Saturday, February 27, 2010

Depth and Weight: Augustine’s Sermon Illustration

“Augustine suggests that Paul is like a loving father who breaks open the nuts for his children to eat—his teaching is the nut cracker that unlocks scripture’s mysteries. Augustine’s appreciation of Scripture’s depth was the foundation of his theological approach to sermon illustration…”

In this article from Churchman, Spring 2008, republished online in portable document format (PDF) by Church Society, Peter Sanlon argues that preachers need to give a lot more thought to their sermon illustrations. Worth reading. To read article, click here.

Dr. Albert Mohler: Developing A Christian Response To The Challenge Of Islam

"Developing a thoughtful and biblical response to Islam is a necessity for Christians in 21st century America. In this session, Dr. Albert Mohler examines some of the fundamental ways in which Islam and Christianity are at odds with one another, and how Christians and local churches can best think through their implications for life and ministry."

To download Dr. Mohler's sermon, click here.

Multi-Site Churches Spreading in Post-Christian Europe

"Holy Trinity Brompton is a London-based church that has also adopted the multi-site strategy. The church draws about 4,500 people weekly.

Miles Toulmin, executive pastor of HTB, went multi-site with a vision for the 're-evangelization of the UK and the transformation of society,' according to the report.

'We worked out how big we would need to be to resource the vision, and decided that going multi-site would be the best way to help us expand the base for church planting,' Toulmin stated.

Toumlin explained that they were holding five services in one building and four of them were completely full.

With 'nowhere to grow,' the HTB pastor said they 'wanted to do something that would grow the base, but keep alignment with our core DNA – which was more likely in a multi-site situation.'

HTB still currently conducts four services at each of their two sites, but that is partly due to the lack of affordable and available buildings in central London, he said.

HTB also utilizes video teaching but has campus pastors and live worship at each site. And while the Brompton location offers a more traditional church experience, the second site at St. Paul's Onslow Square offers a more informal style with everyone sitting on bean bags and sipping coffee."

To read the full article, click here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Impatience with the Bible--a New Idolatry?

By Robin G. Jordan

Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
" ' You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.'
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Matthew 13:10-17 ESV

In his article, “Falling on Deaf Ears? — Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible,” Albert Mohler draws attention Mark Galli’s essay in Christianity Today entitled “Yawning at the Word.” Galli is senior editor of CT and in that position monitors developments in contemporary Christianity. He has observed one very pernicious development – the increasing impatience with and resistance to the reading and preaching of the Bible. Mohler in his own article writes:

“Indeed, in many churches there is very little reading of the Bible in worship, and sermons are marked by attention to the congregation's concerns - not by an adequate attention to the biblical text. The exposition of the Bible has given way to the concerns, real or perceived, of the listeners. The authority of the Bible is swallowed up in the imposed authority of congregational concerns.”

As members of a liturgical church that has historically given prominence to the reading of the Bible in worship, Anglicans like to think that they are not affected by this trend. But is that really the case?

In the Anglican Church in Australia, North America, and the United Kingdom free-flowing forms of worship are replacing the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. The reading of the Bible in worship has fallen victim to this trend, as have sermons that explain the meaning of the Bible to the people. As in non-liturgical churches the congregation’s concerns are determining the topics of sermons. This is justified as making worship more relevant to today’s world, more in touch with people’s needs.

Even in parishes and churches that stick to the Prayer Book services or their contemporary equivalent, we see a similar trend. The quality of public reading of Scripture is poor, as is the quality of preaching. Scripture readings are often shortened and periods of silence for reflection upon the lections are frequently omitted. Lectionaries that do not cover the entire Bible are seeing more frequent use. Preachers are taking a text from the Bible and using it as a starting point to talk about things that have no relationship to the text. At best the text may have suggested the topic of the sermon to the preacher.

Among the reasons that Archbishop Cranmer included the reading and exposition of the Bible in the services of the Prayer Book was that he recognized the power of God’s word to give life to the hearer and light and understanding (Psalms 119:50, 119:93 and John 5:24; Psalms 19:7-8, 119:105, and 119:130). He echoes the words of 2 Timothy 3:15 in his conclusion to Confutation of Unwritten Verities.

“Stand thou fast, and stay thy faith, whereupon thou shalt built all thy works, upon the strong rock of God’s word, written and contained within the Old Testament and the New, which is able to instruct thee in all things needful to thy salvation, and to the attainment of the kingdom of heaven.”

Archbishop Cranmer saw the Bible as the key not only to the reform of the Church of England but also to its spiritual renewal. He not gave the vernacular Bible to the English Church but also provided the English Church with a vernacular liturgy, The Book of Common Prayer, in which “nothing “ was “ordained to be read, but the very pure Word of God, the holy Scriptures, or that which is agreeable to the same,” and “that in such a language and Order as is most easy and plain for both the understanding of the Reader and the Hearer.”

Cranmer included in the daily services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer the recitation of the entire Psalter in course over a period of one month and the daily reading of a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New Testament. The Old Testament was read through once and the New Testament three times in a year. He included in the service of Holy Communion two readings, the first taken from the Old Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, or Revelation, and the second taken from the Gospels. Cranmer also included in the service of Holy Communion a sermon or a portion of one of the homilies from the Book of Homilies. In compiling these services Archbishop Cranmer followed the apostle Paul’s dictum—“Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26), for the upbuilding of the Church.

Cranmer’s vision was that the people of each parish of the Church of England would join their minister for the daily services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in the parish church, the minister summoning them to the services by ringing the parish church bells. The praise of God, the reading of his Word, and prayer would become a part of the rhythm of the community, consecrating the day to God. The daily cycle of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer would through the power of God’s Word transform not only the lives of individual members of the community but also the life of the whole community. On Sundays and festivals the minister and the people would gather in the morning for Morning Prayer, followed by the Litany and Holy Communion and later in the day for Evening Prayer. To the reading of the Bible would be added a sermon or homily and the sacrament of Holy Communion. In the sermon or homily the meaning of the Scriptures would be made clear. In the sacrament of Holy Communion God’s Word would be made visible in symbols of bread and wine.

Except in monastic communities, very few, if any, of today’s congregations gather twice a day around the word of God. In parishes and churches where the daily services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are read, only the clergy and a small handful of the laity take part in these services. If Morning Prayer is read on a Sunday morning, it is likely to draw less people than during the week. Most people are not going to attend two services but will choose the service that has music, a sermon, and Holy Communion. Only a choral service of Evening Prayer is likely to draw people on a Sunday evening, the attraction being the music and not the reading and preaching of the Bible.

Most Anglicans and Episcopalians experience the transforming power of God’s Word for one brief hour on Sundays. This is very little time for the Word to affect the lives of individual members of the church community, much less the life of the entire community. The attention to the congregation’s concerns given in the sermon has joined a number of other factors already at work to weaken the effect of the Word upon its hearers.

One factor is modernism that has caused people to question the inspiration of the Bible and the miraculous in the Bible. They have come not to completely trust the Bible or to see the Bible as “embodying absolute and authoritative transcripts of the mind of God.”

Another factor is the sacramentalism that dominates the thought of a number of Anglicans and Episcopalians particularly in North America. This sacramentalism teaches that Christ is present in the sacrament of Holy Communion “in greater measure than any other types of services.” The implication for churchgoers is that they receive more from the Holy Communion than the Word can provide. Consequently they are less willing to sit through lengthy expositions of the Bible. They tend to view the Scripture readings and the sermon as a warm-up for the main event—Holy Communion. This sacramentalism also teaches that the sacrament of Holy Communion has transformative power. Receiving the Holy Communion brings about change in the life of the churchgoer to much great degree than hearing the Word.

The impatience with God’s Word that affects many of today’s churches affects Anglican and Episcopal churches too. Contemporary Christians have come to view the reading and preaching of God’s Word as a hardship that they are not willing to endure. They do not want to hear about God. They want to hear about themselves. An idol is anything that we put first before God in our hearts In many of today’s churches their own concerns, desires, and needs are the idol that the congregation bows before.

Is it a new idolatry? No, it is an old idolatry in a new form. Putting God first does not come easily to us. Our natural tendency is to put ourselves first. Human beings have been doing this as far back as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Our present culture encourages it. We ostensibly gather to worship God and to hear his Word but in truth we are gathering to offer service to ourselves. We trample the courts of God’s temple but our hearts are far from him. God’s chosen people, the people of Israel, were intolerant of God’s Word and even opposed it. We are showing that we are no better than they.

The Bible that we see as causing us privation and even suffering speaks eloquently of the consequences of giving little attention or respect to God's Word. Yet the Bible also speaks likewise of how God will bless those who hear and do his Word. May God grant that we may see with our eyes, hear with our ears, understand with our heart and turn, and be healed.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Australia's traditional Anglicans vote to convert to Catholicism

"The Rt Rev David Robarts OAM, chairman of FIF Australia, said members of the association felt excluded by the Anglican Church in Australia, which had not provided them with a bishop to champion their conservative views on homosexuality and women bishops.

"In Australia we have tried for a quarter of a decade to get some form of episcopal oversight but we have failed," he told The Daily Telegraph.

"We're not really wanted any more, our conscience is not being respected."

Bishop Robarts, 77, said it had become clear that Anglicans who did not believe in same-sex partnerships or allowing women to be ordained as bishops had no place in the "broader Anglican spectrum".

"We're not shifting the furniture, we're simply saying that we have been faithful Anglicans upholding what Anglicans have always believed and we're not wanting to change anything, but we have been marginalised by people who want to introduce innovations.

"We need to have bishops that believe what we believe."

Crossing over to Rome under the new scheme would give the group the chance to retain their Anglican culture without sacrificing their beliefs, he said."

Or so he believes. To read the full article, click here.

Falling on Deaf Ears? — Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible

"'It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out.' That stunningly clear sentence reflects one of the most amazing, tragic, and lamentable characteristics of contemporary Christianity -- an impatience with the Word of God."

To read the full article, click here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Penitential Service for the First Day of Lent

[Editor's note: This service is to be used on the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday), and at other times as the ordinary shall appoint. It is taken from An American Prayer Book (2009) and is a modern English adaptation of 'A Commination' from the 1559 Elizabethan Prayer Book and the 1662 Restoration Prayer Book.]

This service may be used after Morning or Evening Prayer, or after the Litany if the Litany follows Morning or Evening Prayer. It may be used as a part of the Second Alternative Form of Morning and Evening Worship, in which case it may replace the General Confession, the Absolution (or declaration of forgiveness), and the Prayers. It may also be used as a separate service.

When A Penitential Service is used as a separate service, it may be preceded by a Psalm, canticle, or hymn and one of the readings of the day.

The minister says

Brothers and sisters, there has been, from ancient times, a godly custom in the Church, that, at the beginning of Lent, Christian people should be warned and reminded in a special manner, of the wrath of God revealed by heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, in order that they may take to heart their own sinfulness and continuing need to turn to God, and not become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. It is therefore fitting, that at this time (in the presence of you all) should be read the general sentences of God’s cursing against impenitent sinners, gathered out of the twenty-seventh chapter of Deuteronomy, and other places of Scripture; and that you should answer to every sentence, Amen: to the intent that, being admonished of the great indignation of God against sinners, you may be moved to sincere and true repentance, and may walk more warily in these dangerous days, fleeing from such vices, for the which you affirm with your own mouths, the curse of God to be due.

Then the minister says.

Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of craftsman, and sets it up in secret. AMEN
Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father and his mother. AMEN
Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor’s landmark. AMEN.
Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road. AMEN.
Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.AMEN.
Cursed be anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret. AMEN.
Cursed be anyone who lies with his neighbor’s wife. AMEN
Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood. AMEN.
Cursed be anyone who puts his trust in man, and takes man for his defense, and in his heart departs from the Lord. AMEN.
Cursed be the unmerciful, the sexually immoral, and the greedy, the idolaters, slanderers, drunkards, and swindlers. AMEN.

Then the minister says

Now seeing that all are accursed (as the Prophet David bears witness) who err, and wander from the commandments of God, let us (remembering the dreadful judgment hanging over our heads, and being always at hand) return to our Lord God, with all contrition and meekness of heart mourning and lamenting our sinful life, acknowledging and confessing our offences, and seeking to bear fruit worthy of repentance. Even now is the axe laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit, is cut down and thrown into the fire. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God: he shall rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. Then, on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment shall be revealed, shall appear the wrath that those with a hard and impenitent heart are storing up for themselves, who presumed upon the riches of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience, by which he meant to lead them to repentance. Then they will call upon me, says the Lord, but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently but will not find me. And because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, it shall be too late to knock, when the door shall be shut, and too late to cry for mercy, when it is the time of justice. O terrible voice of most just judgment, which shall be pronounced upon them, when it shall be said to them: “Depart from me, you cursed, into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Let us, brothers and sisters, take heed in good time, for now is the day of salvation. Night is coming when no one can work; but let us while we have the light, believe in the light, that we may become sons of light; that we may not be caste into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Let us not abuse the goodness of God, who calls us mercifully to amendment, and of his endless pity promises us forgiveness of that which is past, if (with a whole mind and true heart) we return to him. Though our sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone (declares the Lord God) so turn and live. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins. He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. Let us therefore return to him, who is the merciful receiver of all true penitent sinners, assuring our selves that he is ready to receive us, and most willing to pardon us, if we come to him, with faithful repentance, if we will submit our selves to him, and from that moment on walk in his ways; if we will take his easy yoke, and light burden upon us, to follow him in lowliness, patience, and charity, and be ordered by the governance of his Holy Spirit, seeking always his glory, and serving him duly in our vocation with thanksgiving. If we do this, Christ will deliver us from the curse of the law, and from the extreme malediction, that shall alight upon those who shall be set on the left hand. And he will set us on his right hand, and give us the blessed benediction of his Father, commanding us to take possession of his glorious kingdom; to which he condescends to bring us all, out of his infinite mercy. Amen.

All kneel and say this Psalm.

Misere mei deus (Psalm 51:1-17)

Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness;
according to the abundance of your compassion
blot out my offences.
Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
So that you are justified in your sentence
and righteous in your judgment.
I have been wicked even from my birth,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
Behold, you desire truth deep within me
and shall make me understand wisdom
in the depths of my heart.
Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean;
wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the bones you have broken may rejoice.
Turn your face from my sins
and blot out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your salvation
and sustain me with your gracious spirit;
Then shall I teach your ways to the wicked
and sinners shall return to you.
Deliver me from my guilt, O God,
the God of my salvation,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
For you desire no sacrifice, else I would give it;
you take no delight in burnt offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.

Then the minister says

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. AMEN.


Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. AMEN.

Lord, save your servants,
who put their trust in you.

Lord, send them help from your holy place,
and evermore defend them.

Help us, O God, our Savior;
and for the glory of your Name deliver us;
be merciful to us sinners, for your name’s sake.

Lord, hear our prayer,
and let our cry come to you.

Let us pray.

O Lord, we implore you to mercifully hear our prayers, and spare all those who confess their sins to you, that they (whose consciences by sin are accused) by your merciful pardon may be absolved; through Christ our Lord. AMEN.

O Most mighty God, and merciful Father, you have compassion upon all people, and hate nothing that you have made: you do not desire the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn from sin, and be saved: mercifully forgive us our offenses, and comfort us, who are grieved and wearied with the burden of our sin. Your property is to have mercy, to you alone belongs the forgiveness of sins: spare us therefore good Lord, spare your people whom you have redeemed. Enter not into judgment with your servants, who are vile dust, and miserable sinners, but so turn your anger from us who meekly acknowledge our vileness, and truly repent of our faults: so make haste to help us in this world, that we may ever live with you in the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

All say

Turn us, O good Lord, and so shall we be turned. Be favorable O Lord, be favorable to your people, who turn to you, in weeping, fasting, and praying, for you are a merciful God, full of compassion, long suffering, and of a great pity. You spare us when we deserve punishment, and in your wrath you think upon mercy, spare your people good Lord, spare them, and let not your heritage be brought to confusion: hear us O Lord for your mercy is great, and after the multitude of your mercies, look upon us; through the merits and mediation of your blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Then the minister alone says

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace, both now and evermore. AMEN.

Living the Legacy

"The precise shape of that Protestantism however owes more to John Calvin than it does to Henry VIII, who never really broke with the traditional Catholicism of his youth. Calvin never visited England, but he corresponded with people there and welcomed British exiles in Geneva during the reactionary reign of Mary Tudor. It was in Geneva, under his auspices, that the best and most influential early English translation of the Bible appeared (in 1560) and relations between the Swiss city and the British Isles would remain close long after his death. Calvin’s mentor, Martin Bucer, fled to England in 1548, and although he died there within a year, he made an impact on English theology and worship that can still be detected in the Book of Common Prayer. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion follow the outline of Calvin’s Institutes to a surprising extent, and their content is similar. It is no exaggeration to say that the theologians who shaped Anglican identity in the Elizabethan era were deeply indebted to Calvin, whose major works were quickly translated into English to become the staple diet of the new-style ordinands being turned out by the universities during those years. Not everyone was equally enthralled by this, of course, but opposition was muted and divided. Anglo-Catholic apologists have tried to find a coherent anti-Calvinistic Anglicanism which they attribute to such figures as Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes, but modern non-partisan research has generally shown that their claims cannot be sustained. They are based on the widespread but false assumption that Calvinism and Puritanism are essentially the same thing and that both go back to Calvin himself. In reality, conformist opinion in England was just as imbued with Calvin’s mindset as any Puritan was. This can be seen from the career of Archbishop John Whitgift (1583-1604), whose theology was as Calvinist as anyone in Geneva could have hoped for but who was implacably opposed to Puritanism. It was not until the reign of Charles I (1625-49) that a small group of anti-Calvinists was able to influence the development of the Church of England, largely thanks to the king’s patronage, but the end result of that was civil war and the overthrow of the high church party, which was seen by most people as an aberrant blemish on the doctrinal purity of the national church, a purity which they identified with the teachings of Calvin.

But although that is undoubtedly true, it must be said that Calvin’s reputation among Anglicans today is not high...."

To read read Gerald Bray's entire Churchman editorial, click here.

Being Faithful now available for download

The Commentary on the landmark Anglican ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ has been released in digital form and is available for immediate download.

In June 2008, 1200 Anglican leaders, bishops, clergy and lay people, from 27 provinces of the Anglican Communion met in Jerusalem for the Global Anglican Future Conference.

One of the results was the establishment of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, with the ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ as its foundation.

In 2009, 40 theologians, from 14 countries throughout the Anglican Communion, produced a commentary on this important document called “Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today”.

This Gafcon/FCA Primates Council, including leaders from some of the strongest Anglican communities in the world, have urged Anglicans everywhere to read and study this important work.

It has now been made available for download, in special edition along with “The Way, The Truth, and the Life” which was launched at GAFCON.

The complete PDF is available for download here.

“Being Faithful” is also published in book form by Latimer Trust and offered as a resource and also a study-guide for churches seeking to affirm their Anglican identity.

UK - Available from: Latimer Trust

Worldwide - Available from: Amazon

Australia - Angus and Robertson, Melbourne

New Zealand - Available from: Latimer Fellowship of NZ

South Africa - or email here.

The Anglican exodus begins…

Forward in Faith Australia has voted to join the Ordinariate. To read the full article, click here.

Episcopal Church Leadership Lashes Out

"A blizzard of winter weather on the Eastern seaboard was matched this past week by a flurry of activity from the Episcopal Church Center. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori traveled to Britain in order to lobby Church of England (CoE) leaders against a motion favorable to conservative rivals in North America. At the same time, South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence revealed that the Presiding Bishop’s office had retained an attorney in South Carolina who was apparently laying the groundwork for a challenge to the diocesan leadership.

If the latter turns out to be correct, it marks the first time that the denomination has taken action against a diocese that has not announced plans to separate from the church."

To read the full article, click here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Looks like a Duck, Walks like a Duck...but Is It a Duck?

Is the Anglican Church in North America a new denomination? Bishop-elect Neil Lebhar of the newly Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the AC-NA won't quite say. To reach the full article, click here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Ball Is In the Archbishops’ Court

By Robin G. Jordan

Lorna Ashworth’s private member’s motion calling for General Synod to “express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America” was not amended and then adopted at General Synod yesterday. It was defeated as Anglican Essentials Canada accurately reported on its blog. It was gutted and in its place what amounts to a substitute resolution was adopted. While technically an amendment, the new language changed the entire tenor of the motion. The substitute resolution takes a different position as can seen from its text:

“That this Synod, aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada,
“(a) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;
“(b) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and
“(c) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.”

Due to the spin that this motion has generated, it warrants a closer look.

First, the substitute resolution states that General Synod is conscious of the “recent divisions” in the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church and of the “distress” that they are causing. The substitute motion does not describe the nature of the “divisions” that exist in these churches or their seriousness or the nature of the “distress” that they are causing or its extent. It does not fix blame or express sympathy with any particular party. It adopts a position of deliberate neutrality.

The substitute resolution acknowledges the existence of the wish of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to stay inside the “Anglican family” and accepts it as fact. The substitute resolution goes on to admit that “this aspiration”—the wish to stay inside the “Anglican family,” as it relates both to relations with the Church of England and membership in the Anglican Communion, raises certain issues. The resolution does not identify these issues.

Several news reports interpret the wording of the resolution to mean that the General Synod tacitly recognizes the Anglican Church in North America as a part of the Anglican Communion. They interpret “Anglican family” as synonymous with “Anglican Communion.” The subsequent references to “relations with the Church of England” and “membership in the Anglican Communion” do not support this reading. The resolution does not equate “Anglican family” with “Anglican Communion.” Rather in using the phrase “Anglican family” it appears to be speaking euphuistically. In referring to ”the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family,” it is referring to the wish of these individuals to continue be Anglican. A number of the ecclesial bodies that comprise the ACNA have evidenced this desire by retaining formal ties with the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Anglican Church of the Province of the Southern Cone, the Anglican Church of Rwanda, and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and in the case of the Anglican Mission continuing to operate under the constitution and canons of its parent province. They are not negotiating with the Roman Catholic Church to become a part of that denomination nor have they taken steps to establish themselves as a new denomination. One of the issues that their wish raises may be the exact nature of the relationship of the ACNA to the Anglican Communion. Those who interpret the resolution as tacit recognition of the ACNA as a part of the Anglican Communion may be engaging in wishful thinking or trying to put the best face on what happened.

While the resolution does not identify what issues that the ambition of those who have formed the ACNA to “remain within the Anglican family” raise, it takes the position that they merit further examination by the relevant authorities of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. It goes on to “invite” in the sense of encourage or solicit courteously the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the two senior most bishops of the Church of England, to make an official or formal statement about the matter at General Synod in 2011.

Many members of the ACNA were disappointed by this resolution. It is not what they were hoping for. However, it is realistically about the most that they can expect from a church that is divided over the ACNA as well as a number of the same issues that have divided the Anglican Church of Canada and The Church of England and led to the formation of the ACNA. With this resolution General Synod have thrown the ball into the Archbishops’ court. What they do with it is anyone’s guess. In his address to General Synod Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams did not display much sympathy for those who have formed the ACNA. Archbishop Williams’ track record speaks for itself—the Eames Commission, the Windsor Report, the Panels of Reference, the New Orleans House of Bishops’ Meeting, and the Anglican Covenant.

I wonder if God let this happen in order to encourage the ACNA to do some needed soul-searching. Why is it starting new congregations--to spread the gospel and to lead lost souls to Jesus Christ or to build up its numbers so that it looks good and gains recognition? What are its motives? Do they really honor God?

What really makes a church Anglican—recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury or faithful adherence to the tenets of historic Biblical Anglicanism, including the doctrine of justification by grace alone by faith alone? In permitting the adoption of this substitute resolution God may be calling the ACNA back to these tenets.

Historically true “churchmen,” to use an old term, have been Bible Christians. They have accepted the Holy Scriptures as “God’s word written,” have believed what it taught, and have sought to “frame and fashion” their lives and the lives of their families according to its teachings. They have looked to the Creeds, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal as the standards of their faith because they are agreeable to Scripture. The Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church have to a great extent abandoned the Bible and these standards. The ACNA has not fully returned to them.

God tries us in fire like silver to purify us of all the dross (See Psalm 66:9-11, Isaiah 48:9-11, Zechariah 13:8-9, and Malachi 3:2-4). It is very likely that God is testing the ACNA, refining the ACNA to rid it of all its impurities. God caused the Israelites, to wander in the wilderness until all those who had been disobedient to him had perished. If the ACNA is indeed a chosen instrument of God, as its members like to believe and its leaders are want to tell them, it can expect many trials and much testing. Whatever it accomplishes will then clearly be the work of God.

Albert Mohler: Vanishing Christianity — A Lesson from the Presbyterians

"'Liberal Protestantism, in its determined policy of accommodation with the secular world, has succeeded in making itself dispensable.' That was the judgment of Thomas C. Reeves in The Empty Church: The Suicide of Liberal Protestantism, published in 1996. Fast-forward another fourteen years and it becomes increasingly clear that liberal Protestantism continues its suicide -- with even greater theological accommodations to the secular worldview.

The latest evidence for this pattern is found in a report just released by The Presbyterian Panel, a research group that serves the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [PCUSA]. The panel's report is presented as a "Religious and Demographic Profile of Presbyterians, 2008." The report contains relatively few surprises, but it is filled with data about the beliefs of Presbyterian laypersons and clergy."

To read the entire article, click here.

To read the report to which Dr. Mohler refers in his article, click here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

General Synod recognizes and affirms the desire of the AC-NA to remain a part of the Anglican family

Reactions are mixed.

For the reaction of David Virtue at Virtue Online, click here.

For the reaction of Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm, click here.

For the reaction of Peter Ould, click here.

For the reaction of Mary Ailes at Baby Blue Online, click here.

For the reaction of Anglican Essentials Canada, click here.

For the reaction of the Anglican Church in North America, click here.

For the reaction of Everything Christian, click here.

And the reaction on TitusOneNine, click here.

Update: for the reaction of the Guardian, click here.

From the Christian Post, click here.

Thoughts on Orthodox Doctrine and Practice in the Anglican Church in North America

By Robin G. Jordan

In a comment posted in response to my recent article, “Strange Bedfellows,” it was pointed to my attention that other Anglican provinces have an Anglo-Catholic wing, why not the Anglican Church in North America?

First it must be noted that the AC-NA is not an Anglican province. It is basically a federation of conservative ecclesial organizations that has aspirations to become an Anglican province. Second, Anglo-Catholicism is only one school of thought in Anglicanism and is a relative newcomer despite its claims to represent the faith of the English Church before the Reformation. It has a strong affinity with Roman Catholicism. Many of its doctrines and practices are those of the Roman Catholic Church. They are also doctrines and practices that the Church of England rejected at the Reformation and which many Anglicans around the world do not accept as biblical and consequently as “orthodox” to this day. Third, an Anglican province typically has an Anglo-Catholic wing due to the particular history of that province and the influence of Anglo-Catholicism in the province. Whether the existing Anglican provinces have an Anglo-Catholic wing is irrelevant to whether the AC-NA should also have such a wing. The AC-NA has an Anglo-Catholic wing because Anglo-Catholics form a substantial portion of its membership and Anglo-Catholic thought has influenced most of its remaining membership. Anglo-Catholics and those influenced by Anglo-Catholic thought played an instrumental role in the formation of the Common Cause Partnership.

“Other churches (dioceses, provinces, etc.) has X, why not us?” is also a simplistic argument that can be used to justify all kinds of things. If we apply its logic to liberalism, then the AC-NA ought to have a liberal wing because a number of Anglican provinces have liberal wings. Since several Anglican provinces ordain practicing homosexuals, permit homosexual unions, and consecrate women bishops, why not the AC-NA? Why stop short of making room for Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-Catholicism?

“Strange Bedfellows” touched upon a number of issues. The main issue was the gospel that pastors are preaching and teaching in the AC-NA. One of the major differences between Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics and Protestants is the message of the gospel. They have quite different concepts of justification. These differences are not matters of no consequence or indifference. They are not adiaphora. They affect human salvation. The classical Anglican view of justification is articulated in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Homily on Justification. It takes the Protestant position on justification, which it understands to be the New Testament position.

The person who left the comment also appeared to assume that since his pastor was preaching and teaching the true gospel, all AC-NA pastors are proclaiming the true gospel. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he is correct in his assessment that the gospel his pastor is proclaiming is indeed the true gospel. Based on the theological make-up of the AC-NA, the assumption that all AC-NA pastors are proclaiming the true gospel is a dangerous one to make. It also ignores the significant theological differences between Anglo-Catholicism and the other school of thought represented in the AC-NA.

As I pointed to the attention of my readers in “Strange Bedfellows,” clergy in the AC-NA cannot preach two different gospels. The AC-NA, unlike The Episcopal Church, is supposed to be upholding “orthodox faith and practice.” Since The Episcopal Church’s working theology is universal salvation, it does not matter what gospel is preached and taught. Indeed it does not matter if any gospel is proclaimed at all, except the gospel of radical inclusion. However, the AC-NA is supposedly an “orthodox” church. The AC-NA needs to sort out what gospel its clergy are going to preach. Its decision will determine whether its teaching can be regarded as consistent with the Bible and therefore as orthodox. Claiming to be orthodox does not make a church orthodox. The Episcopal Church claims to be orthodox. The AC-NA must demonstrate its orthodoxy. The proof is in the pudding.

From a New Testament perspective only one gospel has the power to touch hearts and to transform lives. The New Testament does not adopt the stance of post-modernism in which there is no objective truth but subjective opinions. All opinions are equally right and conversely are equally wrong. The New Testament speaks of revealed truth, of the Spirit of Truth, and the Son of God who is the embodiment of Truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) From a New Testament perspective there is only one true gospel, which itself is a gift from God. If the AC-NA is truly committed to Christ’s mission of seeking and saving the lost, it will want to preach and teach that gospel. It is not going to accept any substitutes.

The question of what gospel the AC-NA is proclaiming points to another question. How is “orthodox faith and practice” defined in the AC-NA? In its efforts to forge an alliance of conservatives, the Common Cause Partnership drew up a Theological Statement that accommodates an Anglo-Catholic position on a number of key issues. It adopts deliberately vague language in regard to the historic Anglican formularies in comparison to the Church of England’s Canon 5: “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and the Councils of the Church as are agreeable to said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.” The result is that its definition of the “Anglican Way” is slewed in an Anglo-Catholic direction. This is quite acceptable to Anglo-Catholics and those influenced by Anglo-Catholic thought but not to those who see this turning away from the Bible, the English Reformation, and the Thirty-Nine Articles as a real threat to the gospel of grace in the AC-NA. A church that preaches and teaches sacramental salvation is a step or two from proclaiming universal salvation.

Right doctrine and right practice do matter. There is no escaping it. We cannot say as some suggest, “We are all following Christ. What difference does it make that we do not meet eye to eye on everything.” This is exactly what the liberals have been saying. The response to the liberals has been, “You have broken with the teaching of the Bible.” This must also be our response to others who depart from biblical teaching. Does this mean that Anglo-Catholics have no place in the AC-NA? No. But it does mean that certain Anglo-Catholic doctrines and practices have no place in a Biblically-faithful Anglican church committed to proclaiming the true gospel. In such a church the Thirty-Nine Articles are a living formulary and clergy and laity alike are unfeigned in their assent to them.

Wise as Serpents, and Harmless as Doves

By Robin G. Jordan

In the debate over homosexuality in The Episcopal Church the liberals frequently accused of conservative evangelicals like myself of hating gays and lesbians because we held to a Biblical standard of morality and were not open to the normalization of homosexuality in the Church. They refuse to believe that we were motivated by a desire to uphold and maintain the teaching of the Bible. We were told that we were bigoted, hateful, and prejudiced. It was suggested that we suffered from a deep-seated hatred of homosexuals or irrational fears of homosexuality. Liberals were, of course, unwilling to admit that our motivations might not be as sinister as they sought to portray them. They would have to acknowledge the possibility among other things that we might be right and they might be wrong. It was preferable to cast us as villains than to admit that we sincerely believed what we understood the Bible to teach. What impelled us to not only defend our beliefs but also to advance them was a desire to honor God and to obey him. We believed with equal sincerity that we were doing what God would want us to do.

To support their view of our motives liberals would distort and twist what we said and read things into it what we had not said. They took advantage of anything that might allow them to put their spin on what we said and to misrepresent our position. When the debate became heated, any heat on our side was treated as prima facie evidence of our bigotry, hatred, and prejudice toward homosexuals. On other hand, liberals felt free to engage in derision, invective, and ridicule and to otherwise express their negative thoughts and feelings toward us. They were quick to pounce upon anyone who was not a liberal and who did what they did. It was very evident that there was a double standard in operation. The liberals saw nothing wrong with it and anyone, even a fellow liberal, who draw attention to it, met with hostile denial.

In the debate over the shortcomings and weaknesses of the Anglican Church in North America, I have observed that more often not those who have a stake in the AC-NA or who are sympathetic to the AC-NA are acting in the same way, as did the liberals in the homosexuality debate. Conservative evangelicals like myself are accused of harboring ill will and animosity toward the AC-NA. Our character is impugned and our motives are questioned. We are deliberately baited and provoked.

In some ways they are reacting like the purchaser of a new used car. He welcomes the comments of friends who compliment him on his purchase. But woe to the real friend who draws attention to the leaking transmission and the other problems of his new purchase.

The Anglican Church in North America has a lot of shortcomings and weaknesses. A number of these problems are as serious as those of The Episcopal Church. Some may be worse. The thing with problems is that the people who are a part of a system that has a problem—a family, a corporation, or in the case of the AC-NA a church—are often the last ones to recognize its existence, its seriousness, its causes, and its long-term effects. They, like the purchaser of the new used car, are likely to regard those drawing attention to any problems as “the problem”. We, however, are constrained to “speak every man truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25 KJV).

At the same time we should also be mindful of the words of the apostle James.

“…the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing” (James 3:5-10 KJV).

One of the drawbacks of the Internet is that is easy to say things that we might not say in a face-to-face conversation. It encourages speaking without first carefully thinking through what we are going to say. Someone writes something and we dash off a response. Those communicating via the Internet are also not as civil or guarded in what they say as they might be if the person to whom they are speaking was standing or sitting in front of them. They also do not have to use their real names and can conceal their identity. Consequently, they are emboldened to say things that they might in a face-to-face conversation think twice about saying. The impulsive are prone to be moved or prompted even more by impulse. The Internet is an environment in which the untamed tongue can do its worst, inflicting much hurt, not only to others but also to ourselves.

Conservative evangelicals posting comments in response to the articles on this web log, when they do not choose their words well, use strong language, and sink to name-calling and the like, play into the hands of those who wish to discredit them and anything that they have to say. Their comments not only can be exploited to deny them credibility, but they also can be used to bring disrepute upon this web log and conservative evangelicals in general. They need to remember the words of our Lord when he sent out the twelve. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 KJV) We are likely to win more people to the cause of Biblical Anglicanism with wisdom and gentleness.

We all do well to meditate on the words of the apostle Paul. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Col 3:12-14 KJV).

As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Whether or not we have been ordained, we are all God’s ministers, his servants. We must, as much as lies in us, be wholesome examples and patterns for unbelievers as well as our fellow Christians to follow. We have put on the new man (Ephesians 4:24). We are to “cease from anger and forsake wrath” (Psalm 37.8 KJV; see also Ephesians 4:26-27). We need to keep these words of Paul at the forefronts of our minds.

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:29-32 KJV).

This is no easy task. We may be sorely tempted and our patience greatly tried. Yet if we earnestly ask him, God will give us strength and power to do it.

Those reading the articles on this web log and the comments posted in response to the articles need to know that behind the comments of each poster is an untold story. If the story was known, it might shed light on why the poster said what he did. Things are not always what they seem at first glance. Behind anger may be pain and hurt, frustration and disappointment. We should not be too quick to judge each other. The Episcopal Church is not the only North American Anglican body that moved, leaving its conservative members behind. Conservative members of the Reformed Episcopal Church remained faithful to its long-held principles while its leaders did not, abandoning these principles in the name of progress. Principles that they cherish, that they share with their fellow evangelicals outside of North America, are now dismissed as out of date, behind the times, not mainstream.

God has put all sorts of people into my life through whom he has taught me what Paul calls ”the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). I cannot say that I am a quick pupil. I am still learning. The folks whose paths cross ours or join ours are God’s gift to us. In some cases we may be hard put to think of them as a gift. But a gift they are nonetheless. Through them God accomplishes the work that he has begun in us. Rather than recoiling at someone’s anger and their sharp words, let us see them for what they are—an injured soul that God has put into our path that we might show him compassion as the Samaritan showed the long-standing enemy of his people, the Jew beaten by robbers and left for dead (Luke 10:33).

Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians devotes an entire section of the letter to the subject of charity, or Christian love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). Without charity we are nothing, he tells the church at Corinth. Whatever we do, if we do not have charity, it does not profit us. Paul goes on to write:

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Of all things, he writes, charity never fails. Of faith, hope, and charity, the greatest of the three is charity.

Paul returns to the theme of charity, Christian love, at the conclusion of the letter. “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

May God grant that we do all things with charity.

Letter from Church Society Council to the GAFCON Primates

We write regarding the “Response to offer of an Apostolic Constitution to Anglicans” issued on 10 November 2009.

We share your concern regarding the impact of theological liberalism on the Anglican Communion and the need to uphold Biblical faith and practice. We are painfully aware of brothers and sisters in Christ who have left the Church of England and the Anglican Communion because they could no longer tolerate such liberalism. However, we were deeply concerned about the opening paragraph in your letter. You state:
We believe that this offer is a gracious one and reflects the same commitment to the historic apostolic faith, moral teaching and global mission that we proclaimed in the Jerusalem Declaration on the Global Anglican Future and for this we are profoundly grateful.

The Jerusalem Declaration purports to stand for the historic faith of Anglicanism and in particular not just Scripture and the Creeds but the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as a succinct summary of Biblical teaching. We stand wholeheartedly by the Thirty-Nine Articles and Church Society has upheld their truth and integrity for the last 175 years. We cannot however see that your description of the Roman Catholic Church is compatible with the Articles.

A number of points might be made but the most obvious are as follows:
Our Articles reject the claims of universal jurisdiction made by the Papacy (Article 37). The Church of England rightly broke from Roman servitude in 1534. We do not believe that the Papacy has significantly changed its stance since and the claims of universal primacy, let alone universal jurisdiction are historically unjustifiable. The accompanying claims to the authority of the Papacy are profoundly unscriptural.

Our Articles uphold the glorious teaching of Scripture that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Article 11). We have elsewhere called attention to the failure of the Jerusalem Declaration and the Commentary on the Declaration to stand by historic Anglicanism on this point. Yet the Roman Catholic Church still rejects these truths and has never withdrawn its anathematising of those who uphold them. We have been distressed over the years, and have regularly drawn attention to the liberal led dishonesty of the ecumenical movement in misrepresenting Anglican teaching and in using ambiguous language in pursuing structural rather than confessional unity. Sadly the same thing was evident in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement and we are fearful that GAFCON is following the same course. The doctrine of justification is not a minor side issue. The churches of the Reformation, which includes the Anglican churches, have agreed with Martin Luther that it is the "article of the standing and falling of the church.".

Our Articles explicitly subject the Church to Scripture (Articles 19-21). Theological liberalism has set the authority of the Church, in the guise of Synods and human wisdom above Scripture. But our Articles state plainly that it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to Scripture and that Synods do err (Articles 19 & 20). The Roman Church by contrast claims an authority which is above Scripture. The full fruit of this error has not been seen until the last century or so in the issuing of dogmatic statements about Mary which anathematise those who do not hold them. There is no Biblical basis for this dogma and it serves in fact to lead people away from Christ.

We might go on. Our Articles specifically reject the Roman system which makes its followers beholden to the church hierarchy rather than to Christ. They reject the Roman doctrines of the sacraments, the real presence, purgatory and so on. We say again, these are not secondary issues: they concern the heart of the gospel, the means of salvation, the way to heaven. Anglicanism rejected the errors of the medieval Roman Church and sought to return to Biblical teaching, reflective of ancient practice, but always putting Scripture first.

In the light of this we believe your claim that the Pope’s offer “reflects the same commitment to the historic apostolic faith” is gravely mistaken. We plead with you to recognise that authentic, historic Anglicanism, does not agree with Roman Catholicism on fundamental truths and in particular on the nature of authority and the means of salvation.

On behalf of the Council of Church Society

The English General Synod: The Centre Cannot Hold

Charles Raven argues that Lorna Ashworth's private member's motion is represents "a choice...between historic biblical Anglicanism and that pseudo-Anglicanism being promoted by TEC and its allies which derives its energy from the spirit of the age rather than the Spirit of Christ." "...recognition of the ACNA can be seen as not simply about support for fellow Anglicans in North America, but a mutual solidarity around a new confessional identity to which the ACNA bears witness." But does the AC-NA truly represent historic biblical Anglicanism? What is this new confessional identity to which the AC-NA supposedly bears witness? It is certainly not the Protestant and Reformed Church of England of the English Reformation, the Elizabethan Settlement, the Thirty Nine Articles, and the Glorious Revolution? To read the entire article, click here.

General Synod debates motion calling for recognition of the AC-NA

Lorna Ashworth's private member's motion calling for General Synod to recognize the Anglican Church in North America will be debated today. Click here for Times' article on the motion.

James Coder, a layman in the Church of England's Diocese in Europe argues in favor of recognition of the AC-NA. Click here.

Lorna Ashworth discusses her motion. Click here.

The Bishop of Winchester denies Ashworth motion an attack on The Episcopal Church. Click here.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Trends in the New Anglicanism in North America

By Robin G. Jordan

In the days before the establishment of the Anglican Church in North America Archbishop Robert Duncan, then Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership, talked about the inadequacy of the old Anglican settlement and the need for a new one. Bishop Duncan did not go into great detail as to why the old Anglican settlement was inadequate. Presumably those whom he addressed were supposed to be fully informed on the subject. He did not offer a vision for a new Anglican settlement. Rather he stressed that change was needed and he and his fellow Common Cause Partnership leaders were ready to join with the global South primates to bring about this change.

In this article I look at a number of trends in the beliefs and practices of the Anglican Church in North America. These trends offer some clues to the emerging new Anglican settlement in that body. It would not be accurate to describe these tendencies as representing the direction in which the Anglican Church is moving worldwide. The Anglican Church in Canada and the United States has its own unique history, as do the Anglican Churches in other parts of the world. The North American Church has to a certain degree marched to the beat of a different drummer throughout its history. It has in the past influenced the direction of world Anglicanism (albeit not always in the best direction). More recently it has become a warning to Anglicans around the world of the dangers of liberalism and post-modernism. Yet there is also a lesson that they can learn from the direction that a part of that Church—the Anglican Church in North America—has taken in reaction to liberalism. This direction also has its dangers.

1. One of the trends in the Anglican Church in North America is a renewed emphasis on the so-called Anglican middle way, or via media. The emphasis on this theory of Anglican identity is in part pragmatic due to that body’s theological make-up.

The theory of the via media was first propounded by John Henry Newman in his Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church. Newman’s reading of history, however, was faulty. He was very selective in his use of the writings of the Caroline divines, choosing passages from their works that appeared to give strength to his claims but which, when they were read in context supported a different view from Newman’s.

Newman was also extremely sympathetic to Roman Catholicism. At the same time he had a very low opinion of the English Reformers. The via medi as he portrayed it did not run equal distant between the extremes of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism but ran very close to Roman Catholicism. Newman eventually rejected the via media theory before submitting to the Church of Rome and the Pope.

Frederick Denis Maurice reworked the via media theory into a form that made the theory more influential. Maurice argued that the Catholic and Protestant strands in the Church of England, while contrary, were also complimentary. They both maintain elements of the true church but were incomplete without each other. He maintained that through union of these opposites a true catholic and evangelical church might come into being.

In the twentieth century Maurice’s via medi theory and a number of strands of Anglican thought that derived from it were given wide currency in The Episcopal Church. A number of books led Episcopalians to believe that Anglicans had always seen their tradition as a via medi between Catholicism and Protestantism. Anglo-Catholics recognized in the popularity of the via medi theory a way to move the Anglican Church in Canada and the United States in a more Anglo-Catholic direction in doctrine, order, and worship. Liberals argued that their view of Anglicanism as a wide diversity of beliefs and practices, including theirs, was a natural outgrowth of the Anglican middle way. A broad comprehensiveness was characteristic of the Anglican via media.

Proponents of the Ancient-New Church and the convergence movements argued that God is bringing a third strand into the Anglican middle way—Pentecostalism. Three theological “streams” are converging in the global Anglican Church to form one might “river.” This view enjoys considerable popularity in the Anglican Church in North America, which is seen as where this convergence is taking place in Canada and the United States. Archbishop Duncan appealed to this view of the AC-NA in his address at the inaugural Provincial Assembly, claiming that God is creating in the AC-NA a church that is truly Catholic, truly evangelical, and truly Pentecostal.

The new AC-NA website on its “About the Anglican Church in North America” page contains the Common Cause Theological Statement that quotes with obvious approval the following words of Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher:

“The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.” It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to “the faith once delivered to the saints.”

The statement concludes with these words, “To be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity, but a distinct way of being a ‘Mere Christian,’ at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled.”

In the second half of the twentieth century Steven Sykes was a strong critic of Maurice’s theory and its various derivative strands of Anglican thought. Among Sykes’ criticisms was that an implied proposition of via medi theories is that there is no body of distinct Anglican doctrine beside the doctrines of the universal church. This proposition, he alleged, was used as an excuse for not undertaking systematic doctrine at all.

2. Another trend is an appeal to antiquity. There is a tendency to seek refuge from the liberalism of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the doctrines and practices of the first millennium of the Christian Church. In his address to the inaugural Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Duncan stressed the necessity of “regression,” of backward movement, in response to the crisis of liberalism. The doctrines and practices of this period it is argued are more Catholic and therefore more orthodox. This is similar to the reaction of the nineteenth century Oxford movement to the liberalism of its day. It is also argued that returning to these doctrines and practices is the key to the kind of church unity needed to keep liberalism from overtaking Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which retain these doctrines and practices, are presented as models of conservatism. The appeal to antiquity is uncritical. There is greater concern for catholicity than apostolicity. An important historical test of the apostolicity of doctrine and practice for Anglicans—the Bible—is given short shrift.

3. A third trend is a stress on ecumenism. This appears to be motivated in part by a desire for recognition. It is not a broad ecumenism that includes the Reformed Churches. It extends only to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Here again there is a preoccupation with catholicity as opposed to apostolicity.

4. A fourth trend is the confusion of conservatism and traditionalism with apostolic doctrine and practice. There is a naïve assumption that because the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church are conservative and traditionalist, they must be apostolic. The result is a very uncritical acceptance of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrines and practices that are inconsistent with the Bible. This is interpreted as the Holy Spirit uniting the Church. Yet I must wonder whether the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Truth would be uniting the Church at the expense of the truth.

There is a similarity between this particular interpretation of developments in the Anglican Church in North America and the liberal interpretation of developments in the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. In both instances God, we are assured, is doing a “new thing.” We are witnessing a prophetic movement. In both instances this “new thing” involves the disregard of the Bible.

5. This tendency to take a subjective approach to contemporary developments and to interpret them as the work of the Holy Spirit on the basis of their fulfillment of the aspirations of those interpreting them can be described as a fifth trend. There is also a similarity between this subjectivism and the views of the sectarians that the Thirty-Nine Articles describes as “certain Anabaptists.” These “Anabaptists” gave much greater authority to personal revelations from the Holy Spirit than to the Scriptures. Sectarian error was of great concern to the English Reformers as was Roman error. They saw the Holy Scriptures, interpreted by Scripture and reason, as a safeguard against both forms of error.

6. A sixth trend is a propensity toward ritualism. The video of Archbishop Duncan’s enthronement documents this tendency. In the opening procession almost all of the American bishops are wearing copes, stoles, and miters and pause at the entrance of the church to dip their hands in a pool of “holy water” and to sign themselves with a cross. After his induction Archbishop Duncan stands at the “altar rail” in front of the church with his chaplain flanking him, carrying his crosier, so that the congregation can come forward, pay him homage, kiss his ring, and receive his archiepiscopal blessing.

The tendency toward ritualism is evident even in the churches that are “contemporary” in their style of worship. The latter in the Anglican Church in North America is more likely to be convergent—blending traditional and contemporary forms of music; Anglo-Catholic vestments, ornaments, and ceremonial; charismatic expressiveness; and twenty-first century technology. Traditional Low Church worship like that which has been seen in mainline Protestant churches for generations is rare.

This ritualistic tendency is largely a carryover from The Episcopal Church. Anglo-Catholic ritualism has influenced that church for over a hundred and seventy-five years. Both the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which are also used in the Anglican Church in North America, encourage an Anglo-Catholic ritualistic approach to worship. A large segment of the AC-NA clergy and laity is traditionalist Anglo-Catholic.

7. A seventh trend is that the English Reformation and the historic Anglican formularies are dismissed as things of the past. I have had at least one AC-NA priest tell me that contemporary Anglicans are superior in their understanding of the Bible and theology than their sixteenth century counterparts. His statement did not surprise me. He had originally been an Episcopal priest and that attitude is widespread in The Episcopal Church.

The old Anglican settlement gave a very large place to Scripture. The Bible was the test by which everything was tried—doctrine and practice. Article 6 states, “Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” Article 34 states, “It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one or utterly alike; for at all times they have been diverse, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's word.”

Latitudinarianism in the eighteenth century, Anglo-Catholicism in the nineteenth century and liberalism in the twentieth century have eroded the place of Scripture in Anglicanism. The trends we are seeing in the Anglican Church in North America are also greatly weakening the place of the Bible in that body.

The emerging new Anglican settlement in the AC-NA shows no evidence of being an improvement upon the old Anglican settlement. Rather than being at the forefront of a new reformation, the AC-NA appears to be at the very front of a new counter-reformation. Biblical Anglicanism has no prospects in the AC-NA. Biblically-faithful Anglicans outside of North America who have given their support to the AC-NA are going to discover this unpleasant fact to their great consternation in the days ahead.

The New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl

The New Orleans Saints won the 2010 Super Bowl, an upset victory against the Indianapolis Colts. The Church of England's General Synod is considering a private member's motion on recognizing the Anglican Church in North America. There must be an asteroid out there heading our way. Or the sun is about to go nova!

Church set for new row over gay clergy

The Telegraph portrays upcoming debate on motion to recognize the Anglican Church in North America at General Synod this week as "new row" over homosexuality. Click here for the story. What should be the topic of debate is not just the AC-NA's stance on homosexuality but also its commitment to the principles of the Protestant and reformed Church of England? Does it really accept the historic Anglican formularies and consider them as authoritative today as in the sixteenth century? This is one of a number of questions that General Synod needs to ask.

Plans for Women in Mitres to Go Ahead in the Church of England

Traditionalists are left in the cold by the latest Church of England plans for women bishops, Ruth Gledhill reports. Click here for the story.

For a another perspective on this story, click here.

For more on the same story by Ruth Gledhill, click here.

Reform highlights "hugh practical problems" with women bishops. Click here.

AC-NA Bishop John Rodgers nixes the Anglican Covenant

"'5. To covenant together is not intended to change the character of this Anglican expression of Christian faith. Rather, we recognise the importance of renewing in a solemn way our commitment to one another, and to the common understanding of faith and order we have received, so that the bonds of affection which hold us together may be re-affirmed and intensified. We do this in order to reflect, in our relations with one another, God's own faithfulness and promises towards us in Christ (2 Cor 1.20-22)'.

This could not be more wrong. Now is precisely the opportunity and the time to change the character of this Anglican expression of the Christian faith in those areas that have proven incapable of maintaining the unity and conformity of the churches of the Anglican Communion in Apostolic Faith, order and practice. Here again we confront in the proposed Covenant an unbiblical emphasis on maintaining provincial autonomy and a reluctance to state clearly the common, binding essentials of the Apostolic Faith as this Church has received them and stated them.

We think of Canon A5 of the Church of England that so clearly, beautifully and simply states: "The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Catholic Creeds, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, and the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal of 1662." Happily, this was adopted by the Jerusalem Declaration.

'(1.1.2) the catholic and apostolic faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation[2]. The historic formularies of the Church of England[3], forged in the context of the European Reformation and acknowledged and appropriated in various ways in the Anglican Communion, bear authentic witness to this faith.' (underlining mine)

This statement comes close to asserting the normative character of the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God written ("Scriptura Suprema") and the abiding value of the historic formularies (the Book of Common Prayer and ordinal 1662 and the 39 Articles of Religion) that set forth the Anglican understanding of the teaching of the Scripture and the ancient Church on the crucial matters that they cover.

However, there is a certain vagueness and hesitancy to give full expression to their authority in the Anglican Communion. Just what does 'uniquely revealed' mean, or 'authentic witness' imply? Canon A5 and the Jerusalem Declaration are far clearer and accord the historic formularies a stronger prominence in the Communion.

It is true that the Scriptures and the Creeds get a brief clarifying statement later, but the 39 Articles disappear from view, never to return. One senses a certain relief at their disappearance on the part of the writers of the Proposed Covenant."

John Rodgers makes a number of good points in this article. But what he says in some cases also applies to the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America. Why didn't he speak up about those documents? All he did was urge evangelicals to accept them as they were written.

To read the entire article, click here.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Speaking the Gospel into Their Hearts

"The young couple looked to be in their late twenties, very well dressed, happy, and confident. “May we take one of these Bibles?” they asked. 'Absolutely,' was my reply.

'We’ve never had one. Are they free?' Those words struck my heart like a knife… ”we’ve never had one!” I didn’t expect to hear these words in this context. You may think this conversation happened in some far away land with someone from an entirely different background. Not so. This young couple’s family had been in the U.S. for generations and had grown up in the heart of the upper mid-west in Minnesota. They had never been to church, never owned a Bible, and had never heard the gospel in their life. To say the least, they looked at things from an entirely different perspective from me. Their worldview was entirely different from the biblical worldview and mine.

If you are endeavoring to take the gospel to the lost of North America this scenario is no surprise to you at all. You have probably had numerous encounters similar to this one. The realities of immigration, the absence of a Christian witness for generations in many parts of North America, and other factors have drastically changed the landscape into which we seek to take the gospel.

We tend to expect a different culture when we venture into another country and seek to contextualize the message of the gospel so that the likelihood of the hearer understanding and accepting the message of the gospel will be greater. Yet, for many years, in North America the approach has largely been more of a one-size-fits-all when it comes to sharing the message of salvation. Current reality in North America screams to the would-be evangelist that many different approaches are necessary to reach the masses of unreached and under-reached peoples, who now call the U.S. and Canada home. Consider the different ways in which Jesus approached the Samaritan woman (John 4) and the rich young ruler (Mark10:17-22). He understood the way they looked at the world and spoke to them accordingly. Paul used many different approaches to speak into the hearts of his hearers (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

One of the keys to developing more contextualized approaches to sharing the gospel is the understanding of worldview and those elements in their worldview that cause them to be positive toward Christianity (bridges) and those beliefs and practices that are contrary to biblical teachings (barriers). Worldview has been defined in a number of ways, however the heart of the meaning is the overall perspective from which we view and interpret the world. Worldview is the heart of what we believe, value, and do. We often try to change behavior or beliefs but even when change occurs it will only be short-lived at best, if there has been no change at the core level (worldview). This kind of change only comes about through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As discipleship takes place in the life of a believer, their core beliefs are transformed into the image of Christ. The more we understand their perspective at the core level the better able we are to share elements from Scripture that will speak into and replace their worldview with a biblical worldview. This is the heart of real discipleship."

To read the entire article, which is posted on the Church Planting Village website, click here.