Friday, December 31, 2010

New Addition and Other Changes to the Heritage Anglican Network


An Organizational Charter page has been added to the Heritage Anglican Network web journal and other changes have been made. Readers can expect more activity at that web site in the New Year.

To take a look at the new addition and other changes, click here.

Two-Year Bible Reading Plan


On December 30, 1842, a 29-year-old Scottish pastor named Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote a letter to his congregation. He said:

MY DEAR FLOCK,—The approach of another year stirs up within me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth of those of you who are saved. “God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” What the coming year is to bring forth, who can tell? . . . Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence upon self or upon creatures, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day. Then we shall be able to say like David—, “The proud have had me greatly in derision, yet have I not declined from thy law.” “Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in awe of thy Word.” It has long been in my mind to prepare a scheme of Scripture reading, in which as many as were made willing by God might agree, so that the whole Bible might be read once by you in the year, and all might be feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.

I regularly feel these same stirrings in my heart for my own congregation. So a couple years ago, I gave the people of Pepperell Christian Fellowship a two-year Bible reading plan and invited the whole church to read through the Bible together, with all of us “feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.” The fruit over these last couple years has been immense. We’ve enjoyed many conversations about the Bible that we would never otherwise have had. People who had never read the whole Bible have done so for the first time. We’ve come together around the Word.

To read the full article, click here.

Why the Church Is So Ineffective


Anyone with a passion for Christ and his work will be less than thrilled with how his church is going about its affairs. While many believers are sold out for Christ and are doing great things for his kingdom, the church as a whole seems to be sadly lacking.

I readily agree with recent prophetic voices who have urged us to become all we can be in Christ. They have rightly warned about our lukewarmness, apathy, lack of dedication and commitment. They rightly contrast the church of today with the early church.

A few representative quotes can be offered here.

“Surely, no man with his eyes open can fail to see that the Christianity of the New Testament is something far higher and deeper than the Christianity of most professing Christians. The formal, easy-going, do-little thing which most people call religion, is evidently not the religion of the Lord Jesus.” J C Ryle

“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; there are many services, but few conversions.” R.A. Torrey

“To me it is a shocking commentary on present Christian feebleness that while, in the first century, 120 men could move from an upper-room closet and shake Jerusalem, nowadays 120 churches claiming a like experience of the Holy Spirit can be in one of our cities and yet that city at large hardly know they are there. In our spiritual warfare the churches must be shooting with dummy bullets. To change the figure, we must spiritually be running with empty freight cars.” Leonard Ravenhill

“I’m sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What’s supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can’t speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they’re talking football, or sports or something, or there’s going to be a big sale downtown somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity!” Leonard Ravenhil

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” A.W. Tozer

Those who long to see God move afresh in our churches do not need research to back up their disquiet with the current sad state of the church – they feel it in their bones. However, when research does come along which tells us what we already know, then at least we can appreciate the confirmation.

The Barna research group in America has just released what it calls the “Six Megathemes” which emerged in 2010. There is very little which is new or surprising here, but as I say, it does reinforce what concerned observers of the church have been saying all along.

Let’s look at some of these themes. The first one is this: “The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate”. Well, it certainly does not take a rocket scientist to know about this trend. It has been going on for decades now. I have written numerous articles bewailing this sad development.

The report says this, in part: “What used to be basic, universally-known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans – especially young adults. . . . The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency.”

It certainly is a theological free-for-all. Despite the numerous warnings in Scripture about not forsaking sound doctrine and solid teaching, and not allowing false teachers to wreak havoc, Christians of all stripes are today known for their theological illiteracy. And so-called Bible-believing evangelicals tend to be just as bad.

A second theme is that “Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented”. This too comes as no surprise. After all, it follows closely from the first major theme. If believers are not clear about some essential doctrines, such as the fact that we are all sinners heading to a lost eternity, and only repentance and faith in Christ can save us, then there will be little urgency in telling people the gospel.

Indeed, the good news of the gospel only makes sense if we first believe the bad news of the gospel, which includes the fact that we are all dead in our sins and stand under the wrath and judgment of God. If we have ceased to believe these basic truths, then there of course will be little sense of the importance of sharing our faith.

The fifth of his themes is also a no-brainer for those even remotely aware of where today’s church is at: “The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church”. Boy, you can say that again. The worldly notion of tolerance which says we are to judge nothing, condemn nothing, get upset about nothing, and worry about nothing has invaded the church big time.

The report says this: the Church “has become tolerant of a vast array of morally and spiritually dubious behaviors and philosophies. This increased leniency is made possible by the very limited accountability that occurs within the body of Christ. There are fewer and fewer issues that Christians believe churches should be dogmatic about. The idea of love has been redefined to mean the absence of conflict and confrontation, as if there are no moral absolutes that are worth fighting for.”

I have written time and time again how believers should have nothing to do with this politically correct understanding of tolerance which urges us to accept and embrace every idea, every teaching, every worldview, and every lifestyle. Amazingly so many believers think this is somehow what Jesus was all about – a mushy, sentimental wimp who accepted everyone just as they are and demanded no change whatsoever.

The sixth theme is also a winner: “The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible”. Yeah, you can say that again. And it follows especially from the first trend. If there is nothing really to believe in with all one’s might, then why even differentiate oneself from the world?

If our beliefs are at best just private, subjective preferences which are no worse or no better than any other person’s beliefs or religion, then of course we will keep our mouth shut, and of course we will have no influence on the surrounding culture.

To read the entire commentary, click here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wars and Rumors of Wars


By Robin G. Jordan

We have one more day left in 2010 and then 2011 begins. In the next 24 hours the events of the past year will be reviewed, and predictions and resolutions for the New Year will be made.

As far as bewailing the low points of the past year, I do not see what it accomplishes. Where mistakes were made, I can only hope that we have learned from them and will not repeat them.

As for celebrating the high points of the past year, I honestly cannot think of anything that I want to celebrate beyond the safe delivery of babies, the rescue of trapped miners, the recovery of the desperately ill, and that sort of thing. We should always take time to offer thanks to God for his providential care.

As far as making prognostications about the future, the practice of divination is prohibited in the Bible. Consulting the stars, spirits, or entrails is out. At most we can do is to discern trends and to consider where they may lead. This entails the use of logic and not the use of any form of divination. If A happens and B happens, then C is likely to happen. Of course, we may overlook a variable, and D or even E may happen. Human beings can be very predictable. They also can be very unpredictable.

A number of things we can definitely expect to happen in the New Year. They include war, and rumors of war, earthquakes floods, mudslides, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disaster and outbreaks of famine and disease. They are a part of the world in which we live. The question is not whether they will happen but where and how severe they will be and how effective we will be in responding to them. Human misery is something that will always be with us but that is no excuse for callousness and indifference to human suffering.

As for making New Year’s resolutions, I do not make New Year’s resolutions and I advise my readers not to make them. As Jesus said, let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no. If you have set your mind on doing good, do it. Do not “resolve” to do it. Just do it.

Knowing the ropes


Christmas is one of the busiest times of year for those who ring the bells before church services. Roger Ratcliffe talks to some ringers about the appeal of the bells.

There's a TV commercial in which four dark-cowled monks are piously ringing the bells at a remote hilltop abbey. They stop to eat a well-known chocolate bar, and the resulting rush of energy makes them ring so hard that the ropes pull them up and down inside the bell tower like yo-yos.

The advert has had many thousands of views on YouTube and causes particular amusement among real bellringers, since what they actually do depends not so much on strength – or munching energy bars – as on technique.

To read the full article, click here.

Campaign to repair famous Beccles church bells

For hundreds of years, the beautiful sound of the church bells in Beccles has pealed out across the marshlands of the Waveney Valley.

The 10 bells that hang in the church tower at St Michael’s were last re-hung a century ago, yet still produce a pure and joyful sound.

But the Beccles Company of Ringers has been advised by experts that work is necessary to preserve the bells in good order for another 100 years.

Over the past few months, the company has been fundraising in a bid to raise £40,000 to carry out repair works.

To read the full article,click here.

Oldest ring of bells played again

For the first time in almost 25 years, Ipswich is waking up to a unique medieval sound.

The Suffolk town's St Lawrence Church houses the oldest circle of church bells in the world.

The five bells have been silent since the 1980s, but now they are ringing out over the rooftops once again.

To read the full article and to see the BBC video of the ringing bells, click here.

The custom of ringing a bell or bells to call Christians to prayer dates from the early Middle Ages and was introduced by the Irish monks that evangelized a large part of the British Isles. In some parts of England in recent times secularists have objected to the practice and have sought to use noise abatement laws to suppress it. The custom is a part of our Anglican heritage and we should seek to preserve it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Small Church Primer: Strengths, Weaknesses, Worship, and Music in the Small-Membership Church


I recently attended a worship and music convocation attended by more than one thousand people from congregations of numerous denominations and all sizes. One of the classes in the program booklet that caught my attention was titled “The Gifts that Small Churches Bring to the Body.” The booklet described the workshop by saying, “Practical, accessible ideas for worship planning in small churches, along with reasons why small churches are so important for all of us.” There were no class handouts, and the format was a lively group discussion rather than lecture. It was moderated by a well-known music and worship person who is prominent in academic circles, assisted by a pastor and a layperson, both from churches with fewer than thirty in attendance on Sunday mornings. I took notes on the sixty-minute discussion and managed to get in a few music-related questions. I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of those in the group and with the depth and sincerity with which they shared their own strengths and weaknesses. As I looked over my notes, it occurred to me that there was much there to commend to musicians and worship planners in churches of all sizes.

Although this article largely deals with some of the problems and struggles of small churches, not all small churches, of course, are struggling. Not all the problems discussed affect all small churches. Some are places of dynamic and effective ministry, nurture, outreach, and disciple making. The intent of this article is to examine some of the problems encountered by small churches as discussed by small-church leaders and members in the class I attended.

To read the full article, click here.

Celebrating Christmas Throughout the Year


By Robin G. Jordan

How can we keep Christmas all year round, have the Christmas spirit every day of the year? How can we, like Ebenezer Scrooge, be a new man?

The first thing we can do is to be open to the Holy Spirit. The spirit of Christmas is ultimately the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit.

The second thing we can do is to feast and to make merry. If we think about it, Jesus spent a good part of his earthly ministry at banquets and weddings—at parties! His detractors called him a “glutton” and a “winebibber.” He shared the hospitality of others. In doing so, he conveyed to them through his actions that God cared about all people, not just the more religious members of Jewish society.

In the Mid-East 2000 years ago as in the Mid-East today accepting someone’s hospitality shows acceptance of the person whose hospitality one is accepting. When we accept the invitation of an unchurched friend, co-worker, neighbor, or relative to their home, we are emulating Jesus and showing our acceptance of them. We are taking an important step in a relationship that may lead to them coming to have a relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit works through our relationships to draw others into a relationship with God. Being a friend can indeed bring a friend to Jesus.

I am not suggesting that we use Jesus’ frequenting of banquets and weddings as a license for excessive eating and drunkenness, for the abuse of the hospitality of others. Eating together and having fun together, however, can help to cement relationships. It can also build community in a church and knit together a church family.

A third way that we can keep Christmas throughout the year is to spread Christmas cheer. Christmas cheer I suspect to many of us means hot spiced hard cider or hot Christmas punch, liberally spiked with whiskey, rum, or some other kind of “spirits,” or eggnog similarly spiked.

In the Bible “cheer” is used in the sense of to be in good spirits or to comfort or gladden. The Bible certainly countenances cheerfulness in those who trust in God. “Be of good cheer,” Jesus tells his disciples, “I have overcome the world.” As Christians we not only should seek to be cheerful but also to cheer others.

Cheerfulness is not an artificial cheeriness, a pretend geniality. Rather it is an upbeat frame of mind that takes bright views of life and chooses not to dwell upon life’s gloomier aspects.

A cheerful person has a sanguine disposition. He is habitually hopeful, expects things to go well, and usually has a word of encouragement for others. Other people are drawn by his optimistic attitude. His cheerfulness is infectious.

The cheerful Christian recognizes that God has his best interests at heart and takes comfort from this knowledge. No matter what happens to him in this life, nothing can separate him from the love of Christ.

The world has enough Puddleglums who take an overly serious view of life. What is need are more Barnabases who not only offer encouragement to their fellow Christians but also to those who do not yet know Christ. We need more Christians who are ready to answer those who asks for a reason for the hope that is in them and cheer those who ask with their answer.

A fourth thing that we can do to maintain a year-round spirit of Christmas is to be hospitable, to open our homes and to give a friendly and liberal reception to guests or strangers.

A fifth thing that we can do is to be a good friend and companion to others. We can take an interest in what is happening in their lives. We can make time for them. We can give them not only the gift of our time but also that of an attentive ear.

A sixth thing is to be generous. We share what little we have with others. We can be liberal and openhanded.

A seventh way is to be charitable toward others. This may include helping them when they need help. It may simply mean giving them the benefit of the doubt and not judging them too harshly. We are willing to forgive and not bear a grudge, to not hold past wrongs against them. It may also mean being firm and honest when firmness and honesty is what they need, speaking the truth in love.

These are not the only ways that we can have the Christmas spirit everyday. However, they are important ways. They will make us much more winsome Christians and stronger witnesses to the One whose birth we celebrate this time of year.

Resource Review: Missional Small Groups


As I started reading Missional Small Groups, my first impression was that it is not at all kitschy, catchy, or faddish. And I was so relieved!

After all, when it comes to Evangelical buzzwords, nothing gets more buzzy these days than "missional." (I think that word has been on the cover of more books this year than "leadership," if you can believe it!) For that reason, I figured it was only a matter of time before publishers began to connect the dots between small groups and the principles and ideas associated with the missional movement.

Really, it was inevitable that a book called Missional Small Groups would be published in 2010. Fortunately, thankfully, this book has been written by Scott Boren—a man who has been living, serving, and leading in missional ways long before the rest of us had any idea what "being missional" actually meant.

To read the entire resource review, click here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas


By Robin G. Jordan

Christmas is not just one day in the year but twelve. It may be the shortest season of the Church Year but it is with Easter the most important. During Christmastide we celebrate the nativity of our Saviour. During Eastertide we celebrate his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to the Father’s right hand side.

The Twelve Days of Christmas begin at sundown on Christmas Eve (December 24), First-night, the eve of December 25, or First-day, and conclude at sunset on Twelfth-day, the Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (January 6). They contain a number of feast days—Saint Stephen’s Day (December 26), Saint John the Evangelist Day (December 27), The Innocents’ Day (December 28), and the Circumcision of Christ (January 1) in addition to Christmas Day (December 25) and the Epiphany (January 6). Twelfth-night, the eve (January 5) of Twelfth-day was formerly celebrated with games and feasting. Scots celebrate Hogmanay, which falls on the last day of the year. It is one of the “Daft Days” as the Twelve Days of Christmas were sometimes called in Scotland. The celebration lasts through the night and well into the next day. In Scotland Hogmanay and Ne’erday celebrations eclipse Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in popularity. For 400 years the Kirk, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, discouraged the celebration of Christmas.

In South Louisiana where I lived and worked for many years, the Epiphany marks the beginning of the Carnival season, which climaxes on Mardi Gras Day, or Fat Tuesday. Anglicans outside of South Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast know the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. They sensibly spend the day gorging on pancakes, pork sausage, ham, and other culinary delights rather than overindulging in alcoholic beverages and scuffling in the gutter for beads, doubloons, and other trinkets that inebriated float-riders toss to the crowds along the Mardi Gras parade routes.

In South Louisiana it is traditional to celebrate the Epiphany with a King Cake, which is actually a kind of sweet bread. It may be stuffed with a variety of fillings and is usually decorated with brightly colored sugar or glaze in the colors of Carnival—purple, green, and gold. The ubiquitous plastic baby that was once found in every King Cake is now omitted as a choking hazard. Whoever found the baby in his piece of King Cake was expected to buy the next King Cake. (Before the invention of plastic a silver coin or a bean was used.) A King Cake is just one of a number of ways of celebrating the Epiphany.

Nowadays few churches have an Epiphany Service. Celebrating this feast day has fallen into desuetude. However, if the congregation is game, a candle-light Epiphany Service with a children’s procession, Epiphany carols, and the burning of the greens afterwards is a fitting conclusion to the Twelve Days of Christmas. The children wear crowns and robes and bear gifts and walk in procession to the crèche, led by a child holding a long pole with a star on top of it.

My mother’s parish, my old home parish, celebrated the Epiphany with a candle-light Epiphany Service one year when my nieces were girls. Parishioners brought their Christmas trees and we made a bonfire with them in the parking lot after the service. We warmed ourselves around the bonfire, drinking hot chocolate and munching happily on slices of King Cake. Celebrations of this kind foster a sense of community in a church. They not only bring church members and regular attenders together but they provide a church activity to which they can invite unchurched friends and which their unchurched friends might enjoy.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Not as I Will


By Robin G. Jordan

We had a white Christmas here in Murray. Snow fell on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. It was my first white Christmas since I relocated to western Kentucky. By the afternoon the snow was melting and the birds were singing as if it was spring thaw. I could not help but think of the breaking of the White Witch’s spell, the coming of Father Christmas and the arrival of spring in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan was on the move.

While winter has only begun here in western Kentucky and more cold snowy days lie ahead, Aslan is on the move. The Holy Spirit is at work in the Jackson Purchase, across the United States, and throughout the world. God is a God with a mission and He is about that mission. He is drawing people to himself. He is quickening them to new life. He is arming them for the fray, for the struggle against powers and principalities, against the forces of darkness. He is coming to their aid in the thick of battle.

All these motifs are found in C. S. Lewis’ story—the gathering of the Narnians at the Stone Table, at what would become Aslan’s How; the Pevensies’ journey to meet him; Aslan’s breathing on the Narnians that the White Witch has turned to stone; the gifts that Father Christmas gives Peter, Susan, and Lucy; Aslan’s arrival with the freed Narnians at the first Battle of Beruna and the death of the White Witch. C. S. Lewis said the Narnia stories came to him as a series of images. He stopped writing the stories when the images stopped. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was published in 1950; The Last Battle, in 1956; Lewis died in 1963—seven years later.

When God quickened us to new life, it was to join him on His mission. He wakened us to serve Him. He breathed upon us to do battle—with the evil within ourselves and with the evil in the world. It was not so that we could live comfortable, safe lives. It was so that we could be fellow workers with God, as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 3:9. Each of us is called to do his or her part, in erecting God’s building, His Church.

How you may ask is erecting God’s Church doing battle with evil? Each new member of God’s Church represents a captive freed from Satan’s kingdom. Like Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, they have been delivered from the power of the ruler of this world at a price. God himself has paid that price. It is God who is transferring them from Satan’s kingdom into his own. Yet at the same time God does work through us to achieve His purposes. He calls us to confront evil where we find it, whether within ourselves or in the world. He calls us to be watchmen on the wall warning others of approaching danger—danger not only to their bodies but also to their souls. He calls us to both proclaim the good news and to be the good news.

In barely a week we will be beginning a new year. The close of the old year has been marked by violence and bloodshed in Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Satan seeks to keep a firm hold on his kingdom. Where he can he seeks to advance it. We can expect more violence and bloodshed in the New Year. For Satan takes advantage of the evil in men’s hearts and urges them on to greater evil.

Yet we must not shrink from the fight. We must carry on the battle in this land and aid and support other Christians in their struggle in the lands where they are sojourning. We must like the prophet Isaiah say, “Here I am; send me,” when we hear the voice of the Lord say, “Whom shall I send. Whom shall go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) We must not like the reluctant Jonah flee from the tasks that God calls us to undertake. God may bid us to open our homes to strangers and to host a home Bible study group through which they may come to know him. He may call us to join the nucleus of a new congregation and pioneer a new church. He may say to us that we are needed on a medical mission team going to a Third World country or that the money we spend on entertainment is needed to purchase medical supplies and equipment. He may call us to undertake more challenging and more difficult tasks for Him.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” (Luke 11:2). In the garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “…not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew: 26:29) May our prayer this day and in coming days be the same. Then let us rise from our knees and go about the task that God has entrusted to us.

Here I Am, Lord


A song I introduced to my former parish in the 1980s was David Schutte's "Here I Am, Lord. We often sang it at the conclusion of communion or the conclusion of the service. It was a great song to send the people of God back into the world to serve God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Since that time the song has become a standard in many Protestant and Catholic hymnals.

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.

Chorus
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Chorus
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.

Chorus
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?

Chorus
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will send the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.

Chorus
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

Finest bread I will provide,
'Til their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

Chorus
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

Click here for Celebrant Singers' rendition of "Here I Am, Lord."

Click here for the Church of the Redeemer (Episcopal) Morristown's Chancel Choir's rendition of the same song.

The Feast of Saint Stephen the First Martyr


Grant, O Lord, that in our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and being filled with thy Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Five Significant Facts about Church and First–Time Guests


I found this Online Pulpit Article posted on VirtueOnline. It caught my attention and I decided to post it on Anglicans Ablaze. I am also posting a related article from the same web site, The Online Pulpit.

Healthy and growing churches pay close attention not only to their members but also to those who are not yet a part of the flock. New people are the lifeblood of a growing church. We want to ensure that nothing impairs or cuts off the flow of new people to the church.

Pastors need to be aware of five significant facts about first-time guests looking for a church home.

To read the full article, click here.

New Kids on the Block

It is a strange feeling. After years of being a pastor, my husband and I are back in the pew, and a strange pew at that. Let me tell you, it's no fun being the new kids on the block as we show up at a strange church on Sunday morning. It's lonely not seeing friends' faces in the crowd of worshipers, and not being familiar with a church family's unique habits and customs. It is so intimidating, as a matter of fact, that every Sunday we have to make a deliberate decision to attend church, and to keep trying to fit in and find our niche in a new place.

Our search for a new church home has opened our eyes to how important it is for a church to have a deliberate plan to welcome visitors. We pastors know this stuff, of course. I don't think any pastor would argue about the importance of that first ten minutes for a newcomer. The first impressions visitors have of a church and a facility often determine whether they come back again next week.

To read the full article, click here.

A Christmas Message


By Robin G. Jordan

I began writing this message at little past 2 o’clock on Christmas morning. I had wanted to write a Christmas message to post on Anglicans Ablaze. But I fell asleep early in the evening and did not wake up until almost midnight. I had a late night supper and read a chapter or two from Terry Pratchett’s I Shall Wear Midnight. I am partial to Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching adventures, Witches Abroad, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith. Tiffany does not appear in Witches Abroad but a number of the characters that later appear in her adventures do. I have not read Wyrd Sisters. Its title suggests that it belongs with the other books I have listed.

“Poison goes where poison’s welcome,” Tiffany says at one point in the story. We live in a world in which there seems to be an awful lot of poison. I can think of other names for it—animosity, bitterness, hatred, ill will, maliciousness, meanness, nastiness, rancour, and spite, but poison seems to describe it best. In my lifetime it seems that the world has become filled with even more poison.

Maybe the poison was always present but the older I get, the more I notice it around me and the more I discover it in myself. It is something that I do not like to find in myself. It is something that when I find it, I seek to dig it up root and all and not let it flourish and grow as some people unfortunately do. It does not require much bidding to enter our lives and quickly takes root. Its roots are long and tangled and eradicating it from the heart is hard work. Thankfully God has given us His Spirit to be our helper. Without the Holy Spirit we could accomplish nothing. We would not even have the will to do so.

We celebrate Christmas in the early winter, a few days after the winter equinox. Christmas was in centuries past especially a time of generosity and kindness to the poor. Despite the increasing scarcity of food due to the onset of winter, men could make merry with whatever provisions they had stored to tide them through the winter and could be generous and kind to those less fortunate than themselves. The Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas” celebrates such generosity and kindness.

Christmas was not just a celebration of the birth of our Saviour but also a celebration of God’s generosity and kindness to us. It was only fitting that we should be generous and kind ourselves to those around us. Nowadays, I fear that we largely reserve that generosity and kindness to family and friends, to those closest to us.

Among the things that Jesus taught during the three short years that he ministered among us was that his disciples, those who took him as their lord and teacher, should be generous and kind to others. They should be merciful and forgiving as well as open-handed and gentle. There is, of course, more to Jesus than his teaching. But for those who call themselves his followers one way that they show their faith in him is in their obedience to what he taught. They abide in his words.

The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines mercy as “abstention from the infliction of suffering on the part of one who has the right or power to inflict it, spare; capacity or disposition to mercy….” The Pocket Oxford defines merciful as “disposed to mercy, showing mercy….” We often find ourselves in a position to inflict suffering upon others even though we may not have the right. Jesus teaches that we should refrain from doing so.

Jesus also teaches that we should forgive others when they wrong us. We should pardon them, abstain from punishing them, and not hold the wrong against them. We should not bear a grudge or keeping bring up past wrongs. Jesus, I suspect, recognized the human tendency to take umbrage, to believe oneself wronged even when there has been no wrongdoing. We need to forgive the imagined wrongs as well as real ones.

Jesus calls those who follow him to not only be generous with money and material things but also with our mercy and our forgiveness. God was not unsparing in his generosity in sending His Son that the world might be saved through him. We likewise must not stint with our generosity in being merciful and forgiving to others. In doing so, we say to the poison, “You are not welcome here.” “There is no room here for you.”

Jesus spoke of God’s kingdom, His righteous rule, being both in the present, the here and now, and in the future. When we put our trust in Jesus and his atoning death on the cross for our salvation, when we put our trust in his words and seek to live them, we have stepped as if through a door into God’s kingdom. God is now reigning in our hearts and wherever he reigns is His kingdom.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Children of Green Knowe


I discovered the books of Lucy M. Boston late in life. Ms. Boston herself did not have her first book published until she was over 60. She is best known for her Green Knowe books. BBC adapted The Children of Green Knowe for TV and showed the story in four parts in 1986. Tolly’s great grandmother, Mrs. Oldland, invites him to her home, Green Knowe, for the Christmas holidays. Tolly has never met his great grandmother or visited Green Knowe before. At Green Knowe Tolly encounters and befriends the spirits of three children, Toby, Alexander, and Linnet, who lived at Green Knowe during the reign of Charles II and died in the Great Plague of 1665.



The Children of Green Knowe is a delightful story, and is not only suitable for viewing on Christmas Day or during the Christmas season but all year round.

If you have a child or grand child who loves to read, I definitely recommend Ms. Boston’s Green Knowe books and her other works of children's fiction. I have read as many of her books as I have been able to lay my hands on. I suspect that other adults would enjoy reading them too.

Remembrances of Christmases Past


By Robin G. Jordan

I have listed some of my favorite Christmas carols, ten in all. Please take note that I have put “some” in italics. I like many, many more Christmas carols than those that I have listed.

On Christmas Night All Christians Sing
Love Came Down at Christmas
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Sing We Now of Christmas
The Holy and the Ivy
I Saw Three Ships
The Cherry Tree Carol
It Came upon a Midnight Clear
What Child Is This
Wexford Carol

When it comes to the celebration of Christmas I am by choice a traditionalist. I do not decorate my house for the Twelve Days of Christmas until Christmas Eve Day. The exception is the two wreathes of holly and ivy that hang in my living room year round. Each wreath is tied with a large red bow.

The holly and the ivy are artificial. I do not believe in injuring or killing living things like a holly bush or ivy plants just to decorate my house. Some folks may regard it as a conceit or eccentricism on my part but the older I become, the less concerned I am about what other people think since I have learned some folks will think the worst of you no matter what. They are apt to conclude from the flimsiest of evidence that you are a bad sort and they are not going to change their minds. They can now despise you and feel no guilt or remorse for their contempt. Jesus warned about setting ourselves up as the judge of other people and pronouncing judgment upon them but I fear that we do not pay much attention to his warning. We are of our own nature so inclined to evil that we all are prone to look around us for someone whom we can feel free to despise.

In my childhood in England the Christmas tree was shut away in the parlor, or front room. My brother and I did not see the tree until Christmas morning when the parlor door was thrown open. We seldom went into the parlor at other times. My grandfather had his upright piano in the parlor and would play Christmas carols. One of the older family members would then hand out the Christmas presents. I remember making paper chains to decorate the parlor.

As a boy I always thought that the best gifts came from my aunt, my mother’s younger sister, in the United States. She would send my brother and I things like cowboy cap pistols and holster sets and Saber jets that you shot into the air with a rubber band and which actually flew! My grandparents and mother’s gifts were more practicable—books and that sort of thing—and less memorable.

On Christmas morning my brother and I woke up to one of my mother’s nylon stockings stuffed with oranges, nuts, pencil boxes, colored pencils, pencil sharpeners, pink sugar mice, “gelt,” chocolate coins wrapped in gold tinfoil, and various small gifts or trinkets, laid at the foot of our beds.

My grandmother and mother baked a Christmas cake, a large round fruitcake iced with marzipan and decorated to look like a snow scene with miniature snowmen, silver balls, and gumdrops. Other Christmas treats to which we looked forward were sausage rolls, mincemeat pies, and jam tarts. My grandfather made his famous vinegar toffee. It was so hard it took a hammer to break it into pieces.

Christmas dinner might have been roast goose. Or roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Dessert was Christmas pudding with brandy drizzled over it and set on fire. The Christmas cake was not cut until teatime.

We observed all Twelve Days of Christmas and did not take down the tree until Twelfth Night. Only then did we remove the Christmas cards from the fireplace mantle in the parlor.

Until I moved to western Kentucky, it was my habit to attend the late night Christmas Eve Service at Christ Church in Covington, Louisiana. My mother sung in the chancel choir for well over twenty-five years. Christmas Eve was one of those rare occasions incense was used at Christ Church and then pure frankincense. The Christmas Eve service began with a solemn procession and the censing of the nave. The singing of Christmas carols preceded the service. The first year my mother and I brought my oldest grandnephew to the Christmas Eve service, he joined his grandmother in the solemn procession.

In England we would cross the dark, snow-covered common on Christmas Eve to the brightly lit village church. I do not remember the service—only the cold walk across the common and the light streaming from the church windows and the open church door. The village had an annual Christmas party for the villagers and their children and grandchildren. The village hall was decorated for the occasion. There was a pantomime and Father Christmas with a great sack filled willed with gifts. Each child was invited to reach into the sack and take a gift. Mine was a Little Grey Rabbit book. There were oranges and other treats. To this day I associate Christmas with oranges—oranges, nuts, and chocolate. Christmas was not just a family celebration. It was very much a community celebration.

The church with which I am sojourning here in western Kentucky does not have a Christmas Eve Service. In fact it does not meet over the Christmas-New Year’s break—on the two Sundays closest to Christmas and New Year’s. The university is closed. The Baptist Campus Ministry building is also closed. A large part of the congregation is out of town. Most of the students have gone home to their families for Christmas and New Year’s.

For Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and two Sundays I am churchless. In the past four years I have attended the Christmas Eve Services and Christmas Day Services of two of the Episcopal churches and one of the Continuing church in the region. The clergy of the Episcopal Dioceses of Kentucky and West Tennessee are liberal which is quite apparent from their sermons. Scruples prevent me from receiving communion in their churches. The priest of the Continuing church supplements the Communion Service of the 1928 Prayer Book with additions from the American Missal. I prefer the simpler Prayer Book services of my youth.

This time of the year I think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have an Anglican church in the region that celebrated Christmas the way I would like to see a church celebrate the season?” I think of the story that lies behind the founding of the Village Church, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod parish church, in Lacombe, Louisiana. A little girl and her family attended the candlelight Christmas Eve Service at another Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod parish church in the region. The parents were talking with the pastor after the service when the little girl told the pastor in her innocent childish way how wonderful the service had been and how regrettable it was that the town where she lived did not have a church that had a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. The Holy Spirit spoke to the pastor’s heart through the words of the child and he began to hold a Bible study and then services in the town where she lived.

I am then forced to ask myself, “Are there any people beside yourself who is interested in starting a new Anglican church in this part of western Kentucky?” I have not run across anyone so far. I met one woman who was driving two hours every Sunday to an Anglican church in Jackson, Tennessee. She, however, was not interested in pioneering a church closer to her home. She was happy with the church that she was attending. She had friends at the church and a place in its life. Of course, I have not made a concerted effort to see if there is any interest in the community, in part because I do not want to face the disappointment of a poor showing at a public interest meeting.

I was a member of the core group and launch team of an Anglican Mission church that was stillborn. My own efforts to interest members of my home Bible study group in starting an Anglican Mission fellowship prior to this experience had been unsuccessful. The Anglican Mission pastor who had tried to start a new church in my community did not react positively to my request for the prayers of his new church preparatory to undertaking further church planting efforts of my own. He refused point blank to pass on my request to his church, stating that I did not have the talents or gifts requisite for a church planter. In his estimation I was “a romantic dreamer.” His observations, while not ill intentioned, have had the effect of a witch’s curse. My subsequent efforts to gather the nucleus of a new congregation were cut short before they were even underway and I had an opportunity to put his appraisal of me to the test. The cost of living for a retiree skyrocketed in the area after Hurricane Katrina and I after some soul-searching moved to an area with a lower cost of living.

Other factors that make me hesitant to do anything include the self-doubt that has haunted me since then. My survey of the region suggests that it is a far from ideal location for a liturgical church, much less a traditional liturgical church. While I have good deal of experience and have acquired more than the equivalent of a seminary education through independent study, Anglicans and Episcopalians set greater store in seminary diplomas and ordination certificates. A pastor may be a complete fool but as long as he has these documents, they are going to trust him more than they do a self-taught albeit experienced layperson.

There is the problem of affiliation. While it is not impossible to operate as an independent Anglican church, it is not easy nor may it be desirable. There will be pressure within the church and even from without it to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America, the Anglican Mission, or another jurisdiction. Developments in a number of existing Anglican ecclesiastical bodies in North America do not make them very attractive options when one considers prospective jurisdictions with which a church might affiliate.

There is also the question of call. A call has both inner and outer dimensions. An inner call is the compelling sense that that God has chosen a particular work for a Christian to undertake—for example, serve as a pastor-teacher of churches in North America, go as a missionary to a people group in a remote corner of the planet, and so on. An outer call involves the recognition of the inner call by others. The Anglican Church has historically given a particular emphasis to outer call. While a man may feel a strong compulsion to undertake a particular work, he cannot simply undertake that work. Article XXIII states:

It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching or ministering the sacraments in the congregation, before he is lawfully called and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which are chosen and called to this work by men who have public authority given unto them in the congregation to call and send ministers into the Lord's vineyard.

His inner call must be recognized by those who have been given public authority in the congregation to call and send ministers into the Lord’s vineyard, and they must lawfully call and send him to undertake the work to which he believes himself called by God.

I have aspirations. The question, however, is whether they are God’s doing or the imaginings of my own heart, which has the Scriptures tell us is extremely deceitful. We are quite capable of misleading ourselves. Once one becomes infected with self-doubt, it also interferes with one’s ability to discern a true call. It can even blind one to that call. One comes to distrust one’s discernment not only in that particular area of one’s life but other areas too.

While sugar plums dance in the heads of small children on Christmas Eve and children’s eyes sparkle as they see the packages piled high under the tree on Christmas morning and living rooms are filled with cries of their delight, I will be wrestling with these issues as I have at Christmas time for several years now.

The merriest of Christmases and the happiest, most blessed, and most prosperous of New Years to you all. May God fill your lives with an abundance of his blessings this Christmastide and in the New Year.

Your brother in Christ and fellow journeyer in the Way,

Robin G. Jordan

Be Doers Who Act, Not Hearers Who Forget


By Robin G. Jordan

But let every man be quick in hearing, slow in words, slow to get angry; For the righteousness of God does not come about by the wrath of man.

For this reason, putting away all dirty behaviour and the overweight of evil, take into your souls without pride the word which, being planted there, is able to give you salvation. But be doers of the word, and not only hearers of it, blinding yourselves with false ideas. Because if any man is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a glass; For after looking at himself he goes away, and in a short time he has no memory of what he was like. But he who goes on looking into the true law which makes him free, being not a hearer without memory but a doer putting it into effect, this man will have a blessing on his acts.

If a man seems to have religion and has no control over his tongue but lets himself be tricked by what is false, this man's religion is of no value. James 1:19-26 Bible in Basic English

In his epistle James, Jesus’ older brother, urges us to be attentive to what others says and careful in what we say. He warns us against being short-tempered. Giving play to our anger, he reminds us, will not help us grow in godliness.

James goes on to stress the importance of being doers of the word. James tells us that a man’s religion, if it does not help him to grow in discernment and in self-control, if it does not influence his thinking and his behavior, it is worthless.

How many of us, I wonder, take James’ words with the seriousness that they deserve? How many of us go to church on Sunday, listen to the readings, the sermon, take to heart what we hear, and apply it to our lives? How many of us do the same thing with the hymns, the anthem, and the prayers when they echo the Scriptures? How many of us are truly doers of the word, putting it into effect?

Let us not be content as some are to go to church every Sunday and take communion, chat with friends, and then go home to live lives during the week, which are no different from their neighbors who never set foot in a church. They allow the word to fade from their minds like the memory of a dream. They may believe that the Holy Communion is transforming them yet we see no evidence of any transformation in their lives. We find no support for their belief in holy Scripture.

Let us seek to be doers of the word for in doing the word our lives do undergo a transformation. God reveals himself at work in us for He is the cause of our desires and our acts, for his good pleasure. Our behavior does credit to the good news of Jesus Christ.

We can do a number of things to be doers of the word. We can jot down the key points of the sermon on the back of our service bulletin or in a small notebook. We can take home our service bulletin and look up the readings during the week, mediate upon them, practice the principles discernable in them, live by the truths revealed in them. We can do likewise with our sermon notes. We can meet with a small group of other Christians and share with each other what we are doing and to offer each other encouragement and support. We can devote a part of our day to the reading and study of the word with a view to applying what we learn. We can memorize the more pithy sayings and shape our lives according to what they teach.

Being a doer of the word is not something that we can do in our own natural strength. It requires the grace of the Holy Spirit. To this end we must make our own the prayer that the bishop said at our confirmation, as he laid his hand upon our head as a mark of goodwill and concern.

Defend, O Lord, this thy Servant with thy heavenly grace, that I may continue thine for ever; and daily increase in thy holy Spirit more and more, until I come unto thy everlasting kingdom. Amen.

Those who are doers of the word are blessed in the doing. They are especially blessed in the knowledge that what they are doing is pleasing to their Lord. They show themselves to truly be his disciples, those who in truth love him.

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." John 14:21 English Standard Version

Those who are doers of the word have a part and a place in the kingdom of God. They are numbered among the saints and are of the family of God.

Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You." But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it." Luke 8:19-21 New King James Version

God is building doers of the word into his sanctuary. He is uniting them together as his dwelling place. He is making them a people given completely up to Him to make clear the virtues of Him who brought them out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Contentment


A few years ago, a survey found Britons were less happy than in the 1950s – despite the fact that we are three times richer. The proportion of people saying they were “very happy” had fallen from 52% in 1957 to just 36%.1 Whether or not money can buy you love, it seems it cannot buy you happiness.

All around us we see a society that is deeply dissatisfied and obsessed with getting ahead; whether it’s the next career move, making home improvements or pushing our children to do well at school. And Christians (both as individuals and as churches) are not immune from this. Why is it that we are so quick to grumble about our leaders when we do not like the style of preaching, rather than being grateful for the man the Lord has sent to minister to us? And when things go wrong why is our first thought: ‘Lord that’s not fair!’ rather than being thankful that things are not worse?

Of course, there are some things Scripture would urge us not to be content about, for example, our sin and our knowledge of Christ (Phil 3.12-16), and we should not be negligent in using our God-given gifts and abilities (Mtt 25). Nor should we not try to improve our circumstances if God gives us opportunity (1 Cor 7.21). But in the areas of prosperity and the circumstances of our lives, many of us do suffer from discontentment. The aim of this article is to convince you that being content is
actually a good thing; and not a second best for those who are not as successful as they want in this world. After all, the apostle Paul regarded contentment rather highly (1 Tim 6.6).

In our frustration with our lack of contentment, we may be tempted to think that contentment is something you can do nothing about (‘I’m just not a contented person!’), or that we must simply wait for the Holy Spirit to grant us contentment. We are in danger of forgetting how Paul describes his own experience. In Philippians, writing from prison he writes, ‘Not that I am speaking of being
in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
’ (Phil 4.11). Clearly Paul thought contentment is something that must be learnt.

To help us learn contentment, we will be taking a short lesson from the book ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’, by the puritan Jeremiah Burroughs.

To read the full Cross+Way article, click here.

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols


A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is the Christmas Eve service held in King's College Chapel. The Festival was introduced in 1918 to bring a more imaginative approach to worship. It was first broadcast in 1928 and is now broadcast to millions of people around the world.

The service includes carols and readings from the Bible. The opening carol is always 'Once in Royal David's City', and there is always a new, specially commissioned carol.

To read more, including broadcast details, click here.

Click here for American Public Media Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols website.

In western Kentucky the King's College Festival of Lessons and Carols will be broadcast by 91.3 WKMS FM at 9:00 AM CT from its studio on the campus of the Murray State University. Listening to the BBC/APM broadcast of the festival is a wonderful Christmas Eve tradition. Don't miss it! WKMS is on the Internet. Click here to hear WKMS HD-1 and HD-2.

How to welcome newcomers


A great video training tool for welcomers shows why we should sharing our resources with the global church.

This weekend our churches will welcome thousands of newcomers.

The Director of Hospitality at Birmingham Cathedral shares 10 tips on welcoming people to church....

The accessibility of video means that this resource is very easy to share, not just for the people who ‘do welcoming’ at Birmingham Cathedral, but Christians at churches around the world. Thanks Steve Fogg for bringing this video to my, and now your attention.

To read the full article and to view the video, click here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

How to Find Your Next Apprentice


For some small-group leaders, finding an apprentice is about as difficult as walking around the block. They automatically think of that individual or couple in their group who has been blessing the socks off the rest of the group members—encouraging people, praying diligently for the group, volunteering to lead discussions, and making the best apple pie north of the Rio Grande. They are easy to tab as future leaders because they stand out so clearly within the group.

But if that doesn't sound like your situation, don't worry. Small groups that have an obvious choice for an apprentice leader are the exception, not the rule. It's much more common for a group to contain a leader who does almost all of the work, and then a collection of group members who always receive and rarely give.

In those cases, we often don't know where to begin when it comes selecting someone as a potential apprentice leader. And that's okay. In fact, it's an opportunity to help one or more of your members experience significant spiritual growth—and an opportunity for you to grow, as well.

The following steps will help you navigate through the process.

To read more, click here.

Many skip Christmas' religious aspect


Christmas 2010 is a whole lotta jingle and not so much Jesus.

Two new surveys find more than nine in 10 Americans celebrate the holiday — even if they're atheists, agnostics or believers in non-Christian faiths such as Judaism and Islam.

A closer look at Christmas activities reveals what may be the first measurement of an "alarming" gap between belief and behavior, says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian research organization
.
To read more, click here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ordinariate Watch: Why the Ordinariate Is Not for Me


I am a cradle Anglican, baptised in to the Church when I was three months old, and confirmed at the age of thirteen. Since then I have been a regular churchgoer and communicant for nearly all my life. I say these things, not because I am any better than anyone else - churchgoer or not - but because I want to set in context where I stand over the mess that the C. of E. has got itself into in the last twenty or thirty years.

Those of us, committed church people, who have given any serious thought to the direction in which the C. of E. has moved in the last few years, took for granted the claims of its leaders that it was above all a reformed yet catholic church. After the Reformation it had shed all the medieval excesses that had been accumulated, for instance the sale of indulgences or the use of false images to hoodwink unlettered believers.

We were able to belong to the Church, at one with the explicit claim made by Geoffrey Fisher, archbishop of Canterbury, that the Church of England held no doctrines of its own, only those of the Early Church. All the excess doctrinal baggage accrued by the Western church since those ancient times had been stripped out and dispensed with in the sixteenth century. When it came to determining what biblical knowledge was needed to know in order to achieve Salvation, the Anglican formularies, laid down in the Thirty Nine Articles, were perfectly explicit. They stated that "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to Salvation". The full message was in the Bible.

In going to church week by week, we enjoyed the norms of worship offered up to God in the incomparable words of the Authorised Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. So many of the words of the lessons, collects and other prayers, psalms and canticles were taken from Holy Scripture that our familiarity with them reinforced our belief that our worship was indeed centred on God's written Word.

In the tempestuous period of over a hundred years lasting from the accession of Elizabeth I to the restoration of the monarchy, the leaders of the Church withstood the considerable pressures applied to it by Puritans, Calvinists, Presbyterians and the like. Though the struggle to reform the ministry was a close run thing at times, the leaders of the Church successfully held on to the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons after the Reformation. Until a generation ago, we would have taken it for granted that this ministry, limited to men, was the normal way in which the Church was structured.

The immediate post-war generation to which I belong, was therefore comfortable with a Church of England that had purged itself of erroneous accumulated medieval doctrines, had reverted to observing without addition the doctrines of the Early Church based on biblical precepts, had adopted norms of public worship largely using God's written Word, expressed in the incomparable King James' Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, and had retained the existing episcopal ministry to maintain continuity with the pre-Reformation church.

I want to pass without comment over the events of the last thirty or so years that have brought us to the sorry state that the C. of E. is now in and to consider the ordinariate that is to be set up in England and, possibly, Wales.

To read more, click here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ordinariate Watch: Targeting the Most Vulnerable


By Robin G. Jordan

The content of a number of Catholic articles since the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus and the Complimentary Norms for the Apostolic Constitution raises again the question that was raised when the proposal of an Apostolic Constitution for Anglo-Catholics was first announced: Was Pope Benedict exploiting the troubles of the Anglican Church with his proposal? One hears numerous voices urging Anglo-Catholics and other Anglicans to desert the Anglican Church and become Roman Catholics. The Pope and the Roman Catholic Church are portrayed as the defender of traditional values. The Anglican Church is described as infected with liberalism and bereft of leadership. The Roman Catholic Church’s propaganda machine appears to have gone into full gear.

Whom are they seeking to proselytize? At least four groups can be identified as natural targets for proselytization. The first group is composed of the modern-day adherents of what is called the “Romeward movement” in A Protestant Dictionary, compiled for members of the Church of England and published in 1904. The Romeward movement began with the nineteenth century Oxford Tractarians. Its aim was to Romanize the Church of England to the point that the Pope would accept the English Church back in the Roman fold. This group includes a group of clergy who are known as the “Anglo-Papists.” This group of clergy is sympathetic to Roman Catholicism but chose to remain in the Church of England and other Anglican provinces for the purpose of converting their flocks to Roman Catholicism so that when they crossed the Tiber, their congregations would follow them. The Romeward movement’s modern-day adherents practice auricular confession, benediction and other forms of eucharistic adoration, novenas, and other Roman innovations. They pray to the Virgin Mary and the other saints and wear medallions and scapulas. They believe in the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception, purgatory, the sacrifice of the Mass and sacrifices of Masses, and transubstantiation. They decorate their churches with statues, holy water fonts, crucifixes, and banks of votive candles. They may call themselves “Anglicans” or “Anglo-Catholics” but in reality they are Roman Catholics in all but name. They need little or no proselytizing as their clergy has already converted them to Roman Catholicism. This group is largely found in Australia and the United Kingdom but it is also represented in Canada and the United States.

The second group consists of what are sometimes described as “traditionalists.” They prefer a traditional liturgy like the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and a ritualistic High Church style of worship with candles; processions; vestments; organ music; bowing; kneeling; making the sign of the cross, turning to the east, and other ceremonial. They might be described as “Prayer Book Catholics.” They are confused and alarmed over developments within the Anglican Church, particularly the adoption of new liturgies and the ordination of homosexuals and women. They are not particularly drawn to the Roman Catholic Church and would likely not be happy in that church. But if their clergy defect to the Roman Catholic Church, they have little choice but join them. They have few if any viable alternatives.

The third group is composed of former evangelicals and Pentecostals who are attracted to ancient forms of worship, ritualism, sacramentalism, and sacerdotalism. They have a romantic, uncritical view of the past that has led them to adopt the doctrines and practices of the early and Medieval Church not consonant with Scripture. Their sojourn in the Anglican Church is one leg of a journey that is likely to take them into Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism.

The fourth group consists social conservatives upset with the liberal drift of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. The attraction of the Roman Catholic Church is its perceived conservatism. This group is not particularly Catholic in doctrine but has become accustomed to the sacramentalism that has come to characterize the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church since the introduction of the new liturgies, and has acquired a localized, realist view of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.

The denomination that these groups are being urged to join is beset by problems of its own. Shifting demographics have played havoc with the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. It has seen a decline in vocations and a drop in revenues. It has also seen an increase in the number of lapsed Roman Catholics and conversions of Roman Catholics to other faiths. In some part of the United States churches and parochial schools have been consolidated or closed. Religious communities have been dissolved. The Roman Catholic Church has also been torn by scandal related to the failure of the US hierarchy to protect Roman Catholic children from sexually predatory Roman Catholic priests. Episcopalians who joined the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the Gene Robinson consecration found their local Roman Catholic parish more liberal than the Episcopal parish that they left.

The Roman Catholic Church has not changed greatly since the time of the Protestant Reformation. The problems that existed at that time and which prompted the Reformation have not been remedied. While claiming to be the only true apostolic church, the Roman Catholic Church long ago abandoned the teaching of the apostles. Since the Reformation the Roman Catholic Church has introduced new innovations to further overlay and deface the primitive faith—the doctrine of papal infallibility, for example. There is a growing movement in the Roman Catholic Church to make the Virgin Mary co-redemptrix with Christ.

The Roman Catholic Church is a much more hierarchical church than the Anglican Church. In the Anglican Church the laity share in the governance of the church at all levels but not in the Roman Catholic Church. The laity at most has a fairly limited consultative role. Laypersons and even clergy seeking redress for grievances are faced with a massive bureaucracy dedicated to protecting the church and promoting its interests.

Those who accept the papal offer further weaken the position of Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Church who do not seek admission to the Roman Catholic Church. They strengthen the position of the liberals. Their conversion to Roman Catholicism may also alienate family and friends. They also have no guarantee that when they join the Roman Catholic Church as a congregation, they will continue to maintain their existence as a congregation. Clergy have no guarantee that they will be reordained. For married clergy with families the allowances of priests in the Roman Catholic Church are much lower than the stipends of priests in the Anglican Church. The Roman Catholic clergy deployment system favors celibate priests. They receive the choice assignments. Married priests are assigned to less desirable positions.

The Roman Catholic Church has a seamy underside. The revelations of the past ten years have exposed only the tip of the iceberg. In the 1960s it was well known that a number of the young men attending a local Roman Catholic seminary in the area where I lived were gay. In the 1970s local Roman Catholic priests were marrying gay couples. Members of a supposed “Institute of the Consecrated Life” were entertaining young gay men in the parlor of their residence. I knew a young women whose parish priest told her that fornication was not a sin if she loved the man and the man loved her. There was a very lax attitude toward “sins of the flesh” in certain quarters of the Roman Catholic Church. To this author these revelations were no surprise. Those who have been reading Bishop John Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae will note that this attitude has a long history in the Roman Catholic Church.

The voices urging Anglo-Catholics and other Anglicans to defect to Rome have their own motives for promoting the Roman Catholic Church. The conversion of a substantial number of Anglo-Catholics and other Anglicans represents in their mind not only an affirmation of the Roman Catholic Church and its beliefs and practices but also a major trophy. At least one of them sees the personal parishes that are erected under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution as a useful means of further proselytizing Anglicans. The presence of a large enclave of former Anglicans in the Roman Catholic Church also provides Roman Catholic detractors of the Anglican Church with more ammunition. Those who think that their motives are altruistic should think again.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Proposals for the Reform of the Anglican Church in North America: The Episcopate – Part II


By Robin G. Jordan

In this second article in the series “Proposals for the Reform of the Anglican Church in North America” I continue my examination of the episcopate in that body, one of a number of areas in its ecclesiastical governance and organizational structure, which needs reforming. The constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America were seriously flawed documents at the time of their adoption and subsequent ratification. The constitution was poorly worded, almost amateurish. Its provisions were open to multiple interpretations. The canons were cobbled together from the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda and other sources, and omitted critical details. They, like the constitution, were short on checks and balances and safeguards. Interested parties were given only a very brief time—barely a fortnight—to examine the two documents and to offer comments and suggestions. The delegates to the Provincial Assembly were only given a day to deliberate upon the provisions of the two documents, during which time their deliberations were frequently interrupted. They were not permitted to change any of the provisions, being instructed by Archbishop-elect Robert Duncan to either ratify them or send them back to the Provincial Council. They had been told beforehand that if they did not ratify the constitution and canons, there would be no new Anglican province in North America. While some delegates wished to scrutinize the provisions more closely, others were prepared to adopt them by acclamation. A number of delegates, while they were not happy with the two documents, voted for their ratification out of the belief that troubling provisions could be changed at a later date.

The canons, like the constitution, contain partisan doctrinal statements relating to the episcopate. The doctrine, language, norms, and principles found in a number of sections of the canons relating to the episcopate have been taken from canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda and originated in the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church. This can be seen from a comparison of these sections with corresponding sections in the Rwandan and Roman canons. Implicit in these sections is a doctrine of apostolic succession that the English Reformers rejected at the Reformation and over which Anglicans have historically been divided.

The sections in the Rwandan canons are the work of Kevin Donlan, a former Roman Catholic priest and canonist. Donlan drew extensively on the Roman canons. Donlan was also a member of the Common Cause Governance Task Force that drafted the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America.

This author is prompted to ask why the Rwandan and Roman canons were used as a model for the canons of the Anglican Church in North America and not the canons of the Church of England. The Common Cause Governance Task Force had available to them the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Anglican Church of the Province of the Southern Cone of America, the Church of Nigeria, and the Church of Uganda. The constitution and canons of a number of other Anglican provinces and bodies are posted on the Internet: They include the constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia and the Diocese in Europe, the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church of New Zealand, the Church of England, the Church of England in South Africa, the Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales, and the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, and the canons of the Scottish Episcopal Church, as well as the constitutions and canons of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. To this list has been added the new canons of the Church of England in Jersey. With the wealth of material that was available to the task force, one naturally must question why it turned to the Roman canons and to the Rwandan canons, which are heavily indebted to the Roman canons.

The wording of the sections of the canons relating to clergy also implies this doctrine of apostolic succession and the related doctrine of episcopal ordination. In light of the sharpness of the historic division among Anglicans over these doctrines and the lack of a consensus upon their validity the task force could have employed language that did not favor one view of episcopal ordination over another, as the compilers of other provincial constitutions and canons have done. In most cases they have confined themselves to reiterating the words of preface to the Ordinal, affirming the offices of deacon, presbyter, and bishop as normative to ordained ministry in the Anglican Church.

In its recognition of the orders of two bishops from the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Church the College of Bishops has tacitly affirmed the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession implicit in the canons. The College of Bishops provided further substantiation of the partisan character of the doctrine of the canons.

The Common Cause Governance Task Force incorporated Roman Catholic practice as well as doctrine into the canons. The minimum age requirement for a bishop in the Anglican Church in North America is the minimum age requirement for a Rwandan missionary bishop. It is also the minimum age requirement for a Roman Catholic bishop.

The provisions of the canons relating to clergy and bishops need redrafting so that they are not aligned with any particular doctrinal point of view but use language acceptable to all schools of thought. This is not an unreasonable expectation and would show a real commitment to a genuine comprehensiveness that makes room for all conservative viewpoints.

The canons require the conditional ordination of ministers who are received into the clergy of the Anglican Church in North America when they are ordained by a bishop whose authority to confer orders is not recognized by the Anglican Church in North America. They do not apply this standard to bishops coming from another jurisdiction not in communion with the Anglican Church in North America, requiring only their reception by the College of Bishops. They do prescribe that such bishops should be received “in accordance with the Canons of this Church” but contain no specific provisions delineating what procedures should be followed.

The canons authorize the creation of the office of bishop for special missions by the College of Bishops. The creation of this office does not require the approval of the Provincial Assembly or the Provincial Council, only consultation with the Executive Committee, which controls the purse strings of the Anglican Church in North America and prepares the annual budget. The canons do not limit the number of bishops for special missions whose office may be created under these provisions. The only limitation, while it is unstated, is the availability of funding.

What is notable about the office of bishops for special missions is its similarity to that of canon missioner in the Anglican Mission. Bishops for special missions are not missionary bishops overseeing a missionary district. Rather they perform specialized functions. They are elected by the College of Bishops and are under its oversight.

In the creation of such offices a wider consultation involving the Provincial Assembly or the Provincial Council between sessions of the Provincial Assembly is warranted with the submission of each proposal for a new office of bishop for special missions to the appropriate body for approval. In addition the Provincial Assembly or the Provincial Council acting on its behalf should have power and authority to exercise superintendence over bishops for specials missions, to confirm their appointment, to require reports of their activities, to censure, suspend, or remove bishops for special missions for cause, and to dissolve the office of bishop for special missions as it thinks fit.

At the present time the canons do not require the College of Bishops in creating an office of bishop for special missions to put in writing the duties and functions of such office. They make no provision for the dissolution of an office of bishop for special missions if such office no longer serves a useful purpose.

In championing the reform of the episcopate in the Anglican Church in North America, I am not advocating the abolition of the episcopate in that body as has been falsely alleged in a comment left in response to my previous article, which is also posted on VirtueOnline. Drawing attention to the need for the reform of an institution is not the same as calling for its abolition. Neither is drawing attention to the well-documented fact that Anglicans historically have been divided over whether bishops are of the essence of the church or of its well-being, of its esse or its bene esse.

In future articles in this series I will be looking at the primacy in the Anglican Church in North America and other problem areas in its form of ecclesiastical governance and organizational structure. I will be drawing attention to what might be done to reform the Anglican Church in North America and to remedy its problems.

Pointing problem areas to the attention of a church and observing its reaction is one way of gauging the health of that church. A healthy church faces problems squarely, and does something about them. An unhealthy church will deny their existence, their extent, and their severity. Even if it recognizes the existence of a problem, it will postpone adopting a course of remedial action, often procrastinating to the point that the problem is beyond remedying.

Redeeming December Days


In the novel My Name Is Asher Lev, a young Hasid repeatedly dreams of his holy mythic ancestor thunderously accusing him of dawdling: "What are you doing with your time, my Asher Lev?" I've lived with a similar spur. Where I grew up, the apostolic directive to redeem the days held sway as long as one had wits. A few years ago a woman who doesn't know how young I am asked me about retirement. "What are you going to do with your leisure?" Her vocabulary startled me: leisure as a synonym for time. I stammered and said something about not really understanding the question.

For a few hours last week I flitted between hand-crafting Christmas gifts and clearing out a stack of accumulated paperstuffs. Suddenly I stared at the back of an old magazine. Four distinct photos depicted a campus lawn: spring, summer, fall, winter. The scenes framed a perfectly centered rendition of Ecclesiastes 3:1: "For everything there is a season … ." As I read the unfamiliar translation, the King James—The Byrds'—Version slipped out of its hiding place in my heart. "A time to every purpose under heaven." I winced, sensing the phrase mocked my unfocused attempts to reconcile disparate impulses—to seed the future and weed the past. My forte is making a purpose for every time.

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