Friday, September 30, 2011

Prayer Book Revision Blues

By Robin G. Jordan

In his article, “Post-Uniformity in Anglicanism,” Jordan Lavender draws attention to one of the facts of life in American Anglicanism—the lack of a common liturgy among American Anglicans. To give readers an idea of the extent of the doctrinal and liturgical diversity in North America to which Jordan refers in his article, I have listed the worship resources that are presently used in the Anglican Church in North America and its ministry partner, the Anglican Mission (formerly the Anglican Mission in the Americas):

The Book of Common Prayer (1662) – Church of England
The Book of Common Prayer (1928) – Protestant Episcopal Church USA
The American Missal
The Book of Common Prayer (1962) – Anglican Church of Canada
An Australian Prayer Book (1978) – Anglican Church of Australia
The Book of Common Prayer (1979) - Episcopal Church USA
The Book of Alternative Services (1985) – Anglican Church of Canada
An English Prayer Book (1994) – Church Society
The Book of Common Prayer (1996) - Church of Nigeria
Common Worship (2001) – Church of England
The Book of Common Prayer (2003) – Reformed Episcopal Church
Our Modern Services (2002, 2003) – Anglican Church of Kenya
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) – Anglican Mission in America; Prayer Book Society
The Book of Common Prayer(2011) – Keith Acker
A Modern Language Version of the Book of Common Prayer (2011) – Reformed Episcopal Church

This list is not exhaustive. One church to my knowledge is using Peter Toon’s modern English version of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

A number of churches are also using local patterns of worship. A popular contemporary worship pattern is introduction, worship set, video, sermon, invitation, prayer, final song, and conclusion.

In a sense the ACNA and the AM are a microcosm of the global Anglican Church. Until the twentieth century most Anglican churches used the same Prayer Book. It was the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The exceptions were the churches of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA and the Scottish Episcopal Church, which had their own Prayer Books. In the Church of England a small group of hyper-Catholics used the Anglican Missal.

The twentieth century saw the compilation of a spate of new Anglican service books. The 1958 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops would commend an ecumenical shape for the Holy Eucharist to provinces revising their Prayer Books. The same conference would also commend what was described as an ecumenical doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice. The floodgates of Prayer Book revision were opened.

One trend has been that Anglican service books have become more Anglo-Catholic in doctrine and liturgical usages. This trend was evident before the 1958 Lambeth Conference. It deserves explanation. The Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Church is relatively small. However, Anglo-Catholics have tended to dominate the commissions undertaking Prayer Book revision. This can be attributed to the proclivity of Anglo-Catholics take a greater interest in the affairs of the province than evangelicals. The latter have tended to be parish ministry-focused.

There have been exceptions—the Anglican Church of Australia and more recently the Church of England. In these provinces evangelicals have taken a more active role in Prayer Book revision. In both provinces the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is the official doctrinal and worship standard of the province. Prayer Book revision has focused upon producing alternative rites and forms to use together with the 1662 Prayer Book, not to revise the Prayer Book itself.

The Church of England produced The Alternative Service Book 1980 and more recently Common Worship (2001). The latter includes New Patterns of Worship, which essentially places the crafting of the parish liturgy into the hands of the minister and/ or parish worship committee. In Common Worship (2001) the Church of England opted to embrace doctrinal and liturgical diversity. Local patterns of worship have displaced the use of a common liturgy.

Unlike the Episcopal Church the Church of England never adopted a denominational hymnbook but left to the individual parish to decide what music collection it would use. Now the Church of England has gone a step further and given the parish the option of deciding what liturgy it is going to use. One of the results is that Church of England parishes are offering different liturgies on different Sundays to the satisfaction of no one. This may in part account for the drop in attendance in the Church of England.

My former rector in the Episcopal Church tried rotating rites in my former parish, using Rite I and Rite II at both services on alternating Sundays rather than have a Rite I service and a Rite II service every Sunday. It did not work. Folks would attend a Rite I service and come back the next Sunday expecting the same kind of service only to be disappointed. They would not return again. A Rite I service at one hour and a Rite II service at another hour would have enabled the church to reach a much larger group of people. However, the rector stubbornly refused to consider this option.

The Anglican Church of Australia produced An Anglican Prayer Book (1978) and A Prayer Book for Australia (1995). One of the guidelines followed by the commission that compiled An Anglican Prayer Book was that if the commission could not agree upon a proposal, whatever was done in the 1662 Prayer Book would take precedence. This kept An Australian Prayer Book closer to the classical Anglican Prayer Book than some modern English service books. A Prayer Book for Australia employed the principle of “studied ambiguity,” wording texts so that Anglo-Catholics could read it one way and evangelicals another. Both the doctrinal commissions of the Anglo-Catholic Diocese of Ballarat and the evangelical Diocese of Sydney would find substantial problems with A Prayer Book for Australia. Both dioceses would produce their own alternative rites and forms, which they were able to do under the canons of the Anglican Church of Australia.

In an addendum to his article Jordan writes:

When we believe in the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi, we have to have a standard text, which in most provinces is the 1662 BCP, while in TEC it is the 1979 BCP (a number of other provinces have revised BCPs too, such as Canada). With ACNA, there is no standard text, the 1662 is acknowledged with the "books that preceded it" standards of Anglican worship. I have re-titled this piece, "Post-uniformity in American Anglicanism," because it reflects the position of many in ACNA that a standard text is not needed until an ACNA BCP is released. I strongly disagree, either ACNA needs to hurry up and produce a standard text or strengthen, at least, doctrinal uniformity to the 1662, if not uniformity in worship.

One of the reasons that many in the ACNA do not see the need for a standard text until the release of the ACNA Prayer Book is that they no longer practice the principle of lex credendi, lex orendi. This principle fell by the wayside in the Episcopal Church. Those who left the Episcopal Church to form the ACNA and the AM and those who have joined the ACNA and the AM from other denominations do not give serious thought to this principle, much less apply it. Belief and text have become separated. People no longer believe what they pray. The liberal in the Episcopal Church can recite the Creeds and not believe a word of them. A self-identified evangelical in the ACNA or the AM who rejects the idea that the eucharist is a reiteration or representation of Christ’s sacrifice or a participation in Christ’s supposed ongoing sacrificial activity can in the eucharistic prayer ask God to accept our sacrifice with Christ’s. Meanings have become divorced from words. Words mean whatever we want them to mean. Or they can mean nothing at all. This may be attributable to the influence of post-modernism and relativism. Other factors may the cause. It is a serious problem because it promotes a kind of theological laziness that results in divisive or erroneous doctrinal statements going unchallenged.

An accompanying attitude is that it does not matter what Prayer Book is used. What matters is what preached from the pulpit and taught in the classroom. This attitude fails to recognize that the Prayer Book is not just a book of services. It is a collection of doctrinal statements. When a jurisdiction adopts a Prayer Book, it adopts the doctrine of that Prayer Book as the official doctrine of the jurisdiction. The minister who does not preach and teach the doctrine of the Prayer Book opens himself to the charge of promoting doctrine contrary to the teaching of the Church. He gives those who do not share his doctrinal views a way of ridding the jurisdiction of him and the doctrine that he preaches and teaches. If the minister accepts another cure of souls, the minister who replaces him may undo what he preached and taught, using the Prayer Book to do it.

The texts of the Prayer Book will over time influence the thinking of the congregation. They will reinforce what other ministers have preached and taught if they have preached and taught the doctrine of the Prayer Book. While for some people belief and text have become separated, for others they have not. They may no longer be connected for the minister but they may continue to be connected for members of the congregation. Or it may be the other way around.

On this topic the GAFCON Theological Resource Team has this to say:

Anglican orthodoxy agrees with the historic traditions that ‘praying shapes believing’, and that liturgies are of great importance, both in communicating the faith and in sustaining Christian disciples. In particular, it sees the classic Book of Common Prayer (1662), and its authentic translations and modernizations, as expressing the substance of the faith in the context of worship. As with the Articles, it sees the Prayer Book as constituting a lasting contribution to the wider Christian church. (Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, p. 101)

In its fundamental declarations the ACNA recognizes the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the annexed Ordinal as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline. The fundamental declarations infer that other standards exist. The ACNA also recognizes the 1662 Prayer Book-Ordinal, “with the Books that preceded it,” as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship. The fundamental declarations do not identify which books. Among the books that preceded the 1662 Prayer Book-Ordinal are the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic service books.

The fundamental declarations treat the Thirty-Nine Articles as a relic of the past or a historical background informing the church’s life and witness but not comprising a test of faith. They do not treat the Articles as the doctrinal standard for interpreting the Prayer Book, which is one of their purposes.

Whatever standard text the ACNA produces is not likely express the doctrine of the classical Anglican formularies. It is also likely to go unchallenged for the reasons that I already given.

There is a real need in the ACNA to recover the formularies but there is little will to do so. I would not be surprised if the ACNA produces a Prayer Book similar to Keith Acker’s Book of Common Prayer 2011, which departs seriously from the doctrine and liturgical usages of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its annexed Ordinal and moves the American Prayer Book in a decidedly unreformed Catholic direction. The adoption of such a Prayer Book would provide the final answer to the question as to whether there is a place in the ACNA for the Protestant/Reformed Catholic faith of the classic formularies. The answer would be “no.”

The Local Church Serves the Whole

Catholic Voices
The Authority of General Convention: A Conversation
Part 2

By Ephraim Radner

Bishop Franklin helpfully approaches the question of General Convention’s authority as a church “council” by drawing a historical line between the nascent Episcopal Church’s formation and what we now call the “conciliar” tradition. The early Church settled disputes through councils, and by the Middle Ages a reforming movement had arisen which sought both thoroughly to describe this conciliar character of the Church and to reorder the Church in accordance with it.

Key principles of representative voice and voting were variously defined, and theologically defended. From this historical genealogy, through the “English conciliarist model of church government [that] was successfully translated into the new republican context of the United States,” Bishop Franklin argues that General Convention arose as a “unitary form of church government,” one in which “ultimate authority over the Church [is] vested in a convention (council)” of elected church representatives.

I believe that the conciliar connection is indeed a key way of understanding General Convention, but I would understand that history and its implications in a way that is quite different from Bishop Franklin’s. To read more, click here.

The Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States Considered - by Bishop William White

This article and Bishop White's treatise offer valuable insights into the basis upon which the Episcopal Church was founded. Presiding Katherine Jefferts Schori has called for the reorganization of the Episcopal and the formation of a special commission to make recommendations on how the Episcopal Church should be reorganized. There is a very real possibility that the Episcopal Church will become even more centralized. The new disciplinary canons that went into effect this past summer have substantially reduced the autonomy of the diocese in the Episcopal Church.

The movement toward greater centralization and reduced diocesan autonomy is not confined to the Episcopal Church. It is also evident in the Anglican Church in North America from recent developments in the ACNA and from its governing documents. The structure of the Anglican Mission, formerly the Anglican Mission in the Americas, has been strongly influenced by that of the Roman Catholic Church and corporate America and is highly centralized.

Risking Lay Ministry

An essential step in preparing people to minister is to encourage them to be willing to take big risks.

Every pastor I know affirms the priesthood of all believers and that every Christian is called to ministry, including the one of providing pastoral care for one another. But most also admit there's a big gap between the actual and desired level of lay ministry.

One reason for this, I believe, is that releasing people to minister involves risks, both for pastor and people. For the pastor, it means giving up control, shedding the "I can handle it" image. For lay people, it means taking on responsibilities bigger than they've ever imagined, tackling situations in which they might not have all the answers, providing pastoral care when they seem to have few resources. And that's scary.

I once had the chance to ask the Swiss physician Paul Tournier, "How do you help your patients get rid of their fears?"

"I don't," he said. "Everything that's worthwhile in life is scary. Choosing a school, choosing a career, getting married, having kids—all those things are scary. If it is not fearful, it is not worthwhile."

As I mentioned earlier, it's vital to get lay people involved in ministry because, among other reasons, it's the most effective way to give pastoral care to the congregation and community. But to get more lay people into ministry, we'll have to take some risks—and help our people to do the same. In fact, during my years of ministry, I've discovered four principles that help me do that wisely and effectively. To read more, click here.

Facebook Pages vs. Groups

Two ways to keep your church connected

So you want to get your church into the Facebook social media world? But, alas, some well-meaning individual in the church has already created a Facebook page on behalf of the church.

Sigh. This can be really frustrating, when multiple Facebook Pages and Groups exist for one church. Plus, they may or may not accurately represent what the organization is about.

You can attempt to find out who “owns” a Page or Group and contact them directly. Problem solved. Right?

But wait…what’s the difference between a Facebook Page and a Group? Which one is right for your church? I am so glad you asked! Here is a quick rundown of the difference (from Facebook's perspective) between Pages and Groups. To read more, click here.

Bad Business, Bad Witness

How you run the business of church speaks loudly to your community.

After serving in ministry leadership as a paid staff member for over 20 years of my life, I have observed some very disturbing practices that go on in many church offices. These are the kind of things that we dare not whisper, because they actually are quite embarrassing. Many who work in ministry, including myself, are culpable to some degree.

Sometimes, it seems our workplace ethics stink in the local church.

The average churchgoer thinks of church as what happens each Sunday morning when the songs are raised and sermons preached. But often, the overlooked business the church conducts during the week is far from ideal. To read more, click here.

Leadership Keys along the Way

Five insights from an experienced leader who learned the hard way

Nine years ago God tapped me on the shoulder and called me to something bigger, something that will outlast me. He called me to lead a small group. Ever since then I've been wildly passionate about small groups and how God works through them. I'm definitely not the best leader. In fact, I have messed up so many times I'm surprised God doesn't ask me to take a seat! Fortunately, God brought some uncomfortable yet teachable experiences in my path over the past nine years. These experiences stretched me, at times further than I was willing to go. But, I can now look back on them and see how God has been (and continues) maturing my leadership style to reflect His heart. Here are five keys that I've experienced and embraced since saying yes to God's invitation to lead.

In All Things … Be Humble
There have been times when I was in the right and let people know I was right. These times always led to decreased influence. I mean, who wants to hang around someone who has to tell you they're right? Instead, I've learned to remain humble. If people notice I'm in the right, great. If not, no worries.

Take the Initiative to Build Community
It's difficult to develop deep, lasting relationships when you only see each other for one hour per week. So, it's important to make sure that your group engages in social activities outside of group time. What I've found, the hard way, is that people want to follow someone. Take the initiative and make some calls to set up a party to watch the game, Christmas shopping, a barbeque, or a pool party. I've found it easier to simply plan something, mark it on the calendar, and then announce it without consulting each person's calendar first.That way, whoever shows up, shows up. I've not had a bad turnout yet! Recently a few couples got together outside the group and I didn't find out about it until the next group meeting. It was exciting to know group members were taking the initiative to get together on their own. To read more, click here.

SHROOMS: 'Magic mushroom' drug may improve personality long-term

In new research that will almost certainly create controversy, scientists working with the hallucinogen psilocybin -- the active ingredient found in "magic mushrooms" -- have found that a single dose of the drug prompted an enduring but positive personality change in almost 60 percent of patients.

Specifically, tests involving a small group of patients in a strictly controlled and monitored clinical setting revealed that, more often than not, one round of psilocybin exposure successfully boosted an individual's sense of "openness." What's more, the apparent shift in what is deemed to be a key aspect of personality did not dissipate after exposure, lasting at least a year and sometimes longer.

"Now this finding is really quite fascinating," said study author Roland R. Griffiths, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. "And that is because personality is considered a stable characteristic of the psychology of people. It's been thought to be relatively immutable, and stable across the lifespan.

"But, remarkably, this study shows that psilocybin actually changes one domain of personality that is strongly related to traits such as imagination, feeling, abstract ideas and aesthetics, and is considered a core construct underlying creativity in general," he added. "And the changes we see appear to be long-term." To read more, click here.

Related articles:
Just One Trip On “Magic Mushrooms” Can Make You More Open
Magic mushrooms improve personality? What study says
'Magic Mushroom' Drug May Improve Personality Long Term (Registration required)

The make-up of modern Britain: 70% of us claim to be Christians... and only 1.5% are gay

Three Britons count themselves as Christian for every one non-believer, according to a major survey.

And nearly seven in ten said they were Christian, even if they never go to church.

Fewer than a quarter said they had no religion and only one in 12 follows another religion.

The finding that the nation remains overwhelmingly Christian comes days after it emerged that BBC programme-makers have been put under pressure to stop describing dates as BC or AD.To read more, click here.

Related article: ONS: A quarter of Britons have 'no religion at all'

Thursday, September 29, 2011

10 Non-Obnoxious Ways to Share Your Faith at Work

Use these ideas to help you integrate faith and work.

I have an acquaintance, "Alice," who has been fired twice for witnessing at work. Well, that's how she explains it. Perhaps a better explanation may be that Alice's approach to evangelism is "in your face."

If there were a caricature of an evangelical on the popular show The Office, Alice would fit the bill perfectly. She embodies all the negative stereotypes our culture has about evangelical Christians: she's judgmental of all things secular, she frequently refers to "the Lord" in any and all conversations, she gets so pumped up when talking about her faith that her behavior borders on the bizarre, she's completely (and purposefully) out of touch with culture, and she regularly asks co-workers and customers alike what would happen to them if they got in a car accident while leaving the store. Would God let them into heaven or would they burn in hell?

Alice considers any attempt by a supervisor to get her to "tone down" her evangelism at work as persecution, spurring her on to even more zealous proselytizing. In a word, Alice is obnoxious. To read more, click here.

Did Jesus Preach Paul's Gospel?

How the Gospel of Luke presents the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ's blood and righteousness alone, for the glory of God alone.

Did Jesus preach Paul's gospel?—the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ's blood and righteousness alone, for the glory of God alone.

What I am driven by in this message, and in much of my thinking since my days in graduate school in Germany, is the conviction that Jesus and Paul preached the same gospel. There is a 300-year history among critical scholars of claiming that Jesus' message and work was one thing, and what the early church made of it was another. Jesus brought the kingdom; it aborted; and the apostles substituted an institution, the church. And dozens of variations along this line.

Did Paul Get Jesus Right?

So the problem I am wrestling with is not whether evangelicalism gets Paul's gospel right, but whether Paul got Jesus' gospel right. Because I have a sense that among the reasons that some are losing a grip on the gospel today is not only the suspicion that we are forcing it into traditional doctrinal categories rather than biblical ones, but also that in our default to Pauline categories we are selling Jesus short. In other words, for some—perhaps many—there is the suspicion (or even conviction) that justification by faith alone is part of Paul's gospel, but not part of Jesus' gospel. And in feeling that way, our commitment to the doctrine is weakened, and we are thus less passionate to preach it and defend it as essential to the gospel. And we may even think that Jesus' call to sacrificial kingdom obedience is more radical and more transforming than the gospel of justification by faith alone.

I consider this message as an exegetical extension and defense of what R. C. Sproul said yesterday: "If you don't have imputation, you don't have sola fide (faith alone), and if you don't have sola fide, you don't have the gospel." My goal is to argue that Jesus preached the gospel of justification by faith alone apart from works of the law, understood as the imputation of his righteousness through faith alone. To read more, click here.

Should Churches Have Multiple Worship Service Styles? Consumerism or Contextualization?

I'm often asked about whether churches should have multiple services. It's a big question because it addresses issues of preference, consumerism, and mission. I've been thinking about it and wanted to ask your help to ponder it further.

This is another one of those areas where the pendulum seems to be swinging. When "praise choruses" were being introduced into corporate worship around the 1980s, churches that begin to use them were typically considered to have "blended worship," whereas churches that did not had "traditional worship."

After a few years of "worship wars," many churches decided to create multiple services based primarily on worship styles or worship preferences. As a result, the "Traditional Service," which normally had the backing of the older members (often with those who gave most of the financial support to the church), got the coveted 11:00 AM time slot, while the younger members (with little children) had to drag themselves and their half-dressed, unfed kids to church by 8:00 AM or earlier in some cases.

In many of these situations the reasoning for the multiple services had nothing to do with any kind of strategy. But it also isn't fair to assert that in every case people were simply looking to have their consumerist needs met. Some were, and some were not. But, I think this requires some thinking.

First, I do have an issue if churches have multiple services for the sole purpose of being the "style buffet" for the membership. Too many churches have fully consumed consumerism, a trend that desperately needs to change if we are ever to engage our context wisely. It has proven impossible for us to constantly feed our own preferences and have any appetite left to help the actual needs of those outside the satisfied family.

Not only is the situation symptomatic of consumerism, it leads, in a practical sense, to issues of budget. To do multiple services well means staffing for different kinds of music that can mean multiple employees each gifted in their particular genre. If all musicians are paid as well, then a church may find itself with a tremendous outlay for salary and resources simply to satisfy the preferences of the membership. With nearly 7 billion people in the world--many of whom have never heard the name of Jesus--I find the idea problematic. But, until our people are taught to find their contentment solely in Jesus, rather than having their preferences indulged, this will only continue. If you're simply coming because this is 'my kind of thing,' then it's just pandering to the consumer preferences of Christians. To read more, click here.

Study: Why Young Christians Leave the Church

Nearly three out of every five young Christians disconnect from their churches after the age of 15, but why? A new research study released by the Barna Group points to six different reasons as to why young people aren't staying in their pews.

The results of this study come from the interviews of teenagers, young adults, youth pastors, senior pastors and parents that were taken over the course of five years.

First, the study says, churches appear to be overprotective. Nearly one-fourth of the 18- to 29-year-olds interviewed said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” most of the time. Twenty-two percent also said the church ignores real-world problems and 18 percent said that their church was too concerned about the negative impact of movies, music and video games.

Many young adults also feel that their experience of Christianity was shallow. One-third of survey participants felt that “church is boring.” Twenty percent of those who attended as a teenager said that God appeared to be missing from their experience of church.

The study also found many young adults do not like the way churches appear to be against science. Over one-third of young adults said that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” and one-fourth of them said that “Christianity is anti-science.”

Some also feel that churches are too simple or too judgmental when it comes to issues of sexuality. Seventeen percent of young Christians say they've “made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” Two out of five young adult Catholics said that the church's teachings on birth control and sex are “out of date.” To read more, click here.

Activity no guide to growth

How are people expected to grow as Christians? For most churches, members are encouraged to attend Sunday meetings and be part of a small group. That’s the main game. Turn up regularly on Sunday and Wednesday night and you’ll grow. We might also talk about the place of giving, serving, and witnessing. The more active someone is at church the more they’ll grow, right? If we get someone regularly to church and small group we should take that as a win, right?

Wrong. The National Church Life Survey data shows no correlation between being part of a small group and feelings of spiritual growth. These finding match that of Willow Creek Association Reveal study which showed that church activity is not a blueprint for spiritual growth.

The NCLS data showed a strong correlation between personal bible reading and prayer and spiritual growth. Humanly speaking the thing that makes the biggest difference to spiritual growth is pretty simple. Setting aside a regular time each day to read and think about God’s word, and to spend time in prayer, seems to be the power-house of spiritual life and growth.

So if we want to see spiritual growth in our churches we should really encourage personal quiet times. There are 95 days left in 2011. How could you help raise the number of people committed to regular quiet times in 2012? Here are some ideas.... To read more, click here.

Related article: REVEAL Reveals

Do these findings mean that we should disband our small group ministry? No. But they do mean that we should do what we can to help folks to devote more time to reading and studying the Bible and to prayer. As Jesus pointed to the attention of the disciples, the measure of an individual's spiritual growth is not his subjective feelings but the "fruit" that he bears. Spiritual growth has many dimensions. The key is not to neglect any of the spiritual disciplines. Participation in a small group has a place as does Bible reading and study and prayer. What this research shows is that we do not grow spiritually simply by going to a Sunday worship gathering and a small group meeting. Spiritual growth requires learning Biblical principles and truths and living them. One way that we live them is as a part of a small group.

Survey: Bible readers prefer word-for-word over thought-for-thought translation

Most American Bible readers prefer word-for-word translations of the original Greek and Hebrew over thought-for-thought translations, saying they value accuracy over readability, according to a new LifeWay Research study.

The study encompassed 2,000 Bible readers who participated through a demographically representative online panel. To qualify, participants had to read the Bible in a typical month either by themselves or as part of a family activity and not merely in a church or group setting.

When asked whether they prefer "word-for-word translations, where the original words are translated as exactly as possible" or "thought-for-thought translations, where the translators attempt to reproduce the intent of the original thought rather than translating the exact words," 61 percent chose word-for-word. To read more, click here.

Related article: Battle for the Bible Translation

Pastor again refuses to recant as pressure builds on Iran to halt execution

Iran is under increasing pressure from leaders around the world to halt the execution of Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who on Wednesday refused for the fourth and final time to recant his faith and could be executed at any time.

In the U.S., Speaker of the House John Boehner released a statement urging Iran to spare the pastor's life and release him. Overseas, British Foreign Secretary William Hague also called on Iran to overturn the sentence.

Observers say external pressure could be critical in preventing the Iranian government from performing its first apostasy execution since 1990. To read more, click here.
Related article: Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani to be hanged in Iran - for converting to Christianity

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Walking in the Footsteps of the Apostles

By Robin G. Jordan

“And Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, ‘Ye know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you: but whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all. For the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.’” Mark 10:42-45 American Standard Version

“Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3 American Standard Version

Among the reasons that Catholics hang onto the notion of apostolic succession as a succession of bishops stretching back uninterrupted to the apostles is that it can be used to support their doctrinal and theological views. They also believe that what makes the sacraments work is passed from one bishop to the next in this supposedly unbroken line of bishops and from the bishop to the priest. Indeed the possession of apostolic succession is, in their way of thinking, what distinguishes a true church in which, in the words of the late Peter Toon, “there are real and true, valid and efficacious means of grace, sacraments, and salvation.” Churches that do not possess the apostolic succession are not true churches. They are at best lay religious societies and their clergy, laymen. Such thinking enables Catholics to feel that their church is special. It enables Roman Catholics to make the preposterous claim that their church is the universal church.

Other reasons include the very human desires for power, position, prestige, privilege, and status.

The New Testament tells us that Christ commissioned the twelve apostles to be his witnesses and envoys. This commission extends to His Church in every place and time. The twelve apostles stood for the Church when Christ gave the commission. Christ did not appoint them rulers of the Church. The commission that He gave them and which He also gave to the whole Church is to go into world and proclaim the gospel to all creation. The successors to the apostles are those fulfilling this commission—serving as witnesses to Christ and sharing the good news with people of all ages, in all walks of life.

The apostles certainly were not the precursors of the managerial class that bishops have become in the Anglican and Episcopal Churches in North America. They did not have offices, smart phones, laptop computers, and secretaries. They did not have particular dress or ornaments that set them apart from the rest of the Church. Some may have started churches; others strengthened the existing churches that they found in their travels. Wherever they went, they were Christ’s witnesses. They modeled this ministry for the entire Church. Those who do what the apostles did may freely claim to be their successors—lay people as well as clergy.

The post-apostolic office of bishop evolved from the New Testament office of elder-overseer. Roger T. Beckwith explores the emergence of the episcopal office in Elders in Every City: the Origin and Role of the Ordained Ministry. While the New Testament records that Paul appointed elders, it is silent as to whether the original twelve apostles appointed anyone. The people selected the nine “deacons” in the Acts of the Apostles and the apostles laid hands on them and prayed over them. The New Testament certainly does not support the fanciful theory that the apostles appointed a line of bishops to serve as their successors.

Prelacy—what North American Anglicans and Episcopalians confuse with episcopacy—is a post-Constantine development. The feudal bishop of the Medieval Catholic Church has for a large part shaped their understanding of the role of the bishop in the Church.

In the property disputes between disaffected Episcopalians and the Episcopal Church the latter has exploited the Catholic theory of apostolic succession to bolster its claim that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical and the diocese holds in trust and has legal claim to property bought and paid for by departing parishes. The parish is, it is argued, is a creature of the diocese rather than the diocese a creature of a voluntary association of parishes. As Tim Smith and others have shown, the diocese and the national church as creatures of a voluntary association of parishes is the basis upon which the Episcopal Church was founded. In the nineteenth century the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Episcopal Church would promote the idea that the diocese owes its existence to the bishop of the diocese as a successor to the apostles and the parish is a creature of the diocese. This idea would gain acceptance to the point that the real basis of the Episcopal Church was forgotten. We see the consequences of its acceptance played out today.

The New Testament does not recognize such parachurch organizations as dioceses, provinces, and national churches as the Church. The New Testament recognizes as the Church the visible Church—the local congregation—and the invisible Church—the redeemed in every time and place. One or two passages appear to lean toward recognition of the congregations in a particular region as the Church but the New Testament does not develop the concept of networks of such congregations as the Church. Congregations, however, are urged to help each other. On this basis voluntary associations of churches are arguably consonant with Scripture.

The New Testament does not prescribe a particular structure for the church or a particular form of church government. The English Reformers found no Scriptural warrant for episcopacy or presbyterianism. They retained bishops because the Scriptures did not prohibit them. The episcopal office had a history going back to post-apostolic times.

The seventeenth century Laudians would champion the theory of the divine right of bishops. At the same time they did not unchurch the Continental Reformed Churches because they lacked bishops. They recognized the validity of their orders and their sacraments.

The Anglo-Catholic movement in the Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century would not only champion the divine rights of bishops but also unchurched evangelical churches in and outside the United States that lacked the episcopate. They promoted legislation that prohibited Episcopal bishops and other clergy from fellowshipping with the clergy of non-episcopal churches. They vigorously prosecuted clergy who did fellowship with them. In 1886 the Episcopal House of Bishops, dominated by Anglo-Catholic bishops, would adopt the Chicago Quadrilateral asserting that bishops were of the essence of the Church. In doing so, the Episcopal House of Bishops outlawed the widely held Anglican view that while bishops may be necessary to the well being of the church, they are not essential to its existence. They unchurched millions of Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians.

This hyper-Catholic view of the episcopate survives in the North American Anglican Church to this day. It is expressed in the fundamental declarations of the Anglican Church in North America as well as the earlier Affirmation of St. Louis of the Continuing Anglican movement. It was adopted by the Anglican Church of Rwanda in its new canons, the work of an Episcopal turned AMiA priest, a former Roman Catholic. The Anglican Mission in the Americas is a missionary jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.

From what I gather the Rwandans themselves were not aware that the new canons made sweeping changes in the official doctrines of their church, as well as establishing a prelatical form of ecclesiastical governance modeled upon that of the Roman Catholic Church. They were misled into believing that the new canons were necessary for the effective operation of the AMiA in the Americas. They have only recently begun to realize how radical are the doctrinal changes that the new canons introduced. If what I gather is accurate, we have in the case of the new Rwandan canons an attempt by a member of the Catholic party in the AMiA to undermine the classical Anglican position in an African province.

In the Anglican Church in North America the Catholics are once more championing the theory of the divine right of bishops. They object to the clear definition and limitation of episcopal authority. They insist that bishops should be given free rein to rule the church

Catholic leaders in the ACNA are ignoring the provisions of the constitution and canons of the ACNA. While the constitution and canons of the ACNA make provision for a Provincial Council and an Executive Committee, the Archbishop’s Cabinet, a group of bishops assembled by Archbishop Duncan, is actually making major policy decisions. Archbishop Duncan has created offices such as Dean of the Province to which he has made appointments even though he has no authority to create offices and to make appointments to them under the provisions of the ACNA governing documents.

The College of Bishops is also usurping the role of the Provincial Council and the Provincial Assembly. It recently approved a new ordinal for the ACNA, which under the provisions of the ACNA canons requires Provincial Council approval in the form of a canon, which in turn must be submitted to the Provincial Assembly for ratification.

These developments are attributable to the influence of Catholic thinking in the ACNA.

In the Anglican Mission in the Americas all authority is derived from the Primate of Rwanda through his Primatial Vicar under the provisions of the new Rwandan canons. Authority is delegated by the Primatial Vicar to the jurisdiction’s Missionary Bishops who in turn delegate authority to those under them. The form of ecclesiastical governance of the jurisdiction is modeled upon that of the Roman Catholic Church. The new Rwandan canons are heavily indebted to the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law. The laity has no role in the governance of the AMiA and the clergy have only a consultative role.

The ACNA canons also reflect the influence of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law in doctrine, norms and principles as well as language.

Both the ACNA and the AMiA appear to be in denial over the role that bishops played in the departure of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church from traditional beliefs and morality. They refuse to admit the need for synods of godly clergy and laity to ensure the conformance of bishops to Scriptural teaching and to serve as a check to the tyranny and folly of bishops. They fail to see the full implications of the biblical truth that God gives His Holy Spirit to all believers, not to one class of believers. The government of the Christian community belongs under God to the Church as whole—to the clergy and laity together, not exclusively to bishops or to any single class of persons in the Church.

The parish, or local congregation, from the viewpoint of the New Testament is the basic unit of the Church. The local gathering of believing Christians in which the pure word of God and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper duly administered is the visible Church of Christ. It is the Word and the Holy Spirit that brings unbelievers to faith and in turn forms them into the Body of Christ. It is through the Word and the Holy Spirit that Christ rules His Church.

The authority that the bishop of a judicatory exercises is delegated by the congregations forming the judicatory and is derived from Christ through them. The congregations banded together for common mission call a bishop to oversee them. They voluntarily place themselves under his spiritual leadership.

Bishops exercise two kinds of authority—the formal authority of the episcopal office and the moral and spiritual authority of a faithful servant of Christ. The formal authority of the episcopal office is delegated. It is defined and limited by Scripture, canon, rubric, and civil law. The moral and spiritual authority of a faithful servant of Christ comes from his relationship with Christ and his relationship with the flock God has entrusted to his care. His relationship with Christ is reflected in his relationship with his flock. He leads by example and through his teaching. He is above all else a shepherd, a pastor, and his shepherd’s crook is the Bible that he was given at his consecration.

Judicatories and denominations are organized to help local congregations to fulfill the ministries that God has given them. The role of the judicatory and the denomination is to serve the local congregation so the local congregation can better serve Christ.

When these biblical principles are recognized and applied, the whole Church is released to walk in the footsteps of the apostles. The cause of the gospel is advanced.

Recognition of the voluntary nature of the ACNA and the AMiA is an essential safeguard against what happened in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church. Both parachurch organizations need to amend their governing documents to acknowledge the voluntary nature of their existence and to give the clergy and the laity a greater role in their governance. Both need to clearly define the authority of their bishops and to set appropriate limits upon that authority. They also need to take the necessary steps to enforce those limits, holding their bishops fully accountable for what they do. Without any accountability mechanisms in place both the ACNA and the AMiA are highly vulnerable to the abuse of power, the misappropriation of funds, the concealment of endemic wrongdoing, and other evils of prelatical episcopacy.

6 Physical Factors That Can Impact Your Worship Service

This week I want you to walk through your church facilities with a photographer and take pictures from the eyes of a visitor. We become so familiar with our surroundings that we become oblivious to the faded paint, the frayed carpet, the chipped pulpit, the stack of stuff on the piano, or the burned-out light bulbs overhead.

One way to combat this tendency is to do an Environmental Impact Report on your church. Take pictures throughout your facilities and show them to your leaders in order to figure out what needs to be changed.

Here are some environmental factors you need to pay close attention to....To read more, click here.

The Antiquity of Infant Communion

Infant communion certainly cannot be traced back as far as infant baptism. The first definite reference to infant baptism is in Irenaeus, about 180 A.D., who speaks of “all who through Christ are born again to God, infants and children and boys and young men and old men” (Against Heresies 2:22:4, or 2:33:2), “born again to God” being a technical phrase meaning baptism, well attested in other parts of Irenaeus’s writings. Considering the small compass of the patristic literature before the time of Irenaeus, this reference is significantly early, and may well reflect a practice originating in New Testament times. (For references see Joachim Jeremias, Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries [E.T., London, S.C.M., 1960], p. 73. This work and its sequel, The Origins of Infant Baptism [E.T., London, S.C.M., 1963] collect all the evidence for the antiquity of infant baptism.)

The earliest definite reference to infant or child communion, on the other hand, is in Cyprian (On the Lapsed 9, 25) about the year 251, after the voluminous writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, and Origen had appeared, without any reference to such a practice; and there is both earlier and contemporary evidence that this was something of a novelty. Cyprian was a Western Father, writing in the Latin-speaking seaboard of North Africa opposite Italy; but about sixteen years earlier Origen, by then permanently resident in Palestine, states that children (parvuli) are not given communion, and what he says may well apply not only to Palestine but also to his homeland of Egypt. His words are these:

Before we arrive at the provision of the heavenly bread, and are filled with the flesh of the spotless Lamb, before we are inebriated with the blood of the true Vine which sprang from the root of David, while we are children, and are fed with milk, and retain the discourse about the first principles of Christ, as children we act under the oversight of stewards, namely the guardian angels (Homilies on the Book of Judges 6:2). To read more, click here.

A Place for Spiritual Direction (Part 1)

This is the first of a series of articles that will be exploring the ministry of spiritual direction. It is important to note that we will use the term “spiritual direction” broadly to encompass the ideas of mentoring and spiritual friendship. Spiritual direction can also be used to talk about a specific kind of soul care that requires a basic training in the history of spirituality, dynamics of spiritual development and object relations theory. With this in mind, I hope to cast a vision for the value of spiritual direction within the church today, but in order to do so we need to begin by asking what spiritual direction is.

Several years ago when I met with my spiritual director for the first time I wasn’t sure what to expect. Based on previous relationships with mentors I decided I would ask him for advice. Looking back, I just wanted him to solve my problems. I will never forget the paradigm shift that occurred when my spiritual director responded with a question rather than an answer. It was a simple question and yet incredibly profound. “Have you asked God for advice?” The honest answer was, “no.” That began a dialogue that moved beyond my desire to fix problems in my life into an exploration of my relationship with God. To red more, click here.

Small Groups: Life Transitions Offer Chance to Connect People

One great way to connect your church into small groups is to focus on life transitions. More than at any other time our lives, we need people when we’re going through periods of great change. Helping people join small groups during these times provides immediate comfort as well as the potential for years of ongoing support.

What transitions should your church use to connect people? To read more, click here.

Innocent Children and Young People Victims of Anti-Christian Hostility

Three recent outrageous incidents reveal how anti-Christian persecution is inflicting acute suffering on children and young people in various parts of the world.

First, a Christian schoolgirl has been expelled and her family evicted from their home after an innocent spelling mistake in an exam led to an absurd accusation of blasphemy in Pakistan.

Faryal Bhatti, an eighth-grade pupil (aged 12/13) in Havelian, was scolded and beaten by her teacher on Thursday (22 September) when she accidentally misplaced a single dot in a word while answering a question on a poem about Muhammad; her error turned the word naat, which refers to praise of Muhammad, to laanat, which means “curse”.

As news of the incident spread, enraged Muslims rallied in the streets, demanding that Faryal be expelled from the area and a criminal case be registered against the youngster. Defiling the name of Muhammad carries a mandatory death penalty under Pakistan’s “blasphemy laws”. Muslim leaders also called, in their Friday sermons, for action to be taken against Faryal and her family.

Despite her apologetic explanation that the misspelling was an error with no malicious intent, Faryal was expelled from her school, and her mother, a nurse, was transferred to another hospital around 40 miles away. The family have also been forced to leave their home. They have received threatening text messages, raising fears of Muslim reprisals among other Christian families in the area.

A number of Muslim leaders have, however, come out in defence of the youngster, saying that she should be pardoned because her actions were unintentional. To read more, click here.

Gospel or Justice, Which?

Some evangelicals talk as though personal evangelism and public justice are contradictory concerns, or, at least, that one is part of the mission of the church and the other isn’t. I think otherwise, and I think the issue is one of the most important facing the church these days.

First of all, the mission of the church is the mission of Jesus. This mission doesn’t start with the giving of the Great Commission or at Pentecost. The Great Commission is when Jesus sends the church to the world with the authority He already has (Matthew 28:18), and Pentecost is when He bestows the power to carry this commission out (Acts 1:8).

The content of this mission is not just personal regeneration but disciple-making (Matthew 28:19). It is not just teaching, but teaching “them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

This mission is not inconsistent with what we have seen already in the life of Jesus. His mission is defined by Old Testament expectations (for instance, Psalm 72), and in the gospel accounts in terms of redemptive love for the whole person, both body and soul. From the literally embryonic moments of the Incarnation, such terms are present in Mary’s prayer about the coming of her Messiah (Luke 1:46-55), and then in Jesus’ own inaugural words about his kingdom’s arrival (Luke 4:18-19).

This mission is summed up in the gospel as a message of reconciliation that is both vertical and horizontal, establishing peace with both God and neighbor. The Scripture tells us to love neighbor “as yourself” (Luke 10:27-28).

This is not simply a “spiritual” ministry, as the example Jesus gives us is of a holistic caring for physical and economic needs of a wounded person, not to mention the transcending of steep ethnic hostilities. As theologian Carl F.H. Henry reminded evangelicals a generation ago, one does not love oneself simply in “spiritual ways” but holistically. To read more, click here.

Prayer is essential for growing a class

Following the Transformational Church research project, LifeWay's team of consultants reported to Ed Stetzer and his team that prayer is the fuel that drives transformational churches. It will be the fuel that undergirds the work of a transformational Sunday School class, too. What might that look like?


The Sunday School teacher or leader who wants a transformational class will arrive early -- not just to prepare before the first member or guest arrives, but to pray. Picture a leader standing in an empty room, arranged for people who've yet to arrive, asking God to provide direction for the activities that will soon take place. The leader envisions the faces of the boys, girls, men or women who will enjoy Bible study, and prays about the needs they will share during class.

Now imagine a pastor, staff member, or Sunday School director prayer-walking through the education area. The leader and teacher could join together briefly to ask God to honor their expectation that new people will come. That's a picture of prayerful dependence. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Julian Dobbs and Felix Orji Made CANA Bishops

The Rt. Rev. Julian Dobbs and the Rt. Rev. Felix Orji have been made bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and will serve in North America. Dobbs and Orji were consecrated for their new leadership roles at a four-hour worship celebration on Sunday, September 25, 2011 in Lagos, Nigeria. Four additional bishops were also consecrated at the service for ministry based in Nigeria.

The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, presided at the consecration service. Over 1,500 people packed into Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral in Lagos to participate in the celebration, capping a week of missional work by the Church of Nigeria's General Synod. Earlier in the week, the Church of Nigeria received the Right Reverend Derek Jones as a bishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). Jones is based in Alabama.

Dobbs, Orji, and Jones will all serve as suffragan (assistant) bishops in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America ("CANA"). CANA was founded in 2005 by the Church of Nigeria to ensure that orthodox Anglican clergy and congregations in North America have an authentic connection to the Anglican Communion. With over 20-million active members, the Church of Nigeria accounts for about 25% of the total active membership of the worldwide Anglican Communion. To read more, click here.

The Use of the Term "Priest" in the Prayer Book - Church Association Tract 232

It is sometimes carelessly alleged that the essential meaning of the word “priest” is “one who offers sacrifice.” That, however, is contrary to fact. Any good dictionary taken at random will dissipate this fable. The idea of sacrifice was not involved in the etymology of the word, and the later association of “priest “ with sacrifice sprang out of the accidental union in the same person of two separate offices.

It is matter for regret that the translators of the Old Testament used the word “priest,” to render the Hebrew “cohen.” To read more, click here.

Ordinariate Watch: Traditionalist Anglicans in South Africa Reject Ordinariate

Only individuals who convert to Rome may apply

The Southern Africa Bishop of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the Rt. Rev. Michael Gill, says there will be no Ordinariate in Southern Africa, and that the only route open to those wishing to join the Roman Catholic Church would be that of individual conversion, requiring, “ some cases going back to Baptism…”.

Following revelations that the vast majority of traditionalist Anglicans (Anglo-Catholics) around the world do not want unity with Rome, including the majority of the Anglican Church in America (ACA), Bishop Gill wrote VOL in an e-mail to clarify his church’s position.

“In September of 2010, I met face to face with Archbishop George Daniel of the Roman Catholic Church specifically to discuss Anglicanorum Coetibus. (He is one of the senior men in Anglican/Roman Catholic conversations in Southern Africa and is himself a convert from Anglicanism). I did this precisely because of the amount of speculation that was flying around as to the implementation of the document Anglicanorum Coetibus. It is not a document open to interpretation. It is what it is. To read more, click here.

Related article: Hepworth rejects rebuff from US clergy

The Courage to Confront Reality

Leaders who desire to see breakout take place in their churches and ministries will seek God's face as they look for the courage to confront reality.

I think I've been on a diet half of my adult life. I am the classic yoyo dieter. And for you healthier folks out there, yes, I know—that is not a good pattern.

However, do you know what the toughest part of my diet is? When I step on the scale after failing to do so for weeks, or even months. Why? Because I don't want to confront the reality of my weight and the need to do something about it.

The Point Where Turnaround Begins

What does my weight have to do with church health? I have researched and written about leadership and local churches for nearly 30 years. And through all my research, I have seen one universal commonality in true turnaround situations: leaders have the courage to confront reality.

Many of us have written extensively about the unhealthy state of most congregations. Frankly, it's easier to write about what's wrong than to offer solutions.

Admittedly, turnaround or breakout churches are rare exceptions. But they do happen. And it is fascinating to see how God uses leaders to initiate that turnaround. To read more, click here.

Muslim Bid to Turn Christian Site into a Mosque in Tunisia

A group of Muslims attempted to take over a Christian basilica in Tunisia in an ominous sign of the growing threat to the country’s small Church in the wake of the revolution.

The group of around 20 Muslims went on 16 September to the Roman site in the town of Kef with the aim of turning it into a mosque; they argued that it was a place of Muslim worship before it reverted to a basilica in 1966.

An interior ministry spokesman said that the group went there to prepare the place for Friday prayers but police dispersed them. They have been invited to make an official request to the faith ministry, he said, adding, “As things stand, the monument remains a basilica.”

The incident is a worrying sign of what may become of Tunisia’s small Christian community if the country’s future is shaped by an Islamic agenda, as seems likely. To read more, click here.

Related article: The Muslim "Overtaking" of France: as Mosques and as Faithful

Keep the Bar High and the Begging Low

You are not doing anyone a favor by expecting too little from your volunteers.

I am sitting in my office on a Monday, and I am flooded with calls and e-mails from people in my congregation begging to be leaders in our children's Sunday school ministry. Sadly, I tell them the positions have been filled for months, but I can put them on a waiting list for the next year. I mention I do have an opening two years out, and if they would like to go online and complete the application, they may do so. They are disappointed about this year but are excited about the possibilities of being a leader in two years. I hang up the phone, turn off my computer, and think to myself, "If only I had enough volunteer positions for every qualified person. It is so difficult to place the chairperson of the religion department at the local university on a waiting list. I just had to. The leadership for fifth grade has been filled for over a year." Then I hear a loud tone and realize my alarm just went off, and I wake up. It was just a dream.

We have all had this dream in one form or another. We have this idea that everyone who feels called to children's ministry knows their calling and acts on it. We tend to think making announcements in church where we beg people to serve or placing a blurb in the Sunday morning bulletin are enough to motivate people to volunteer for positions they know very little about. Save your energy and your paper. Recruiting volunteers is not like searching for a needle in a haystack (which it sometimes feels like). It is about helping people discover their gifts and equipping them to serve. It is actually my second favorite part of my job. I love helping people find their place to serve and then equipping them for the service. The word equipping was new to me until I read the book The Equipping Church by Sue Mallory (Zondervan, 2001). It helped me redefine recruiting and training as helping people find their gifts, then training them to use those gifts. To read more, click here.

Broken communion for the Church of Ireland

The outcry over the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory’s support for an Irish dean’s gay civil union has forced the bishop to skip the consecration of the Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry.

Church leaders in Northern Ireland told The Church of England Newspaper that the Rt. Rev. Michael Burrows had been advised to stay away from the Sept 8 consecration of Bishop Patrick Rooke at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh. The bishop had been told his support for clergy gay civil unions had broken the collegiality of the church and his presence would cause some participants in the ceremony to refrain from receiving the Eucharist with him.

Bishop Burrow’s office did not respond to questions from CEN, but the Church of Ireland’s press officer did confirm that the bishop “did not attend and that this was his own decision. I have no knowledge of any advice from anyone about staying away or concern with regard to receiving communion.” To read more, click here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Vision of a Biblically Faithful, Mission-Oriented Anglican Province in North America

By Robin G. Jordan

I first came to the realization that North America needed a new Anglican province back in 1990s. The unchurched population in Canada and the United States was growing. New churches were needed. The response to the call for a Decade of Evangelism in the Episcopal Church was far from enthusiastic. The Diocese of Louisiana had a new bishop and he had announced a new church planting initiative in the diocese. The reaction of one church in my deanery was to beg the bishop not to start any new works in its area. Its leaders feared not only losing newcomers to a new church but also its existing members.

I had read an article by a Canadian church planter who advocated planting new churches in the shadow of existing ones. New churches were more successful in reaching unchurched population segments in the community than existing ones. A new work started in the shadow of an existing church could have a positive effect upon the existing church, prompting it to become more evangelistic.

I thought to myself if this could be done on a local scale, why not across the entire United States? A number of the African provinces were experiencing explosive growth. A new biblically faithful, mission-oriented Anglican province might experience similar growth in North America. What stood out about these African provinces from my reading was that they were not only more evangelistic than the Episcopal Church, but they were more evangelical. They also made use of lay people—readers and catechists—in starting and pastoring new works.

Over the past ten years I have formed a vision of how I would like to see a new province take shape in North America.

1. The new province would be authentically Anglican. It would return to the faith and practice of the classical Anglican formularies—the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, and the Homilies. It would reverse the movement away from the formularies that has characterized the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the United States particularly in the past 50 odd years. Whatever their position on secondary matters, all clergy and congregations would be expected to subscribe ex animo to the position that the essence of gospel teaching is salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.

2. The Book of Common Prayer in use would combine the traditional language services of the classical Anglican Prayer Book with contemporary language versions of the same services. The State Prayers, the Litany, and the General Intercession would reflect the political situation in North America.

3. The new province and the judicatories and churches forming the new province would be wholeheartedly committed to spreading the gospel, reaching and evangelizing the unchurched, enfolding new believers into churches, and equipping them for a life of discipleship and ministry. Their principal goal would be the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission—making disciples of all people groups—in North America and the world.

Few churches would be content to sit on the sidelines while other churches engaged in gospel ministry. Rare would be the church that had not planted a new church or sponsored a new church plant. Evangelism and church planting would be a part of the DNA of most churches of the new province.

4. The new province would be constituted as a voluntary association of Anglican churches banded together for mission, deriving its authority from the churches comprising it. Churches uniting with the new province would own their own property and would be free to withdraw from the new province. Churches planted by the new province would be recognized as autonomous entities in union with the new province, deriving their authority directly from Christ as the head of His Church, capable of owning their own property, and at liberty to disaffiliate themselves from the new province should they choose to do so.

5. The structure of the new province would be based upon the synod model. A provincial synod would be the highest authority in the province. A provincial executive council would carry on the work of the provincial synod between its sessions.

6. Episcopal authority would be clearly defined and limited. Constitutionalism and the rule of law would be valued and respected.

7. Certain characteristics would distinguish the new province’s churches. Churches would be centered on the gospel. They would be organized around a simple and understandable process for moving seekers to new believers to committed functional disciples of Jesus Christ. Bivocational pastors, lay ministry teams and lay pastors would minister alongside of full-time, fully credentialed resident pastors.

8. The new province would be organized into affinity networks as well as regional judicatories. The aim would be to eliminate or reduce the barriers that keep clergy and congregations whose beliefs and practices differ in non-essentials from cooperating and working with each other to advance the cause of the gospel. Throughout the new province there would be recognition that no church or group of churches has a monopoly upon a particular section of God’s vineyard.

The shape that the Anglican Church in North America and its ministry partner, the Anglican Mission in the Americas, have taken has been very disappointing. They have not shown a strong commitment to the values embodied in the foregoing vision of a new biblically faithful, mission-oriented Anglican province in Canada and the United States. There has been no genuine recovery of the classical Anglican formularies in the ACNA and the AMiA.

Despite its doctrinal and theological defects 1979 Book of Common Prayer is widely used in the ACNA and the AMiA, as is The Hymnal 1982. An Anglican Prayer Book, produced by the AMiA and the Prayer Book Society, went further than the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book in its departure from the doctrine and liturgical usages of the 1662 Prayer Book. The new ACNA ordinal also departs significantly from the Prayer Book Ordinal, sanctioning beliefs and practices that historic Anglicanism rejects.

The jury is still out on the extent to which the ACNA and the AMiA are oriented to mission. Some ACNA and AMiA churches are quite active in the areas of evangelism and church planting. Others have been in existence for a number of years but have not started or supported a new work.

Under the leadership of Archbishop Robert Duncan the ACNA has been moving toward a more prelatical model of provincial structure in practice if not on paper. Except for ratifying canons and constitutional amendments the ACNA Provincial Assembly has no role in the government of the ACNA. It resembles one of the consultative bodies that the Pope may convene in the Roman Catholic Church. The ACNA canons incorporate doctrine, language, principles, and norms from the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. The Rwandan canons are the work of an American, an Episcopal turned AMiA priest, and a former Roman Catholic, and are heavily indebted to the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law.

The Archbishop’s Cabinet has increasingly been usurping the role of the Provincial Council and its Executive Committee. The Archbishop’s Cabinet was created by Archbishop Duncan. Its creation is not authorized by canon and is unconstitutional, as was Duncan’s creation of the office of Dean of the Province and his appointment of his close friend, Bishop Don Harvey, to that office.

The structure of the AMiA is based upon the prelatical model both on paper and in practice. The AMiA is a missionary jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, which with its new canons adopted a Roman prelatical model for the structure of the entire province. It also adopted the dogmas of the Council of Trent as the official doctrine of the province.

The majority of the churches in the ACNA and the AMiA appear to be fairly conventional, organized around a weekly celebration of the Eucharist and the ministry of a priest. They are barely distinguishable from their counterparts in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church.

There is a discernable movement in the ACNA toward organizing that body into geographic dioceses. The AMiA’s church planting networks are largely regionally based.

Well, you might say, you cannot have everything your way. You should be happy that North America has in the ACNA and the AMiA the beginnings of an orthodox province.

But does it?

How are the ACNA and the AMiA “orthodox”? Is “orthodox” an accurate description of two bodies in which disparate theologies of salvation and justification are tolerated and more than one gospel is proclaimed.

Look at what comes with this kind of “orthodoxy.” Unfettered prelacy. The revival of Medieval Catholic beliefs and practices that historic Anglicanism rejects. Sacerdotalism.

Some of us were looking for a renewal of authentic Anglicanism in North America. Instead we are invited to trade one evil for another. Having not fully thrown off the shackles of liberalism, the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission in the Americas are binding themselves with the chains of unreformed Catholicism.

I am prompted to wonder aloud, “Who is getting the best of this bargain?” “If people are not hearing the true gospel, if they are not trusting in Christ for their salvation, if they are not growing to maturity as followers of Jesus Christ, who gains the most from it?” Think about it.

The American High Church Tradition (Part Two, 1833-1900)

In 1824, an elderly Bishop traveled throughout Europe and eventually landed in England. There he became acquainted with a young deacon named John Henry Newman. The young Newman was so impressed by this Bishop and of the Church where he served that wrote, “We have the proof that the Church, of which we are is not the mere creation of the State, but has an independent life, with a kind of her own, and fruit after her own kind” (1). The Church he wrote about was the American Church and the Bishop was John Henry Hobart, the notable Bishop of New York. Bishop Hobart stood at the front of a High Church revival in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. Bishop Hobart was a truly pastoral bishop and a pioneer in the Church. He confirmed thousands of people and ordained priests and deacons for his growing diocese. He was intrinsically opposed to Episcopalian support for the American Bible Society and instead formed the New York Bible and Common Prayer Book Society as well as the Protestant Episcopal Theological Society to spread Christian knowledge in the context of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Hobart also saw the revival of the surplice which had been nearly abandoned in America in favor of the academic gown. Oak Communion tables and some stone altars came into the chancels of many Episcopal churches. It is important to stress the stark contrast from services in this time period from later 19th century services though. Addison writes,

“The arrangement and the conduct of t he services differed from modern practice more extensively than did the actual text of the Prayer Book… The morning service generally included not only Morning Prayer but also the Litany and the Ante-Communion… The minister wore a long surplice without a cassock and usually without a scarf or stole. For the sermon he put off the surplice and donned a black gown…. At the altar Churchmen today of whatever type would note an unfamiliar bareness. The priest celebrating Holy Communion wore no vestments but the surplice and generally stood at t he north end of the holy table… [T]here were no flowers or candles or cross, at the most a linen cloth; and the elements were ordinary bread and unmixed wine. The Eucharist was seldom administered more than once a month. Though High Churchmen often observed the holy days, weekday services were more likely to of an Evangelical flavor” (117). To read more, click here.

A New Third Way? Reformist Evangelicals and the Evangelical Future

Who is and is not an evangelical? With whom should evangelicals cooperate in Gospel efforts, and who not? What theological expressions are truly evangelical, and which are beyond the pale?

These questions are central to the ongoing crisis of evangelical identity. In 1989, Carl F. H. Henry spoke to the urgency of answering these questions:

The term “evangelical” has taken on conflicting nuances in the twentieth century. Wittingly or unwittingly, evangelical constituencies, no less than their critics, have contributed to this confusion and misunderstanding. Noting could be more timely, therefore, than to define what is primary and what is secondary in personifying an evangelical Christian.

But, just a year after Henry offered those words, Robert Brow called for a complete transformation of evangelical theology – and did so within the pages of Christianity Today, the flagship periodical once edited by both Carl Henry and Kenneth Kantzer. Brow’s manifesto was a clarion call to abandon the Augustinian-Reformation model in favor of a new Arminian and postmodern model. Brow declared that the intellectual context of postmodernity made such an exchange necessary. He argued that doctrines such as the omnipotence, omniscience, and sovereignty of God would have to be radically reinterpreted in light of current thinking. He explicitly rejected doctrines such as the substitutionary atonement, a penal understanding of the cross, forensic justification, and imputed righteousness. With remarkable boldness, he called for the rejection of the traditional doctrine of hell and he denied both a dual destiny after judgment and the exclusivity of the Gospel. As he made these demands, he informed his readers of the inevitability of an evangelical “mega-shift” because, “a whole generation of young people has breathed this air.”

In short order, Brow was joined by Clark Pinnock and a corps of fellow revisionists who called for a thoroughgoing reformulation of evangelical theology from top to bottom. Pinnock would call for the embrace of what he would call the “openness of God” – his own version of a radical reconstruction of theism. Pinnock argued that the traditional evangelical doctrine of God is overly dependent upon Greek philosophy. In the style of Adolf von Harnack, Pinnock attempted what he styled as a radical de-hellenization of Christian doctrine. He explicitly denied the omniscience of God by arguing that God cannot know the future decisions of free human creatures.

With Brow, Pinnock called for the affirmation of “creative love theism” in the place of traditional theological frameworks. This new model of theism would redefine all doctrines in terms of a radical human libertarianism and a denial of any direct mode of divine sovereignty. They replaced the traditional understanding of divine sovereignty with an affirmation of divine “effectiveness” – an “ad hoc sovereignty.” To read more, click here.