Saturday, February 28, 2009

Great Expectations

[Christianity Today] 28 Feb 2009--Q: How high do you set expectations for choir or worship team members, and how do you enforce them?

A: From the beginning, I have tried to raise the bar at Saddleback. During the audition process we emphasize three core commitments: commitment to attendance, commitment to spiritual growth, and commitment to musical excellence. Team members are expected to fulfill their commitment to the ministry season by attending at least 80 percent of the rehearsals, sing in all five of the services (once a month), and memorize their songs. We ask that everyone be involved in a small group and make it a priority to complete the church's core curriculum.

Presbyterian Pastor Fears Denomination is Compromising Witness

[The Christian Post] 28 Feb 2009--As Presbyterians in Charlotte approved an amendment that would open the way for the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals, one pastor is speaking out, concerned that the Church is compromising its witness in morally ambiguous times.

"The approved amendment, in violating the teachings of Scripture and our confessional history, puts the church in the position of accommodating itself to a culture that is demanding permission for behaviors and patterns of life that, while self-gratifying, are not biblically permissible," states Jim Szeyller, pastor of Carmel Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., in a commentary published Thursday in The Charlotte Observer.

Last week, the Presbytery of Charlotte – a regional body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – voted 177-139 to support a constitutional amendment that would delete language requiring clergy "to lead a life in obedience to Scripture" and to live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

The proposed substitute language states that clergy must "pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ ... striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church."

Some believe the new language would not only allow partnered gays and lesbians to be ordained but weaken the denomination's witness to biblical standards.

"The proposed amendment grants freedom from Scripture to do what seems right in our own eyes," Terry Schlossberg of The Presbyterian Coalition stated earlier. The coalition launched a campaign to defeat the amendment which requires a majority approval from the PC(USA)'s 173 presbyteries.

As of Wednesday, 36 presbyteries have approved the amendment and 46 have voted against it, according to The Layman.

Pakistan Christians Nervous about Sharia Law Enforcement

[The Christian Post] 28 Feb 2009--Christians in Pakistan voiced serious concerns about government allowing Islamic laws to be enforced in certain terrorist prone areas, noting that while not many Christians directly live in the affected areas there are thousands that live nearby.

We are very much concerned about these developments. It does not augur well for us,” said Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan, according to Ecumenical News International.

Sharia law, or Islamic law, will be enacted in Malakand region in the North West Frontier Province. Azariah notes that hundreds of thousands of Christians live in the North West Frontier Province and they now feel threatened by the government’s agreement with Islamic leaders to allow Sharia law to dominate in the terrorist hotbed.

OBAMA WATCH: Obama to Reverse Bush Abortion Rule

[The Christian Post] 28 Feb 2009--President Barack Obama plans to repeal a Bush administration rule that has become a flash point in the debate over a doctor's right not to participate in abortions. The regulation, instituted in the last days of the Bush administration, strengthened job protections for doctors and nurses who refuse to provide a medical service because of moral qualms.

A Health and Human Services official said Friday the administration will publish notice of its intentions early next week, opening a 30-day comment period for advocates on both sides, medical groups and the public.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the notice has not been completed.

The Bush administration rule was quickly challenged in federal court by several states and medical organizations. As a candidate, President Barack Obama criticized the regulation and campaign aides promised that if elected, he would review it.

The news that he was doing so drew praise from abortion-rights supporters and condemnation from groups opposed to abortion.

Understanding miracles in John

[] 28 Feb 2009--I love puzzling over difficult parts of the Bible for the difficulty is in my head - not on the page and puzzling over these difficulties gives me an opportunity to change the way I think.

Some years ago a Rabbi pointed out to me that the footnotes in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible often said “Hebrew obscure”.

“The Hebrew is never obscure” he protested, “The translator may be confused, but the Hebrew is plain.”

It is easier to blame the problem of understanding on the text rather than to see the problem is in ourselves. But once you grasp this reality, difficulties become joys because they give you the opportunity to change the way you think.

Malaysia to Allow Christians to Use 'Allah'

[The Christian Post] 28 Feb 2009--The Malaysian government has softened an earlier ban on the use of the word "Allah" by Christian publications to refer to God and is allowing them to use it as long as they specify the material is not for Muslims, a church official said Thursday.

The government had earlier argued that the use of Allah in Christian texts might confuse Muslims, who might think Allah refers to their God.

The revised order was issued Feb. 16 by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, said the Rev. Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Herald, the Roman Catholic Church's main newspaper in Malaysia. He said the publication has already started printing "For Christianity" on its cover.

China: Christians Wary as Recession, Unrest Hit

[Compss Direct News] 28 Feb 2009--With China’s central government last December issuing a number of secret documents calling on provincial officials to strive to prevent massive unrest in a rapidly collapsing economy, observers are watching for signs of whether authorities will view Christian groups as a threat or a stabilizing influence.

While the Sichuan earthquake last May proved that Christians were willing and able to assist in times of national crisis, raids on house church groups have continued in recent weeks.

Thousands displaced after Nigeria riots: police

[AFP] 28 Feb 2009--At least 4,500 people have been displaced by sectarian violence in the northern Nigerian city of Bauchi which left 11 dead and 100 hospitalised, police said Tuesday.

"About 4,500 people have been displaced and they have been camped at two army barracks in
the city", Bauchi police commissioner Adanaya Tallman Gaya told AFP after rioting between Muslims and Christians began on Saturday.

"We have recorded 11 deaths and 100 casualties in the two-day violence and our men have succeeded in making 30 arrests in connection with the disturbance", Gaya said.

A Message from Bishop David Anderson

[Anglican Mainstream] 28 Feb 2009--I am constantly amazed at how far and wide the general distribution of the AAC Weekly Update goes. Everywhere I go in the world someone steps forward and volunteers that he or she reads the update each week and passes it on to friends and co-workers. Knowing that so many depend on the AAC to report the news truthfully and give an analysis that is measured and accurate keeps us working long hours to get it right. Your interest and support keeps us going.

The Episcopal Church USA, now known as TEC, puts forward the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of the United Nations as its answer to world mission. If this is actually a true representation on the part of TEC, one has to wonder at the ratio of TEC spending on MDGs compared to the amounts burned up each year in costly litigation that they have launched against people who wish to depart with the churches they have built and maintained with their very own money.

Friday, February 27, 2009

ANGLICAN COVENANT: Wide-ranging opinions on the St Andrew’s Draft

[Church Times] 27 Feb 2009--Synod members had the oppor­tunity to comment in detail on the House of Bishops’ draft response to the St Andrew’s Draft of the Anglican Cov­enant before the response is finalised.

In the past, the Anglican Com­munion had been held together by a common ministry, similar (though not the same) ways of worship, and the so-called “bonds of affection”, said the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, introducing the debate on Thursday morning last week. But, “in a rapidly globalising world and a fast developing Communion, these are no longer enough.”

Orthodox North American Church Swamps Smaller Liberal Anglican Provinces

[VirtueOnline] 27 Feb 2009--A new North American Anglican province in waiting shows remarkable strength even before it makes its official debut in June, according to figures leaders revealed by its leaders.

According to a report released by the Diocese of Pittsburgh, some 81,311 people worship at the 693 congregations of the Anglican Church in North America each Sunday. These parishioners and parishes are outside of The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church in Canada. The vast majority are temporarily under the ecclesiastical oversight of six separate orthodox Anglican provinces.

The Anglican Covenant: A House on Sand

[Anglican Mainstream] 27 Feb 2009--As the March 9th deadline approaches for Provincial responses to the Covenant Design Group, an odd but telling paradox is emerging; in order to stabilise the Anglican Communion, it seems essential that the Covenant’s biblical foundations should be weak. During debate at the Church of England’s General Synod earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury articulated a view which resonates with many in the liberal leaning Churches of the Communion when he stated that the Covenant is ‘part of an ongoing inquiry of what a global Communion might look like.” and “At every stage it is something which churches voluntarily are invited to enter into."

But how is this weakness? Is it not simply a commitment to listening with a generous spirit? Experience of the ‘listening process’ over the past ten years has taught the orthodox to be wary as in practice it has served to subvert discipline and lend credence to false teaching. And this persistent impression can’t be waved aside as the suspicious interpretation of those opposed to the revisionist agenda. Paul Elie in his March Atlantic Monthly article ‘The Velvet Reformation’ praises Rowan Williams for ‘prodding the communion toward acceptance of gay clergy’ as he doggedly persists in trying to keep everyone at the table.

The Future Before Your Eyes

[Anglican Curmudgeon] 27 Feb 2009--This will be a long post. It did not start out that way, but as I gathered more and more material, I came to see that what is going on, and what has gone on, in the Diocese of Northern Michigan encapsulates for me, at any rate, much of what I view as the false directions and innovations that were introduced with the revisions to the Book of Common Prayer in 1979. So much has been written directly on that topic that it is helpful to see the matter anew, in the fresh light presented by a real-life situation on the ground, in an Episcopal Diocese. So please bear with me, and be patient 'til the end, far below.

Bishop speaks on gay issue

[The Freeport News] 27 Feb 2009--The Right Reverend Bishop Laish Boyd, newly enthroned Bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands, said yesterday that although the Anglican Church in the United States has appointed an "openly gay" bishop, the churches' position on the matter has not changed.

"The position of the Anglican community is that homosexual practice is contrary to the scripture," Bishop Boyd said at a press confence held at the Pro-Cathedral of Christ The King.

Noting that all of the Bishops of the Anglican communion met in England last summer and that view remained the same, he added, "There are all sorts of views out there but this is the Church's position and we have maintained that."

The End of Reasoned Faith

[Covenant] 27 Feb 2009--I started to call this “Adventures in Hiawatha Land” because it is rooted in what I accidentally learned about the recent election in Northern Michigan. All this started when I read that the Diocesan leaders there announced that they were only putting forth one candidate for Bishop. Explaining that they by applying their “Total Ministry” model, they had come up with a diocesan team that would be elected at their convention that included one name of a Bishop/developer.

I was not surprised that this diocese of vast territory but few congregations might want to do a different or experimental way of calling a Bishop. Then as I thought of it, I became troubled. What troubled me was that the leaders there had asked Standing Committees and Bishops to consent to an election. They had not asked for permission to do some other process. Further, I looked over the canons and discovered there was a method for such a diocese to hold an alternate election process that involved the Province, but they had decided not to use it. I had a nagging feeling that such a small diocese with so few clergy could easily have such a process take on its own life, and this became a further suspicion for me when I noticed that the person nominated was active in the process that brought about the nomination. So, I spoke up.

I wrote the Presiding Bishop pointing out that our Diocesan Standing Committee had consented to an “Election” not an appointment, and I spoke up on the House of Bishops and Deputies Listserv. I make it clear in both my letter and in my post that I was not objecting to the person nominated, but to the process. At that point, I was willing to let the issue go. Then, a blistering post was added that said the real “elephant in the living room” was the person they had nominated and that all the blogs were full of chatter about the person. This was the first indication that I had (I am not a big blogger person) that some were objecting to the person because of his Buddhist training. Even then, I had little concern about the person. I have known clergy who have received Buddhist Meditation training and did not consider this in and of itself a concern. My concern remained the process.

Priest Calls Social Activism ‘Duty to Our Goddess’

[The Living Church] 27 Feb 2009--The Rev. Luis Barrios, an Episcopal priest canonically resident in the Diocese of New York, was sentenced to serve two months in a federal prison after he and five others were found guilty in January of entering the Fort Benning military base in Georgia as part of a protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. He is scheduled to begin serving his sentence on March 9.

Fr. Barrios and others opponents claim that graduates of the institute, formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas, “have been implicated in some of the worst human rights violations in the Western Hemisphere.” They want the government to order the school closed permanently.

“I will not try to escape the consequences of my actions,” said Fr. Barrios in a statement he submitted to the court as part of his sentencing. “This would do nothing but diminish the validity inherent in these actions of civil disobedience,”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Witnessing to Neighbors

[Christianity Today] 27 Feb 2009--Most people, when they move, picture the ideal neighborhood: friendly couples, with well-behaved children, who drop by (always at the perfect time) with a plate of cookies—or perhaps to mow your lawn.

What we get, too often, falls far short of residential utopia: streets and subdivisions full of busy people who barely have enough time and energy to tend to their own lives, let alone take an active interest in their neighbors'. On a good day, we get eye contact and a quick wave. On a bad day, we get the guy from three houses down stomping across our back yard, swearing at Elvis, his loose beagle. (Hey, at least we know the dog's name now.)

And we feel guilty: Guilty that we don't find the time—or more often, the courage—to knock on a neighbor's door or approach them in the yard. Guilty that our neighborhoods seem cold and unfriendly and that we're not helping matters. And, most importantly for Christian couples, guilty that our home is not a beacon for a neighborhood full of lost souls.

All of which begs questions. How can we establish connections and, eventually, real, caring friendships with the people behind those doors and across those fences? How can we be strong Christian witnesses to our neighbors without coming off as the too-perfect-to-be-true Flanders family from The Simpsons?

Indian missionaries released on bail after being beaten

[Christianity Today UK] 26 Feb 2009--Eleven Gospel for Asia missionaries in India have been released from prison on bail after being beaten by a mob of Hindu extremists. The missionaries were arrested on the second day of a three-day believers convention in the Korba district of Chhattisgarh.

The event was attended by around 2,500 Christians, and included worship and Bible studies. At the end of the second day of the conference, local Hindu extremists, politicians and police reportedly entered the gathering and beat those attending with iron rods, sticks and chains.

The 11 missionaries leading the conference were arrested under the states “Freedom of Religion” law, which imposes fines and prison sentences on converting people to Christianity or Islam.

The missionaries also filed a complaint with the police about the beating but the police did not accept it.

Gospel for Asia said that some of its leaders would be meeting the chief minister of the state to discuss the matter together with other prominent Christians.

The Divine Egotist – Is God Arrogant, Selfish, or Megalomaniacal?

[The Christian Post] 26 Feb 2009--Is the God of the Bible the supreme egotist? That question arises when human beings contemplate the meaning of the truth that God does everything for the sake of his own glory. Is God then a megalomaniac?

Human beings are trapped in a human frame of reference. When we think of motivation, we inevitably start with our own self-conscious knowledge of our own motivations. For a human to seek his or her own glory is narcissism in purest form. Human egotism is constantly on display. And, if we are honest, we know that we seek our own glory as a reflex.

In reality, this is the essence of sin. Our desire for glory is inherently idolatrous and selfish. Paul describes this perfectly in Romans 1:22-23: "Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." This exchange that robs God of his glory is the very heart of sin. We want the glory that is God's alone.

When we think of God, our reflex is to think in human terms. We are trapped in the knowledge that our efforts to glorify ourselves are perverse. Yet, if we are to think rightly of God, we must think in infinitely different terms, and the only way we can do this is by the gift of revelation. God must give us even the frame of reference with which we can think of him, and he does so in his Word.

Largest Christian Groups Report Membership Decline

[CThe Christian Post] 26 Feb 2009--The Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church – the two largest Christian communions in the country – have joined the ranks of mainline denominations in reporting membership losses, the latest church yearbook shows.

After years of continuous growth, membership in the Roman Catholic Church dropped by 0.59 percent and the Southern Baptist Convention decreased by 0.24 percent, according to the 2009 edition of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, published this week.

Although the percentage losses are small compared to the total membership of the churches, the yearbook pointed out that the two communions had "grown dependably" over the years and "now they join virtually every mainline church in reporting a membership decline."

There are no clear-cut theological or sociological reasons for church growth or decline, says the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, editor of the yearbook.

"Many churches are feeling the impact of the lifestyles of younger generations of church-goers – the 'Gen X'ers' or 'Millenials' in their 20s and 30s who attend and support local congregations but resist joining them," Lindner states in the report.

"A slowing of the rate of growth of some churches and the decline of membership of others ought to be the focus of continued research and thoughtful inquiry," she adds.

‘Media’s religious ignorance is exposing us to terror’

[Anglican Mainstream] 26 Feb 2009--Massive ignorance about religion by western journalists is giving terrorists freedom to operate.

So says Washington Post contributor Paul Marshall who has co-edited a new book called Blind Spot: When Journalists don’t get Religion published by Oxford University Press and launched by Lapido Media in London today. (Listen to MP3 podcast »)

He said: ‘Many journalists tend to interpret radicalism through a grid of Western concerns such as poverty, ethnicity and what’s happening in the Middle East.

‘To the degree that our views of the nature and goals of Islamist terrorism are shaped by the media, we are consistently being misinformed about the nature of our enemies and the nature of the conflicts we are in. A massive indifference to religion by secular journalists resulted in 9/11 and 7/7.’

Marshall, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Centre for Religious Freedom in New York, spoke this morning at the Frontline Club in London in a discussion moderated by New Statesman contributor and historian Tom Holland.

Marshall said that the media were refusing to address the content of different religions.

‘They are not seen as modes of understanding, or forms of knowledge. What’s really driving believers they think is money, sex or power.’

Rushing to Judgment

[Anglican Curmudgeon] 26 Feb 2009--In what can be described only as a somewhat terse performance by its collective justices, the California Supreme Court has corrected a rather glaring error in its prior opinion in The Episcopal Church Cases, 45 Cal.4th 467 (2009). It has published a short per curiam (meaning: unsigned) order, which it says does not affect its earlier judgment. But since the order has no byline, and carries no explanation, its significance is easy to miss.

Those to my left have, as usual, jumped to totally unwarranted conclusions. Out of the three sentences used by the Court to describe what it was doing, they select only this one: "The [local churches'] petition for rehearing is denied." Then they trumpet headlines like "California breakaway churches lose in court again". What they ignore are these words: "Request for modification granted. . . The opinion is modified." (Emphasis added.) If I were to read things as one-sidedly as they do, I could have titled this post: "California orthodox churches win in Supreme Court"; or (only slightly less outrageous) "Supreme Court concedes mistake in prior ruling in favor of ECUSA". I have decided instead to reach two birds with just one cast, and call what has happened in both the Supreme Court and on liberal blogs "rushing to judgment".

Episcopal Congregations Overview: Findings from the 2008 Faith Communities Today Survey

[episcopal] 26 Feb 2009--The largest proportion (52%) of Episcopal congregations is located in villages, towns and small cities with a population of less than 50,000. Overall, 28% are located in villages or towns of less than 10,000 and 24% are in larger towns or small cities.

Larger cities with a population of 50,000 or mor are home to 40% of Episcopal congregations.
Only 4.9% are in newer suburbs.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Orissa Christians are 'heroes', say bishops

[Christianity Today UK] 25 Feb 2009--A conference of Indian Catholic bishops has described Christians persecuted for their faith in the country as "heroes of faith and patriotism.

The weeklong conference, which gathered 120 bishops, held moments of prayer for the Christian communities of India, especially those in Orissa and Karnataka.

Anti-Christian violence broke out in the state of Orissa last August resulting in the deaths of over 60 Christians.

The Pope and the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples sent messages of support to the bishops' conference.

Archaeologists discover artefacts from time of Hezekiah

[Christianity Today UK] 25 Feb 2009--Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a large building dating back to the time of the First and Second Temples and the reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority has been excavating the village of Umm Tuba in southern Jerusalem. The agency said that it had found a building of several rooms arranged around a courtyard. The rooms contained numerous artifacts and pottery from the First and Second Temple Periods.

Among the items found were the seals of government officials such as Ahimelekh ben Amadyahu and Yehokhil ben Shahar, both of whom were high up in the government of King Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was the 13th King of Judah. His life is mentioned in the Bible in the books of Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah. In Chronicles it tells of how Hezekiah, together with the prophet Isaiah, prayed to God to save the Kingdom from the invading Assyrians.

The archaeologists also found a Hebrew inscription on a jar neck, dating 600 years after the seals of the Kingdom of Judah. It is believed the building was partly destroyed during the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

The new discoveries, together with other previous finds help paint a picture of the Jewish existence in Jerusalem during the time of the First and Second Temples

Most imams and clerics in Britain are from overseas

[Times Online] 25 Feb 2009--All but three per cent of imams or clerics in Britain's mosques are from overseas, according to new research published today.

The Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank, claims in a poll of the country's mosques that even though most of Britain's 2.4 million Muslims were born here, they are being preached to about their faith by poorly paid foreign imams with limited proficiency in English.

The foundation, itself run by former Islamic extremists and in receipt of about £1 million of public funds, claims its research proves that more than four in ten mosques do not compensate for this by holding the lecture before Friday prayers in English.

It criticises the foreign imams as "ill-equipped to navigate Britain's complex, liberal and multi-faith society."

The foundation warns: "Britain's young Muslims, without a voice in mosques, are looking elsewhere for religious guidance and will continue to be drawn in by young, articulate extremists who offer an alternative narrative, cause and social space."

Anglo-Catholics warned of split threat in UK

[Religious Intelligence] 25 Feb 2009--Sustained wrangling marred much of a Forward in Faith special post-General Synod assembly in London on Saturday as delegates argued over the nature and structure of a Church of England with female bishops.

The traditionalists' divisions were notably on display as delegates clashed over whether parishes should be urged to withhold their quotas if insufficient protection is given to them if and when females start donning mitres.

The sharp differences caused one priest delegate - who asked not to be named - to be heard to say as the assembly ended: "Forward in Faith? It should be renamed Backwards in Bitterness."

And bitterness emerged just as the extraordinary assembly began. A surprise attempt to scupper the already prepared agenda for the gathering was made by the Rev Donald Minchew of the Southwark diocese.

Episcopal Dioceses and Parishes Face Worst Financial Crisis since Depression - Part III

[VirtueOnline] 25 Feb 2009--Investments and collection plates are getting lighter at Episcopal Churches across the U.S. There is little evidence that the trend of declining attendance and shrinking revenues will reverse in these tough economic times.

The effects of the economic downturn are reaching into the collection plates and endowment funds of America's Episcopal churches at alarming levels. Bishops and parish priests are watching with horror as donations dwindle and investments decline. Unemployment is beginning to hit the collection plate hard. Usually when times are tough, more people go to church. That does not seem to be happening in the Episcopal Church. Churches that depend on the collection plate for the majority of their income are also worried about the effect of declining employment rates on their weekly plates.

One of the options that is open to the Episcopal Church in these economic hard times is to move away from the sacramentalism of the last few years and to once more become a church of the Word. Being sacramental is not essential to being apostolic. While it may not be possible for every church to have a full-time "priest," it is still possible for every church to have a non-stipendiary minister of the Gospel who teaches and preaches on Sunday and other occasions and leads the worship of the church. Congregations can also be trained to provide pastoral care to their members.

Barnabas Fund Response to Ben White's Book Review of Global Jihad

[Fulcrum] 25 Feb 2009--Ben White’s review of Patrick Sookhdeo’s Global Jihad, published on the Fulcrum website, is a robust critique of the author’s stance on the issues addressed in the book. This paper is mainly a response to some of White’s specific criticisms, but some preliminary observations are in order regarding his methodology.

First, like all reviewers of all books, White has his own general worldview and specific standpoints, and these (inevitably and properly) inform his comments. But this process becomes less proper if it leads a reviewer into a fallacy, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it has done so in White’s review. The focus given to the person and activities of the author of the book is unusual if not necessarily excessive, but White also describes those who have endorsed the British edition as “senior figures, either retired or still active, from the military establishment” and those of the American edition as right-wing, neo-conservative, pro-Israel and supporters of George Bush.

The presence of these descriptions seems to be an attempt to denigrate the book by associating it with a particular political stance, which the author assumes to be suspect. But not only is this an imputation of guilt by association, which is hardly fair; it also disallows that the book may even in principle challenge the reviewer’s own worldview. The possibility that an assessment of the work on its merits might subvert some of the political assumptions that White brings to the discussion, and give more credence to some of those who have commended the book, should not be excluded from the start. Unless it is excluded, the approval of these people cannot rightly be used as a ground for criticising the text.

Anglican-Buddhist is elected Bishop in Northern Michigan

[Religious Intelligence] 25 Feb 2009--The Anglican Communion’s first Anglican-Buddhist Bishop was elected this week at a special convention of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. The sole candidate on the ballot, the Rev Kevin Thew Forrester received the support of 88 per cent of the delegates and 91 per cent of congregations, according to a diocesan news release.

The nomination of Fr Forrester sparked controversy last month, when the diocese announced that he was the sole candidate for election. Critics charged it was unseemly that a single candidate was chosen by the search committee --- which included Fr Forrester among its members --- to stand for election. Concerns were also raised about the suitability of a professed Buddhist who said he had received Buddhist “lay ordination” and was “walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together” being consecrated a bishop.

Art to explain complex things

[] 25 Feb 2009--Perhaps I haven’t been paying enough attention, but I’ve found this whole financial crisis business very confusing. I’ve found myself ignorantly flinging around the term ‘GFC’ (global financial crisis) and blaming it for many (unrelated) problems in the world (and thanking it for reduced petrol prices) but I’ve struggled to understand why everything went wrong and continues to get worse. The terms ‘sub-prime mortgage’ and frozen credit markets’ don’t mean a lot to your average punter – people definitely like me, and perhaps like you too.

I’ve recently come across some videos created by people who have a wonderful way of explaining complicated things – cutting through the technical jargon, and using great visual imagery to communicate the important details.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Give no assistance or encouragement

[Anglican Church League] 24 Feb 2009--This Memorandum has been sent to clergy in the Diocese of New Westminster....

Where's the Reformation Now?

[] 24 Feb 2009--It was reported in the Church of England Newspaper (6 February 2009) that over 1500 people attended a Roman Catholic Mass which was celebrated in York Minster in January to mark the achievements of a Yorkshire Roman Catholic woman, Mary Ward, whose three uncles had died in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

York Minster is arguably the second most significant Anglican Church in England, being the Cathedral of the Archbishop of York.

Does it not strike you as strange that the great Reformation truths which were hammered out in the 16th century could be so blatantly set aside by the celebration of a Roman Catholic Mass in the Church of England?

Christian-Muslim Clash Kills 11 in Nigeria

[The Christian Post] 24 Feb 2009--Sectarian violence in northern Nigeria this past weekend left at least 11 people dead, police and Red Cross officials said Monday.

Violence broke out Saturday when Muslim youths attacked Christians and burned churches in Bauchi state, according to Agence France Presse. In total, six churches and about a dozen houses were torched, Red Cross officials said.

The conflict also left nearly 40 people injured.

Local Muslims say the attack on Christians is retaliation for two mosques that went up in flames during the early morning hours on Saturday. Muslims blamed local Christians for the burning of the mosques.

But even before the burnt mosques, relations between Muslims and Christians in Bauchi were strained when a truck broke down on the road between the church and the mosque on Feb. 13, according to AFP. Muslims going to a Friday prayer meeting had overflowed and began using the narrow space between the truck and the church to get to the mosque.

Members of the Pentecostal church, however, set up barricades outside of the church to prevent Muslims from using the path between the truck and the church, sparking anger among local Muslims.

Police soon intervened by removing the barricades and calmed both sides. But then at around 3 a.m. on Saturday, two mosques were on fire and Muslims accused Christians of arson. Muslim youths then went on a rampage against Christians and churches.

India Church Leaders Question Promised Security After Another Murder

[The Christian Post] 24 Feb 2009--Nearly four months after tension in riot-hit Kandhamal, Orissa, India, had subsided, the murder of a Christian last week has raised eyebrows on the security of Christians and claims of "normalcy."

On Feb. 19, the body of Hrudayananda Nayak, 40, was found in a jungle near his home village of Rudangia, in Kandhamal district.

Local people claimed that Nayak, a Christian, was living in relief camps after violence broke out in the district. However, a day after his return to the village, he was killed.

"Somebody may have hit him on the head, causing his death," District Superintendent of Police S. Praveen Kumar said.

Rabindra Parichha, a social activist, claimed that Nayak, among other Christian leaders, was on the hit list of Hindu radicals.

Nayak, he said, was the fourth Christian to be abducted and killed after violence ebbed down by the end of October.

“The state should take strong action against the culprits," Parichha said.

A Weekend of the “Feminine Divine” at National Cathedral

[The Institute on Religiona & Democracy] 24 Feb 2009--New Age themes of self-deification animated the biennial “Sacred Circles” conference on women’s spirituality at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on February 13-14. Rather than the masculine “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” of Christian creeds women sought out the “the Feminine Divine” within themselves.

But this time, ecclesiastical support was not limited to Protestant denominations. The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, offered continuing education credits through its Center for Spirituality and Social Work to intrepid women journeying towards the Feminine Divine.

In contrast to its supporters, the event never purported to be Christian. Instead, the conference was possibly “the largest interfaith women’s spirituality gathering in the world.” Church sponsors included the Episcopal –run National Cathedral, which devoted a paid staffer as the “Sacred Circles” convener, the Episcopal Church Office of Women’s Ministries, which offered scholarships, and Catholic University’s Center for Spirituality and Social Work, which offered academic credit for attendance. A partnership between the Lilly Endowment and Millsaps College’s Center for Ministry also provided conference scholarships, despite Lily’s supposed mission to “deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians.”

While well-known sponsors supported the event, representatives of the Institute on Religion and Democracy were banned from covering the “Sacred Circles” workshops, most of which concerned various types of meditation, yoga, learning to “ignite” one’s inner “Divine Spark,” or “encounter the Feminine Divine,” the inner goddess participants were told they “embod[ied].”

Bishop Elected in Episcopal Church Holds Buddhist Ordination

[The Institute on Religion & Democracy] 24 Feb 2009--An Episcopal priest who has received a Buddhist lay ordination has been elected bishop in the Diocese of Northern Michigan. The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, who has served in the diocese since 2001, was elected on the first ballot and received 88 percent of the delegate votes.

The results of the election are now sent for consent to all bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees across the Episcopal Church, in what is usually viewed as a rubber-stamp procedure.

Forrester, who has been identified by his former bishop Jim Kelsey as ‘walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together, is not the first Episcopal clergyman to practice dual faiths. In 2004, Pennsylvania priest Bill Melnyk was revealed to be a druid; while in 2007 Seattle priest Ann Holmes Redding declared that she was simultaneously an Episcopalian and a Muslim. Both Melnyk and Redding were eventually inhibited from priestly duties.

Christianity in decline because of political correctness

[Telegraph] 24 Feb 2009--A minister from a black majority church in London told members of the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod, that many Christians appear to see community cohesion as more important that evangelisation.

She warned that Christians must not "walk on eggshells" at a time when followers of other religions are "unrelentingly" spreading their message to the public, and said that everyone should be seen as a potential convert.

The Rev Nezlin Sterling, general secretary of the New Testament Assembly who is an ecumenical representative of the Synod, made her passionate comments during a debate on "the uniqueness of Christ in multi-faith Britain".

She said: "We cannot allow ourselves to be marginalised. This process of marginalisation of Christianity seems to be moving at a rapid rate in our country.

"I am of the belief that we in the church are so anxious to be politically correct that we on occasions forget to reflect on whether our actions are Christ-correct.

"We have positioned ourselves like the disciples did after Christ died, behind closed doors, paralysed with fear of the world recognising that we are Christians and bearers of the good news of salvation.

"It would appear that the church is making a choice between community cohesion and evangelisation, and the former seems to be given priority.

"Why do we complain about the decline or our membership? What meaningful measures are we taking to correct this negative process?

"Why should we as Christians have to walk on eggshells to preserve community cohesion and accommodate everyone else when the world around us is becoming more aggressive to Christians, and the mere mention of the words Jesus Christ is an offence to so many of those whom we are seeking to working relationship with?

"Other faiths are unrelentingly spreading their message and gaining ground that we unwittingly have vacated.

"There is no room for complacency, no room to procrastinate or retreat but like a mighty army of the church we Christians must go forward, spread the Gospel and the good news of salvation. Every person in my mind is a potential convert."

How Britain's mosques foster extremism

[Times Online] 24 Feb 2009--As a child, I was unsure if I belonged to Britain, India - or both, or neither. In the day I went to a multifaith, multi-ethnic state school in the East End of London. At school I was taught to question, think and see all religions equally. In the evenings, I attended Koran schools at a mosque on Brick Lane where I was forced to learn to read Arabic, but not to understand meanings of words. I was not allowed to question, but simply to bob to and fro and learn Arabic prayers without understanding. All our teachers were elderly Asian immigrant men, and we were not allowed to mix with girls. At school, our teachers were mostly English women and we were encouraged to mix with everybody.

I developed two personalities, two worlds, two allegiances: one at “English school” and another at the mosque. I was torn, confused and full of questions. But what now? Two decades on, surely Britain's Muslims are in a better place.

Today, there are between 1,200 and 1,600 mosques in Britain - no definite figure exists. Yesterday, the Charity Commission sought to gloss over the malaise in them by publishing figures on attendance, but not inquiring into difficult areas. At Quilliam, Britain's first counter-
extremism think-tank, we commissioned a poll of more than 1,000 mosques in 2008, during Ramadan when mosques are busiest. Despite employing Urdu and Bengali-speaking researchers, we could poll only just over 500. Most British mosques don't maintain a reception or service to answer questions, and not every one we did reach was willing to answer.

Quilliam's report, Mosques Made in Britain, reveals the true extent of the mess. We found that 97 per cent of imams, or leaders, were from overseas and 92 per cent were educated abroad, mostly in Pakistan or Bangladesh. Almost all mosques are controlled by first-generation immigrant men, leaving most British Muslims - women and young people - out of the management structure.

This is not new. Quilliam has merely found evidence of a problem that has been known among Muslims for more than two decades.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A church without worship?

[] 23 Feb 2009--In the past 30 years we have seen our churches move rapidly away from formal liturgy. More and more congregations are devising ‘do-it-yourself’ church services. Everything seems up for grabs.

So, what is the current state of play in Sydney Anglican churches?

GAY MARRIAGE: Thousands Rally Against Gay Civil Unions in Hawaii

[The Christian Post] 23 Feb 2009--Thousands crowded the Hawaii State Capitol on Sunday to rally against a bill that would legalize same-sex civil unions in the state.

The rally comes ahead of Tuesday's Senate committee hearing on the bill. The Hawaii House earlier this month approved House Bill 444, in a 34 to 17 vote.

Members of churches from across the state attended the rally, citing Scripture as reason for their moral opposition to same-sex unions.

"We don't want don't want gay marriage or lesbians as according to the scripture of God. God made man and woman to be husband and wife, not man and man and woman and woman," Jonathan Dana, a rally participant, told KGMB9 News.

Protesters held signs reading "We affirm traditional marriage" and "No to same sex marriage" while cars driving by honked in support, the Associated Press reported.

Teens' Exposure to Christian Music Leads to Suspension, Lawsuit

[The Christian Post] 23 Feb 2009--A veteran youth counselor is suing a California children's home after she was suspended without pay because teenagers under her supervision overheard Christian music.

In a suit filed on Feb. 13, Maureen Loya charged Orangewood Children's Home with religious discrimination for slapping her with a six-week suspension for "exposing children to unapproved religious activities."

In July 2006, the counselor took four teenage girls from the Orangewood Children's Home on an approved field trip to the Anaheim 5K run and then to the beach.

When the group went to Huntington Beach pier, they encountered the Surfrider Foundation's Celebrity Surf Jam, which featured a surfing competition and concert as part an effort to raise awareness and support for our nation's beach and coastal environments. The event's entertainment included Christian-based music groups Incubus and Switchfoot. According to the suit, the group overheard ten minutes of Christian music as they were eating. The girls also visited booths at the pier, some of which were selling Christian items.

First the UK and now the USA! A contemporary trend?!

Christian Encyclopedia publishers suppressing truth, says editor

[Religious Intelligence] 23 Feb 2009--The editor of a Christian Encyclopedia pulped for being “too Christian” says the publishing company is now trying to suppress the truth.

No deviation: Archbishop Daniel Deng of Sudan

[Anglican Mainstream] 23 Feb 2009--On the penultimate day of the meeting between the world’s Anglican archbishops and senior bishops in Egypt from February 1-5, Archbishop Daniel Deng of the Episcopal Church of Sudan was asked whether he had changed his stance on Gene Robinson and the US Episcopal Church from his statement at the 2008 Lambeth Conference when he called on Gene Robinson to resign and the The Episcopal Church in the USA (TEC) to repent.

Anglican breakaway group eclipses Church in Wales

[Religious Intelligence] 23 Feb 2009--The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has eclipsed the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and 10 other provinces in the number of active members, statistics released this week by the ACNA report.

The average Sunday attendance (ASA) for the ACNA’s 693 congregations is 81,311, with an estimated membership in excess of 100,000, the report finds. By way of comparison, the Church in Wales, whose Archbishop Dr Barry Morgan has vowed to fight recognition of the ACNA with “every fibre” of his being, has a total membership of 70,353 and the Scottish Episcopal Church 53,553.

Testing Times -The Church of England and the challenge of Islam

[Anglican Mainstream] 23 Feb 2009--Perhaps it is not surprising that two of the most powerful contributions at last week’s General Synod came from bishops who have lived in church cultures very different from that of the Church of England. It was Bishop Michael Nazir Ali who articulated a robust and courageous Christology in the debate on the uniqueness of Christ, and in a later debate Archbishop John Sentamu asked Synod to turn to silent prayer immediately after Synod was urged not to forget the persecuted church in the UK itself, those Asian British people who are shunned and labeled as traitors when they convert to Christianity

Second Fort Worth diocese created

[Religious Intelligence] 23 Feb 2009--Episcopalians loyal to the national Church in New York have formed a second Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth at a special convention held Feb 7.

The new diocese, formed around five congregations and individual Episcopalians who declined to follow the majority out of the Episcopal Church into the Province of the Southern Cone, invited the Bishop of Kentucky, the Rt Rev Edwin Gulick to serve as its provisional bishop for the next six months, and elected diocesan officers.

In November, the Synod of the Diocese of Fort Worth voted by a margin of 80 per cent to 20 per cent to quit the Episcopal Church for the temporary oversight of Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables and the Province of the Southern Cone. US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori responded by removing Bishop Jack Iker from the ordained ministry, saying she had accepted his voluntary renunciation of orders. However, Bishop Iker denied having given such a renunciation.

“Open” Communion?

[That We All May Be One] 23 Feb 2009--It was good to hear the keynote speaker — Dr. Louis Weil — at this year’s “Epiphany West” conference come out strongly against so-called “open communion” (communion of the un-baptized). That was especially courageous here in California where the practice is becoming widespread.

Cautioning against “playing God at the altar rail” (meaning that he would never turn anyone away from communion), Dr. Weil nonetheless believes that this practice trivializes baptism and wonders why, after all the years reclaiming its centrality, we would now want to make it virtually optional.

Church Governance And The Fate of Communion

[The Anglican Communion Institute] 23 Feb 2009--In 2006 Ephraim Radner and I published a collection of essays entitled The Fate of Communion. In that collection we sought to address the threats that now hang over the Anglican Communion. We sought to indicate that the crisis in which Anglicans find themselves, though theological and moral at its root, in fact involves church order as well. We attempted, though too briefly I believe, to raise a question about the adequacy of our forms of governance and the way in which we understand and use them.

Much has happened since the appearance of The Fate of Communion, and a great deal of what has transpired concerns the way in which the Communion is ordered and governed. There is a need now to say more than we did then about the way our common life is to be ordered, and this need presents a real challenge. Polity is a much-neglected subject, particularly on the part of those who teach theology and theological ethics. It is thought to be unimportant—indeed, something of a nuisance that detracts from the really important stuff. As a result, it has been removed from theology and ethics and shoved to the periphery of the formation given our clergy. Few either understand or appreciate its importance. However, as is often the case when important matters are neglected, they come around to bite us on the backside.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Message from Bishop David Anderson

[Anglican Mainstream] 21 Feb 2009--The Episcopal Church’s (TEC) official party organ, Episcopal News Service, has announced that TEC has opened up yet another litigation effort, this time joining the local Pittsburgh revisionist leaders in the ongoing lawsuit against Bishop Duncan. This allows TEC to help the Pittsburgh battle with the millions of dollars in their litigation war chest.

Litigation also continues in Colorado Springs, as the Diocese of Colorado battles the congregation of Grace Church & St. Stephen’s over ownership of the buildings and grounds of the parish. According to TEC’s theory referencing the so-called Dennis Canon, if you incorporated a small church and began worshipping in your living room, and then in time bought a piece of property with church members’ money, then built a building (paid for again with local church members’ money), and if you affiliated that congregation with the Episcopal Church, then if you decided to leave TEC as a congregation, TEC would sue you and assert in a court of law that they own your property, and that you kept it looking lovely on behalf of TEC, since you only hold it in trust for TEC.

Censorship and the Secular Left

[Culture Watch] 21 Feb 2009--Liberal or leftist secularism is the reigning ideology amongst our Western intelligentsia and elites. It certainly has a stranglehold on our educational system. It can be very difficult to get in alternative points of view. Most attempts to penetrate this ideological hegemony are usually met with stiff opposition, animosity, and censorship.

In 2007 Jonah Goldberg penned an important volume entitled Liberal Fascism. In it he sought to document – in nearly 500 pages – the totalitarian tendencies of the left. I here offer just one paragraph from the book. It sets the tone for the rest of the work:

“Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the ‘problem’ and therefore defined as the enemy. I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism.”

Readers are encouraged to get a copy of this book and read for themselves the case which Goldberg makes. Here however I simply wish to highlight two recent examples of this liberal fascism. Both took place in North America and both illustrate how censorship and hostility tend to be the ways in which the secular left responds to opposing points of view.

And for those who doubt the reality of the struggle…

[Anglican Mainstream] 21 Feb 2009--Rob Gagnon itemizes the names and situations of some of those who have refused to support the LGBT agenda in the ‘liberal’ West and it has cost them dearly. These individuals are on the front line and deserve all our support and prayer. Because many Christians are either in ’safer’ types of secular employment or Christian groups and organizations which provide some protection (and a false sense of security), the awareness of what it is actually like ‘out there’ in the public square seems to be missing. At least if they know, they are not saying! But it is too late for that now. See here for Rob’s article in its entirely

Anglicans: Dispute bigger than our buildings

[North County Times] 21 Feb 2009--As legal battles over property rights and organizational authority play out between the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and two breakaway churches in North County, leaders of those two congregations insist the real conflict is over core religious beliefs.

The California Supreme Court recently issued two decisions with implications for St. Anne's in Oceanside and St. John's in Fallbrook, both of which seceded from the Episcopal Church and joined foreign dioceses within the global Anglican Communion three years ago.

A Jan. 5 court ruling in favor of the national Episcopal church in its legal battle against three Los Angeles and Orange County breakaway congregations attempting to keep their properties is being cited by the San Diego diocese as strengthening its case against St. Anne's and St. John's. The two North County churches continue to meet in their existing buildings as Anglican congregations ---- with the San Diego diocese suing to regain control of those properties.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Donations Pour in to Australian Wildfire Survivors

[The Christian Post] 20 Feb 2009--The electrician's tools were incinerated, the trucker's rig reduced to a useless, burned shell. The deadly wildfires that swept southern Australia destroyed more than lives — they destroyed livelihoods.

As the days since the Feb. 7 blazes wear on, the needs of the survivors grow more complex. Where basic tools of survival like water and food were once enough, residents of the devastated areas now need more: tools to rebuild their lives.

Lutherans Weigh Making Gay Clergy a Local Decision

[The Christian Post] 20 Feb 2009--The nation's largest Lutheran denomination will consider allowing individual congregations to choose whether to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy, an attempt to avoid the sort of infighting that has threatened to tear other churches apart.

A task force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recommended that course Thursday in a long-awaited report on ministry standards. The panel, however, said the church needs to clarify a number of questions before overhauling its gay clergy policy.

American Somali children join jihad

[Religious Intelligence] 20 Feb 2009--According to the MidEast News Source, the children, mainly from Minneapolis and Minnesota left the country in secret, with one mother claiming that the first she knew of it was when her son called her from Mogadishu. She had earlier reported her son missing to police.

Most of the children appear to have links with Abubakar Alsiddiq mosque in Minneapolis. But the imam there, Sheikh Abdirahman Ahmed, claimed the accusations were baseless and denied that he was recruiting fighters. There are also concerns in Europe and other continents that children are leaving for jihad in Somalia.

A church is lost but spirit to rebuild thrives

[The Age] 20 Feb 2009--The fragments are few and far between: scraps of blackened altar lace, a nativity statue and a brass plaque that bears the names of fallen World War I soldiers.

But they lift the spirits of the Reverend Stephen Holmes, who presided over St Peter's Memorial Church in Kinglake before it burnt to the ground.

Dr Sookhdeo’s alerts - a challenge to secular indifference to religious difference

[Anglican Mainstream] 20 Feb 2009--What is reality like for Christian believers in Pakistan, or Northern Nigeria or Indonesia? Only recently 400 Christians were killed in Jos, Northern Nigeria by hired mercenaries brought in from outside. In early December muslim militants from Pakistan killed over 100 people in Bombay. Christian Sunday school teachers were imprisoned and put on trial in Indonesia.

Patrick Sookhdeo has been alerting the worldwide Christian community to these and other realities. He has come to the conclusion that even though there are many wonderful well-meaning people who are Muslim, and of course we respect such people, when there is a Muslim majority in a country, some, and worryingly an increasing number in some parts of the world who are committed to be faithful Muslims find justification in the Koran and Islamic traditions for the use of force, threats of violence and violence as part of their "missionary" strategy to bring the rest of the world under Islam.

Diocese of Recife registers significant growth

[Anglican Mainstream] 20 Feb 2009--The Diocese of Recife has enjoyed continual growth since its dissociation from the Brazilian Province (IEAB-Porto Alegre), in 2005, when in the same year it was received by the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America (Buenos Aires). In 2005, the Diocesan roll registered 4,371 members; by 2008 the figure stood at 6,033.

The number of confirmed members actively involved in church life more than doubled, increasing from 1,488 in 2005 to 3,278 in 2008, not including the 511 members of the Archdeanery in the United States, provisionally affiliated to the Diocese of Recife pending the structuring of the new orthodox Anglican Church in North America.

Church property case gears up for state Supreme Court

[The Fairfax County Times] 20 Feb 2009--A two-year-old church property dispute between Episcopalians and Anglicans appears to be on its way to the Virginia Supreme Court.

On Feb. 3, The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia together filed an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court hoping to overturn a Dec. 19 decision by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows in favor of the Anglican District of Virginia, known as ADV.

Quincy Plans Reorganizing Synod; Consulting Bishop Named

[The Living Church] 20 Feb 2009--The Rt. Rev. Keith Whitmore has agreed to serve as consulting bishop to the reorganizing Episcopal Diocese of Quincy in the period prior to a special synod at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Peoria, Ill., on April 4.

The reorganizing synod became necessary after a majority of clergy and lay delegates voted last November to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church. The Rt. Rev. Keith L. Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy, resigned Nov. 1, six days before the synod convened

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Assimilating Newcomers

[Off the Agenda] 19 Feb 2009--At Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor, Chuck Warnock offers an example from his church that backs up Lyle Schaller’s mantra, “New people need new groups.” Schaller reasoned that, since existing groups tend to resist newcomers, churches must create new ones.

Evangelical Church Leaders Detained in China

[The Christian Post] 19 Feb 2009--Police raided a private evangelical seminar in central China and detained more than 60 worshippers, with four of them still in custody a week after the roundup, a U.S.-based Christian group said Wednesday.

More than 30 police office broke into the gathering Feb. 11 in Nanyang city in central Henan province, the China Aid Association said in a statement.

China's communist government allows worship only in state-supervised churches, which claim about 11 million members. Christians and clergy in unofficial churches are regularly harassed and detained.

The participants came from four provinces for the event at which two South Korean pastors had been invited to speak, China Aid said.

Christianity Today Launches Small-Group Leaders Website

[The Christian Post] 19 Feb 2009--In response to the continual growth of small groups in local churches across the nation, Christianity Today International has launched, a site dedicated to connecting small-group leaders with the resources they need to have an effective and healthy small group.

" is a revolutionary way for churches to train small-group leaders and help them be effective in their ministries,” said Managing Editor Sam O'Neal in an announcement. “Instead of spending lots of money on study guides and sending leaders to conferences for training, churches can now equip group leaders using one easy-to-use website."

According to a 2006 national study conducted by Christianity Today International and publishing giant Zondervan, 30 percent of active Christians attend a small group or home group, and 61 percent attend a weekly Bible study.

Forced conversions continue in Orissa

[Religious Intelligence] 19 Feb 2009--In the wake of anti-Christian violence in Orissa state last year, hard-line Hindus in Kandhamal district have forced nearly half of 40 Christian families in one village to convert under threat of death, area Christians said.

According to Compass News Direct, Bareka village resident Goliath Digal, 58, said that the Hindu hardliners have taken 18 Roman Catholic families to a Hindu temple and performed Hindu rituals on them, forcing them to sign statements that they had converted of their own will.

The guts to go barefoot

[] 19 Feb 2009--Something strange is happening in my neighbourhood. The local bowling club is going ‘barefoot’ to attract new and younger members.

They’ve kept the same game but thrown out the stodginess - you don’t have to dress up, its very laid back, and everyone is welcome.They’re advertising in the local papers and there’s a banner on the Roseville Bridge. I got a flyer in the letterbox and two personal invitations! Six months ago I wouldn’t have known where the club was - now I’ve been along. Members were bending over backwards to be helpful and see us enjoy ourselves. I’m going to accept the invitation to come back again.

Lots of Sydneysiders would see our local church like the bowling club - nice old people who get together for a fast dying pursuit that is of little interest to the next generation. Bowling clubs also sit on some very valuable real estate, are struggling to attract new members, and are being sold for more profitable activities.

Is your church prepared to reform itself as radically as the local bowling club? I was really impressed that the club was not content to see the future as a museum to its glory days. Here are some lessons....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Starbucks Spirituality

[Christianity Today] 18 Feb 2009--Daniel Hill holds a steady part-time job working one or two shifts a week at Starbucks. It's hardly a career-track position, and it's not that he needs the extra cash or battles a secret caffeine addiction.

It's the people.

Purple hair, belly-button rings, tattoos, black-painted fingernails—those people.

For Hill, whose day job is ministering on staff with Willow Creek Community Church's Axis outreach, Starbucks provides a context to build meaningful relationships with postmodern, Gen-Next twentysomethings who are far from God.

"Nothing has been more transforming for me than working at Starbucks," says Hill, "These people matter to me."

But the moonlighting gig isn't a free pass to easy evangelism. His coffee colleagues are like a good cup of triple espresso—plenty of steam, a little bitter, and enough kick to knock you on your backside if you aren't careful.

Exhibit A: "The first day Debbie worked at Starbucks, one of the shift supervisors points at me and asks her, 'Did you hear what his real job is?' After she hears I work at a church, Debbie freaks out. She says, 'Three years ago my 16-year-old daughter was raped and murdered. Tell me, what kind of God would let that happen? I believe in God. I just have a real problem with him.'"

Hill isn't alone in facing these kinds of questions. Suspicion and distrust of Christians, and wariness of God are readily observed.

Consider the bumper sticker: "Dear God, please save me from your followers." Or the ubiquitous Christian "fish" that has mysteriously grown feet courtesy of the Darwinian crowd—a symbol of faith sarcastically twisted by the culture.

Even Christian bookstores carry such titles as: "Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God," "Toxic Faith," and "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse."

With fingers pointed at Christians, we're obliged to identify the underlying accusations and offer a response. Three questions are at the core.

ASSISTED SUICIDE: Quieter Killings

[Christianity Today] 18 Feb 2009--More than 10 years after Oregon stoked fears when it became the first state in the nation to legalize physician-assisted suicide, Washington and Montana quietly followed suit in late 2008.

On Election Day, 58 percent of Washington voters approved a measure allowing terminally ill adults to obtain lethal prescriptions if they are deemed competent. Just two states away, a judge in Montana ruled in early December that physician-assisted suicides are legal in the state. That decision is likely to be appealed.

Oregon's move in 1997 stirred widespread concerns in the medical community of a domino effect in other states, said David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association. This time around, the decisions did not receive nearly as much publicity because of the presidential election and the debate over Proposition 8 in California.

"The proponents of this are delighted," Stevens said. "The crack in the dam has broadened, and the chance for the dam to burst open and go to the rest of the country is very good." In January, legislatures in Hawaii and New Hampshire introduced assisted-suicide bills.

You've Got Jail

[Christianity Today] 18 Feb 2009--Longtime missionaries David and Fiona Fulton were sentenced by a Gambian court to a year of hard labor last December after pleading guilty — in hopes of a lenient sentence — to sedition charges stemming from a wry comment e-mailed to a prayer list.

After nearly a decade of service in the West African Muslim nation, the Fultons, missionaries from an Assemblies of God church in Britain, experienced a string of difficulties, including a disagreement that led them to part with their local church. At about the same time, David reduced his role as an army chaplain and was assaulted by a man he described as a Muslim fundamentalist.

"Now how [a growing extremist element] should be dealt with, I don't know," David wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "(I have suggested that we arm the Muslims with sticks and the Christians with machine guns and let them fight it out.) [B]ut seriously, while I will defend myself and my family I don't believe that I will or should take any part in a physical proactive role against them, that's the government's job."

Someone on the Fultons' prayer list forwarded the e-mail to Gambian authorities. "This unfortunate comment did not go down well with the authorities, who saw it as incitement," said Khataza Gondwe, the officer for sub-Saharan Africa at Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The e-mail became the basis for the sedition charges. Other charges have followed.

Responding to the fires

[the Sola Panel] 18 Feb 2009--Every morning I wake up and it's okay—until, with a dull thud, it comes back to me: image after image of people who died in the fires; rows of army tents with homeless people staying in them; entire communities that have been wiped out; my friend whose parents lost their house; a family known to me who died in their car in their driveway; a 12-year-old girl, badly burned, whose parents and sister died.

How do we respond to a tragedy like this? I've been thinking about this ever since I heard the news. How have you responded? Here's some of the ways I'm trying to respond....

The Biblical Requirements for Presbyters

[Church Society] 18 Feb 2009--We have used the term presbyter in this document because it is a word found in the Bible (the Greek being presbuteros) and from this word, through Anglo-Saxon our modern English word ‘priest’ is derived. Unfortunately there is also a long tradition of using the English word ‘priest’ to translate a different Biblical word (in Greek hiereus) which is used to refer both to the priestly line in Israel and the pagan priests in the Graeco-Roman world of the New Testament. Properly speaking the English word “priest” means presbyter, that is an “elder” and was a term and role already familiar in the synagogues out of which the early Christian communities sprang. In the New Testament the word presbyter seems interchangeable with another word, “overseer” (Greek episcopos) as can be seen from Titus 1.5 & 7.

Is Communion ungodly?

[] 18 Feb 2009--In my first blog I asked, what is the ‘inherent nature of the office of primate’ and questioned this against the constitutional model of the Australian Primate.

Today I want to focus on the nature of Christian fellowship and how this must inform our expectations of outcomes of meetings such as the recent Primates’ Meeting.

Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu: Christians are regarded as 'mad' by society

[Telegraph] 18 Feb 2009--Christians are regarded as "mad" by the rest of society because they are motivated by charity and compassion rather than the reckless pursuit of money, according to the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

Churchgoers are now "counter-cultural" because their values are so opposed to prevailing behaviour, claimed Dr Sentamu.

But he insisted that faith cannot be separated from the world of work, and that staff should not be expected to give up their religious convictions when they walk into the office.

Dr Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England and its first black Archbishop, also said the recession should lead to a rediscovery of what is truly important in life, just as Britons rebuilt the country after the devastation of the Blitz.

His comments come amid growing concern about the marginalisation of Christianity in public life.

Radical cleric ‘can be deported’

[Religious Intelligence] 18 Feb 2009--The British Law Lords, the country’s highest legal authority, have granted a request from the Home Secretary to deport a radical Muslim cleric.

In a decision handed down this morning, the Lords ruled that Abu Qatada can be deported to Jordan, where he faces jail for terrorism. He had fought that on the grounds that the case was based on evidence extracted by torture.

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said she was "delighted" at the decision, calling Qatada, who is 48, "a truly dangerous individual".

She said that she will proceed immediately with the cleric’s deportation, but experts say that his final removal may wait until after the European Court of Human Rights hears his case.

The five Lords also unanimously supported the deportation of two Algerian terrorism suspects.

Man murdered ‘for demanding wages from Muslim’

[Religious Intelligence] 18 Feb 2009--The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) is reporting that three Pakistani Muslim men murdered one of their Christian milk collection employees who demanded his wages for the past two months.

The employee, Ashraf Masih, was 30 years old and had started the job two months ago. Two Muslim brothers, Muhammad Arfan and Muhammad Nadeem, and their nephew, Muhammad Imran, hired him to collect milk from various farms and houses. In January, after working for a month, Ashraf came to collect his wages, but Arfan and Nadeem said that they would pay him two months' wages in another month.

Has the church lost its way?

[RenewAmerica] 18 Feb 2009--Amidst the split of the Anglican Church over the ordination of an openly gay Bishop in late 2008 and the imposition of lawlessness and sin on our nation, the church must be called to arms and to our knees in prayer. After the November 4 general election in three states — Arizona, California, and Florida — voters who stood for righteousness walked away from the polls in victory. But those who supported the same-sex agenda were not satisfied that the people of California had spoken in favor of what is holy and right concerning the sanctity of marriage.

Church Council Says No To Women Bishops

[] 18 Feb 2009--The recent move by the Church of England to allow ordination of women as bishops has caused ripples among traditionalists in the Indian church especially in this region, the seat of Syrian Christianity, with top religious leaders opposing it tooth and nail, asserting that episcopacy was not the job of the fair sex.

As the historic decision of the Anglican Church, the most influential Protestant congregation, created a vertical split in the Anglican communion in Britain and rest of the world, top church leaders here lost no time in denouncing the move."

It is not a question of faith but tradition. Christianity extends all considerations to women. Women are not inferior as they are equal before God," Council of Christian Churches of India (CCCI) President Arch Bishop Stephen Vattappara told PTI."

Equality does not mean that mother becomes a father as both have distinct features and functions and should be maintained as such," he said here.

Concerns new library rules may leave Bible 'beyond reach'

[Christianity Today UK] 18 Feb 2009--Librarians have been told to place all religious texts on the top shelves of bookcases, following complaints from Muslims about the positioning of the Koran on shelves.

The move came about after Muslims complained about the Koran being placed on lower shelves, reports The Daily Mail. They said that it should be put above common book but some Christians are concerned it may put the Bible out of reach of readers.

Officials, backed by ministers, have said that all holy books should be treated equally and put on the top shelf together. The guidance from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, a quango that answers to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, tells libraries to put the Bible and the Koran on the top shelf above non-holy books.

The quango said that Muslims in Leicester had moved copies of the Koran to the top shelves in libraries, as they believe it to be the word of God. In a report they said that the librarians of the city had spoken to the Federation of Muslim Organisations and were advised that all holy books be placed on the top shelf.

The guidance states: “meant that no offence is caused, as the scriptures of all the major faiths are given respect in this way, but none is higher than any other.”

However, the move has generated criticism from Christian, civil and even Muslim groups.

Include New Province

[Episwcopal Life Online] 18 Feb 2009--As I watch the sad saga of our bishops’ legalistic and punitive response to “traditionalist” bishops, dioceses, and parishes who are attempting to leave the Episcopal Church in order to form a new North American Anglican province, I am reminded of the defensive and dismissive response of the Church of England bishops to the Methodist Movement in the eighteenth century. The result of course was the founding and development of a separate Methodist Church, which is now much larger than the “Anglican” Church (at least as we are now constituted) on this continent. Imagine the strength and witness of Anglicanism today if the Methodists were welcomed as a preaching order within the Church of England. Surely, they would be more “orthodox” and we would be more “vibrant,” and together we would be much larger and much more effective for the Gospel in the world than we are divided. This, by the way, is exactly what Innocent III achieved when he embraced St. Francis and welcomed his friars into the ministry of the Catholic Church at the beginning of the thirteenth century, despite the fact that they were preaching such a dangerous “new” doctrine.

Now what I wonder is this: what would happen if the Presiding Bishop with the support of the House of Bishops were to welcome the formation of a new province for “traditionalists” within the Episcopal Church, allowing every diocese, parish, and church institution to join this province with a two-thirds vote by the appropriate parish meeting, convention, or governing body? She could even stipulate an acceptable window of a year during which this vote would be required to happen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Legal Group Prepares to Battle Fairness Doctrine

[The Christian Post] 17 Feb 2009--The American Center for Law and Justice, a legal group which specializes in constitutional law, said Monday it is preparing a litigation strategy to combat the Fairness Doctrine should it return.

For months, Christian ministries and groups have been on guard against renewed legislative efforts to reinstate a former federal communications rule that required broadcasters to provide opportunity for opposing views on controversial issues.

The groups have also expressed concern that the incoming chairman of the Federal Communications Commission could help reimpose the doctrine, without any congressional or executive order since the FCC is an independent regulatory agency.

"Putting the federal government in control of dictating the content of what’s aired would effectively muzzle Christian broadcasters and is an unconstitutional attempt to stifle free speech," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of ACLJ, which litigates to defend religious freedom.

"Whether Congress moves to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, or if the FCC acts to do so on its own behalf, we will be ready to challenge this in federal court."

Christians Face Discrimination in Workplace, Anglicans Say

[The Christian Post] 17 Feb 2009--Nearly two thirds of the Church of England's governing body believes Christians face discrimination at work, according to a survey by The Telegraph.

Of the 80 out of 484 Synod members surveyed, 63 percent said they felt Christians were being discriminated in the workplace, while 59 percent said they believed freedom of belief had declined in the last ten years.

The survey comes on the heels of several media reports in recent weeks about Christians who have faced disciplinary action due to their religious beliefs.

Free Speech is Dead in England

[Human Events] 17 Feb 2009--Freedom of speech no longer exists in the nation that gave the world the Magna Carta. It has been replaced by Islamist tyranny.

I wish I could put it less bluntly, but the facts are against me. The British government -- my government, unfortunately -- has just sent a message to the world that no longer will it stand up for First Amendment-style principles. From now on, if you don’t like what someone has to say, our surrender-monkey government is quite happy to ban them from saying it. Provided, of course, you happen to be a Muslim.

Williams renews sharia law claims

[WalesOnline] 17 Feb 2009--A conservative cleric warns that Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams could spark violence against Christians after repeating his claim that elements of sharia law could be incorporated into British justice.

Dr Williams revisited the issues on the first anniversary of the day he originally made the claim.

Is this gracious restraint in North America?

[Anglican Mainstream] 17 Feb 2009--We know that a covenant is a solemn agreement between two parties. But what is implied? We would expect that the two parties would like each other and respect each other. That they would share an agenda. That they would want to walk together in the same direction, using just one map.

But when we consider the reason why the Anglican Covenant was first invented – the actions in The Episcopal Church in the United States which tore the fabric of the Anglican Communion – we have to recognize that there is not one map now but two. And it seems a very healthy thing, the other day, that this fact was recognized at the recent Primates’ meeting in Alexandria. There are now two versions of Christianity within the Anglican Communion.

How has this come about? For more than thirty years a gradual drift away from the authority of Scripture has meant a gradual change in Anglican faith and practice in North America. So gradual, so slow, that, unless you had your wits about you, you would not realize the enormous distance that has been covered in those years.

Episcopal diocese sues Elm Grove church over split

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinal] 17 Feb 2009--The Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee filed a lawsuit Monday against St. Edmund's Church, an Elm Grove congregation that split from the Episcopal Church in December and claimed control of the church buildings and real estate.

The diocese contends that it is the rightful owner of the property and is asking a Waukesha County Circuit Court judge to order St. Edmund's, church leaders and others named in the lawsuit to relinquish control of the property.

Eleven people and the church are named as defendants in the lawsuit.