Monday, April 27, 2015

The Anglican Church in North America and the Struggle over Anglican Identity

By Robin G. Jordan

Over the past five years the Anglican Church in North America has shown no evidence of changing its direction from that reflected in the particular theological bias of its doctrinal statements to date—NONE WHATSOEVER!!

Folks in the ACNA who maintain that the denomination is a work in progress and that it is too soon to draw any conclusions about what it will become theologically are indulging in wishful thinking. This type of thinking may enable them to remain in the denomination despite the mounting evidence that the most influential denominational leaders—those who are determining its present direction—are NOT committed to creating an environment in the denomination in which ALL schools of conservative Anglican thought are able to flourish. But it is wishful thinking nonetheless.

Without serious, meaningful reform the ACNA will keep moving in its present direction. The same leaders have a vested interest in ensuring that it does. They have a particular vision of the denomination.

Their vision does not include the creation of an environment in which conservative Evangelical congregations and groupings of congregations are able to thrive alongside Anglo-Catholic ones. It is the vision of a denomination in which various forms of Anglo-Catholicism are flourishing but not confessional Anglicanism  It is the vision of a denomination in which those congregations and groupings of congregations that are not fully Anglo-Catholic in doctrine, order, and practice are moving progressively in that direction.

Folks in the ACNA who do not see any evidence of a theological bias in the denomination’s doctrinal statements are choosing to ignore a substantial body of evidence which shows that its doctrinal statements favor the views of the denomination’s Anglo-Catholic – philo-Orthodox wing over those of the other groups in the ACNA. Denial of the existence and extent of this body of evidence may be what enables them to remain in the denomination.

Folks in the ACNA who tell conservative Evangelicals that they should look elsewhere if they want to be a part of a Reformed denomination are the most honest with themselves and others out of the three groups. They are willing to say what those shaping the official doctrine of the ACNA are not willing to say. Saying it might cost them the support of the GAFCON/GFCA Primates and they are not willing to burn that bridge—at least not at the present time. It offers them a connection with the global Anglican Communion and legitimacy that they might otherwise not have. Telling conservative Evangelicals to look elsewhere would be acknowledging that they are pursuing a policy of exclusion.

Since the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholics have sought to dislodge the Thirty-Nine Articles from its central place as Anglicanism’s confession of faith and to change the identity of the Anglican Church. See J. C. Ryle’s essay, “The Thirty-Nine Articles” in Knots Untied (1877). They have not only attacked what Ryle in Knots Untied calls “Evangelical Religion,” but have endeavored to rid the Anglican Church of Evangelicals and their theological outlook. They succeeded in the Episcopal Church in the United States in the late nineteenth century. In South Africa the result was two churches identifying themselves as Anglican—one faithful to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Articles, the other embodying Anglo-Catholic principles.

The struggle over what is constitutive of a genuine Anglican identity did not conclude in the nineteenth century but continues to this present day. Among its results is the split between liberal Anglican provinces in the West and conservative ones in the global South, the unsuccessful Anglican Covenant, the Global Anglican Future movement, the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement.

This struggle has not been confined to the provinces of the Anglican Communion but has also affected the extramural Anglican churches. Douglas Bess has documented the struggle over what is constitutive of a genuine Anglican identity in North America’s Continuing Anglican Movement in Divided We Stand: A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement (Apocryphile Press, 2006). The result would be the early demise of the first Anglican Church in North America, the dominance of an “extreme form of Anglo-Catholicism” in most of the resulting splinter churches,  a fragmented movement, and declining and dying churches. The particular form of Anglo-Catholicism that has come to dominate the Continuing Anglican Movement seeks to reconstruct Anglicanism along the lines of the supposedly undivided Church of the early High Middle Ages before the East-West Schism.

This struggle has also been evident in the Reformed Episcopal Church since the closing decades of the twentieth century.  There has been a concerted effort to substitute a revisionist reinterpretation of the Evangelical principles of the denomination’s founders for their views on key issues. This reinterpretation reflects the Anglo-Catholic leanings of the REC’s present leadership and is intended to persuade the folks in the REC that the direction in which that leadership is taking the REC is consistent with what its founders believed, taught, and practiced. Anyone who takes the time to read the writings of the REC founders and to study the history of the REC knows that that is not the case.

I have received credible reports of the hostility that Anglo-Catholics in the REC show toward those who continue to uphold the REC founders’ Evangelical principles, dismissively referring to them as “Presbyterians.” I have myself been the object of their hostility when I have drawn attention to the discrepancy between what they believe, teach, and practice and what the REC founders believed, taught, and practiced.

I have also received credible reports of how Anglo-Catholic REC bishops have discriminated against candidates seeking ordination in the REC and clergy seeking reception into the REC from a protestant denomination because they adhered to the REC founders’ Evangelical principles. In addition, I have received credible reports of the unethical conduct of REC bishops in their dealings with clergy. A REC bishop who at the time was a member of the Common Cause Partnership’s Governance Task Force and director of communications for his denomination told me that I had approached the wrong person when I contacted him with a proposal for an alternative constitution for what would become the second Anglican Church in North America for the consideration of the REC bishops. It was an obvious lie albeit a sixteenth century Jesuit might argue that the bishop in question was not being entirely dishonest with me: He was not the right person to approach with the proposal as he supported the Common Cause Partnership’s Governance Task Force’s proposed constitution for the ACNA which he had helped to draft.

When viewed together, the doctrinal positions taken in the ACNA’s constitution, canons, ordinal, trial eucharistic liturgy, catechism, and other doctrinal statements represent a revisionist reinterpretation of Anglicanism, one that is closely related to “the extreme form of Anglo-Catholicism” that has dominated the Continuing Anglican Movement and which is antithetical to “the protestant and reformed principles of the Anglican Church based on Holy Scripture and as set out in the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles.” 

The Anglo-Catholic Movement would benefit from the Broad Church Movement’s acceptance or tolerance of its beliefs and practices in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The retrograde 1928 Prayer Book is a product of their collaboration. The two movements also collaborated on a passage of a 1925 resolution that sought to drop the Thirty-Nine Articles from the American Prayer Book. The Episcopal Church’s canons did not require clerical subscription to the Articles. However, both Anglo-Catholics and Broad Churchmen objected to their inclusion in the Prayer Book as they were an irritating reminder of Anglican Church’s “protestant and reformed principles,” principles which they did not themselves uphold.

The liberalism that eclipsed Anglo-Catholicism in the Episcopal Church from the mid-twentieth century on has its roots in both movements. The ordination service for deacons in the 1928 Prayer Book does away with the requirement that candidates for the diaconate in the Episcopal must “unfeignedly believe all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.” It removed that particular obstacle to modernism which had been making substantial inroads in the Episcopal Church. Interestingly the ACNA Ordinal also does away with this requirement.

The Anglo-Catholic Movement has benefitted from the Convergence Movement’s acceptance or tolerance of its beliefs and practices in the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century. The Convergence Movement has championed a number of these beliefs and practices among North American evangelicals and charismatics. Both the Anglo-Catholic Movement and the Convergence Movement are strongly represented in the ACNA.

The adherents of both movements warm to two ideas that former ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan champions. Along with the regression of the North American Anglican Church to the beliefs and practices of an earlier period in Church history, to those of a time before the Reformation, Duncan advocates what he described as a “new settlement.” The Elizabethan Settlement, he argues, is outdated. Contemporary Anglicans have entirely different views on a number of doctrinal issues and related practices that were argued about in the sixteenth century. This “new settlement” would reflect these views.

As Roger Beckwith and others have pointed out, the Elizabethan Settlement is what has shaped the particular character of the Anglican Church—a church when it it is true to the principles of the Anglican Reformers, is protestant, reformed, and evangelical. What Duncan is championing is a complete change of Anglican identity, something that Anglo-Catholics have been promoting since the nineteenth century and liberals since the twentieth century. It is noteworthy that the GAFCON Theological Resource Group in The Way, the Truth, and the Life: Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future identify Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism as the two major challenges to the authority of Holy Scripture and the Anglican formularies in the Anglican Church from the nineteenth century on (pp. 32-33.)

Whatever they may say, Duncan and those who share his views or have similar views are constitutionally and ideologically opposed to GAFCON’s affirmation of the Elizabethan Settlement in The Way,the Truth and the Life: Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future; the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans’ position on the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, on what defines core Anglican identity; the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement; and Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today.

Present ACNA Archbishop Foley Beech ostensibly supports “the renewal of Anglicanism.” But his actions as well as a number of his public statements suggest that what Beech really supports is a reconstruction of Anglicanism. He has joined with the other members of the College of Bishops to endorse the doctrinal statements that the ACNA has produced to date. He has taken steps to implement these documents in his own diocese.

Beech has also voiced the opinion that Anglicanism is confessional because its adherents accept the authority of the catholic Creeds. This is a revisionist reinterpretation of Anglican confessionalism. The GAFCON Theological Resource Group in The Way, the Truth and the Life in its discussion of the struggle with theological pluralism equates Anglican confessionalism with Anglicans’ acceptance of the authority of its reformed confession of faith, The Thirty-Nine Articles (p. 24). Their view of Anglican confessionalism is the longstanding, historical view of such confessionalism.

What is coming to the fore in the Anglican Church in North America is not support for the recovery of confessional Anglicanism, which the GAFCON Theological Resource Group identifies as essential to a clear definition of Anglican identity but support for a purportedly new understanding of Anglicanism, one which is in actuality an old Anglo-Catholic understanding of Anglicanism in a new guise. 

Photo credit: Pixabay,public domain

Seven Reasons Some Church Members Don’t Want Their Churches to Grow

It is highly unusual to hear church members say that they don’t desire their churches to be obedient to the Great Commission. Indeed, it is common for the members of a pastor search committee to tell a prospective pastor that they are looking for a leader who will guide the church toward growth.

And most church members do desire to see their churches grow . . . until the growth affects them. It is at that point they can become disillusioned and critical.

So what is it about growth that impacts some members negatively? Let me suggest seven reasons. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

The Missing Conviction of Developing Leaders

Often our churches don’t make leaders because we lack conviction. Granted, it’s probably much more than that, but it is certainly not less. Based on the lack of leadership development in many churches it is clear that many church leaders lack a real conviction for developing leaders.

If we look at Moses and Joshua, his successor, we see conviction for developing leaders in one and lacking in the other. And we also see that the implications of either possessing or lacking a conviction for development are huge.

Conviction for developing others gripped Moses. As you read through the Scripture, you see Moses pouring into Joshua. Moses served his people by pouring into the life of another. And immediately after Moses’ death, Joshua was ready to lead Israel.
After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: “Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites (Joshua 1:1-2).
The leadership legacy of Joshua, sadly, is very different.... Keep reading

What Does It Mean to Be a Servant of the Word?

What does it mean to be a servant of the Word? First, if we are to be servants of the Word, the priorities of our ministry must be such that the preaching of the Word is central—everything else must fall into place behind this priority. Are there other important tasks of ministry? Of course. Are there other important priorities of the church? Of course. But your personal schedule must reflect the priority of preaching, showing just how serious you are about it. You can find out quickly what a church believes about preaching by looking at its calendar for worship and other activities, and you can find out what a preacher believes about preaching by looking at his schedule. Every other task and priority must be subordinated to that first priority, the preaching of the Word—with the promise that it will balance all the others. Everything comes into proper balance because we do not have to worry about balancing a schedule, balancing a budget, or balancing priorities when we understand that the Word of God will establish those priorities. Then everything else will become clear. Keep reading

Expository Preaching: From Theology to Experience

Expository preaching usually begins with a biblical text and lets the text shape the sermon. The preacher intends to have the theological message of the text become the message of the sermon. Expository preaching by definition seeks to expose the intended meaning of the text for the contemporary audience. This is usually done by preaching through a Bible book in a series. As a result, expository preaching has been criticized as academic and out of touch with the needs of real people.

An emphasis on human experience may seem to compromise expository preaching and undercut its adherence to the biblical text. But that is not necessarily the case. Granted, felt-need preaching has often seemed more concerned with feelings and needs than with answers from Scripture. Sometimes this kind of preaching mistakes a sympathetic analysis of the trouble as a solution. While sympathy is appreciated, biblical wisdom is what we want.

The skill emphasized here is tracing from theological concepts in the text to the corresponding points of contact in human experience. Notice the emphasis on “tracing.” We begin with theological concepts in a text. We study the words of the text writer to discover the theological ideas he is presenting that will become the truths the sermon presents. We find the one central idea of the text and word it as subject/modifier. We then find what the writer said about that central idea and identify these ideas as predicates. Keep reading

MBTS website to encourage & equip the church

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched the website providing Gospel-centered resources to engage, encourage, and equip those ministering within the local church.

The site, to be overseen by managing editor Jared Wilson, will host blogs, articles, practical application tools and other resources to assist current pastors, ministry leaders, and lay men and women in their ministry roles. Keep reading

Faith leaders call for religious protections ahead of gay marriage hearing

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on Tuesday (April 28) that could wind up legalizing gay marriage nationwide, dozens of Christian leaders have issued a call to civil authorities to preserve “the unique meaning of marriage in the law” — but also to “protect the rights of those with differing views of marriage.” Keep reading

Also see
Court readies for arguments over definition of marriage

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Survey of ACNA Doctrinal Statements and Their Theological Leanings: The Constitution

By Robin G. Jordan

In Article I the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America identifies seven elements that it maintains comprise the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism—what defines core Anglican identity. The third, sixth, and seventh of the elements identified in the article clearly represent partisan doctrinal positions. This was drawn to the attention of the Common Cause Partnership’s Governance Task Force when the proposed constitution was first made public for examination and comment for a very brief period before its adoption and ratification. The reaction of the Governance Task Force was to deny their partisan character.

CANA Bishop Martyn Mimms also raised the issue of the partisan character of these positions at the Provisional Provincial Council meeting at which the draft constitution was adopted. The Anglo-Catholic members of the Council would block any major changes to Article I, showing that they had a vested interest in the particular wording of the article.

We examined Article I.3 in my previous article, “The Anglican Church in North America—a Church for All Conservative North American Anglicans?” The position articulated in this clause of the article, in the words of the late Peter Toon, “excludes most Anglicans worldwide today and excludes the millions of evangelical Anglicans who have been faithful Anglicans over the generations!”

Article I.6 recognizes the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 edition of the Ordinal as “a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline.” Article I.6 infers that other standards exist. The two historic formularies are just one of a number of standards. This included standards based upon what John Henry Newman and the Tractarians maintained is the “Catholic faith” and which they constructed out of “extracts from the Fathers and the Caroline Divines.” It also includes standards drawn from Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox teaching. Article I.6 effectively waters down these two formularies as a part of the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism—of what defines core Anglican identity.

This view of the two historic formularies is particularly congenial to Anglo-Catholics. As Anglo-Catholic ACNA Bishop of Forth Worth Jack Iker in a sermon preached at the Synod Eucharist of the annual gathering of the REC Diocese of Mid-America on February 21, 2014 put it, “we [a reference to Anglo-Catholics] rather like the 1549 Prayer Book as the standard.”

Article I.6 does not preclude the ACNA from making not only the partially-reformed 1549 Prayer Book its standard but also the pre-Reformation medieval service books such as the Sarum Missal from which the various Anglican missals are derived. These manuals enable Anglo-Catholic clergy to transform the Anglican Communion Service into a facsimile of the Roman Mass.

In its recognition of the Prayer Book and the Ordinal as “the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship” Article I.6 adds this qualification “with the Books which preceded it.” Article I.6 does not identify which books. Keith Aker, a presbyter with the REC Diocese of the West, in the Book of Common Prayer 2011 takes the position that the books in question include the pre-Reformation service books as does the ACNA Liturgy and Common Prayer Task Force in Texts for Common Prayer (2013).

The inescapable conclusion is that Article I.6 is neither theological nor liturgical neutral. It favors the development of a liturgy that is Anglo-Catholic in its doctrine and its liturgical practices.

Anglo-Catholics would hail the inclusion of the phrase, “taken in their literal and grammatical sense,” in Article I.7 as an endorsement of John Henry Newman and the Tractarians’ reinterpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in a Rome-ward direction, disconnected from their original historic context and the original intent of their framers. In Tract 90 Newman contended that the reference in the Royal Declaration of Charles I to only “the literal and grammatical sense” freed interpreters of the Articles from considering "the known opinions of the framers" in interpreting them.

The phrase “expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time” in Article I.7 infers that doctrinal issues referred to in that phrase are no longer of concern to the Anglican Church, a view taken by liberals as well as Anglo-Catholics. Since the sixteenth century the Anglican Church in their estimation has moved on and come to a different understanding on these doctrinal issues. For example, the Anglican Church no longer recognizes only two sacraments. The Anglican Church no longer insists that a vital faith is necessary to receive any benefit from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The Articles, in other words, are a relic of the past and are not relevant or authoritative for today’s Anglicans.

The phrase “expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief” leaves to the interpreter to decide what such fundamental principles that the Articles express, permitting the interpreter not only to selectively chose from the Articles what he considers genuinely Anglican—in other words, consistent with his own particular reconstruction of Anglicanism, but also to give his own spin to what he cherry-picked from the Articles. Instead of the Articles determining what is Anglican, the interpreter determines for himself what is in the Articles is Anglican. This completely sabotages the functions for which their framers intended the Articles to serve.

The view of the Thirty-Nine Articles expressed in Article I.7, while it may be congenial to Anglo-Catholics and liberals, is far from agreeable to conservative Evangelicals and other Anglicans who take the Articles seriously as Anglicanism’ confession of faith, comprising with the Book of Common Prayer in its 1662 edition and the Ordinal in its 1661 edition, the long-recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism. (The Book of Homilies is also a part of this standard, recognized in the Articles themselves as containing “Godly and wholesome doctrine” and expounding in more depth and detail the doctrine of the Articles.) It is not a view of the Articles that is compatible with that of the Jerusalem Declaration which upholds the Articles “as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s word and is authoritative for Anglicans today.” There is no equivocation in the acceptance of the authority of the Articles in the Jerusalem Declaration as there is in Article I.7.

The other doctrinal statements that the Anglican Church has produced to date show conclusively that the ACNA does not accept the Articles’ authority but treats them as something with which it can do whatever it pleases or which it can ignore altogether. In this regard the ACNA is no better than the Episcopal Church from which it broke away.

The view of the Thirty-Nine Articles expressed in Article I.7 is decidedly not theologically-neutral. It favors both Anglo-Catholic and liberal views of the Articles.

The partisan character of the ACNA constitution is not limited to Article I. It is also evident in Article X.1, which describes the College of Bishops as serving “a visible sign and expression of the Unity of the Church,” echoing themes found in Letters to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion (1992).

Article XIII in permitting dioceses to maintain a claim of ownership over the property of churches in the diocese points to Anglo-Catholic view of the nature of the diocese and of the churches forming the diocese and to an underlying Anglo-Catholic ecclesiology of the Church.

Also see:
The Anglican Church in North America – a Church for All Conservative North American Anglicans?

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

8 Reasons Church Change Is so Difficult

Healthy change is essential for any church or ministry to thrive. Lasting change requires individuals to change first before an organization will change. The changes won’t last or will disrupt your church unless those on your team personally embrace them, at least at some level. So it’s vital we understand why most people initially resist change.

Brain insight helps us understand the hidden processes around which we can design our change initiatives. Being aware of how the brain responds to change can help you craft lasting change and overcome barriers that stifle healthy change. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

No, Hanging Out with Your Friends Is Not the Church

Who doesn’t like getting together for a fun dinner with friends and sharing about life? What’s not to love about having deep conversations about spiritual truths with those close to you?

Those things are great and we should do more of them, but—I’m sorry to break this to you—they aren’t church.

Increasingly, I see younger evangelicals (like the one in this Relevant blog post) wondering if they can call their spiritual hang outs with friends a congregation. They are exploring the question: What is church?

That is a worthwhile question and we can affirm various styles of doing church. A different methodology does not automatically mean heretical ecclesiology. Keep reading

Also see
Dinner With Friends Is My Church. Is That OK?

Photo credit: Pixaby, public domain

10 Pointers for Evangelistic Preaching

There are far more qualified voices on this subject, but nevertheless, here are 10 pointers to ponder as you anticipate preaching evangelistically. Keep reading

Why These 66 Books?

Have you ever looked at your Bible and wondered, “How do we know that these 66 books, and no others, comprise the inspired Word of God?”

That is a critically important question, since there are many today who would deny that these 66 books truly make up the complete canon of Scripture. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Former SAAB showroom home to Baton Rouge Anglican church

BR Anglican church finds home in former SAAB showroom

At first glance, a Cadillac dealer’s showroom may not seem like a “mission outpost” of Christianity, but that’s exactly how Holy Cross Anglican Church was described by a visiting bishop when he blessed the congregation last Sunday evening.

Holy Cross Anglican worships at the Gerry Lane Cadillac dealership, in a spacious showroom where SAAB cars were once sold until the Swedish company liquidated three years ago.

Shepherded by the Rev. Ernie Saik, the 70-member congregation began worshipping there in September, but he didn’t want to make it public until the group could be blessed by the Rev. Clark W.P. Lowenfield, bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast of the Anglican Church in North America.

“On this third Sunday of Easter we celebrate 1,982 years ago, when 11 apprentices of Jesus stepped off a mountain after being told to go and make more apprentices … and they changed the world,” Lowenfield preached as the sun streamed through the large showroom windows. “They started mission outposts all over the world. Mark went to Constantinople and Thomas went to India … and they began to establish exactly what you have established here — a mission outpost of the kingdom of God.”

“This is a place where others can come and taste and see and know Jesus as they come into his kingdom,” Lowenfield said. “You are ushering in the kingdom of God by your very faithfulness.” Keep reading
Holy Spirit was a unique church. It was multi-racial and multi-ethnic when most Louisiana Episcopal churches were homogeneous—Anglo-American, Afro-American, or Hispanic.

While Holy Spirit owned property, it chose to plant gardens and start a fish farm on the property rather than build a worship center. It donated the produce from the gardens and the fish from the fish farm to the Sisters of Mercy’s feeding program for the poor. The property had a modest-sized house on it, which the church used as an office during the day and a homeless shelter at night.

Holy Spirit held its weekly celebrations of the Holy Eucharist in the chapel of Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge. The rector and the congregation were unashamedly charismatic. Instead of a choir and an organ the church had a music group—guitar, piano, stacked bells. The music used in its Eucharist celebrations was contemporary for the times. The lyrics were projected onto a screen. The congregation clapped and raised hands as it worshiped and spoke in tongues as it prayed.

Holy Spirit was active in mission. The church offered the Alphas Course for those in the Baton Rouge area wanting to learn more about the Christian faith. It sent short-term mission teams to Honduras where the teams built churches, taught Vacation Bible School, and provided medical treatment to Hondurans living in remote villages far from a clinic. It ministered to Sudanese refugees in the community. It also sponsored the Church of the Beloved, a church plant in my former deanery, which is a 60 minute drive from Baton Rouge.

I was a frequent visitor to Holy Spirit during the time I lived in Louisiana. Joe Rhodes, its former rector, its founding pastor and Ernie Sykes’ predecessor, was the rector of the Cursillo weekend that I attended.

I was not the only member of my former parish who established a connection with the church. A number of folks from my former parish were involved in its short-term mission trips to Honduras and a number of folks from Holy Spirit were involved in the Women’s Joy Conference—a diocesan-wide gathering that had its origin in my former parish.

When my former rector refused to provide a placement for the candidate that he had recommended for the diaconate because the candidate’s wife had stopped attending the church, Holy Spirit’s former rector agreed to provide the candidate with a placement, enabling him to be ordained as a deacon. The candidate’s wife had started the Women’s Joy Conference and played a leading role in my former parish’s prayer and healing ministries. She was one of a number of women who stopped attending the church after the rector arbitrarily withdrew his support of my former parish’s newly-formed Daughters of the King chapter after having agreed to its formation. This was one of a series of decisions that eventually led to a church split that resulted in the loss of almost one-third of the church’s member households.

I also know Earnie Sykes from when he was assistant rector of St. Luke’s Baton Rouge and rector of Christ Church, Slidell. He is an Anglo-Catholic and a charismatic. He was one of several charismatic Anglican and Episcopal clergy who presided and preached at the Eucharist celebrations of the Church of the Beloved.

The bishop had initially refused to allow the planting of a new church in the shadow of my former parish, fearing that it would further weaken that parish. However, the bishop changed his mind after the Anglican Mission in America announced its plans to start a new church in the area. The new church at first thrived. However, unfolding events in the Episcopal Church in 2003 would damage the denomination’s public image in what is a politically and socially conservative area and cost the new church most of its members. When I last visited the Church of the Beloved on one of my infrequent visits to Louisiana, it was a ghost of its former self.

The Church of the Beloved was not the only church to suffer. What had been a thriving mission church in East Baton Rouge would close. A parish on the West Bank, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, would revert to mission status. My former parish would hang onto parish status for four more years when it also reverted to mission status.

I do not know the story behind the closure of Holy Spirit.

I do not believe that worshipping in an automobile showroom will present any serious difficulties for Earnie and his new Anglican congregation made up of former members of Holy Spirit. 
Photo credit. Mark A. Hunter 

Friday, April 24, 2015

3 Important Church Trends in the Next Ten Years

Christianity in the United States may look very different in 10 years.

As someone who both cares about the mission of the Church and leads a research organization, I watch the trends in the Church and the culture. Occasionally, someone asks me to share some thoughts on the big picture, in the case of the North American context, questions related to "streams" of Protestantism.

Based on research, statistics, extrapolation, and (I hope) some insight, I notice three important trends continuing in the next 10 years. Keep reading

Common Church Board Blind Spots

Facts worth noting as you plan your board's next meeting agenda

Ashley: What are common blind spots for church boards when it comes to child abuse prevention? How can boards implement a culture of safety and protection?

Brian: Boards don’t think abuse will happen at their churches. There’s just a lack of awareness of how prevalent it is and that it can happen. There’s an ignorance and a mentality of, “Oh, we know everybody [in our church], so we really don’t need a program. Everybody knows everybody.” That’s one of the biggest issues I see. People put their heads in the sand.

Peter: Boz talked about a culture of protection. I once heard this culture described as the roots of the tree. We tend to prune the trees at the limb, but the root—that takes irrigation. It takes a long time.

Culture is a mindset. It has behavioral elements to it. I think it’s also strategic, and the board needs to be strategic. There could be elements of campaigning, like billboards, messaging, and themes around the issue of awareness. Education would help.

There are people out there talking about doing “fire drills” relative to an incident of abuse. You would simulate that you’ve had an event of some sort, an incident, and how you might respond. How would the communication process move along? What are the best practices? Typically a church may have one incident that surfaces in its history, yet the church can really struggle as an organization if it’s not handled well, as we’ve seen. Keep reading
Child abuse is far more common than people imagine. For every reported case there are many more unreported cases. While stranger abuse receives the most attention in the media, abuse by someone known to the child is more common in sexual abuse cases. Most state and county child protection agencies will work with churches in educating their boards and their church members about child abuse, neglect and exploitation  
Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain 

7 Steps to Raise Your Visibility Before a Skeptical World

Today in an increasingly skeptical world, the church must move beyond branding and build a new, more powerful reputation. Here are seven steps to elevating your visibility in a community. Keep reading

British Baptists and gay marriage: will it split the denomination?

British Baptists could be facing a bruising controversy over homosexuality, as one of the regional associations has dissented from the denomination's declared position, Christian Today can reveal.

The West of England Baptist Association (WEBA) – one of 13 regional associations of the Baptist Union of Great Britain – has effectively challenged guidance issued by the Union which says each minister can make up its own mind on the issue of same sex marriage.

The matter of what is and isn't allowed is complex for Baptists because of the way they are structured: each Baptist church is independent, but the Union is responsible for setting national standards for the conduct of ministers. Keep reading
From this article I gather that the Baptist Union of Great Britain does not have anything equivalent to the Southern Baptist Convention's The Baptist Faith and Message. To become "cooperating church" in the SBC, a Baptist church must be in agreement with The Baptist Faith and Message and must contribute to the denomination's Cooperative Fund.

Armenian killings were genocide, says World Evangelical Alliance – and Turkey should admit it

Turkey must open its archives to historians so that the Armenian genocide and the mass killings of 600,000 other Christians can be properly acknowledged, the secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance has said.

In an open letter to leaders of the ancient oriental Churches, Bishop Efraim Tendero wrote that the world-wide commemoration today of the genocide, in which Ottoman Turks killed up to 1.5 million Armenians, also provided an opportunity to remember the parallel ethnic cleansings and killings of 300,000 Pontic Greeks and 300,000 Aramaic-speaking Christians. The killings lasted for nearly 10 years. Keep reading

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Anglican Church in North America - a Church for All Conservative North American Anglicans?

By Robin G. Jordan

While I would not go as far saying that it is characteristic of all folks in the Anglican Church in North America, the ACNA does have its share of people who do not want to hear anything that is in their way of thinking even remotely critical of their denomination. They do not want drawn to their attention the areas in which the denomination needs reform. They exhibit a high level of defensiveness. On more than one occasion I have been told in so many words that if I do not have anything nice to say about the ACNA, I should not say anything at all. This is unfortunate because there is a real need for meaningful reform in the ACNA particularly at the denominational level if the ACNA is to be anything more than the latest Anglo-Catholic Continuing Anglican Church in the United States and Canada.

Among the areas in which the Anglican Church in North America is in greatest need of reform is that its most influential leaders evidences no commitment to creating an environment in the ACNA in which all schools of conservative Anglican thought can flourish. The doctrinal statements that the ACNA has produced to date favor the doctrinal positions and related practices of one particular school of conservative Anglican thought over the others. The adherents of the school of thought in question “identify with Roman Catholic teaching and liturgical practices and holds a high view of the authority of clergy and tradition.” [1] In recent years a number of its adherents have also come to identify with Eastern Orthodox teaching and liturgical practices. While some of its adherents idealize the early High Middle Ages period as a golden age of Christianity, others display a greater affinity with the Counter Reformation and post-Tridentian Roman Catholicism.

The Anglican identity of this particular school of thought has been controverted since the nineteenth century. Adherents of the school argue that it alone represents genuine Anglicanism. Critics draw attention to the numerous ways in which it departs from Holy Scripture and the Anglican formularies, the touchstones of historic Anglican identity.

One of the first writers to recognize the lack of such commitment in what was then the Common Cause Partnership leadership was the late Peter Toon. Toon was an Anglican presbyter, theologian, and author: has a complete list of his books. He coined the phrase, “Anglican Way,” to describe the distinctive characteristics of authentic historic Anglicanism. He wrote a number of articles drawing attention to the controversial positions that the Common Cause Partnership took in its Theological Statement. The constitution of the Anglican Church in North America incorporates into Article I the “seven elements” listed in the CCP Theological Statement as “the fundamental declaration of the province,” which Article I identifies “as characteristic of the Anglican Way” and “essential to membership.”

In a private email, “Proposed Doctrine for the Network: Can it be improved?”posted on the Internet, Toon points out that the original proposed CCP Theological Statement exhibited “problems of an internal lack of coherence” and took positions that “self-respecting educated Evangelical Anglicans” could not accept.

In regard to the statement’s position on the Councils of the Church, Toon goes on to point out if one follows Canon A5 of the Church of England Canons and carefully reads the Thirty-Nine Articles:
“…one will get a full and clear statement of the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures for instructing us in the way of salvation and godliness. One will also learn what are the Catholic Creeds and why they are accepted in the Church in relation to the Bible. And the same goes for the two Dominical Sacraments. (See also the Catechism in the BCP)”
He further points out:
At the same time one will learn that Councils may err and so one will not accept automatically the teaching of “the Seven Ecumenical Councils.” And this is especially important with regard to the seventh, the Second Council of Nicea, whose teaching on the veneration of icons is effectively rejected by the Articles and specifically by the Book of Homilies to which Article XXXV points. The historic Anglican Way has always affirmed four general councils and stopped at that – leaving to the area of discretion by local churches whether to affirm more. (In this regard the Affirmation of St Louis set forth by Anglo-Catholic Continuers in 1977 went way past any previous official, provincial or Lambeth Conference Anglican statement in relation to the Councils by making 7 councils and their teaching mandatory – a big mistake.)”
In regard to the statement’s position on the Episcopate Toon notes:
“… if one reads the Articles and the Ordinal together then one will not be able to say on the basis of them (or by direct deduction from the New Testament) that the historic Episcopate is necessary for the full being of the Church. This statement is an Anglo-Catholic doctrine and belongs, I think, to the distinctions between the Episcopate seen as the bene esse (of the well being) or the plene esse (of the fullness of being) or the esse (of the necessary being). Anglicans have held varied doctrines of the relation of the Episcopate to the Church and it is not clear what is being claimed by the English expression, “full being” here. Whatever is claimed it excludes the majority of Anglicans since 1549 who have recognized other Churches (Lutheran, Presbyterian etc) as genuine churches with genuine presbyters, even if lacking the good thing of the Episcopate.”
In regard to the statement’s position on the Book of Common Prayer Toon notes:
“It is the 1662 edition that is in the Constitutions of the majority of the Anglican Provinces and this Book has been translated into 150 languages or more. (Go to provinces like Uganda and see it used each Sunday and find it written into the Constitution.) No official province of the Anglican Communion authorizes the 1549 or the 1552 or the 1559 or the 1604 editions. A very small continuing group here or there may authorize the 1549.”
The Common Cause Roundtable would modify the language of the proposed CCP Theological Statement but it did not retreat entirely from the Anglo-Catholic positions of the original proposed statement. In its position on the Book of Common Prayer, it would expand its standard of worship to include not only the 1549 Prayer Book but also the pre-Reformation Medieval service books. It would recognize the 1662 Prayer Book and the Ordinal appended to it as a standard of doctrine, which is a far cry from recognizing these two formularies as comprising with the Thirty-Nine Articles the longstanding doctrinal standard of authentic historic Anglicanism. The choice of wording did not exclude the 1549 Prayer Book and the pre-Reformation Medieval service books as standards of doctrine.

In his article, “The Ordaining and Consecrating of a Bishop – but what is his real identity?” Toon concludes the article with a discussion of the debate over whether bishops are essential to the church:
“It has often been observed that the original Ordinal of the Church of England left open various possibilities of the origin of the Threefold Ministry and its precise relation to the apostolic age. One question, often debated in the past, is whether the Episcopate is of the bene esse, the plene esse or the esse of the Church through space and time. By the Chicago Quadrilateral (later approved by the Conference - not Synod - of Bishops assembled at the Lambeth Conference) the Protestant Episcopal Church had virtually outlawed the bene esse approach (which had been and is very widely held by Anglicans) by insisting that the Episcopate was truly necessary for either the fullness of being or the very being of the Church. That is, the Church either is only really the Church when it has the Episcopate or is only the Church when it has the Episcopate (what does this approach do to the millions of Baptists, Methodists etc. in the U.S.A.?).”
Toon goes on to point out:
“The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral has of course no force in any province other than the American unless that province has actually adopted it by synodical action. Thus a majority of Anglicans worldwide still hold to the bene esse or at strongest the plene esse view of the Episcopate! The esse is seen as Roman Catholic or Orthodox in most places.”
Toon further points out:
“However, the strong temptation in the USA, in the competitiveness of the massive religious supermarket, is for the zealous in Episcopal Churches to claim that the Episcopate is either absolutely or very nearly absolutely necessary for there to be real and true, valid and efficacious, means of grace, sacraments and salvation. Anglicans in other lands where the competition is not so diverse and fierce can highly value the Episcopate without make it absolutely necessary!”
He then notes:
Regrettably, if I understand the document aright, the recent (mid August) proposed theological basis of the Common Cause of the A C Network, includes a commitment to what appears to be the doctrine that the Episcopate is certainly of plene esse of the Church and maybe of the esse! If so, it excludes most Anglicans worldwide today and excludes the millions of evangelical Anglicans who have been faithful Anglicans over the generations! It reads:
‘We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.’
This of course puts a particular spin on the 1662 Ordinal (which this Confession accepts) and prohibits the comprehensiveness that has always been part of the genius of the Anglican Way!”
With the adoption of the present ACNA constitution and canons and the ACNA College of Bishops’ endorsement of subsequent doctrinal statements it has become increasingly clear that Peter Toon was right in his assessment. The doctrinal positions of the Anglican Church in North America and the related practices disallow the comprehensiveness that has historically been a part of the distinctive character of Anglicanism. They treat as an undesirable element in the ACNA congregations and clergy who are evangelical in their theological outlook and who wholeheartedly subscribe to “the protestant and reformed principles of the Anglican Church based on Holy Scripture and as set out in the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles.” [2] They do not make room for the adherents of this school of conservative Anglican thought to prosper and thrive in the ACNA.

This particular school of thought stands in continuity with the English Reformers more than any other school of thought in Anglicanism. Its adherents in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the United Kingdom have recognized the Anglican Church in North America. The ACNA has reciprocated by withholding its recognition of their theological views and making no provision for such views in its formularies. It is a classical case of biting the hand that feeds, repaying support with wrong.

It is quite within the realm of possibility to develop statements of doctrine that do not favor one school of thought over another and that articulate positions on which there is general agreement. Those in positions of influence in the Anglican Church in North America, however, have shown no interest in the development of such doctrinal statements. Rather they have exhibited a strong inclination to impose the doctrinal positions and related practices of the Anglo-Catholic-philo-Orthodox party on the denomination, at the expense of other groups in the ACNA. This makes the GAFCON/GFCA Primates’ support of the ACNA even more puzzling since they have also made a public commitment to intervene on the behalf of groups excluded by their province or diocese. It casts doubt on their credibility.

In upcoming articles I am going to look at how each doctrinal statement that the Anglican Church in North America has produced is partisan in the doctrinal positions that it takes and the related practices that it mandates or permits. I will show that there is clear and consistent pattern of favoring the theological and ecclesiological views of the Anglo-Catholic-philo-Orthodox party in the ACNA over those of other groups. This pattern points to what has all the earmarks of being a calculated policy of discriminating against these groups and excluding their theological and ecclesiological views from the official doctrine of the denomination. Such a policy serves only two purposes—to transform the denomination into a body that is solely unreformed Catholic in doctrine, ecclesiology, and practice and to reduce and eventually eliminate the presence of conservative evangelicals and other confessional Anglicans in the denomination.

[1] The Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Terminology and Glossary of Terms
[2] The Anglican Church League's Policy Objectives

The Counter-Cultural Statement Of a Strategic Small Church

The church I pastor will probably never be a really big church.

Not because we don’t want to grow. We do. And we are.

But, given the specific combination of gifts, location, property, demographics and God’s call on our church, small works better for us.

And we’re not alone in this.

Many churches are in situations like ours. Their smallness is not an indication of failure, it’s the best way for them to do the ministry God is calling them to do. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Border Crossing: Renting to Churches of Other Cultures Part 1

When immigrants need worship space, think twice before renting.

A small immigrant congregation seeks space for worship services, and an established host-culture church with ample facilities weighs whether to make room. Should they do it?

Though few realize it, the more important question is why. Not answering it honestly from the start can lead to failure.

Renting is just one of several types of relationships between cultural groups sharing church facilities.[1] Though it lies at the end of the spectrum that least exemplifies the inclusive discipline of border crossing that Jesus modeled, renting can work for certain purposes. It can also disappoint disastrously, pushing partners further afield from their original financial or spiritual goals.

Depending on the answer to the “Why are we doing this?” question, renting can take at least three forms. Today’s post focuses on the first: renting as material gain. Keep reading

Solving High Food Expenses at Church

Examination and innovation can often yield cost savings.

Not too long ago, as I poured through our church expenses, I discovered something interesting: our church eats a lot.

Name most any type of church activity we had and you could usually find food from a caterer or restaurant associated with it.

Our meal provisions were so generous that, if someone served in multiple ways on a Sunday morning he or she could eat quite well—not just once, but two or possibly even three times. Keep reading
Let's not forget being generous, eating together, and feeding the hungry are an integral part of living our faith. Let's not confuse stinginess with stewardship. 
Photo credit: Pixabay. public domain 

Send Your Sermon

Don’t let your sermon be confined by the four walls of your church. Get your message out to the world. Here are a few ways to send it out on a mission.... Keep reading

Ask often, “What does the Bible say?”

Some of the most important changes in my life occurred when I thought to ask, “What does the Bible say about this?”

The way I spend the Lord’s Day, for example, and my thinking about what activities please God in worship were dramatically changed when I purposed to study what God’s Word said about those matters.

Far more often than we do, Christians should ask such questions.In our relationships, finances, use of time, priorities, parenting, simplifying, and everything else, we should more quickly ask, “What does the Bible say about this?” Keep reading

Also see
How to Be Productive According to the Bible

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

11 Places to Use Church Greeters

The church where my wife and I attend, Restoration Church in Wake Forest, NC, does a great job greeting us as we arrive at our worship location (currently, a middle school). Our leaders have done their homework and have recognized the importance of making positive first impressions.

Many people who write about church growth recognize the importance of having trained greeters at the doors when guests arrive. I agree (as you’ll see below), but I also think there are many other places to use greeters.... Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Eight Reasons People Are Leaving Denominational Churches for Non-denominational Churches

While working on an unrelated research project, I recently came across some data published by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research. Though the information was five years old, it still seemed highly relevant today. In essence, the data showed that non-denominational churches are now the second largest Protestant group in America. Only the Southern Baptist Convention is larger. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Is It About Marketing? Or Reputation?

You need to decide whether your real issue is about marketing or about reputation. The two concepts are distinct, depending on the people you most want to reach.

If you just want to reach churchy people (or people with church memories), then basic marketing may be sufficient. Place your facility in a highly visible, easily accessible location; provide lots of parking; surround yourself with illuminated, changeable signage. Identify yourself by your tradition, or use Christendom jargon for self-description: “Bible-Based,” “Spirit-Filled,” or franchised denominational slogans like “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”

The media you use for wider advertising depends largely on the lifestyle segments you want to reach. Some lifestyle segments read, some don’t; some rely on radio or TV, some on face-to-face gatherings and oral communication, some on the Internet. But be aware of the symbolic power of the media you use. If you use print, some will say you are “old-fashioned.” If you use social media, some will say you are “young, hip and shallow.” If you use it all, some will say you lack integrity and are just running a business. Keep reading

3 Reasons Why You Aren’t Allowed to Be Theologically Dumb

Everyone’s a theologian....

See? Even Oprah says so. And goodness knows she’s a theologian.

Everyone’s a theologian because everyone thinks something about God, even if your thought about him is that you think he’s not real. Everyone operates with a theology. There are Christian theologians, Buddhist theologians, Muslim theologians, Atheist theologians, and all other sorts.

You’re a theologian.

For the Christian, that means something unique. The Christian cannot be a passive theologian who has idle thoughts about God here and there. Christians are called to be active theologians who are constantly trying to learn more about the God we worship.

In my experience, Millennial evangelicals care far more about loving God with their hearts than they do loving God with their minds, and as a result, the God they love is nothing more than a construction of who they want God to be.
When you love God with your heart but not your mind, you end up loving the god of your imagination, not the God of the universe.
In our present age, you better know why you believe what you believe or you won’t believe it long.

This is why so many young people (and people in general, really) deny God in hard times. When the God you claim to love is a God that protects you from anything bad, you’re not worshiping the Christian God—you’re worshiping a fantasy god you’ve created in your mind that vaguely resembles the God of the Bible.

Here are three reasons you need to love God with your mind and not be theologically dumb.... Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Tips for Evangelistic Intentionality

Faithful evangelism is so crucial to the health of a church. The gospel that is grasped is given away. Most Christians agree and even want to see this happen but often struggle with implementing it in their lives. In this post I want to provide a few practical, immediate things that you can do to foster more evangelistic faithfulness. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Ridván Festival: Bahá'í Holy Day Celebrates Bahá'u'lláh And Garden Of Paradise [Photos]

The twelve day Festival of Ridván, celebrated April 21 to May 2, is considered the holiest for members of the Bahá’í Faith. During those dates in 1863, Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, left Baghdad and entered gardens now known as the Garden of Ridván, which means paradise in Arabic. Keep reading
Bahá'ís are the most persecuted religious group in Iran where their faith originated.
Photo credit:  Pixabay, public domain

Can American Muslims Become a Cohesive Political Force in the 2016 Election?

The Presidential election campaigns in the U.S. have begun. Major candidates like former secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Ted Cruz from Texas have thrown their hats into the fray. Once again we confront the challenge, what role can American Muslims play in American politics?

The growth of Islam in America, driven by migration and conversions, has created a diverse and multicultural Muslim community. While it is difficult to state with great confidence how many Muslims there are in the United States, most estimates vary between 3-6 million. In democracies anyway it is not just numbers that matters, but the number of people who are politically engaged and willing to participate with their activism and their resources that counts.

Composed of people from all races, and from nearly every country on the planet, American Muslims have rapidly become a microcosm of the global Muslim community. The politics of identity and identity formation that are shaping the American Muslim community cannot be fully understood until the internal diversity within the community itself is fully appreciated.

The two issue areas that have the greatest impact on the development and politics of the American Muslim community are religious development and political goals. The community has been very successful in building Islamic institutions like mosques and Islamic centers, Islamic schools, and Islamic societies for Dawah (religious outreach) and religious development of the community. In these endeavors they have succeeded to a great extent. It is very easy for Muslims from diverse backgrounds to unite and share resources to build a mosque, which is essential for all and can serve everyone equally to fulfill their religious obligations. Keep reading
This development merits the close attention of Christians, Jews, and other religious groups in the United States.
Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Churches and religious institutions publicly opposing new Tanzanian constitution to be closed, says government

Tanzania’s Minister of Home Affairs, Mathias Chikawe, has announced that churches and religious institutions that publicly oppose the country’s new constitution will be deregistered, beginning from 20 April. Tanzanian Christians oppose a bill that would introduce Kadhi (Islamic) courts across the country’s mainland, in the new constitution.

Speaking in Dar es Salaam on 14 April, Mr Chikawe announced that institutions that do not follow legal requirements will face being deleted from the register of institutions. "Some of the requirements include to submit the annual audited accounts to the register of the social and religious institutions and to pay the annual fee," he said.

However, according to Tanzania Christian leader “Peter”, it is public opposition to the constitution that is the driving force behind the Minister’s move. Angered by Tanzanian Christian leaders who have told their followers to vote against the Kadhi bill in the upcoming referendum, Mr Chikawe said: “It is true that the leaders of these institutions have the right to participate in political affairs as individuals, but it is illegal to use their leadership to convince their believers to carry out their political preferences.” Keep reading
Such action on the part of the Tanzanian government is a gross violation of the human rights of Tanzanian Christians and their religious freedom. The establishment of separate court system for Muslims is clearly a stepping stone to the imposition of sharia upon all Tanzanians. Christians throughout the world should join together in condemning this action and those in democratic countries should call upon their governments to denounce this serious human rights violation by the Tanzanian government. 

One dead, 20 sick with Botulism symptoms after church potluck

One person has died and at least 20 others were sick with symptoms of foodborne Botulism following a weekend church potluck in Ohio, hospital officials said on Tuesday.

The Fairfield Medical Center said in a statement that the patients, five of whom were in a critical condition, had all attended a picnic at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster on Sunday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had sent anti-toxin to treat the sick, the hospital said, while local health officials invesytigated the cause of the outbreak. Keep reading
As well as potlucks, churches hold banquets, barbecues, breakfasts, dinners, picnics, and other functions that involve the preparation and serving of food. The sale of food is also a common church fund-raising activity. Churches also operate Mothers' Day Out Programs and early childhood development centers that provide children with snacks and a cooked or brown bag lunch. Food poisoning traced to a church can not only damage the church's reputation but also involve the church in costly litigation. Churches need to educate their congregations, organizations, and small groups about food safety, develop and implement food safety guidelines for church functions and food sales, and take steps to ensure that Mothers' Day Out Programs and early childhood development centers are following adequate food safety practices. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach website has extensive resources related to food safety and food preparation.  
Also see 
Botulism poisoning at church potluck leaves one dead, 20 others ill
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Food Safety
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Botulism Home Botulism
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: Food Safety*
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: Food Preparation*
University of Floria IFAS Extension: Preventing Foodborne Illness: Clostridium botulinum

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Leadership Challenges in Church Revitalization

Church revitalization is messy, but love people and lean on the faithfulness of Jesus.

I fell in love with church revitalization early in my ministry when I served a church of senior adults during a brief stint teaching at a seminary.

The median age of the people was 68. It seemed like there was an oxygen tank or a walker at the end of most pews.

They came to me and said, “Dr. Stetzer, help us reach the young people.”

Leading a church in revitalization has taught me some invaluable lessons. While the process is often difficult and slow moving, if approached correctly it can reinvigorate and empower God’s people to produce lasting fruit. Keep reading
The church shown in the photo is St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Hickman, Kentucky, the oldest Episcopal church in westernmost Kentucky. 
Photo credit.

5 Words of Encouragement to the Church Planter or Young Leader

Recently I was able to share some encouragement with church planters in Chicago. Having been a planter twice, I understand the unique challenges facing planters. They are constantly struggling with leadership issues, finances and simply knowing what to do next.

I get it. Most of what I know now came from experience and the wisdom of others.

Many of the suggestions I shared are suitable for young leaders in any field. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Why Pastors Often Leave Their Church in the Third Year – Rainer on Leadership #117 [Podcast]

In may seem confusing, but most pastors leave their church in the third year and the average length of a pastorate is 3.6 years. In today’s podcast, we explain the math behind that and the reasons for it. I also answer the question “should the expectation of church growth be placed on a new pastor?” Keep reading

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:29 — 18.8MB)

Debunking Ministry Myths – Part 2

A myth is “an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.” Several of the assumptions I embraced at one time about ministry have turned out to be “unproven or false.” Many of these myths hold fragments of truth, but eventually break down on the frontlines of ministry.

Last week I asked my pastor friends on Twitter to submit ministry myths that they experienced, which I included with my own. Last week we debunked these myths: pastors only work one day a week; pastors are on call 24/7; pastors can’t befriend members; missionaries live somewhere you don’t; statistics about pastors must be true. My desire to debunk these myths is fueled by a love for pastors and desire for them to lead healthy lives and ministries. Keep reading

Also see
Debunking Ministry Myths 

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

How to think about differences in scripture.

Does the Bible contradict itself?

Most people answer this question either with an adamant “Yes!” or passionate “No!” Too often, though, both sides fail to understand or represent the other side. Not everyone who says that the Bible contains contradictions is an angry, arrogant, card-carrying atheist. And not everyone who believes there aren’t any contradictions is a backwoods, unscientific, raging fundamentalist with his head in the sand. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Outreach Ideas from Outreach Magazine: Three Articles

Host an Art Walk: Northland Village Church

Years ago, Los Angeles resident Don Nocon worked as an assistant pastor. But over time, his passion to serve God faded.

“I got kinda disillusioned,” says Nocon, who now works as a Starbucks manager. “Not too much with God and my own personal walk, but just the way I related to church. I was walking away because I didn’t know if church could be a place that was safe for me.”

But a few years ago, Nocon was introduced to Pastor Nick Warnes of Northland Village Church through the Atwater Art Walk, an annual event the church organizes, showcasing local artists along a Bohemian strip of shops in its artsy LA neighborhood of Atwater Village in a way that brings the community together.

Nocon entered his photography and ended up winning first place. He and Warnes talked, and over time Nocon began to attend Northland. Now he helps oversee the 5-year-old festival, held every June. Keep reading

VBS: Not Just for Kids

Your halls will be swarming with children during Vacation Bible School and you’ll have lots of opportunities to connect with and teach them about Jesus throughout the week. But if you want them to come back for more—worship, Sunday school, regular children’s ministry events, etc., chances are you need to connect with their parents, too. Are you maximizing all the opportunities your VBS affords to meet and get to know parents? Here are a few ways.... Keep reading

Spring Cleaning for the Community

Do you have a day set aside for volunteers to do a postwinter clean up at your church? Why not use that time, instead, to clean up your community? Get out, enjoy the sunshine and brighten your neighbors’ day by serving. Keep reading
What might your church, fellowship, or small group do to build bridges with your community? The first step is to learn more about your community, its needs, and its concerns and then brainstorm how your church, fellowship, or small group might meet one or more needs or respond to one or more concerns. Be creative and think outside of the box.
Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain