Bishops is endorsing is not only inconsistent with the Bible and the Anglican formularies but it also produces a dysfunctional local church. It makes the priest “the focus of local ministry” and encourages a consumer mentality in the people. A similar theology has been a major contributing factor to the decline of North America’s Continuing Anglican Churches North America. 

What is needed is a theology that is grounded in the Bible and shaped for mission and which restores local ministry to the whole church and empowers and mobilizes it in the service of the Gospel. A theology that emphasizes the sacerdotal office and sacramental ministry of the ordained priest is not that theology. Unfortunately it is such a theology that the College of Bishops has endorsed and which underpins the theology of the Anglican Church in North America's catechism and service book.

Finding the Right Church Planting Model Parts 4 & 5: Alternative Church Planting Models

Finding the Right Church Planting Model Part 4: The Missional Incarnational Approach

What do Missional Incarnational church plants look like, and how do they work best?

When it comes to alternative church-planting models, there are two main ones. In the next two posts I will cover both of them. First, I will cover the Missional Incarnational approach. Keep reading

Finding the Right Church Planting Model Part 5: The Organic House Church Approach 

A brief look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Organic House Church approach to church planting

Our culture has been obsessed with “organic” in recent years. Organic usually means there is an absence of foreign, unnatural, and/or processed chemicals or elements. In other words, it doesn’t have all the unhealthy additives or chemicals as the regular stuff.

In this post, I want to continue my series on church planting models, including alternative models, by sharing some information regarding the organic / house / simple church approach. Keep reading

Develop Where You Are

I’ve seen so many potentially great leaders waste opportunities because they were waiting for the perfect scenario before they begin to develop as a leader.

They don’t enjoy where they are currently in life or work — so they think there is nothing to be gained where they are now.

They aren’t in their dream job — so they don’t look for the benefits of being in the present situation.

They don’t respect the leader they are supposed to follow — so they close themselves off from learning anything — whether good or bad — from him or her.

They don’t plan to stay in their current work location — so they overlook personal growth opportunities.

They don’t enjoy the people with whom they work — so they miss the potential of building future relational connections.

They are waiting for the “right” opportunity — so they never give their best effort, not realizing their “off-paper” resume (what others say about them) follows them. Keep reading

What Skill Set Does a Pastor Need to Be Effective?

Baseball players need to be able to hit, throw and catch. Musicians need to be able to play scales and put together chords. Surgeons need to know how to cut and stitch. In every field we find a list of necessary skills in order to excel. Ministry is no different. If we want to be effective as pastors, there are a few things we need to be able to do. Scripture gives us a helpful list of character qualities in 1 Timothy 3 & Titus 1 with one major skill: the ability to teach.

Beyond the biblical qualifications, developing a list of ministry skills and qualities is important so that we are able to serve the Lord and His Bride effectively. To help figure this out I polled 15 pastors, laypeople and seminary professors for what they felt a pastor needed to be and do in order to be effective. From that, a list of 21 skills and qualities came out. Then I surveyed more than 450 pastors, staff members and laypeople and asked them to rate the skills and qualities for effective ministry. From that I was able to make 3 conclusions. Keep reading

Also see
Four Questions for Fighting Spiritual Apathy & Atrophy

6 Plumblines for Community Engagement

In 2004, God convicted our church that we were not displaying the generosity of the gospel toward our community. During that season I was teaching through the book of Acts, and we came to Acts 8:6-8 where it says, “The crowds paid attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the signs he was performing … so there was much joy in that city.” I asked our church if there was “much joy” in our city as a result of our presence there. We believed the answer was no, and so we resolved that with God’s help we would become a blessing to our city — to demonstrate Christ’s love to them and to bring his healing to the places in our city that needed him most.

Shortly thereafter, God brought to our attention an underperforming public elementary school in our inner city. It was the worst ranked school in our county and was on track to be shut down within two years.

At the invitation of the principal, we led several innovative projects for that school over the next several years. Our people started tutoring children and some of our small groups adopted classrooms and teachers and met physical needs of families in the school. One soon-to-be-married couple in our church asked that any gifts for their marriage be redirected to a family in the school whose house had been destroyed in a fire.

By the fourth year of our involvement, the school had the highest percentage of kids pass their end-of-year exams of any school in the county. The principal officially credited the church’s efforts with helping to improve the school’s academic performance. At a subsequent teacher’s banquet, one of the teachers said, “I have always known you Christians believed you should love your neighbor, but I’ve never known what it looked like until now.”

In 2010 I was invited to speak at our city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. rally, a televised event sponsored by our local government for our city and county government officials.

I thought I was an odd choice for the MLK rally, and I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. As in, “Joel Osteen at an Acts 29 event” nervous. The county manager, sensing my anxiety, said: “J.D., we asked you to speak today because we couldn’t think of anyone to better embody the spirit of brotherly love in our city than you all at the Summit Church.” I was told “everywhere in our city there is a need, we find someone from the Summit Church there.

” This experienced galvanized our church in such a way that serving our city is part of church’s DNA now, with a significant amount of our church body involved. We summarize our philosophy in these 6 “plumblines.” Keep reading

Keep on Welcoming

After being in paid ministry for over a decade, I recently joined a church where I have no position, title, or responsibility beyond that of any other new member. Let me tell you, it’s an eye-opening experience of how churches operate.

My family has moved half-way around the world, and we’ve settled down at a new church in a new denomination in a new country with 400 or so new people to meet. The key difference for our family, however, is that this time I’m not on staff, so we were welcomed just like anybody else who turns up to this church. In particular, we got to experience not just visiting a church (which I’ve done plenty of times) but actually going back week after week as relative newcomers. Having been for so long on the ‘other side’ of church welcoming—greeting new families, following them up during the week, encouraging church members in their welcoming of new people, etc.—there’s three things that have stood out to me as I’ve reflected on the past few months. Keep reading

Persecution Watch: Two Articles

Why Are Churches Still Being Demolished in China?

Over the past two years, countless stories of church demolitions and cross removals have come out of China. Estimates vary, but the total figure of churches affected is believed to be somewhere between 1,500 and 1,700 – a move that campaigners have branded unprecedented, or at least not seen since the harrowing days of the Cultural Revolution. Keep reading

'Boko Haram Has Killed 8,000 Members of Our Church,' Says Nigerian Pastor of 176 Kidnapped Chibok Schoolgirls

A Nigerian pastor and president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria has said that Boko Haram has killed as many as 8,000 members of the congregations he oversees, destroyed 70 percent of his churches, and left most of the pastors under his care without a job. Keep reading

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Catholicization of the Anglican Church in North America: The Evidence

By Robin G. Jordan

To help readers to show others how far the Anglican Church in North America has moved in the direction of unreformed Catholicism, I have prepared a summary of the evidence. Since it is a summary of evidence, it is limited in specific details.

The Constitution
1. The fundamental declarations in Article I of the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America assert that the historic episcopate is an integral part of the apostolic deposit and is absolutely essential to the existence of the life of the Church. This is the esse position historically held by Anglo-Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics.

2. The fundamental declarations dilute the authority of The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 which forms with the Articles of Religion of 1571, also known as the Thirty-Nine Articles, the longstanding doctrinal and worship standard of authentic historic Anglicanism. The fundamental declarations reduce the 1662 Book of Common Prayer to one of a number of doctrinal and worship standards that the Anglican Church in North America recognizes as being authoritative for Anglicans. They include the partially-reformed 1549 Prayer Book and the pre-Reformation medieval service books that preceded it.

3. The fundamental declarations equivocate in their acceptance of the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles. They essentially take the position that the Articles reflect the theological disputes of the sixteenth century and contain some Anglican beliefs such as the agreement of the creeds with Scripture.

The Canons
4. The canons reiterate the positions of the fundamental declarations in Article 1 of the constitution. To these positions, they add the position that matrimony is a sacrament.

5. The canons require the conformity of clergy to the doctrine of “the Book of Common Prayer and the Church Catechism”—references to the Prayer Book in preparation and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism—and the instruction of the members of their congregations in that doctrine, adults as well as children.

6. As used in the canons the term “historic succession” refers to the concept of a succession of bishops that extends unbroken back to the apostles themselves and through which authority of the apostles and a special gift of the Holy Spirit has been transmitted by the imposition of the hands by bishops in that line of bishops. This concept is historically associated with Anglo-Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism and is central to their understanding of apostolic succession.

7. The canons describe the ministry of bishops in terms taken almost word for word from the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law. See Can. 375 §1. Among other things they assert that bishops “are successors of the apostles through the grace of the Holy Spirit given to them.” This view of the episcopate is one historically associated with Anglo-Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism.

8. The age requirement for a bishop of the Anglican Church in North America is identical to the age requirement for a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. See Can. 378 §1-3/.

9. The method of selecting bishops that the canons commend to dioceses that presently elect their own bishops and which they establish as normative for new dioceses is based upon the method of selecting bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. In the Roman Catholic Catholic Church the Pope appoints bishops or confirms those legitimately elected. Every three years the bishops of the province and, where circumstances require, its conference of bishops, submit to the Apostolic See a secret list of the names of priests who are suitable candidates for diocesan bishop. The papal legate also polls the bishops of the province for the names of suitable candidates. In addition, the papal legate polls certain members of the college of consultors and the cathedral chapter and may poll the secular and non-secular clergy and laity “outstanding in wisdom.” When an assistant bishop or suffragan bishop is needed for a diocese, the diocesan submits a list of at least three presbyters suitable for the office to the Apostolic See.

In the Anglican Church in North America the College of Bishops performs the role of the Pope in appointing bishops or confirming their election. The diocese performs the role of the various groups and individuals that nominate suitable candidates for diocesan, assistant, and suffragan bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. The canons leave to the diocese how it nominates these candidates. They do not prohibit the diocesan bishop or the diocesan standing committee from making such nominations. The canons do restrict to at most three the number of presbyters that a diocese may nominate. The canons do not prohibit the College of Bishops from rejecting all the candidates that the diocese proposes to the College of Bishops and nominating and appointing a candidate of their own choosing.

10. When an Archbishop is the metropolitan of the province and exercises metropolitical authority over the province, the constitution and/or canons of Anglican provinces typically contain a provision recognizing that the Archbishop is the metropolitan of the province and exercises metropolitical authority over the province. The constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America have no such provision. Under the provisions of the constitution the Archbishop of the province is little more than a Presiding Bishop with a fancy title. However, the canons require the other bishops to swear obedience to the Archbishop, a provision that is inconsistent with the constitution and therefore may be viewed as unconstitutional. This type of obedience is typically reserved in Anglican provinces to whatever bishop the constitution and/or canons recognize as the metropolitan of the province and as exercising metropolitical authority over the province. In the case of the Province of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone the Provincial Executive Council has metropolitical authority over the province, not a bishop. These facts need to be considered in putting into proper perspective the actions of the College of Bishops as well as his own actions when former Archbishop Robert Duncan occupied the office of Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America.

Former Archbishop Duncan arrogated to the archiepiscopal office powers and prerogatives that reflected an unreformed Catholic view of the office but for which the constitution and canons made no provision. Under the provisions of these governing documents he engaged in actions that at best were irregular and in a number of cases contravened the provisions of the constitution and violated the provisions of the canons. The College of Bishops raised no objections to these actions and through its own actions essentially became an accomplice and an accessory in these irregularities and infractions. Here again an unreformed Catholic view of the office appears to have also dominated its thinking.

The conduct of former Archbishop Duncan and the College of Bishops during his tenure in office points to the kind of disregard for constitutionalism and the rule of law that characterized a number of nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic bishops who saw themselves above the law and not subject to its restraints. In England a series of judicial rulings held that bishops like other ministers are expected to obey the law. They are not free to disregard it. In the United States these bishops went unchecked. In dioceses of the Episcopal Church where their view of the episcopate prevailed, provisions were incorporated into the constitution and canons recognizing that the bishop inherently had certain powers and prerogatives traditionally associated with the episcopal office. While the Anglican Church in North America has no such provisions in its provincial governing documents, this view of the episcopate is reflected in the conduct of the former Archbishop and the episcopal college during his tenure in office.

11. The College of Bishops in electing a successor to former Archbishop Duncan adopted the practice of meeting in secret solemn conclave like the cardinals of Roman Catholic Church when they select a new Pope. This points to unreformed Catholic view of the archiepiscopal office, one which equates the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America with the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

12. The constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America establish as the governing body of the province a Provincial Council composed of a bishop, a clergy representative, and two lay representatives from each diocese. The constitution and canons give this synod full authority over matters of faith, order, and worship in the province. During the past five odd years the College of Bishops has encroached upon the authority of the Provincial Council and taken over a large part of its role, functioning like the conference of bishops of a province of the Roman Catholic Church. It is also noteworthy that during his tenure as Archbishop former Archbishop Duncan created an Archbishop’s Cabinet, an administrative and consultative body typically found in provinces of the Roman Catholic Church but not provinces of the Anglican Communion. Here again we see the strong influence of unreformed Catholicism upon the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America.

13. The constitution of the Anglican Church in North America makes provision for a Provincial Assembly, which is a larger, more representative body than the Provincial Council. The Provincial Assembly resembles a number of consultative bodies that are found in the Roman Catholic Church and which may, under special circumstances, exercise very limited legislative power, typically restricted to ratifying what has been decided at a higher level and to giving further legitimacy to such decisions. In the case of the Provincial Assembly its ratification of changes to the constitution and canons is the final step in a highly-structured legislative process in which high-level decisions are given constitutional or canonical force.

To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism
14. The catechism of the Anglican Church in North America takes the position of unreformed Catholicism and Arminianism/Wesleyanism that faith precedes regeneration in the order of salvation.

15. The catechism takes the unreformed Catholic position that the gift of the Holy Spirit is exclusively conferred by the sacrament of Baptism. While asserting faith is the proper disposition for the receipt of the gift of the Holy Spirit by adults, the catechism is silent upon what is the proper disposition by infants and children.

16. The catechism takes the unreformed Catholic position that confirmation, absolution, ordination, matrimony, and anointing of the sick are sacraments.

17. The catechism describes the process of sanctification in terms of the healing of a disordered soul that has been wounded by sin. This view of the state of the soul owes more to modern psychology than to Scripture. In describing the state of the soul in this way it infers that the soul is not entirely tainted by sin—a view associated with semi-Pelagianism.  Semi-Peligianism is a view of the state of the soul historically associated with unreformed Catholicism of the Western variety.

The term that the benchmark Anglican divines have used to describe what happens in the process of sanctification is the renovation of the soul radically corrupted by sin. This view is consistent with the Bible and does not carry the same implication.

18. The catechism teaches that the sanctified attain the beatific vision, a doctrine related to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief in theosis and the Arminian/Wesleyan belief in Christian perfection.

19. The catechism emphasizes seven means by which Christians are sanctified—“the Church’s teaching, sacraments, liturgies, seasons, ministry, oversight, and fellowship.” Conspicuously absent from the catechism’s understanding of sanctification is the prominent role that the Holy Scriptures play in that process according to the Bible. This also points to an unreformed Catholic view of sanctification.

20. Appended to the catechism is a rite for the admission of catechumens that essentially teaches the unreformed Catholic view that the sacrament of baptism saves, not a personal faith in Jesus Christ. This rite includes the anointing of the catechumens with the Oil of Catechumens, also known as the Oil of Exorcism. The English Reformers rejected this practice on solid Biblical grounds. The anointing of the catechumens forms one of the rites of the Roman Catholic Initiation of Adults (RCIA)

Texts for Common Prayer

The Ordinal
21. The ordinal in Texts for Common Prayer alters the preface of the Anglican Ordinal so that it admits only one interpretation which is historically is associated with unreformed Catholicism.

22. The ordinal permits the omission of the filoque clause from the Nicene Creed in all three ordination services. This omission leaves the Anglican Church in North America open to the charge of holding an Arian or subordinationist view of the Son, one of the criticisms of the Eastern Orthodox omission of the filoque clause from the Nicene Creed.

23. The ordinal, like the ordinal in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, does not require candidates for the diaconate to genuinely believe all the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. It dilutes this requirement to being “persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all doctrine required for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” The 1928 Prayer Book’s dilution of this requirement reflects the influence of the increasingly liberal and modernistic view of the Bible of Anglo-Catholics and Broad Churchmen in the Episcopal Church in the 1920s.

24. The ordinal alters the formula used in the Anglican Ordinal at the imposition of hands in the ordination of deacons so that it infers that the bishop is conferring a special gift of the Holy Spirit upon the ordinand with the imposition of hands. The altered formula is based upon the formula used in the Anglican Ordinal at the imposition of hands in the ordination of presbyters and the consecration of bishops, which a number of more recent Anglican services books have replaced with a formula that is not open to misinterpretation like the formula in the 1662 ordination services for presbyters and bishops and is consistent with the Biblical and Reformation view of ordination historically held by the reformed Church of England. In that view ordination publicly recognizes the gifting of the ordinand for a particular office in the church and the call of the ordinand to that office and bestows upon the ordinand the authority to execute the office. The formula used at the imposition of hands is a prayer for the ordinand and the imposition of hands is an accompanying gesture of setting apart for God’s service.

In the ordinal the 1662 formula is not interpreted as the received understanding of that formula has interpreted it—a prayer in the words of our Lord for the Holy Spirit to empower the ordinand for office to which he is being set apart—but as Anglo-Catholics have interpreted that formula since the nineteenth century—a fixed form of words to accompany the bishop’s imparting of a special gift of the Holy Spirit to the ordinand through the imposition of hands.

25. Among the changes that the ordinal makes to the Anglican Ordinal is that the rubrics permit ordinands to prostrate themselves during the singing of the Veni Creator Spiritus or other hymn to the Holy Spirit in imitation of the practice of the Roman Catholic Church.

26. The rubrics permit the ceremonial vesting of new deacons in maniple, stole, and dalmatic also in imitation of Roman Catholic Church practice. These vestments have a long association with the role of the deacon in the celebration of the Mass and by extension with the unreformed Catholic doctrines of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass. While the vesting of the new deacon in these vestments is optional, its inclusion in the ordination service is an indicator of the unreformed Catholic theology underpinning the theology of the ordinal.

26. The formula that accompanies the imposition of hands in the ordination service for presbyters reflects a judicial view of absolution, a view of absolution historically associated with unreformed Catholicism.

27. The rubrics permit the ceremonial vesting of new presbyters with stole and chasuble and the anointing of their hands with the Oil of Chrism in imitation of the practice of the Roman Catholic Church. These ceremonies have a long association with the eucharistic doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church and the belief that in the Mass, “Christ the Lord, through the ministry of the priest, offers himself,substantially present under the species of bread and wine, to God the Father and gives himself as spiritual food to the faithful united with his offering.” While they are optional, their inclusion in the ordination service is an indicator of the unreformed Catholic theology that forms the basis of the ordinal’s theology.

28. The rubrics require the presentation of the new presbyter with a Bible and a chalice. The presentation of a chalice and paten to a new priest is a longstanding practice of the Roman Catholic Church associated with its understanding of the sacerdotal role of the priest as a mediator between man and God, offering the sacrifice of the Mass, and dispensing sacramental grace. It is also associated with the doctrine of transubstantiation. The rubrics do not prohibit the nestling of a paten in the chalice that is presented to the new priest. The inclusion of the practice in the ordination service for presbyters is an indicator of the unreformed Catholic theology underpinnings of the ordinal’s theology.

Archbishop Cranmer dropped from the 1552 ordinal the presentation of the chalice to the new presbyter due to its association with Roman Catholic Church’s view of the sacerdotal nature of the priesthood for which he found no Scriptural basis and which he concluded was contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture.

In the 1552 and 1662 ordinals the new presbyter is presented with a Bible which signifies not only the authority for the execution of the office of presbyter but also the principal duties of that office—the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In the view of the 1552 and 1662 ordinals the administration of the sacraments is an extension of the preaching of the gospel. The two are inseparable. The sacraments make visible the promises of the Gospel and confirm those promises. God gave the sacraments to invigorate, confirm, and strengthen the faith that comes from hearing the preaching of the Gospel.

29. The rubrics permit the presentation of the new bishop with a pastoral staff and the anointing of his forehead with the Oil of Chrism. They also permit the presentation of the new bishop with pectoral cross, episcopal ring, and mitre. All of these practices were discarded at the time of the English Reformation due to their long association with the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine of apostolic succession for which the English Reformers found no basis in Scripture and which they concluded was contrary to Scripture. This doctrine maintains that a special gift of the Holy Spirit is transmitted by the imposition of hands and anointing with the Oil of Chrism by consecrating bishops to a new bishop and this gift had was transmitted to the first bishops in this particular line or succession of bishops of the Roman Catholic Church by the apostles themselves. With this special gift of the Holy Spirit is transmitted the full authority of the apostles, making those who received it successors to the apostles. The inclusion of these practices, while they are optional, is an indicator of the unreformed Catholic theology forming the basis of the ordinal’s theology.

Holy Communion
30. The two forms of Holy Communion in Texts for Common Prayer contain elements that express the unreformed Catholic doctrines of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass. These elements include but are not limited to the oblation of the consecrated elements and an invitation to communion taken from the Roman Missal.

31. The rubrics permit the reservation of the sacramental species, which is unreformed Catholic practice and reflects an unreformed Catholic view of the eucharistic presence.

32. The exhortation that is printed after the Long Form of Holy Communion substitutes an unreformed Catholic interpretation of the original 1552-1662 exhortation, which includes auricular confession and judicial absolution.

33. The rite of Baptism in Texts for Common Prayer links regeneration as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit to the sacrament of Baptism. The rite also takes the position that the priest’s consecration of the water in the font infuses the water with the power to regenerate those baptized in the water. These views are associated with an unreformed Catholic understanding of the sacrament of Baptism. The rubrics permit the unreformed Catholic practice of anointing the newly baptized with the Oil of Chrism.

32. The preface to the rite of Confirmation in Texts for Common Prayer claims that the rite is found in the New Testament, a claim which J. I. Packer and others have pointed out is a “medieval mistake.” The rite takes the position that the bishop through the imposition of hands confers upon the confirmand an increased measure of the Holy Spirit. The rubrics permit the anointing of the confirmand with the Oil of Christ, an unreformed Catholic practice. The rite reflects an unreformed Catholic understanding of Confirmation.

The Three Blessed Oils
34. This section of Texts for Common Prayer authorizes the use of sacramentals—in this particular case, the Oils of Exorcism, or the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of Unction, and the Oil of Chrism. The authorization of their use is an indicator of the unreformed Catholic theology that forms the base of the theology of the Prayer Book in preparation.

This summary of evidence shows a decided movement in the direction of unreformed Catholicism in the governing documents and other doctrinal statements of the Anglican Church in North America. It passes not only the test of preponderance of evidence but also the test of clear and conclusive evidence. It shows that the College of Bishops has taken major steps toward creating in the Anglican Church in North America an environment that greatly benefits Anglo-Catholics and their theological views. Only their beliefs and thinking enjoy official standing in the denomination. The Biblical and Reformation doctrines and convictions of orthodox Anglicans who fully accept the Holy Scriptures as their rule of faith and life and the Anglican formularies as their standard of doctrine and worship are denied any kind of official recognition. The College of Bishops has made no effort to comprehend their theological views in the doctrinal statements that it has endorsed to date.

Readers should expect to hear all kinds of denials of this movement in the direction of unreformed Catholicism from those who will be ultimately affected by this movement. Anglo-Catholics and those who have been influenced by their beliefs and thinking, on the other hand, are not likely to deny this movement but will defend the College of Bishops for taking the Anglican Church in North America in this direction. One can expect to hear such arguments as it reflects the consensus of opinion in the Anglican Church in North America. The College of Bishops is seeking to save Anglican Christianity from the effects of the past 50 years, and so forth. Those who make these arguments can be expect ignore the fact that the Anglican Church in North America contains orthodox Anglican clergy and congregations that fully accept the Bible as their rule of faith and life and the Anglican formularies as their standard of doctrine and worship. A few may acknowledge the existence of these clergy and congregation in the Anglican Church in North America and may adopt the position that it is in everyone’s best interest if they affiliated with another denomination. Those making such arguments can be expected to dodge the conclusion of the GAFCON Resource Group that their ideology represents a major challenge to the authority of the Bible and the Anglican formularies in the Anglican Church along with liberalism.

You Might Be Sitting On The Solution

Have you ever had a problem and found that you were sitting right on top of the solution? Sometimes the most unseen answers are in the most obvious places.

The following are few “simple” thoughts to help us all find the solutions we seek, especially because they might be right before us. These thoughts are simple to understand, but not so easy to consistently practice. Are you up for the challenge? Keep reading

When is it Smart to Create a New Position?

Feeling under pressure? Overworked? Are you and your team working hard but can’t seem to keep up, let alone get ahead? You are not alone. This is a very common church staff scenario. What you do about it can be a game changer.

In more than twenty years of creating new positions and hiring staff, I’ve lived with the tension of needing to know how many staff is the right number, what positions are the right positions, and when is the right time to hire more people. The thing that increases the tension is that there are so many different opinions about the answers to those questions.

Crystal clear vision and strategic alignment can help minimize the differing opinions, but because there is always more than one way to successfully design a team, the tension of knowing which way is best will always exist. And candidly, having the right people is more important than the right positions – but there is a healthy balance. Keep reading

The Importance of Meditation for Sermon Preparation

When I graduated from seminary, I never expected to preach sermons as much as I have. But in the past fifteen years, I’ve been called upon to preach more than a few times a year; one year, I was asked to preach once every month. Preaching with such frequency, I’m grateful for the two courses in seminary that provided me with training in many guidelines for good preaching. Often my experiences of preparing and delivering sermons have been refreshing for me alongside my normal work of lecturing in theology. I now feel comfortable as a preacher practicing the methods I learned from my training: get the truth accurately from the passage, construct ways of presenting the truth with relevant and interesting illustrations, and make it all clear for the listener to grasp.

Somewhere along the line in my learning, I missed something in preaching preparation. It is only recently that it occurred to me that this step is a vital part of sermon preparation if I hope my sermons to resonate the truth of biblical revelation, and I have found this tool to be necessary in order to bring my preaching from the level of a “Bible study” to a “sermon.” The “tool” or “method” I speak of is meditative substance. It’s likely that I was taught about this, and just missed it. (There’s actually a lot in seminary that I missed and had to re-learn later.) Keep reading

Tips to Help Families Be on Mission

International Mission Board missionaries serve all over the world. They help tell people about Jesus in jungles, huge cities and rural villages. They’re serving among people from various cultures and religious backgrounds. But missions isn’t just for the international missionary. Believers can be involved in global missions right where they live.

And, missions isn’t just for adults. By helping children participate in missions, parents can prepare them for a lifestyle that’s focused on serving God and others.

Here are a few ideas to help a family learn about missions, give to missions and pray for missions around the world. Keep reading

A Scalable Model for Making Disciples In Small Churches

“The New Testament is the only model we need!” There, I went ahead and said that for you. It’s out of the way. For those pastors and church leaders who highly value the New Testament AND actually want to accomplish something meaningful, read on....

Every church follows a model. Most of the church leaders who criticize following a model follow a model that tends to criticize models. Follow that? There are traditional models with an age-graded Sunday School, a morning worship service, evening worship service, and a midweek prayer meeting, plus some other programs. W. A. Criswell (one of my biggest heroes) was a pioneer in this model in the 1940’s. Back then, grading ministries by age was innovative.

Other churches follow the “simple church” model. They have weekend worship, small groups, and that’s about it. The ministry and mission is carried out by the groups and the individuals in them. It works well for those who do it right. There are also house churches, and still a few quarter-time churches that only have a Pastor once per month. There’s the Amish and Mennonite model – very community-centric. You get the picture. Keep reading

New Book – Gaining by Losing: Why The Future Belongs To Churches That Send, by J. D. Greear

People are leaving the church J.D. Greear pastors. Big givers. Key volunteers. Some of his best leaders and friends. And that’s exactly how he wants it to be.

When Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission, he revealed that the key for reaching the world with the gospel is found in sending, not gathering. Though many churches focus time and energy on attracting people and counting numbers, the real mission of the church isn’t how many people you can gather. It’s about training up disciples and then sending them out. The true measure of success for a church should be its sending capacity, not its seating capacity. Keep reading

Friday, August 21, 2015

Beyond the First Church of the Consumer

Church leaders’ responsibilities often can seem ambiguous. Do our responsibilities lie solely in leading the people within our church? How do we even define “the church”?

Many of us feel the tension between meeting the needs of our church family and those of our community. Both ends of the spectrum represent real people with real struggles. But the magnetic force that pulls our focus into our church walls can be so strong that it sometimes causes us to question our responsibilities outside those walls.

Pastoring a church isn’t a location-based obligation. Or maybe it is, and that location is where we are at any moment. Either way, it’s not something of which we clock in and out. It’s a commitment to share Christ and His great love with the people in our lives.

But that responsibility isn’t ours alone. It belongs to the church—anyone who follows Christ. We are the church, and we’re here for the world. Keep reading

John Calvin’s 6 Reasons Why We Should Evangelize

There are many reasons why we must evangelize. John Calvin offers the following.... Keep reading

The Church, Same-Sex Attraction, and the Marriage Revolution: Five Articles

S.C. church's stance on homosexuality challenged

The South Carolina Baptist Convention has asked a Greenville church to either reverse its decision to open marriage ceremonies, church membership and ordination to homosexuals or withdraw from the state convention. Keep reading

Also see
Albert Moher: When ‘Discernment’ Leads to Disaster
US Baptists at war over gay marriage and ordination

Missouri Congregation Joins Over 200 Churches Leaving PCUSA Over Homosexuality 

A Missouri congregation has voted to leave Presbyterian Church (USA) over the Mainline denomination's "theological controversies," including its growing acceptance of homosexuality.

First and Calvary Presbyterian Church, a Springfield congregation with approximately 1,700 members, voted 493 to 185 on Sunday in favor of disaffiliating with PCUSA. Keep reading

Is There Any Actual Demand for Same-Sex Marriage?

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.* One question the Court ignored—and which few people ever truly considered—was whether there is an actual demand for same-sex marriage.

In an attempt to provide an answer we must first determine how many people would be interested in same-sex marriage. Keep reading

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Facing Up Is Hard to Do: Reactions to the Catholicization of the Anglican Church in North America (Part 2)

By Robin G. Jordan

I have been taking note of how different members of the Anglican Church in North America react to the observation that the College of Bishops is taking the denomination in the direction of unreformed Catholicism. As I noted in yesterday’s article some ACNA members dismiss it as a passing phase. They insist that it should not be a cause for concern. These ACNA members, however, cannot offer anything in support of their belief. What they are essentially doing in engaging in a form of denial. They are using this particular belief to convince themselves and others that nothing out of the ordinary is happening in the denomination. It enables them to ignore what is a serious problem in the denomination—the favoring of the teaching and practices of one school of thought in the Anglican Church in North America to the exclusion of the teaching and practices of the other schools of thought in the denomination, particular that school of thought which is committed to the Biblical and Reformation doctrines and convictions of the Anglican formularies and authentic historic Anglicanism.

A number of member of the Anglican Church in North America show a willingness to give much greater weight to the opinions of their bishops than they warrant, at times surrendering to the bishops the interpretation of what is happening in the denomination rather than interpreting developments for themselves. If a bishop denies that the College of Bishops is favoring the teaching and practices of one school of thought in the denomination, they will believe the bishop rather than draw their own conclusions from the available evidence. This is a very dangerous tendency. They are essentially allowing the bishops to define reality for them, choosing to accept what the bishops tell them over what a careful examination of these developments shows. They are failing to recognize that bishops may be motivated by special interests and are capable of behaving unscrupulously and rationalizing this behavior just like everyone else. Nowhere in Scripture do we find anything to suggest that bishops are free from the taint of sin, not inclined to evil, or infallible. This tendency also shows how quickly members of the Anglican Church in North America have forgotten what happened in the Episcopal Church when its members were uncritical in their acceptance of the opinions of their bishops, increasingly giving more credence to these opinions than to the revealed truth of God’s Word.

While one segment of the Anglican Church in North America is committed to making the denomination unreformed Catholic in faith, order, and practice and is a strong influence in the Prayer Book and Liturgy and other task forces and the College of Bishops, another segment has this notion that the Anglican Church in North America is—to borrow a description from the writings of J.C. Ryle--a kind of Noah’s ark in which orthodox Anglicans of various stripes rub shoulders, united solely by a common acceptance of the creeds and a traditional view of marriage and human sexuality and a tacit agreement to tolerate each others’ opinions. Clearly this view of the denomination is not reflected in its constitution and canons, which favor the opinions of the unreformed Catholic segment. It is certainly not reflected in Texts for Common Prayer and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism.  They favor the beliefs and thinking of the unreformed Catholic segment over any other theological outlook.

This view of the Anglican Church in North America is more than a harmless delusion. It inhibits those who hold this view from making a realistic appraisal of Texts for Common Prayer and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism and making sure their own beliefs and thinking is comprehended in the denomination’s Prayer Book and Catechism. The unreformed Catholic segment is able to take advantage of their hesitance. It has no such inhibition.

Those who hold this view of the Anglican Church in North America also show a tendency to see as a form of intolerance the observation that the College of Bishops is taking the denomination in the direction of unreformed Catholicism. They themselves do not want to be perceived as intolerant toward the denomination’s unreformed Catholic segment. For this reason they are reluctant to agree with the observation despite the fact that the College of Bishops is not making room for their theological outlook in the denomination’s official doctrinal statements. One is left to conclude that they do not take what is happening with the seriousness that it deserves or they lack a strong instinct of theological self-preservation. What they believe and think does not really matter that much to them. Being perceived as tolerant is more important.

Those toward whom they wish to be perceived as tolerant, however, do not exhibit such a concern and take advantage of their preoccupation with being perceived as tolerant. It is as if the two segments of the Anglican Church in North America live in entirely different worlds—one segment going out of its way to show how tolerant it is toward the other segment while the other segment devotes itself to undermining what that segment believes and thinks.

What keeps some ACNA members from responding with alarm to developments in the Anglican Church in North America is they are safely cocooned in a local church that is not presently moving in the direction that the College of Bishops is taking the denomination. They are not directly affected by what is happening at the provincial level. Since they are not experiencing the immediate effects of these developments, they do not take the developments with the seriousness that they deserve. This may change when the Prayer Book in preparation is completed and becomes compulsory along with the Catechism, when their diocese gets a new bishop, or when their current rector moves on to a new church. 

Among the things that trouble me about these reactions is that they are similar to the reactions of a segment of the Episcopal Church when the direction which its bishops were taking that denomination was drawn to their attention. It was slow if not reluctant to grasp the full implications of what was happening. One of the results was that nothing was done about it at a stage when doing something might have made a difference. The situation was allowed to get out of hand.