Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Council of Forward in Faith Australia Inc respond to Bishop Kay Goldsworthy’s statement

[Anglican Mainstream] 31 Dec 2008--The Council of Forward in Faith Australia Inc takes great exception to Bishop Kay Goldsworthy’s statement reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that those who oppose the ordination of women "will never accept that God is calling women to leadership in the church".

This denigrates the great women in the past as well as the present who are leaders in the Church. In her attempt to make this an argument about leadership she is once again diverting attention from the main issue. We in Forward in Faith do not object to women in leadership roles. We do not doubt that Bishop Goldsworthy has lawfully become a bishop within the Anglican Church in Australia.

What we question is whether she is a bishop within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and whether in purporting to consecrate her, the Anglican Church in Australia has forfeited its claim to be part of the Catholic Church.

GAY MARRIAGE: Voted for Prop 8? You're fired

[World Net Daily] 31 Dec 2008--Protests following the passage of California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, made news headlines, but the Pacific Justice Institute reports a growing number of cases where those opposed to the ballot measure have taken out their anger more quietly: by harassing – and even firing – employees who voted for it.

PJI, a non-profit legal defense organization specializing in religious freedom, claims to be representing a San Francisco woman who was fired for voting for Proposition 8, but whose name remains confidential to protect her privacy and legal case.

"Californians have been shocked by the aggressiveness of radical homosexual activists who have ousted several individuals from their jobs and livelihoods based solely on their support for traditional marriage," states Brad Dacus, president of PJI, on the group's website. "These tactics of fear and intimidation in retaliation for supporting a lawful ballot measure are completely unacceptable."

PJI also claims to be advising several others seeking settlements after they too were fired for supporting Proposition 8.

"Unfortunately, this is far from an isolated case," asserts a recent PJI statement.

No Case for Homosexuality in Bible

[Washington Post] 31 Dec 2008--
In the latest issue of Newsweek, editor Jon Meacham explains: "To argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt--it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition." Indeed, he continues, "this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism." Curiously, he intends this as a defense of Lisa Miller's cover story, which announces that we should approve homosexual marriage because the Bible tells that Jesus would want us to.

On any plane of argument, the contradiction would appear stunning, but, then, neither Jon Meacham nor Lisa Miller are engaged in argument. They're speaking, instead, in familiar tropes and fused-phrases and easy clichés. They're trying to convey a feeling, really, rather than an argument: Jesus loves us, love is good, homosexuals love one another, marriage is love, love is loving--a sort of warm bath of words, their meanings dissolved into a gentle goo. In their eyes, all nice things must be nice together, and Jesus comes to seem (as J.D. Salinger once mocked) something like St. Francis of Assisi and "Heidi's grandfather" all in one.

In truth, of course, Meacham and Miller actually know what everyone else knows: The Bible offers no support for homosexual marriage. Christianity teaches love, mercy, and forgiveness for those who do bad things, true enough. Look, for example, at the story in the Gospel of John where Jesus offers his divine love, mercy, and forgiveness to a woman guilty of adultery. He shamed those who would stone her. He taught us all that we are sinners and often hypocrites. And then he told her, "Go and sin no more." He did not reinterpret the Old Testament to proclaim adultery another life-style choice.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Gospel: not for sale

[] 30 Dec 2008-- recently attended a one-day conference for people in full-time (vocational) Christian ministry. During the conference it was advertised that the talks would be available for purchase as an audio and video package—$45 conference special ($55 post-conference). I sent an email to the people producing the talks, asking if I could just buy a single talk in MP3 format, instead of all the talks and videos on DVD. I received this response:

“We don’t split packages or sell individual speakers because it’s just a logistical nightmare for us. We used to do it 20-30 years ago, but it was all too hard - takes too much labour, staff and administration time.”

This response confused me. Every week at my church we record the sermons by the preacher. The software we use is free. After the sermon we chop off any extra that has been recorded, and upload the sermon to the church website. From the time the service is finished, to the time the sermon is available on the church website you would barely have enough time to go to the bathroom. The only costs incurred by the church are those to maintain the web server and uploads/downloads (approximately $50 per month).

So why was I getting charged twice—once to attend the conference, and a second time to hear the talks that I had already paid to hear?

Should we charge a fee for people to access sermons or conference messages? Let’s take a look at three models of distributing sermons that I’ve encountered.

Put Not Your Trust in Windsor

[Stephen's Witness] 30 Dec 2008--As the anniversaries of the Windsor Report come and go, one is compelled to ask: what has been accomplished? The answer, it seems, is precious little.

Let’s rehearse a brief history of the run-up to the Windsor Report.

Initial Response from Reform to Church of England Proposals on Women Bishops

[Anglican Mainstream] 30 Dec 2008--The chairman of Reform, the Rev’d Rod Thomas, today responded to the publication of the Church of England’s legislative proposals on women bishops.
He expressed appreciation for the detailed work undertaken by the Manchester Group, but warned that the end result of relying on a Code of Practice to solve differences over women bishops would be a proliferation of court cases. He said it was a huge distraction from the more urgent work of seeking to bring spiritual life and hope to an increasingly secularised and spiritually rudderless nation.

The Question of Female “Bishops” and the Unity of the ACNA

[Stand Firm] 30 Dec 2008-- The following link will take you to a sermon by Dr. Anne Payton of the Diocese of Pittsburghthat was sent to me this morning.Dr. Payton is ordained and conservative. In this sermon she calls for the ACNA to remove any restrictions on the consecration of female bishops. I hesitated to link her sermon because I know well how contentious these sorts of discussions can be, but it is important, in my view, that issues like this, once raised, are discussed and debated thoroughly. Indeed, if the new province is going to survive I believe they must be dealt with definitively. Canon 4 of the Provisional Canons of the ACNA reads:
Eligibility for bishop must include being a duly ordained male[bold added] presbyter of at least 35 years of age, who possesses those qualities for a bishop which are in accordance with Scriptural principles, and who has fully embraced the Fundamental Declarations of this Province.

I can tell you, that regardless of personal views and positions, there is wide, broad, and deep consensus on the part of ACNA leaders that the consent to the election of female bishops would doom the province.

No Lay Discipline in Proposed Canon Changes

{The Livinng Church] 30 Dec 2008--n a change from an earlier draft, the Title IV Task Force on Disciplinary Policies and Procedures will not propose new canons to address discipline of members of the laity.
The much-anticipated new draft of its proposed changes to The Episcopal Church’s canon on discipline will be included in the church’s so-called ‘Blue Book’ of pre-filed General Convention legislation.
“It is the judgment of Task Force II that the time is not yet propitious for the inclusion of disciplinary provisions for the laity other than as already provided in the Book of Common Prayer, and no inclusion of laity is contemplated at this time,” the task force wrote.

Opt-out for parishioners opposed to women bishops

[Independent] 30 Dec 2008--The Church of England last night tried to avoid a split by watering down its plans for the consecration of women bishops, granting an opt-out to parishioners who refuse to accept the spiritual authority of female clergy.

Under the church's proposals, parishes could bypass women bishops and women priests by taking their leadership from specially consecrated male "complementary" bishops.

Parents could elect to have their children confirmed and baptised by male clergy while congregations could seek to have sacraments and other divine service removed from the responsibility of a female bishop.

Related articles:

Historic Church of England deal paves way for first women bishops - Times Online
Church tries to quell dissent over female bishops with new role - Guardian
Women bishops want male authority - Sydney Morning Herald
Women in the Episcopate draft Measure published - The Church of England
Further Report of the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group - December 2008 - The Church of England

The Real Twelve Days of Christmas

[Christianity Today] 30 Dec 2008--Sometime in November, as things now stand, the "Christmas season" begins. The streets are hung with lights, the stores are decorated with red and green, and you can't turn on the radio without hearing songs about the spirit of the season and the glories of Santa Claus. The excitement builds to a climax on the morning of December 25, and then it stops, abruptly. Christmas is over, the New Year begins, and people go back to their normal lives.

The traditional Christian celebration of Christmas is exactly the opposite. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and for nearly a month Christians await the coming of Christ in a spirit of expectation, singing hymns of longing. Then, on December 25, Christmas Day itself ushers in twelve days of celebration, ending only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany. Exhortations to follow this calendar rather than the secular one have become routine at this time of year. But often the focus falls on giving Advent its due, with the Twelve Days of Christmas relegated to the words of a cryptic traditional carol. Most people are simply too tired after Christmas Day to do much celebrating.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Anglican Communion will finally split in 2009

[Guardian] 29 Dec 2008--A silence has descended on the Anglican Church in the United States – or should that be, Anglican Churches? Since the foundation of the conservative Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) at the start of December, all has gone quiet. Too quiet. Why is this, and how can we then predict what might happen in 2009? Is this, finally, going to be the year of the great schism?

Episcopal property dispute heads to Va. Supreme Court

[Loudoun Times] 29 Dec 2008--A long-awaited property- settlement decision in Fairfax Circuit Court apparently will not be the end of a two-year-long conflict between a minority group of conservative congregations in the Episcopal Church that broke away from the church to join the Anglican District of Virginia.

Keeping the faith, leaving the fold

[Observer] 29 Dec 2008--A theological rift between a local Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York led a congregation to re-establish its faith with a new denomination.

On Dec. 14, a majority of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church congregation in Tonawanda left in a split with the diocese over theological differences between the increasingly liberal Episcopal Church and more conservative congregation members, establishing St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church less than a mile away. Now, the small congregation of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Forestville is following suit with a similar break from the diocese, likely establishing itself as a local mission extension of the new-found St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church.
"It's already been established in ou

Church of England unveils measure to allow women bishops

[Religious Intelligence] 29 Dec 2008--The Church of England has unveiled the legislation that could pave the way for women to be consecrated as bishops.

After an acrimonious debate at the Church’s General Synod in York last July, the draft measure and an example of a Code of Practice, were published this morning.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Foreclosures Don’t Spare the House of God

[The Gainsville Sun] 27 Dec 2008--Foreclosure filings have fallen on the doorstep of 254 properties, or 0.31 percent of the 82,441 churches studied. The percentage is higher when churches without mortgages are excluded. St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Easton, Md., exemplifies the optimistic assumptions that fed church lending. St. Andrew’s had only 35 members in 2005 when it moved from a rented storefront to a Gothic revival-style chapel built in 1866. The building cost $795,000, but the church borrowed $50,000 from one lender and $850,000 from the Talbot Bank of Easton, according to W. David Morse, a vice president of the bank.

The church hoped its congregation would expand at a time when some Episcopalians were leaving their churches to join Anglican parishes. But by early this year, St. Andrew’s had not grown much and had fallen behind on its mortgage. By August, as interest racked up, it owed Talbot Bank $884,657.

At auction this month, Talbot took possession of the church for $700,000, giving the congregation weeks to move out unless the auction is contested.

“In hindsight, any loan that goes bad will invariably look ‘ambitious,’ ” Mr. Morse said. “At the time the loan was made, the board of directors obviously believed” in the vision and projected growth of the church.

Fewer than 30 people attended the church service on the Sunday before Christmas, and most kept their coats on, shivering in the cold because the heat had been turned down to save money.

“I bid your prayers for this parish and that God will continue to sustain it,” Bishop Joel Johnson told the congregation.

Small congregations do not need Gothic revival-style chapels. They should have stayed in the storefront until they had grown large enough to purchase a modest parcel of land and erect a modest multipurpose building.

Christmas continues at Church of the Redeemer

[Wicked Local Wrentham] 27 Dec 2008--The Anglican Church of the Redeemer cordially invites members of the community to join the congregations for a traditional service of Lessons and Christmas Carols and Holy Communion.

The service will be on Sunday, Dec. 28, 10 a.m., at Franklin High School, 218 Oak St. (enter through the doors at the rear of the building).

The worship space is accessible to all. Members of the congregation invite everyone to come and worship with us. You don’t have to be a believing Christian to come. If you are a "seeker," feel welcome to seek God with us.

The Church of the Redeemer is a community of Christians who seek to follow Jesus Christ and lead others into a saving relationship with Him as it practices the Christian Faith within the Anglican tradition. The focus of the parish is the reading and studying of the Bible, through which God has declared the Good News of salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life, and the celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion each Sunday. The people of Redeemer are committed to working with their bishop and other leaders throughout the United States and Canada in the establishment of The Anglican Church in North America.

Will a Fierce Battle Over Gay Rights Split the Anglican Church?

[AlterNet] 27 Dec 2008--On the brink of a split in the global Anglican Communion that no one is eager to enlarge on, the Province of the Southern Cone of South America has become a temporary refuge for conservative bishops from the United States who refuse to countenance the liberal positions taken by the Church in their country.

The crisis began when gay bishops and same-sex unions, including clergy, were accepted in Anglican (or Episcopal) provinces in Canada and the United States. Conservatives who disapproved of these developments fell out with their church communities and sought pastoral oversight from South American provinces, further away geographically but theologically more compatible.

"Nobody (in the Anglican Communion) wants to say let's get a divorce, but when a relationship isn't working, someone has to decide whether or not they stay together, and no one here wants to make the decision," Gregory Venables, the primate (presiding bishop) of the Province of the Southern Cone, which includes the dioceses of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, told IPS.

Communicate Jesus

[Anglican Church League] 27 Dec 2008--Helpful new Sydney-based website from Steve Kryger. Ideas and resources “to help churches and Christian ministries as they seek to communicate Jesus”.

Worth seeing – at

Can a Christian Deny the Virgin Birth?

[Albert Mohler] 27 Dec 2008--Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth? This question would perplex the vast majority of Christians throughout the centuries, but modern denials of biblical truth make the question tragically significant. Of all biblical doctrines, the doctrine of Christ's virginal conception has often been the specific target of modern denial and attack.

The Future of Jesus – Peter Jensen

[Anglican Church league] 27 Dec 2008--Last week Steve Austin on ABC Radio in Brisbane interviewed Archbishop Peter Jensen on ‘The Future of Jesus’.

Audio of the interview is available on the ABC Brisbane website.

Carols a cracker for Christmas

[] 27 Dec 2008--Carols may be a traditional event for a church to run, but through different measures of innovation, these events have drawn visitors to church in their thousands this year. While many carols are hundreds of years old, this year’s turnouts show that it is still hip to sing them at events which are for many churches, the main outreach event of the year. This week, we ask three different Sydney Anglican churches how carols led to a ripper catch of new Christmas connections.

A crowd of 5,000 flocked to Figtree Anglican Church’s carols, which featured heart-throb and Neighbours star Dean Geyer, acclaimed musician James Morrison and popular children’s entertainer Colin Buchanan.

The event included free showbags and facepainting for the kids, and activities for youth, such as basketball games.

Not in My Town

[Christianity Today] 27 Dec 2008--How 3 women (and you!) are fighting sex trafficking

Americans' Confidence in Religion Waning, Poll Finds

[Christian Post] 27 Dec 2008--Just three years ago, half of the U.S. adult population felt the influence of religion on American life was rising. Today, only a little more than a quarter believe so.

recent Gallup Poll found that just 27 percent of Americans perceive religion's influence to be on the upswing while 67 percent of Americans say religion as a whole is losing influence on American life.
The trend is consistent with those who attend religious services regularly as well as those who seldom or never attend services, with majorities saying religion is losing influence in this country.
Since 2005, the Gallup Poll has recorded a downward trend in those who believe the influence of religion is increasing. The record low for this perception was in 1970 when only 14 percent said religion was increasing in influence at that time.

The last time a majority of Americans felt the influence of religion was rising was in December 2001, just months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when 71 percent said religious influence was increasing – the highest percentage Gallup Poll recorded since 1957.

The quest for invulnerability

[Christianity Today UK] 26 Dec 2008--Professor Dumbledore’s notes on five of the most famous children’s tales in the wizarding world echo some of the biggest themes explored in J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. But they also strike a chord within the reader that rings true as even the most realistic of fiction.

We are told that the ‘Tales of Beedle the Bard’ have been translated from the original runes by Miss Hermione Granger and have now been published anew for both magical and muggle (non-magical) audiences alike.

The five tales – ‘The Wizard and the Hopping Pot’, ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’, ‘The Warlock’s Hairy Heart’, ‘Babbitty Rabbitty and the Cackling Stump’, and ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’ – are as dear to the wizarding world as fairytales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are to ours.

The five tales have been met with great excitement as the last, ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’, is of great significance in the seventh Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Sombre Christmas for India's Christians

[Christianity Today UK] 26 Dec 2008--It was an unusually sombre-looking Christmas in India this year. The Yuletide cheer was unanimously toned down in the wake of violence on Christians especially in Orissa, Karnataka, Mumbai terrorist attacks and the global economic crisis affecting the nation.

The festive atmosphere was missing as streets were absent of shoppers and Christmas festivities toned down across the nation.

Churches that had anticipated a huge turnout of pilgrims were apparently disappointed when fewer people than expected turned up to their Christmas services.

Nepal hopeful after first official Christmas

[Christianity Today UK] 26 Dec 2008--Nepal celebrated its first Christmas ever after being declared a federal republic in December 2007.

The first church was built in Nepal just 50 years ago, under monarchial rule and although there are over 200 churches and at least 400,000 Christians today, the small Christian community has often faced repression in the past.

This year's Christmas ushered in a new era for the largely Hindu and Buddhist country, with the government even declaring December 25 a public holiday.

With Christians making up only 0.5 per cent of the population, many saw the government's move as a positive indication that the long-awaited day of freedom has come.

Chinese Government Launches Attacks Against Christians During Christmas Season

[Christian Newswire] 27 Dec 2008--The Chinese government targeted Christians in Anhui province, Henan province and Xinjiang Autonomous Region between December 21 and December 24. On Christmas Eve in Henan province, nine Christian women were arrested during a nativity play and are still being held by police. In Anhui province on December 22, officials arrested 19 students and two house church leaders and threatened to demolish their house church building. On December 21 in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, a house church was forbidden to gather and the pastor threatened with arrest.

Related article:
Christmas Day Persecution in Anhui, Henan and Xinjiang; 13 Christians in Prison- Christian Newswire

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

[TitusOneNine] 27 Dec 2008--This hymn is also found in Wonder, Love, and Praise, the supplement to The Hymnal 1982. Wonder, Love, and Praise can be order from Church Publishing. "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" is suitable for use throughout the year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

NIGERIA: Non-Briton to head church as faithful move to shift spiritual home from England

[Virtue Online] 26 Dec 2008--The Obama revolution may soon sweep through the Anglian Church as thoughts are being seriously given to a non-Briton head of the church. Presently, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Rowan, is the spiritual head and president of the Lamberth Conference, held every 10-year at the Lamberth Palace, Kent, United Kingdom.

The retired Anglican Bishop of Akure Diocese, Ondo State, Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi told Daily Sun that the possibility of a non-Briton, especially a Nigerian becoming Archbishop of Canterbury could not be ruled out. He spoke at his residence, Oba-Ile Housing Estate, Akure, Ondo State.

He disclosed that the issue first came up during the Lamberth Conference in 1978, pointing out "When people start to talk of something, it shows it will happen. We started to talk about this as far back as I know in 1978. It was mentioned briefly towards the end of Lamberth Conference in 1978."

Of the possibility of a Nigerian heading the Anglican Church, he responded: "Of course, by the Grace of God, in the future. There are more Anglicans in Nigeria than in America (USA), England, and more than Canada and News Zealand put together."

President of Iran delivers Channel 4 Christmas Message

[Times Online] 26 Dec 2008--Should we all suddenly be rather afraid? Channel 4 has invited the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deliver its alternative Christmas message. Our news story on this is now up. My first response was astonished incredulity that they could have done this. But on reading the message, it is clear there are even more serious concerns than the dangerous cupidity of Channel 4. The president's message could be read as nothing less than an invitation. Islam demands that an enemy be offered the chance to convert before being attacked. Am I reading too much into it? Please tell me that I am. Irene Lancaster has posted on this with some good links as to why we should be worried. The full message is below, after some of the reactions starting to come in.

Pope's remarks on sexuality 'will widen Anglican rift'

[Telegraph] 26 Dec 2008--To the fury of homosexual groups the Pontiff said that the defence of heterosexual relationships was as important to humanity as preventing the destruction of rainforests.

In a Christmas address to prelates in the Vatican the Pope, known as God's rottweiler because of his hardline views, said that the Roman Catholic Church had a duty to "protect man from the destruction of himself". He urged respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman".

As homosexual groups condemned the Pope, his remarks drew applause from conservative Anglican groups in Britain. They welcomed the "clarity" of the Pope's thinking which they contrasted with Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams is battling to prevent a schism in the Anglican church as many of his own clergy are in openly gay relationships in defiance of church policy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Nativity of our Lord, or the Birth-day of Christ, Commonly called Christmas-Day.

The following Collect, Epistle, and Gospel for Christmas Day are taken from the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, the Prayer Book of Elizabeth I and the first Prayer Book used in North America.

On June 17, 1579 Captain Francis Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind landed on the west coast of North America and Drake claimed the land in the name of the Holy Trinity for the English Crown. Drake called the land Nova Albion, Latin for "New Britain."

When Drake and his crew landed, his chaplain celebrated the Holy Communion. It was one of the first, if not the first, Protestant church service in the New World.

The 1559 Prayer Book was also used at the first Christmas at Jamestown on December 25, 1607. James was the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States of America.

The Ordre for the Administracion of the Lordes Supper, or Holy Communion used on these occasions can be found on the Internet at:

During the "starving time" winter of 1609 only 60 of the original 214 settlers at Jamestown would survive. One of the casualties was the colony's chaplain.

We are also facing hard times--an economy in recession, foreclosures, and layoffs.

As we read these words from the Elizabethan Prayer Book, let us remember that there is one who truly offers us in hope in the midst of trouble. He is the one whose birth we celebrate. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect

ALMYGHTYE God, whiche haste geuen us thy onlye begotten sonne to take our nature upon hym, and this daye to bee borne of a pure Vyrgyn; Graunte that we beyng regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, maye dailye be renued by thy holy spirite, through the same our Lorde Jesus Christe who lyueth and reygneth &c.

The Epistle. Hebrews 1:1-12

GOD in tymes paste dyuerselye and manye waies spake unto the fathers by Prophetes: but in these laste dayes, he hathe spoken to us by his owne sonne, whome he hath made heyre of all thynges, by whome also he made the worlde. Whiche (sonne) beeing the brightenesse of his glorye, and the very image of his substaunce, rulying al thynges wyth the woorde of his power, hath by his owne person pourged our synnes, and sytteth on the righte hande of the Majestye on hygh: being so much more excellent then the Angels, as he hath by inheritaunce obtained a more excellent name then they. For unto which of the Angels said he at anye tyme? Thou arte my sonne, this daye haue I begotten thee. And agayne, I wilbe his father, and he shall bee my sonne. And agayne, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten sonne into the worlde, he sayth: and let all the Angels of God wurship him. And unto the Angels he sayeth, He maketh his Angels spirites, and his ministers a flame of fyer. But unto the sonne he sayeth, thy seate (O God) shalbe for euer and euer. The scepter of thy kingdome is a ryghte scepter. Thou haste loued righteousnes and hated iniquitie; wherfore God, euen thy God, hath anointed thee with oyle of gladnes aboue thy felowes. And thou lorde in the beginning hast layde the foundacion of the yearth; and the heauens are the woorkes of thy handes. They shall perish, but thou endurest. But they al shal waxe old as doeth a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou chaunge them, and they shalbe chaungecl. But thou art even the same, and thy yeares shall not fayle.

The Gospel. John 1:1-14

IN the begynnyng was the woorde, and the woorde was with God: and God was the worde. The same was in the beginning with God. All thinges were made by it, and without it, was made nothyng that was made. In it was life, and the lyfe was the light of men, and the light shineth in darkenes, and the darkenes comprehended it not. There was sente from God a manne, whose name was John. The same came as a witnes to beare witnes of the light, that al men through him might beleue. He was not that light, but was sent to beare witnes of the light. That light was the true lyghte, whiche lighteth euerye man that cometh into the worlde. He was in the world, and the world was made by him; and the worlde knew him not. He came among his owne, and his owne receiued him not: But as many as receiued him, to them gaue he power to be the sonnes of god; even them that beleued on his name, whiche were borne, not of bloud, nor of the will of the fleshe, nor yet of the will of man; but of God. And the same worde became fleshe, and dwelt among us; and we sawe the glory of it, as the glory of the onely begotten sonne of the father, full of grace and trueth.

A very merry Christmas to all Anglicans Ablaze readers.

Your brother in Christ,

Robin G. Jordan

Lessons & Carols To Air Wednesday, December 24, at 10 a.m. EST

[Stand Firm] 23 Dec 2008--The BBC's Radio 4 will be broadcasting Lessons and Carols live from the Chapel of the King's College, Cambridge Christmas Eve [Wednesday], at 10 a.m. EST.

A rebroadcast will occur on Christmas Day, at 9 a.m. EST. You can hear it streaming live here at SF.

Or if you are traveling, find local Public Radio stations for your drive by using zip codes, or by city and state reference.

If anyone has the satellite radio channels, please post in the comments.

View the order of service.

Pope says humanity needs 'saving' from homosexuality

[Telegraph] 23 Dec 2008--Pope Benedict XVI sparked a furious reaction from other Christian groups as he also suggested that a blurring of the distinction between male and female could lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.

The pontiff was delivering his end-of-year address to senior Vatican staff and his words were later released to the media.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that, while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

It opposes gay marriage and, in October, one leading Vatican official described homosexuality as "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound".

Presiding Bishop has bungled Iker’s deposition

[Conger] 23 Dec 2008--US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has bungled the deposition of Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker, scholars from the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) have charged.

The presiding bishop has either violated church law, or created a legal precedent that prevents disciplinary proceedings against any other cleric who “abandons the Communion” of the Episcopal Church, the ACI’s theologians and canon lawyers have charged.

The Dec 11 claim by the ACI, a center right group of American theologians and scholars that has opposed both the secession of conservatives in the Episcopal Church and the leftward drift of the church hierarchy, has come in response to the presiding bishop’s deposition of Bishop Iker through the use of the renunciation canon—a clause in American canon law that permits the voluntary laicizing of a cleric for reason’s of conscience.

As One With Authority

[Albert Mohler] 23 Dec 2008--In 1971, just six years after being invited to teach New Testament and preaching at the Graduate Seminary of Phillips University, Fred Craddock put his thoughts on preaching into a book. That book, As One Without Authority, launched something of a revolution in preaching. Craddock proposed that preaching was on trial in the contemporary church, and that it was fast becoming an anachronism.

He reflected that the church might "celebrate the memory of preaching in ways appropriate to her gratitude and to affix plaques on old pulpits as an aid to those who tour the churches." Yet, he warned, "the church cannot live on the thin diet of fond memories."

Why did Craddock see such disaster for the pulpit? Among other contributing factors, Craddock cited "the loss of certainty and the increase in tentativeness on the part of the preacher."

Methodist call to prayer for Orissa Christians

[Christianity Today] 23 Dec 2008--The Methodist Church is urging Christians to pray for believers threatened with Christmas violence in the Indian state of Orissa.

Although radical nationalists have called off a Christmas Day ‘bandh’, or state-wide shutdown, Christians in the north-eastern state remain fearful of violence after a recent wave of attacks triggered by the murder of an extremist Hindu leader in August and memories of deadly attacks on churches and Christian homes in Christmas 2007.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships in the Methodist Church in Britain said, “The images that flash briefly across our TVs and newspapers, often represent a real human cost lived out over months and years by our brothers and sisters.

Conservative churches win case in Episcopal split

[Washington Times] 23 Dec 2008--Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows on Friday issued a fourth straight ruling in favor of a group of 11 conservative Episcopal churches that left the denomination two years ago this month — dismayed over issues of biblical authority and the prospect of gay clergy.

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia immediately said it would appeal the huge multiproperty lawsuit, the largest in the history of the Episcopal Church. The conservatives took millions of dollars of historic property in Northern Virginia with them when they left.

The judge dismissed a last-ditch effort by the diocese to keep the property when it claimed in September that part of the historic Falls Church in Falls Church city is actually owned by Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria.

The judge seemed incredulous that the diocese would make such a claim, which, he said, contradicted the testimony of one of the experts — church historian Edward L. Bond — who appeared on the stand on behalf of the organization.

Anglicans and Their Unwelcome House Guests

[Washington Post] 23 Dec 2008--Imagine a fan so full of admiration that he takes your name and moves into your house. Your family has always tried to reach out to others and so you allow him to stay with you as an act of kindness.

Weirdly, after this fan moves in he becomes quite critical. He decides that many of your costumes and ways are unworthy of the family name and begins to demand that you change them. Your own children stop coming home, because the interloper has become so obnoxious.

At that point, charity finally exhausted, you demand that he leave. He then barricades himself in his room, which he points out you have called "his room," and refuses to leave. He calls you a false and hateful person who has missed the "spirit of the family." Neighbors who have not followed the situation wonder why you are being so mean to a family member. You simply wish that he would go form his own family and leave you in peace.

This story might help a neutral observer to understand what is happening in American Anglicanism.

First Female Bishop for Conservative Anglican Breakaway

[The Living Church] 23 Dec 2008--The Rev. Ruth Urban, who was ordained an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Bethlehem in the late 1980s, was consecrated Dec. 20 as a bishop of All Nations Anglican Church, which is led by Archbishop John G. Githiga. She became the first woman to be consecrated to the episcopate by a conservative breakaway in Anglican church history.

All Nations Anglican Church, which is based in Amarillo, Texas, makes no claim of being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Githiga is the older brother of the Rt. Rev. Gideon Githiga, Bishop of Thika in the Anglican Church of Kenya. John Githiga was a priest in the Diocese of Northwest Texas in 2005, when the Rt. Rev. Wallace Ohl deposed him.

About 100 people attended the consecration, which consisted of a mix of Christmas hymns, contemporary praise choruses, and a vigorous Kenyan song. Before the service began, the new bishop’s bright red-and-gold vestments were hanging next to a decorated Christmas tree in the sanctuary.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Liberal and Conservative Anglicans Fall Out - and Apart?

[IPS] 22 Dec 2008--The crisis began when gay bishops and same-sex unions, including clergy, were accepted in Anglican (or Episcopal) provinces in Canada and the United States. Conservatives who disapproved of these developments fell out with their church communities and sought pastoral oversight from South American provinces, further away geographically but theologically more compatible.

"Nobody (in the Anglican Communion) wants to say let's get a divorce, but when a relationship isn't working, someone has to decide whether or not they stay together, and no one here wants to make the decision," Gregory Venables, the primate (presiding bishop) of the Province of the Southern Cone, which includes the dioceses of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, told IPS.

In 2007, Venables took on pastoral responsibility for the conservative bishops of four dioceses that left the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA). "We had certain links, and after talking with (the Archbishop of) Canterbury, we decided to offer them emergency oversight until there is a more solid structure to contain them," he said.

Historian explores Christianity's lost age, lands

[Reuters] 22 Dec 2008--Christianity is often viewed as a Western faith which used Europe as its springboard for global expansion.

But historian Philip Jenkins argues in a new book that this narrative neglects the faith's first 1,000 years when Christianity set down firm roots in Asia and Africa - roots that flourished into huge churches but were pruned, withered and died."

We can't understand Christian history without Asia - or, indeed, Asian history without Christianity," Jenkins writes in 'The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia - and How It Died.'

He notes that churches were operating in Sri Lanka before England had its first archbishop of Canterbury and that Nestorian Christian branches were well established across Asia long before Poland became Catholic.

Warren and Obama: Strange Bedfellows

[Culture Watch] 22 Dec 2008--It was recently announced that Barack Obama has asked megachurch pastor Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration. Warren has accepted the invitation to deliver the Inaugural Invocation. He released a press statement saying this:

“I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony. Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America. The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God’s blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America’s leaders during this critical time in our nation’s history.”

Given the decidedly anti-Christian positions Obama holds on many issues, including abortion and homosexuality, what is a Christian to make of all this? Should Warren have said no? In his defence, Warren mentions the biblical obligation to pray for our leaders.

What did the aide say about the Bishop ...?

[Independent] 22 Dec 2008--His outspoken views on gay rights and the integration of Muslim communities have attracted vitriolic criticism and even earned him death threats from outside the Church of England.

Now the controversial Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, 59, has found himself the target of a scatological attack by an aide in the offices of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

A confidential document sent from Lambeth Palace to No 10 Downing Street and the Church of England's 43 diocesan bishops included the unclerical word "arsehole" appended to the name of Dr Nazir-Ali, Britain's most senior Asian Anglican.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How to Play the Piano in Church

[Anglican Church League] 20 Dec 2008--“Most of us start off life as classically trained solo pianists. So when we turn up to church and are asked to play from chord charts, and improvise, and play in group, we often don’t know where to start.

So we are proud to present a free set of video piano lessons designed to cover everything you need to get yourself up to speed on chords, improvisation and playing in a band.”

Garage Hymnal’s Andy Judd with a resource for aspiring church musicians that’s worth checking out.

Virginia Property Ruling

20 Dec 2008--Articles from various sources.
VIRGINIA: Court ruling clears way for property-litigation appeal - Episcopal News Service
Anglican District of Virginia wins church property case -Church Executive Magazine
A Statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia on Today’s Ruling- Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
Text of Virginia Property Ruling - CANA Convocation

Attitudes to GAFCON

[Anglican Mainstream] 20 Dec 2008--ndependent and free church evangelicals are not alone. There are some – dare we say many – Anglicans who have questions about the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) which met in Jerusalem in June 2008. The doubters are not all evangelicals, but you will find conservative evangelicals among them. Those with misgivings tend to fit into one of three groups.

First, there are those within wider Anglicanism who see GAFCON and its growing baby, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) as traitors. Traitors because they created something new; a fraternal outside existing structures. A fellowship which is seen to challenge the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This group is mainly composed of liberal revisionists. They do not want to see their agenda challenged. That is why some use the demeaning term traitor, while others condemn GAFCON as a rival to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Anglican District of Virginia Wins Church Property Case

[Stand Firm] 19 Dec 2008--The judge presiding in the church property trial between the Episcopal Church and eleven former congregations, now affiliated with the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV), ruled in the congregations’ favor today. The final rulings in this case concerned whether four parcels of property owned by the Anglican congregations were covered by the congregations’ Division petitions.

“We welcome these final, favorable rulings in this case. This has been a long process and we are grateful that the court has agreed with us,” said Jim Oakes, vice-chairman of ADV. “It is gratifying to see the court recognize that the true owner of The Historic Falls Church is The Falls Church’s congregation, not the denomination, and that the building is protected by the Division Statute. The Falls Church has held and cared for this property for over 200 years.”

“We hope that The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia will realize that it is time to stop this legal battle. In these economic times, we should be focused on helping our communities and spreading the Gospel, not spending millions of dollars on ongoing legal battles. The money we have been forced to spend to keep our property from being forcibly taken away from us is money that could have been spent in more productive ways.

Anglican, or Episcopalian?

[First Things] 19 Dec 2008--“Are you Anglican, or Episcopalian?” As an Episcopalian interloper studying at a Methodist seminary, I get the question a lot from my puzzled friends. Each time I’m asked, part of me wants to launch into a mini-primer on Anglican ecclesiology—to wit, that Episcopalians are Anglicans, since the Episcopal church is just the American province of the global Anglican communion. Which means that, technically, the question shouldn’t even make sense—it’s sort of like asking, “Are you American, or Texan?” But, of course, I know just what the question means—it does make sense, because it reflects the sad divisions that have roiled the church over the past five years. Quite simply and sensibly, my Methodist friends want to know whether I’m a member of the liberal Episcopal church, or one of the conservative Anglican groups that broke off. And as saddening as it is to admit, I’ve come to think that their common-sense perception is more accurate than my attempts at ecclesiological theory. Their question can only be asked, and answered, because of the reality on the ground in the United States: Episcopalians are one thing, and Anglicans are another.

Churchmanship of Anglicans

[Anglican Mainstream] 19 Dec 2008--Ever since the NEAC 5 meeting at All Souls on November 15 there has been a flurry of articles in the Anglican Christian press about both that Conference and the different components of evangelical Anglican life. One or two of these comment that the overall relative strengths of conservatives, open evangelicals and others are not known. Well, they are in part, and this article looks at what is known.

The English Church Censuses since 1989 have asked each church leader to give an indication of the churchmanship of his congregation. Christian Research has had excellent response rates by Anglicans to these studies — 75 per cent in 1989 and 55 per cent in 2005 for example — much more than normally expected from such research. The question asks the minister to tick up to three boxes from a menu of nine items, with an open tenth “Other” option.

The nine options, stated without any description, are: Anglo- Catholic, Broad, Catholic, Charismatic, Evangelical, Liberal, Low Church, Orthodox and Radical. There are theoretically over 1,200 combinations that clergy might choose from these, but in practice just 147 were used in 2005 (see Page 5.13 in Religious Trends No 6, together with 1989 figures for comparison).

The High Cost of Being (and Staying) Cool -- Rick Warren in a Whirlwind

[Albert Mohler] 19 Dec 2008--Pastor Rick Warren now stands at ground zero of a whirlwind, and he is likely to be there for some time. The announcement that President-elect Obama had chosen him to deliver the invocation at the inaugural ceremonies on January 20 came with formality but no fanfare. The first headlines speculated that Warren had become "the next Billy Graham" -- for Billy Graham has missed praying at few inaugurations in recent decades.

Within hours, however, the story had quickly changed. Rick Warren had gone from being the next Billy Graham to being the next Fred Phelps -- and in a media instant.

Related article:
Bishop Chane expresses concern over Warren selection - Episcopal Cafe

Poll Finds No Boost in Church Attendance during Economic Crisis

[The Christian Post] 19 Dec 2008--While tens of thousands of Americans have been laid off in recent months and religious leaders have blamed corporate greed for the economic crisis, churches have not seen a jump in attendance numbers as many might have expected, according to a new poll.

Over the last three months, about 42 percent of Americans reported that they attended church, synagogue, or mosque weekly or almost every week, which the Gallup Poll found to be the same percentage reported earlier in the year.

History has shown that a significant crisis usually results in fuller pews, as was seen after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. During this latest crisis of economic challenges, some reports have indicated that houses of worship have drawn larger crowds.

Vatican signals there will be no enclave for former Anglican clergy in Rome

[Conger] 19 Dec 2008--The Vatican will not create an enclave within the Roman Catholic Church for Anglicans opposed to women clergy and the ‘gay agenda’, Rome’s La Civiltà Cattolica predicts.

In an October article entitled Catholic Anglican Relations after the Lambeth Conference (La Relazione tra Cattolici e Anglicani dopo la Conferenza di Lambeth) the semi-official Jesuit bi-weekly stated the “corporate unity” under discussion between the Vatican and traditionalist Anglicans “will not be a form of uniatism as this is unsuitable for uniting two realities which are too similar from a cultural point of view as indeed are Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics.”

A New Start for the Anglican Church in North America

[On Faith] 19 Dec 2008--Once upon a time, the Anglican Church was a powerful presence in the U.S.A.­ known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. or more recently as The Episcopal Church.­ It claimed a large percentage of the population (16% in 1789) and an even larger representation among the leaders of our great nation.

The language of its liturgy shaped much of our culture and its cathedrals and churches were a witness to the community. Today however, it is wracked with internal conflict, shrinking numbers (less than three-tenths of one percent of Americans regularly worship in Episcopal Churches) and is known more for its rejection of biblical authority and its willingness to litigate against its own clergy and congregations than for its passion for Christ. But that isn't the end of the story.

A growing number of Anglican Christians have realized that they cannot continue down this path. On December 3, as the Bishop of CANA (the Convocation of Anglicans in North America) I joined the bishops and representatives of 14 other Anglican dioceses and networks to introduce the provisional constitution of a new Anglican Church in North America.

We are making a new start. This new Church already represents more than 700 congregations across the nation with a diverse leadership that is committed to the centrality of Christ and the trustworthiness of the Bible as we seek to live out our faith in an authentic way. We are convinced that our Anglican heritage with its balance of Word and Sacrament, historical roots and present day concerns, has a great deal to offer to the challenges of our contemporary culture.

Church of England to debate whether Christians should try to convert Muslims

[Telegraph] 19 Dec 2008--A discussion on the sensitive topic has been tabled for the next meeting of the Church of England's governing body amid fears that some clergy are ignoring their traditional missionary role.

Some members of the General Synod believe Christ ordered all Christians to recruit nonbelievers and followers of other faiths, and they want to see how many bishops and vicars agree with this view.

Among the speakers is likely to be the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, who earlier this year warned that Church leaders had "gone too far" in their sensitivity towards Muslims and were not doing enough to spread the word of God.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Archbishop: disestablishment of Church of England not 'the end of the world'

[Times Online] 18 Dec 2008--The Archbishop of Canterbury believes it would not be "the end of the world" if the Church of England was disestablished.

But he does not wholeheartedly back such a move, arguing that, ultimately, the advantages of establishment outweigh the disadvantages.

Dr Rowan Williams, whose previous post was as Archbishop of the disestablished Church in Wales, was asked if he recognised the case for disestablishment. He said: "The answer's yes."

A Parishioner From the Diocese of Tennessee Writes Bishop Bauerschmidt

[Stand Firm] 18 Dec 2008--I keep telling people -- if you receive new orders and need to leave The Episcopal Church, please do one last service for those left behind on the Little Stone Bridge. Please carefully write a personal letter explaining your reasons and mail it to the bishop, the Standing Committee, your rector, and the vestry of your parish, along with all of your Episcopal friends, wherever you can scrounge them up -- in particular the members of your parish. Make certain that you mail an individual copy to each member of the committee and vestry -- if you simply mail it to the chair or warden, they will most likely not share it with the rest of the group, for obvious reasons. You never know whose heart you may reach, or whose mind will be stirred to seek more information. And it makes your departure clear and public -- as well as your reasons for it. Please don't allow your departure to be "fobbed off" as a disgruntled one -- "she left because it became too long a commute" or "she didn't like the 1979 Prayer Book" [and yes, I understand that a rector of a parish stated that after a large chunk of his parish left in 2004 -- incredible!]

This is a sterling letter. Note how kind it is -- no triumphalism or castigations or fist-waving. Also note that the writer puts in her letter her long history and involvement with TEC.

Who's Episcopal and Who's Not

[Confessions of a Carioca] 18 Dec 2008--In 2000, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in the sci-fi flick The 6th Day. He plays a cop who discovers that there's a clone of himself running around--fully grown, identical in voice and appearance, and sharing all his memories and abilities. You don't need me to describe the conflicts and plot possibilities inherent in that notion; they're pretty easily imagined.

Here's a parody on that theme. But before you watch it, if you're up to speed on the plot of 24/7 serial tragi-comedy Anglicanland: The Reality Show, prepare to make some connections.

Canadian Church ‘approves’ Anglican Covenant

[Religious Intelligence] 18 Dec 2008--The Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod (CoGS) has given its cautious approval to the principle of an Anglican Covenant, but has reserved judgment pending a review of the final text.

At its Fall meeting in Toronto last week, CoGS, the Canadian church’s governing body between meetings of the triennial General Synod gave an affirmative response to the question posed by the ACC/Primates Joint Standing Committee whether it cold “give an ‘in principle’ commitment to the covenant process at this time, without committing itself to the details of any text.”

Re-Established Pittsburgh Diocese Convenes

[The Living Church] 18 Dec 2008--The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh held its reorganizing convention Dec. 13–14 at St. Paul’s Church in suburban Mt.Lebanon. The special convention, “Coming Together in Faith,” adopted a budget and elected more than 50 people to positions vacated by those who followed Bishop Robert Duncan out of The Episcopal Church after the annual convention vote Oct. 4 to realign with the AnglicanProvince of the Southern Cone.

Twenty-seven congregations sent voting deputations to the meeting, including Trinity Cathedral, which previously announced plans to serve as the cathedral for both dioceses and had sent deputies to the convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican) as well. Deputies approved a $789,198 budget for 2009. The amount includes a grant of $270,000 from The Episcopal Church.

P.B.: New Province Formation Counter to Tradition

[The Living Church] 18 Dec 2008--Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the recent formation of a new North American province that includes four Episcopal dioceses and a number of individual parishes runs so counter to church tradition that it is “an oxymoron to us.” She made the remarks Dec. 16 during a question-and-answer session following an address to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“One of the reasons for the ancient tradition of not having two bodies is so that we can be in communion,” she said. “When one body says it is not part of you, then it is not in communion with you. It violates the root belief that we are one.”

When there is a breakaway part, she continued, then The Episcopal Church’s relationship to that separated part “becomes an ecumenical relationship,” not a communion relationship – somewhat similar to The Episcopal Church’s relationship with the Lutheran Church.

Aren't openly gay clergy and same sex blessings "counter to tradition"?

Episcopal Head Addresses Controversies, Challenges Media

[The Christian Post] 18 Dec 2008--The world is hungry for hope and the head of The Episcopal Church has challenged the media to take the less traveled road of feeding the public with more stories of encouragement than of scandal and controversy.

"On two occasions in the last few days, leaders in my own church have said to me that the church only makes the front page if it’s about schism or sex – and in the current era, preferably both," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who leads The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism.

The Episcopal Church has made headlines over the last several years ever since it consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003. The move, which conservatives see as part of the national church's departure from Anglican tradition and Scripture, created deeper rifts within the global Anglican Communion and forced a number of congregations to break from the U.S. body.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Small Membership Church and the New Settlement

By Robin G. Jordan

In this article I examine the standing of the small membership church in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and a number of related issues. A small membership church is a church with an average Sunday attendance (ASA) of less than 50 people. This size church does not fare very well under the provisions of the ACNA provisional constitution and canons.

Small membership churches desiring to affiliate with the new province must join with an existing judicatory or a judicatory in formation. A group of small membership churches cannot be admitted to the new province as a new judicatory. It must amalgamate or merge with a group of at least 12 larger churches with an ASA of at least 50 people each. The two groups of churches must have a collective ASA of 1000 people. As I noted in my previous article, "A Further Look at the ACNA Canons," these requirements for the admission of a new judicatory to the new province are higher than what have been the requirements for the admission of a new judicatory to a number of the Common Cause Partners.

Among the implications are that small membership churches are going to experience in the new province that same kinds of conditions that are compelling clergy and congregations to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. They are always going to be in a subordinate position with whatever school of thought that dominates the judicatory seeking to coerce them into acquiescing to its theological beliefs and to impose upon them pastors who subscribe to these beliefs. A few small membership churches may be fortunate enough to unite with a group of larger churches with which they share theological affinity. Most will not.

The Anglican Church in North America is based upon theological affinity only in so far as the theological streams represented in the new province are theologically conservative. The ACNA provisional constitution and canons, however, fail to take this principle an important step further and to create theological affinity-based convocations of clergy and congregations as the constituent judicatories of the new province. The creation of such affinity-based convocations would seriously reduce the possibility of theological conflict. It would provide each theological stream with its own enclave in the new province, an enclave that is not confined to a particular geographic territory but covers the entire territory of the new province.

The theological streams represented in the new province have disparate and often conflicting theological beliefs. Under the ACNA provisional constitution and canons they are thrown together to compete for hegemony in the existing and forming judicatories of the new province. Of the former Common Cause Partners only three of the breakaway Episcopal dioceses and Forward in Faith North America (FIFNA) are theologically homogenous. They are exclusively Anglo-Catholic. It is a formula for power struggles and serious theological disputes.

There is a naïve assumption that since the Anglican Church in North America is made up of theological conservatives, clergy and congregations will not experience the kinds of problems that they experienced in Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. The formation of the new province has not eliminated disagreement in opinion on doctrinal and other matters and the potential for quarrels caused by this disagreement. Anglo-Catholics, charismatic evangelicals, and confessional evangelicals have different theological views of salvation, grace, justification, works, the gravity of sin, the place of the Bible in the Christian faith, the Church, the sacraments, ordination, apostolic succession, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The threat of liberalism is not present in the new province to divert their attention from their theological differences.

The ACNA provisional constitution and canons offer few guarantees and safeguards for the small membership churches. They do not protect small churches from the kinds of abuses that they have been forced to endure in The Episcopal Church and in the Continuum. Some but not all are guaranteed congregational ownership of church property. As previously noted, they cannot affiliate with the new province as a part of a cluster of small membership churches. They must join an existing ACNA judicatory or unite with a network of larger churches seeking admission to the new province.

Clergy and congregations in the new province are at the mercy of whatever judicatory they join. This is especially true in the case of small membership churches. The ACNA constitution and canons make no provision for the transfer of clergy and congregations from one judicatory to another in the event that they find themselves in a judicatory with which they have no real theological affinity or that the judicatory which they joined undergoes a change in theological climate. In cases of severe theological incompatibility their only option is to withdraw from the new province. They cannot transfer to a more theologically congenial judicatory, one that suits their theological disposition, and remain an ACNA affiliate.

The larger churches in each judicatory can be expected to control the selection of the bishop of the judicatory and to dominate its decision-making bodies. They are likely to shape the doctrine and worship of the judicatory. The members of small membership churches will, to a large extent, be second-class citizens in the new province.

Another group of churches that will be adversely affected under the ACNA provisional constitution and canons are what are sometimes called "churches without walls"—house churches, home fellowships, and cell churches. These churches have adopted an alternative model to the traditional parish church. They meet in private homes and other venues and often are targeted at unchurched population segments that the traditional parish church is not particularly effective in reaching and evangelizing. For example, the residents of multihousing, while they are not likely to attend a traditional parish church, will attend a house church established in the apartment complex in which they live.

In these alternative church models the church goes to the ministry focus group that it has targeted instead of expecting the missionary focus group to come to the church. The church may not have a weekend or Sunday worship service or gathering for the entire church. Rather it may have a number of meetings, each involving one section of the church, scattered throughout the week.

The recent announcements of a new era of evangelism and missions may be premature. The traditional parish church model that the ACNA provisional constitution and canons appear to favor is not known for its effectiveness in these areas. It is the church model with which the former Episcopalians of the Anglican Church in North America may be familiar. This, however, does not make it the most effective model for carrying out the Great Commission.

In Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples (Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Publishing Group, 2006), Thomas S. Rainer and Eric Geiger point out a number of drawbacks of the traditional parish church model. The way a church is organized is inherited. "That’s the way we’ve always done things." It is not thought-out. It is not designed with care. At some point in time it was thrown together and then became enshrined in tradition.

The programs and ministries are just plugged into the church calendar and brochure. They pull the church in different directions and compete for the resources of the church. Instead of having one focus the church has many focuses. Each ministry and each program has its constituency in the church and each constituency has its own vision of the church and its own priorities. The church’s programs and ministries may help people experience spiritual growth. They may not. They were not designed for that purpose.

Traditions of how churches in the church’s denomination always done things also keep the church from doing things more effectively. The church may have a particular ministry such as a men’s fellowship because all churches of the denomination to which it belongs have that ministry; it may have a women’s circle for the same reason. People go to a lot of meetings in traditional parish model churches so that the church may appear to be a veritable hive of activity. But this busyness is deceptive. Very few of these meetings are helping them to spread the gospel, to produce followers of Jesus, or to grow spiritually.

Rainer and Geiger advocate the streamlining of the church and its organization around "a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth." If a ministry or program does not serve this process, it is eliminated. Proposed ministries and programs that do not serve the process are not adopted. The church has one focus—to make and to mature disciples.

In Mission Minded (Kingsford, New South Wales, Australia: Matthias Media, 1992, 2007) Peter Bold identifies two main goals of the mission-minded church—evangelism and edification. He identifies of a number of sub-goals under these main goals—raising awareness, initial contact, pre-evangelism, and evangelism under evangelism and follow-up, nurture, and training in ministry under edification. In planning towards mission, he points to the need to analyze all the activities of the church in relation to these goals and sub-goals. This analysis may reveal some dangerous holes that need to be plugged and some activities that may need to be pruned.

One of Bold’s examples of activities that may need pruning are four women’s groups, all of which are targeted at women in the same age range, and all of which consist of the same ten to twelve women in this age bracket. These four groups are actually one group meeting at different times of the week under different names for different activities. The group is not serving as a point of contact for women outside of the church or as a point of entry for these women into the church.

Redundant church groups and organizations made up of the same group of people are common in traditional parish model churches. The same group of women may form the altar guild, the flower guild, the women’s intercessory prayer group, and the needlepoint sewing circle. At the first glance it might seem that a church had a number of groups for women but a closer examination reveals that these groups are really one tight-knit group of women that, while it may occasionally adopt into the group a daughter or niece or sister-in-law of a group member, is generally not open to newcomers. If a second women’s group is established to incorporate newcomers into the church, the pastor can expect to hear an outcry from the first group who will loudly protest that the church has plenty of women’s groups.

Rainer, Geiger, and Bold point to a very important principle—how a church is organized should serve its function and not the other way around. The function of the church is disciple making (Rainer and Geiger) or gospel ministry (Bold). They are different terms for the same function.

The former Episcopalians that largely make up the Anglican Church in North America are bringing into the new province a lot of baggage that they should leave behind them in The Episcopal Church. Anglicanism in North America needs a fresh start—not a continuation of "business as usual." The new province needs to be something more than a recreation of The Episcopal Church sans the liberals. If the Anglican Church in North America is truly to be a "mission-shaped" province, it must give proper recognition to the distinctive strengths and vitality of the small membership church instead of viewing the small membership church as The Episcopal Church has viewed this size church—a client or dependent of a judicatory that has surrendered its freedom of choice to the judicatory in exchange for a subsidy.

The Anglican Church in North America needs to take the important step of creating theological affinity-based convocations of clergy and congregations as the constituent judicatories of the new province. The ACNA needs to guarantee each theological stream represented in the new province a non-geographic enclave in the new province and freedom to establish and network churches throughout the entire territory of the new province and to develop and use its own Prayer Book or liturgy. In this way not only would the new province be organized on the basis of theological affinity but its judicatories would be also.

The Anglican Church in North America must establish guarantees and safeguards to prevent what happened in the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church from happening in the new province. Congregations should be guaranteed ownership of their own property and the freedom to select their own clergy and to choose their own Prayer Book or liturgy. The constituent judicatories should be free to elect their own bishop, according to their own canons and subject to confirmation of the bishop-elect by the other bishops in the province. Only if a constituent judicatory, after a specific number of attempts, fails to elect a bishop should the Province designate a bishop and then in consultation with the constituent judicatory. The Provincial Synod should have limited delegated powers with the constituent judicatories retaining all other powers. The Provincial Executive Council and the Presiding Bishop should be elected by the Provincial Synod and should perform only those functions specifically prescribed in the Constitution of the Province. The Provincial Executive Council should be subject to the direction of the Provisional Synod and the Presiding Bishop should have limited, clearly defined powers. Clergy and congregations should be free to transfer from one judicatory to another without forfeiture of pension contributions or congregational property. Clergy and congregations from existing judicatories should be free to form new ones that reflect their common theological beliefs.

The Anglican Church in North America needs to make room for other church models beside the traditional parish in the new province. This includes clusters of house churches, networks of home fellowships, and cell churches. Whether they adopt the traditional parish model or an alternative model, only churches organized around the Great Commission can expect to receive God’s blessing in the new province.

God is not building a new province in North America where Anglicans may turn their backs on the world and live their lives as if it does not exist. North America is the seventh largest mission field in the world. It is the world’s largest English-speaking mission field. North America is as much a part of God’s vineyard as any other mission field in the world. God established the Church of Jesus Christ to carry on the mission of his Son—to seek and save the lost. God is calling and sending new workers into the North American part of his vineyard because the old workers whom he called and sent there have not done what he called and sent them to do. Having shown themselves to be unfaithful, God is replacing them. We are the new workers. If we too prove to be unfaithful, God will also replace us.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Farther Implications of the ACNA Constitution and Canons

By Robin G. Jordan

The Common Cause Partnership offers no explanation of how the drafters of the provisional canons came up with the minimum of at least 12 churches with an ASA of at least 50 and a collective ASA of 1000 as the requirement for the admission of a new judicatory to the Anglican Church in North America. Matt Kennedy’s explanation of quality control is hardly credible in the light of the fact at least three of the bodies forming the ACNA and at one time at least four have or have had a much lower standard for the admission of a new judicatory (diocese or convocation). These bodies appear to have set lower standards for the quality of the churches from which they were formed than the standards they are requiring for the quality of the churches forming the new judicatories.

Is ASA really an accurate measure of the quality of a church?

As we has seen in my previous article, "A Further Look at the ACNA Canons," ASA can be skewed by a number of factors, for example, the phenomena of the circulation of the saints and rapid population growth. Another phenomena found in new churches is that new churches tend to attract what Steven Sjogren and Robin Lewin classify as "scaffold people.’ This group of people is drawn to new churches:

"Just realize that in Phase 1 (your first couple of years) you will be a scaffolding magnet, attracting disenfranchised people in your town—including many from other churches. As Norm in Cheers would say, "Not to worry!" Good will come of this. Just don’t let them absorb too much of your focus and time.

"These people will leave your church, sooner rather than later. Most of those leaving, according to exit interviews, will report that there is a lack of connection with the pastor. In other words, they most commonly leave because they don’t like you. But don’t let that worry you. Especially in the first few years you will have many people coming and going on your way toward attaining critical mass.

Don’t take it personally. It’s just a part of life." [1]

What then does ASA measure? ASA refers to the average number of people in attendance on a Sunday for an entire year. Attendance normally fluctuates throughout the year with higher attendance during months when children are attending school and lower attendance during the summer when families go on vacation.

ASA, it may be argued, measures the attractiveness of a church—its ability to attract a steady flow of people into the church on Sunday morning. But it is not a reliable measure of a church’s attractiveness. It is equivalent to measuring the number of people that a store attracts in a mall. However, as in the case of such a store not all the people who enter the store are customers. Some will browse around the store and then leave. Some will be one time or occasional customers. Some will be regular or steady customers. ASA simply measures the activity at the store entrance—the people coming in from the mall. This may include those who have entered the wrong store by mistaken or are following a runaway toddler into the store. ASA does not make any distinction. It simply counts heads. To accurately measure the attractiveness of the store one would have to interview each person entering the store and determine why they chose to enter that particular store.

ASA, it might be argued, measures consumer satisfaction. A church’s high ASA represents numerous satisfied customers returning to make more purchases. But are those whom the ASA measuring actually satisfied customers? Is a church a retail outlet? As in the previous example, ASA simply represents a head count of those entering the store. To accurately measure consumer satisfaction one would have to interview each person entering the store.

A more accurate analogy for ASA, it might be argued, is customers entering a store and buying a particular item. A high ASA is equivalent to a large number of customers of entering the store and purchasing this item. Here again, one cannot assume customer satisfaction because a large number of customers are entering the store and buying the item. The item may be on sale at an outrageously low price. The customers may have been given coupons that enable to purchase the item at a ridiculously low price. To accurately measure consumer satisfaction one would have to interview each person purchasing the item and determine why he is purchasing the item, whether he has purchased it before, how often, and whether he was satisfied the previous items of the same kind and brand that he previously purchased from the store.

ASA, it might be argued, measures the effectiveness of the rector or senior pastor of a church. But effective at what—packing the church with warm bodies? How many of these warm bodies have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? How many of them are growing to maturity in Christ? How many are encouraging those around them? How many are telling others about Jesus Christ? How many are reading their Bibles and living their lives according to its principles and truths?

A rector or senior pastor whose church has an ASA of 200 may be convinced that he is doing something right but only a thorough assessment of the church will determine whether the ASA is the result of his leadership or whether other factors account for it. In my experience clergy are only too ready to take the credit for high Sunday attendance and to blame others for low Sunday attendance. Yet they may have little to do with the high Sunday attendance and a lot to do with the low Sunday attendance.

I recall a particular case where the rector of the church sponsoring a new church developed a team of mission-minded lay leaders to work with him in planting and growing the new church. One of the first things the new vicar did was to disband this team, insisting that he did not need its help in leading the church. However, the church continued to benefit from the expertise, ideas, and leadership skills of these leaders. One might say the church experienced growth despite the vicar. If one ranked the factors that contributed to the church’s growth under his leadership for the first five years, his own contributions were low on the list. The lay leadership team that the founding pastor had assembled made a large contribution even though they no longer existed as a team. They were much more mission-minded and church growth-oriented than was the vicar.

An ASA is simply a head count of the number of people in attendance on Sunday morning at the time the head count was taken. Two minutes after the head count a person who was counted might slide out of the pew he was sitting in, walk out to the parking lot, start his car, and drive off. However, he will be included in that Sunday’s head count.

Weekend or Sunday attendance at a church is not something that should be ignored. It can be a trouble light on the dashboard of a church. If it drops suddenly or is consistently low during a season of the year when it would be normally higher, it indicates that something is wrong in the church or in the community, which requires the church’s attention. A declining weekend or Sunday attendance may signal demographic changes. A fairly even weekend or Sunday attendance over a long period of time may indicate that a church has reached a plateau and stopped growing.

However, a high weekend or Sunday attendance is not necessarily a sign of church health. A number of megachurches like Saddleback and Willow Creek have an average weekend attendance of more than 2000 people. In surveying the people who are attending their worship services on weekends, using comprehensive spiritual maturity assessment tools, these megachurches are discovering that a high percentage of the believers in attendance are spiritual immature. They do not pray regularly. They do not encourage others regularly. They do not talk about Jesus with others regularly. They do not read their Bibles regularly. They have not discovered and developed their spiritual gifts, much less are they regularly using their spiritual gifts in a ministry in the church or outside the church.

The rector or senior pastor who assumes that his church is doing well because the average weekend or Sunday attendance is high may be deceiving himself. Spiritual assessment of the church’s attendees may show a different picture—a high level of spiritual immaturity. Average weekend or Sunday attendance is not an accurate measure of the quality of a church. It simply tells statisticians how many people have been warming the pews in a particular church on an average Sunday in a particular year.

Packing our churches on Sunday morning means little if we are not producing fully functional disciples of Jesus Christ—Jesus followers who are also gospel workers and missionaries wherever God has place them. We should not be just satisfied with numerical growth. Our goal should be gospel growth—every attendee moving along the path from inquirer to new believer to spiritual mature Christian.

The owners of a mall store measure its success by the volume of its sales and not by the number of people who enter the store. If we are going to realistically evaluate how well a church is doing we need to be measuring other indicators beside weekend or Sunday attendance. We need to measure a range of attitudinal and behavioral changes in the attendees and not just how often they attend church. If a church is attracting large crowds of attendees but it is not transforming lives, it is not doing well.

ASA may be give more weight than it deserves because of the similarity of weekend or Sunday attendance on the surface to the turnout at a theatrical performance (e.g., play, musical), a movie, the performance of a singer, vocal ensemble, band, or dance troop, a circus act, and other forms of entertainment. If a play draws large crowds for an entire season or a musical for its entire run, it is considered a success. However, the intended purpose of a worship service or gathering is not to entertain. While a play, musical, or movie may turn the hearts of individuals in the audience to God and impact the lives of individuals in the audience it is primarily entertainment.

The main reason that clergy and congregations have been leaving the Episcopal Church is that they found themselves in serious theological dispute with the bishop and other clergy and congregations of the diocese to which they belonged. Behind this conflict is a lack of theological affinity with the diocese and The Episcopal Church.

Kennedy asserts that a cluster of small churches wishing to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America can attach themselves to a network of larger churches in order to gain admission to the new province as a constituent congregation of a new judicatory. But Kennedy appears to be ignoring the issue of theological affinity. The cluster of small churches may not have theological affinity with the network of larger churches that is being admitted to the new province. The leaders of the network of larger churches may demand that the cluster of small churches compromise their own theology and accept the theology of the larger church network before incorporating them into that network. They may demand that the churches in the small church cluster accept the appointment of pastors who adhere to the theology of the larger church network.

Even if the leaders of the larger church network do not make such demands at the time of the merger of the two groups of churches, the resulting judicatory can expect to experience tension due to the disparate theologies of the two groups of churches comprising the new judicatory. The group of larger churches can be expected to seek to dominate the selection of leaders of the new judicatory and to impose its theological outlook upon the clergy and congregations of the group of small churches over time. The result will be a situation not unlike that in The Episcopal Church with clergy and congregations in serious theological dispute with the leaders of their judicatory.

Coupled with the provisions of Article X, Section 5, of the ACNA provisional constitution and Canon 4 it suggests that drafters of these documents were seeking to exclude from the new province those they regard as undesirables. They were also seeking to ensure that the existing leadership of the Common Cause Partnership has control over the selection of leaders for the new judicatories that might be admitted to the new province and therefore control over who joins them in leading the new province. Kennedy might wish to rationalize such policies as "quality control." However, they resemble too closely what has been happening in The Episcopal Church and of which we can expect to see more in the near future. By limiting the ways that a cluster of small churches or an individual small church may affiliate with the new province to joining one of the existing judicatories or a new judicatory seeking admission to the new province, the ACNA provisional constitution and canons give rise to the same kind of conditions in the new province which in The Episcopal Church led to the formation of the new province. Anglicans found themselves in a denomination in which theological beliefs of the dominant group were essentially different from their own and in which the dominant group at the national, diocesan, and local levels refused to make adequate provision for them to practice their own beliefs and sought to pressure them to acquiesce to the beliefs of the dominant group.

We certainly should not take an attitude of disdain toward congregations that meet in garages. Every church must begin somewhere. A number of successful business ventures have started in garages. So have a number of thriving churches. In the 1980s I was involved in an Episcopal church plant that initially met in a tennis clubhouse, then in an office building, a storefront, and a school gymnasium for several years before it acquired land and constructed a multipurpose building. More recently I was involved a United Methodist church plant that first met in funeral home chapel and then a maritime museum conference room for a number of years. It now occupies its own building and uses the facilities of a nearby day care center. I was involved in an Episcopal church plant that initially met in a living room and then moved to a vacant house owned by the husband of one of its attendees. It is presently meeting in a hotel conference room, having outgrown the house. My more recent church planting involvement has included a Southern Baptist plant that first meet in a living room, expanded to a number of living rooms, and then to a fire station and several living rooms. The church bought a local café and converted it into a church office, nursery and worship center. It now has two services on Sunday morning. The attendees continue to meet in private homes for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship.

The largest church in the area in which I formerly lived began in an office building. It bought a large, newly constructed building of a skating rink that had been unsuccessful as a business venture and converted it into a worship center, offices, a nursery, and classrooms. Faith Anglican Church (AMiA) in Cordova, Tennessee, met in a banquet hall adjoining a restaurant for a number of years. It now has its own building. Christ Anglican Church (AMiA) in Mobile, Alabama rented a number of conference rooms in the local community center for several years. It also now has its own building. I know of churches that meet in school cafeterias, VFW halls, shopping malls, movie theaters and other non-traditional settings.

We should also not expect every congregation to acquire land and to construct a building. I am presently involved in a Southern Baptist church plant that is targeted at students at the local university and young adults and their children in the community. The worship gatherings are held on campus and will be held there for the foreseeable future. Being on campus is a part of the church’s strategy for reaching students at the university. Students do not need to go off campus on Sunday morning in order to attend church. We bring church to them. The worship gatherings are held in the banquet room or theater of the student center within walking distance of the student housing. If we moved off campus, we would not reach as many students as we do. Some churches choose not to acquire land and construct a building because the building might limit their growth. Other churches cannot acquire land for a building because the cost of real estate in their area is too prohibitive.

The high bar for admission of a new judicatory to the province forces churches with disparate theologies to form a new judicatory together. It also compels clergy and congregations to join existing judicatories with which they may have no theological affinity in order to become an affiliate of the new province. It puts clergy and congregations into the position of having to relinquish their theology in order to gain admission to a judicatory and to the new province. Clergy and congregations that do not want to compromise what they believe are given no other recourse than remain outside the new province.

[1] Steve Sjogrin and Rob Lewin, Community of Kindness, (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 2003) 36-37.