Monday, January 31, 2011

Beware the Geese

By Robin G. Jordan

George Herbert, seventeenth century Anglican poet-priest, collected what he described as “outlandish proverbs and sayings.” One of them is “When the fox preaches, beware the geese.” A lot of foxes are stepping into the pulpit these days. Pope Benedict is proclaiming the message of the “new ecumenism.” Rowan Williams sports a red brush that only the most foolish goose would ignore. Behind the seemingly ineffectual pottering lurks a sly Welsh fox. While keeping the global South off guard, Williams has pursued the liberal agenda. See “A Descent into Irrelevance” on Anglican Curmudgeon.

What did the global South Primates who boycotted the latest Primates’ Meeting accomplish? They protested Katherine Jefferts Schori’s presence at the meeting but did little else. The meeting went ahead without them and the liberals made the best use of their absence.

From the absent global South Primates’ viewpoint they saw no gain in being at the meeting. They would be just giving greater legitimacy to the proceedings.

But what did they lose in not being there? They lost an opportunity to stage an old-fashioned 1960s style protest, followed by a walkout. Some of the other primates who attended the meeting might have joined them.

In staying home they reinforced the impression in liberal quarters and elsewhere that they are going to do nothing. Williams and the liberals have little cause for concern. The geese will hiss and flap their wings as the fox encircles them. But they are not going to join together and chase him off. The fox can seize them one by one.

What is happening in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church has been described as a crisis in leadership. At one point it was concern over the ineffectualness of William’s leadership. Now the concern is shifting to the ineffectualness of the leadership of global South primates who boycotted the meeting. The liberals have run circles around them. They have made fools of them.

The global South Primates who stayed home need to take some form of decisive action to restore confidence in their leadership and to show Rowan and the liberals that they cannot be safely ignored. Despite his public statement that their absence was noticed, Rowan and the liberals came away from this meeting with the knowledge that they could use the Primates’ Meeting for their purposes without the presence of the boycotting primates. Stating that their absence was noticed was pure theater.

I have a strong suspicion that Rowan breathed a sigh of relief when they did not show up. He would have to deal only with those primates who were amenable to persuasion, who could be expected to sign whatever documents were drafted and to endorse whatever proposals were made. I imagine that in the privacy of his room he was doing a Snoopy dance, punching the air, and silently mouthing, “Yes!!”

The attachment of the boycotting global South Primates to the Anglican Communion is like the attachment of former British colonies, now independent, to the British Commonwealth of Nations. They enjoy the prestige of belonging to that particular club. Membership in the British Commonwealth of Nations also has other benefits.

The liberal western provinces, however, are making it quite clear that the Anglican Communion is their club. They run it. They determine who is in and who is out. They plan the meetings. The global South provinces can be a part of the club but on their terms.

Those who were members of a backyard club in their childhood remember what happens when one group of the kids forming the club did this kind of thing. The other kids grew tired of not having a voice in what the club did and how it did it, of being ignored or overruled. They left and formed their own club. A few may have hung around for a while but eventually they left too.

I cannot help but think that Rowan and the liberals know this. They are hoping that the troublemaking global South Primates will grow tired and leave. Then they will have the club all to themselves. They will be able to claim that they are the only true Anglican Communion, they represent genuine Anglicanism, and the departing global South provinces do not. It would be a hollow victory. But they do not see it that way.

Before I conclude this article I would like to touch on a related issue. For a growing number of Anglicans here in the United States the Anglican Communion is increasingly irrelevant to their spiritual lives. They do not see any real value in Anglican Communion membership.

This trend is, contrary to what one might think, not related to the present divisions in the Anglican Communion. Rather it is related to a much wider shift in values that affects non-Anglicans as well as Anglicans.

Modern day Christians do not value denominations and denominational loyalty like earlier generations. They assign greater worth to the local church that they attend but of which they are increasingly not likely to be members, and to any affinity-based network to which the local church may belong. Being a part of a world family of churches with a common heritage is no longer as meaningful as it once was.

The consequences of this development may take years to work themselves out. We are only beginning to grasp its implications. But it is clearly likely to impact the relationship of North American churches with churches outside of North America.

(Just a reminder. Shortly after she became Presiding Bishop. Katherine Jefferts Schori had a meeting with Archbishop Rowan Williams. Following that meeting she told reporters that Williams had assured her that The Episcopal Church would not be banished from the Anglican Communion. He has kept that promise.)

How to Host a Small-Group Meeting

If you've never hosted your small group in your home, I highly recommend it. Even if you live in a tiny efficiency apartment and your fellow small-group members will have to sit on the floor or bring a folding chair with them, it will be great. I've sat on hardwood floors many times during small group, and have seen God move powerfully in our midst.

There are a few things you need to know about hosting a meeting in your home. Some are practical considerations; others are spiritual.

To read more, click here.

Anglican meeting ends with statement on leadership

A six-day meeting in Dublin of Anglican leaders from around the world ended with discussions on the nature of Anglican leadership and acknowledgment that several voices were missing.

Fourteen of the Anglican Communion's 38 primates did not attend the meeting for various reasons, but seven of them stated they were not coming due to recent church developments concerning human sexuality. In recent years, disagreements over homosexuality and the more liberal nature of churches such as the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have torn the communion.

The attendees said in a "working document" that they are striving "to express that unity in diversity which is the [Holy] Spirit's work among the churches of the communion and the community of primates. ... In our common life together we are passionately committed to journeying together in honest conversation."
In separate letters, they also stated positions on issues affecting Christians throughout the world.

To read full article, click here.

Anglican bishop of Botswana, Musonda Mwamba, receives substantial aid from The Episcopal Church.

The New Ecumenism

By Robin G. Jordan

The Vatican has through its spokesmen and the Roman Catholic media been touting Pope Benedict XVI’s ecclesiastical adventurism as the new ecumenism. True Christian unity, they claim, is to be found only in full communion with the Church of Rome. The path to true Christian unity is to convert to Roman Catholicism and become a Roman Catholic. Behind these assertions is the long-standing claim that the Church of Rome is the only true Church.

What is happening is the Church of Rome is returning to its old default position if it ever really left that position in the first place. If one examines the outcome of the ecumenical talks of the past 40 years, it is quite evident that these talks did not produce any significant change in the Roman Catholic position on a number of issues. Rather those involved in the talks on the Anglican side glozed over the differences between the two churches and accommodated the Roman Catholic position.

In formally recognizing the authority of church tradition alongside that of Scripture, requiring the interpretation of Scripture in accordance with Church tradition, and affirming the Church as the authoritative interpreter of church tradition the Church of Rome at the Council of Trent tacitly acknowledged that in the debate with the Protestant Reformers over doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church it could not appeal to Scripture alone for the support of its doctrines and practices. It in effect gave Church tradition and the Church as the interpreter of Church tradition greater authority than the Scriptures. This was a radical step.

The Western Church had given Church tradition a place in the interpretation of Scripture but it had never elevated it to this level of authority where it outweighed Scripture. The Council of Trent further claimed that Church tradition and Scripture could not disagree with each other. How Church tradition interpreted Scripture was what Scripture meant. In adopting this position the Council of Trent not only set Roman Catholicism apart from Protestantism but also historic Anglicanism and primitive Catholicism.

The Church of Rome added two more innovation to its growing list of innovations in doctrine and practice, a list to which it has added further innovations since that time—for example, the doctrine of papal infallibility. It is rather disingenuous for the Church of Rome to accuse the Anglican Church of innovation in its ordination of women when itself has made a number of innovations. There is considerable pressure in the Roman Catholic Church to elevate Jesus’ mother to the position of co-redemptrix with Christ. Pope Benedict’s predecessor who had a strong devotion to Mary gave serious thought to declaring her to be co-redemptrix alongside her son.

It is against this background we must consider what the Scriptures say in this matter. What do they say about church unity? First, they do not say that the Church of Rome is the only true Church. The Roman Catholic Church asserts that Jesus Christ founded his church upon the apostle Peter and Peter was the first bishop of Rome and the first pope. It points to Matthew 16:18-19 as the foundation of the papacy. The Scriptures, however, offer no support for the claim that Peter was a bishop of Rome, much less that he established a succession of bishops and vested the bishops in that succession with the authority the Church of Rome claims that Jesus gave him. In John 20:22-23, the “power of the keys” is given not just to Peter, but to all the disciples. To support its claim the Church of Rome falls back on Church tradition and legend. It pays not heed to the apostle Paul’s warning about turning away from listening to the truth and wandering off into myths (1 Timothy 4:4).

Second, nowhere do we find in Scripture that uniting with a particular ecclesial body is necessary to church unity. They certainly do not say true church unity is found in only full communion with the Church of Rome.

The passage that is most often cited in debates over church unity is John 17:20-24.

"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

It is noteworthy that Jesus prays for unity in God not only for the apostles but also for those who will believe in him through the apostles’ teaching—“their word.” Their teaching is found in the Scriptures, in the New Testament. Jesus does not pray for such unity for those who do not believe. He does not pray for unity between believers and non-believers. He prays for unity in God only for believers. John points very clearly to the attention of the readers of his Gospel to whom Jesus was referring.

…but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:31)

John 17:20-24 applies not only to Roman Catholics who believe but also Eastern Orthodox, Jews, and Protestants (including Anglicans). It does not apply to adherents of these faith traditions who, while they hold the beliefs of their faith tradition and observe its practices, do not believe on Jesus Christ for everlasting life. They are devoid of a lively faith.

The Roman Catholic Church is hardly a paragon of a united and unified church. With its centralized hierarchy and its authoritarian form of church governance it may do a better job of suppressing dissent than other ecclesial bodies. However, the Church of Rome has its divisions. It is not free from conflict and dissension.

The centralized hierarchy and the authoritarian form of church government have not protected the Church of Rome from innovations that are not consonant with Scripture. Rather they have tended to produce and promote such innovations. The Roman Catholic Church has not been faithful to the teaching of the apostles and has justified and rationalized its abandonment of their teaching.

The centralized hierarchy and the authoritarian form of church government have not protected Roman Catholic children from sexually predatory priests and physically abusive priests and religious. Rather they have concealed the crimes and permitted further molestation and abuse of Roman Catholic children.

The Church of Rome strains its credibility with claims that taking advantage of the Anglican Church’s troubles is a “prophetic gesture” and advances the cause of true church unity. Whatever Anglicanorum coetibus and the Personal Ordinariates are, they are not a form of ecumenism. Such claims are self-serving.

A Descent into Irrelevance

The documents posted at the close of the recent Primates' Meeting in Dublin tell the story. The takeover of the Instruments of Communion by ECUSA, aided and abetted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is now complete. Anything of substance was carefully avoided at Lambeth 2008; the proposed Covenant itself was derailed at ACC-14 in Jamaica, and then carefully defanged by the newly reorganized Standing Committee; and now the Primates' Meeting has let itself descend into irrelevance -- with the primates of the churches having most of the Anglican Communion's membership absenting themselves, and refusing to prop up the pretense of normalcy any longer.

Look at how the remaining primates now view themselves and their function. Their statement of purpose could as well have been written by the Presiding Bishop's staff at 815 Second Avenue....

To read more, click here.

Roots and Reformations

‘Evangelical Churchmen’, wrote Balleine, in his History of the Evangelical Party, ‘trace their pedigree to the Puritans, the Reformers, and the Lollards, to all within the National Church who have learned to love simple worship and spiritual religion, but as a party their existence dates from the Great Revival of the eighteenth century,1. I am more concerned in this paper with pedigree than with party. I am concerned to isolate those distinctive features of evangelicalism which can be traced in men of that persuasion in every age of the church. A few years ago the question of evangelical identity exercised our minds. The problem has not now gone away because the phrase is not heard so often. Most of our difficulties arose from our failure to identify our roots clearly, and to own them when they were identified. I want therefore to consider our pedigree and for that we must go back to the Reformers. That is not to suggest that evangelical religion began with them, it did not. The Reformers were the first to claim that what they were teaching was no novelty of their age, but was itself the revival of primitive, apostolic Christianity....
To read the full article, click here.

Church must make women bishops, say MPs

A group of influential MPs will tomorrow call for Parliament to intervene over the historic reform as fears grow that the Church will reject plans allowing female bishops.

The cross-party group, including former ministers Frank Field and Stephen Timms, and Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, is concerned that the General Synod, the Church's parliament, may not pass legislation designed to end the glass ceiling for women clergy.

Traditionalists believe that a rise in the number of opponents of female priests to the Synod has improved their chances of blocking the law, which can only pass if it receives a two-thirds majority in the houses of laity, clergy and bishops.

Many of them feel that the current legislation does not provide sufficient concessions to those who cannot accept women as bishops.

However, Mr Field has tabled an early day motion, which could abolish the Church's current exemption from equality laws relating to gender discrimination and ultimately force it to consecrate women.

To read the full article, click here.

Related article: Politically Correct Coercion Could Help Sink Women Bishops

Saturday, January 29, 2011

About Anglicans Ablaze

By Robin G. Jordan

In 2004 I launched the Anglicans Ablaze web journal as an Internet ministry to North American Anglicans primarily to keep them abreast of developments in the North American and global Anglican communities, to offer commentary on these developments, and to draw their attention to informative articles on church planting, evangelism, small group ministry, and other subjects, and to other useful resources. Readers, I think, will agree that I have kept in large part to those aims.

The articles that I publish on Anglicans Ablaze do not necessarily reflect my views nor do I necessarily endorse the views contained in them. I consider my readers mature enough where they can decide for themselves if they agree with the views expressed in a particular article. Where I think that they may need additional information in weighing these views when possible I provide it or point to where this information may be found.

On Anglicans Ablaze I have championed a number of causes. They include but are not limited to authentic historic Anglicanism, the Protestant and Reformed heritage of the Church of England, and the reform of the Anglican Church in North America.

God has drawn to my attention a number of groups and their needs. In a number of areas in Canada and the United States the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church are in retreat, consolidating and closing churches. These areas historically have not been areas where the Anglican Church has done well due to a number of factors. They are areas that are not attractive to the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission in the Americas for this reason.

Anglicans and Episcopalians who live in these areas and whose church has been closed or is slated for closure have three options. They may attend an Anglican or Episcopal church in another community, which in some areas may require an hour or more drive. They may attend a non-Anglican church in their community if there is one. Or they may stop going to church altogether and join the ranks of the unchurched. If they cannot find an Anglican or Episcopal church within a reasonable traveling distance of the community in which they live, most of them are likely to choose the third option. The result is small pockets of Anglicans and Episcopalians scattered across Canada and the United States. In some cases there may not be another Anglican or Episcopalian for several hours’ drive in any direction. They form a group that may be described as the abandoned and the orphaned.

In a number of areas of Canada and the United States Continuing Anglican churches that were established in the 1970s or later have died or disbanded. They have also left behind Anglicans who are unchurched due to the lack of an Anglican church in their community or within reasonable traveling distance of their community. Age, ill-health, poor eyesight, the high cost of gasoline, reduced income from retirement, and the increased wear and tear on their vehicle may keep them from attending an Anglican church that is within a reasonable traveling distance.

The establishment of Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans in the Roman Catholic Church in Canada and the United States is going to create a third group of “orphans”—those who choose not to convert to Roman Catholicism when their church seeks admission to the Roman Catholic Church and those whose church is disbanded after converting to Roman Catholicism, having been denied personal quasi-parish status, and who are forced to attend a Roman Catholic church in their community, which is not a part of the Canadian or US Ordinariate. A number of the Anglicans and Episcopalians who may convert to Roman Catholicism under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus and its Complementary Norms are likely to do so because their clergy and other congregation members are converting. If they do not convert, they fear that they will be churchless.

There are areas of North America and segments of its population that are not receiving the attention or the notice of the AC of C, TEC, ACNA, the AMiA, or the Continuing Anglican Churches. These Churches have largely focused on the traditional constituencies of the AC of C or TEC—Caucasian, affluent, educated, upper-middle class, professional, living in new neighborhoods, in new housing, in the suburbs or gentrified urban neighborhoods. There are a few special missions to Native American population groups and a small number of churches with the Spanish-speaking Latino population, immigrants from Kenya, Nigeria, and other parts of Africa, and immigrants from the West Indies as their ministry focus group. These areas and population segments form another group that may be described as the neglected and the unnoticed.

Since I have moved to western Kentucky, God has directed my attention to the residents of the small towns and rural areas of the region and to the young adults attending the region’s universities particularly Murray State University. While the region has numerous churches, it also has a large unchurched population, which like the unchurched population of Canada and United States is growing. A chronic problem of the smaller churches in the region is their inability to support a full-time stipendiary minister or even to secure a part-time bi-vocational minister supporting himself from secular employment.

God has also drawn to my attention what is known as the “fly-over area” of the United States. The church planting efforts of the ACNA and the AMiA are focused upon those areas where the Episcopal Church has historically focused its efforts. They include the East Coast states, the West Coast states, the Southern states, and the suburbs and the gentrified urban neighborhoods of cities throughout the United States. The East Coast states, the West Coast states, and the Southern states form a U. The area that lies within the arms of the U and which consists of the Central states is the “fly-over” area and is not as densely populated as the East Coast states, the West Coast states, and the Southern states. The economy is to a large part farming, ranching, and some mining. As agribusiness has replaced family farming, the population has dwindled even more. Western Kentucky is located in the Upper South or Southern Upland and borders this area.

The isolated and the scattered is the third group which God has drawn to my attention. They might be described as the conservative Protestant wing of the North American Anglican Church. Some are confessional Anglicans, that is, they subscribe to the teaching of the historic Anglican formularies. Others have adopted many, if not all, of the historical confessional Anglican positions on a number of key theological issues. They come from a variety of backgrounds and evidence the influence of various forms of churchmanship. They are scattered throughout the AC of C, TEC, the ACNA, the AMiA, the Continuing Anglican Churches, and non-Anglican Churches, Reformed and non-Reformed. They may not be affiliated with any denomination or a part of an organized church.

Isolation is a problem that besets this group. They have little if any contact with like-minded people in North America, much less outside of North America. They would benefit from being networked together into some kind of organization to support and help each other and to promote common interests.

The young and the vulnerable is a fourth group that God has drawn to my attention. It includes children and teenagers as well as young adults. North America has undergone a major paradigm shift and is post-Christian and post-modern. A number of ideologies and religions are competing with Christianity for the hearts and minds of these population segments. They include Islam, militant atheism, Mormonism, secularism, and Wicca and other forms of Neo-Paganism. Churches are not doing a good job of keeping their own young people, much less reaching and evangelizing the unchurched.

A fifth group that God has placed on my heart is the small membership church, its problems, and its needs. North American cultural values equate large with important. Consequently, ministry of the small-membership church is not as greatly appreciated as it should be. Neither do its problems and needs receive the attention and notice that they deserve.

These groups are not the only ones that God has brought to my attention but they are the main groups.

I do not see how I can be an effective change agent –doing what I can to advance the causes that I champion or to help solve the problems and meet the needs of the groups that I have identified—and not engage with other people who identify themselves as Christians and Anglicans or Episcopalians. I do not see how I can fulfill the Great Commission—spread the gospel and make disciples—and not engage with people who are not Christians and even may be adherents of other religions. Engagement entails mingling with them, listening to them, and talking with them. It may involve publishing articles about them or by them or interviews with them. It may even extend to collaborating with them on projects of common interest.

Engagement does not mean compromising the gospel. At the same time engagement does play a vital role in the spread of the gospel. The apostle Paul wrote the Church at Rome, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17-18) To two verses earlier Paul cites Isaiah 52:17 and Nahum 1:15. “‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Romans 10:15) To come to faith, the non-believer must hear the gospel. He is not going to hear anything if no one brings to him the good news. This movement toward the non-believer and not away from him is engagement. Paul traveled from city to city and engaged with the people there, first the Jews and then the Gentiles.

Jesus himself pursued a policy of engagement. He did not shun the Pharisees and the scribes. He sought out tax collectors, whores, and the dregs of Palestinian society. He mingled with both the self-righteous and the notorious sinners. Jesus preached to the Samaritans as well as to the Jews. The Jews detested the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews. He had a conversation with an adulteress at a well side and forgave a woman caught in adultery. Jesus went from village to village, town to town, proclaiming the good news, and taught his disciples to do likewise.

Jesus might have found a comfortable spot on a mountain in Galilee and built an ashram. He might have waited there, navel-gazing, until someone stumbled upon him. However, he did not. He moved toward those who needed him the most, not away from them. He engaged with them. He set an example for the twelve and the seventy-two. He set an example for us.

In a previous article I examined the New Testament passages relating to the Great Commission. Two of them contain commands to “go.” The passages in Luke and Acts and John infer movement, the passages in Luke and Acts an expanding witness and the passage in John a sending out. The bottom line is engagement. In Acts we read about the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem and how the early Christians were forced to leave the safety and comfort of Jerusalem and fulfill the Great Commission. We also read about Peter’s vision. God’s message was very clear—move toward the Gentiles, not away from them, engage with them, not avoid them.

It is a very human tendency to form a group and to keep to ourselves, to our own clan, to our own tribe. The Jews shunned the Gentiles because they were unclean and had unclean ways. They were not ritually pure and did not live according to Jewish standards of ritual pureness. Peter had to overcome strong prejudices. However, he was able to do so because God was at work in him to will and do what was His good pleasure.

I am expanding Anglicans Ablaze from one web journal to four. I have already begun to phase in two of the new web journals and will be phasing in the third new web journal in the near future. These new web journals are:
Heritage Anglicans with a focus upon the heritage of Anglicans in and outside of North America, their inheritance from previous generations of Anglicans and their legacy to their posterity.
The Heritage Network with a focus upon the aims of the Heritage Anglican Network.
Western Kentucky Anglicans with a regional focus—what is happening in western Kentucky but also central, northern, and other parts of the Commonwealth, developments outside of Kentucky that may impact churches in Kentucky, and any other topic that might interest Anglicans in Kentucky.

In the case of West Kentucky Anglicans I will be soliciting contributions in the form of media releases related to Anglican churches in Kentucky, articles describing new ministries and other developments in Anglican churches in the Commonwealth, and viewpoint articles on particular issues (e.g., open communion). I do reserve the right to edit all contributions in consultation with the contributor. This does not represent a new policy but is the continuation of an existing one. I apologize to anyone who may feel a sense of betrayal at a perceived change of policy on my part.

I have long advocated networking together the Anglicans in the isolated and scattered group in the ACNA with those in this group outside of the ACNA, networking them with similar-minded Anglicans outside of North America, forming a diocese or sub-provincial jurisdiction for this group within the ACNA, and forming an independent convocation of churches for those in this group for whom the ACNA and no other existing North American Anglican body for various reasons hold any attraction. This requires some level of engagement. Some of my readers do not believe an ACNA diocese or sub-provincial jurisdiction for this group would work. I respect their views.

I hope that readers have a better picture of the ministry of Anglicans Ablaze.

Ask confidently for a big commitment

Study how Jesus asked for commitment. He was always clear and confident when he asked for it. He was not at all reluctant to ask grown men and women to drop everything and follow Him. The greater the commitment you request, the greater response you will get.

People want to be committed to something that gives significance to their lives. They respond to responsibilities that give life meaning. They are attracted by a challenging vision. They want to be a part of something worthwhile.

On the other hand, people are unmoved by weak appeals and pitiful requests for help. Jesus knew this when he said in Luke 14:33, "Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." His challenge was total commitment.

To read more, click here.

‘All not well in Rowanland’

“Of the 38 primates who could and should be in attendance at a legitimate Primates’ Meeting, we understand some 15 are absent. The GAFCON primates AND Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis and Archbishop John Chew are among those with more important things to do than attend a meeting and be manipulated by procedural rules that Dr. Williams will dominate.

More important, because Rowan Williams structures the meeting to control the primates and disempower them from taking any action that he doesn’t wish, and when their photographs are taken together, the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) uses that photo to announce that all is well in Rowanland.”

The American Anglican Council’s Bishop David Anderson gives his perspective on the Dublin Primates’ meeting.

For the full text, click here.

Ordinariate Watch: Wrong Reasons, Right Reasons for Seeking Full Communion through Anglican Ordinariate

Unity is not a "good" thing-unity is a great thing. Unity is not a "nice" thing-unity is a necessary thing. Come into the Catholic Church for the right reason. Seek unity because it is what Christ commanded (not "suggested"). Seek communion with Rome because it is right.

We stood in a circle speaking about how excited we were that the Ordinariate looked so close. We were encouraging one another with our mere presence in the room. "I'm so glad that we are able to keep our liturgy", one said. Another relayed his enthusiasm that, "the Pope is so gracious to allow the soon-to-be-former-Bishops so many privileges". "This is what I've been praying about for so many years now", someone else said. A priest in the circle said, "unity is so important, I'm glad that we have this opportunity to come into communion with the Catholic Church." After much discussion with the owner of the last comment, it became apparent to me that he saw the Ordinariate as an ecumenical venture that would lead toward a stronger Church. Although this is true, that is not the whole picture.

I know quite a few people who are looking forward to the establishment of the Ordinariate here in the USA. Each one seems to have a slightly different reason for their anticipation. Each of us have been driven in this direction because of the experiences and events that God has put us and/or the parishes we are a part of through. It has been discussed before that there is a vital distinction between "running to" the Catholic Church, and "running away" from whatever it is you are leaving behind. Yet, on the side of "running to" it is not hard to get confused and have it appear that we are "running to" the Catholic Church, when we are really "running to" something peripheral to the Church herself.

To read the full article, click here.

I anticipate that this particular view of Christian unity, that is, true Christian unity is found in Communion with the Church of Rome, will be strongly promoted in the United States and elsewhere in the coming months. The Vatican has been promoting a similar view through its spokesmen and the Roman Catholic media. It is consistent with the Church of Rome's claim that it is the only true Church.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wayfaring the Anglican Way

By Robin G. Jordan

Peter Toon popularized the phrase, “the Anglican Way” with his book with same title, “The Anglican Way.” I read the book what seems a very long time ago—back in the early 1980s. I think the title stuck more in my mind than the contents—the Anglican Way.

In this article I begin an exploration of the Anglican Way, as I understand it. I may touch upon some things about which Peter wrote. However, if my readers are anticipating an encapsulation of Peter’s book they will be disappointed.

The Anglican Way is not a metaled road like the roads the ancient Romans built, several courses of gravel, stones, and sand, topped with paving stones, running in a straight line and taking the shortest route between two points. Roman roads were constructed to facilitate the rapid deployment of Rome’s legions.

The Anglican Way is more like the track ways of prehistoric Britain. In some places one sees a single track; in other places, several tracks have been worn into the ground, running parallel with each other and leading in the same direction. These tracks may merge later on to form a single track again. Here and there a path may veer off and become another track way. Great Britain is crisscrossed with prehistoric track ways as it is with Roman roads and modern highways. The Anglican Way follows a particular route but it does not always confines itself to a particular track. This characteristic of the Anglican Way is disconcerting to those who like order and tidiness, everything having a place and everything in its place.

What then marks the particular route that the Anglican Way takes—why does it go in a particular direction and not another?

The Bible is the most important route marker. The Catholic Creeds, the early Church Councils where their teaching agrees with the teaching of the Scriptures, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal are also important route markers. As long as we are following particular route that they mark, we are treading the Anglican Way. We wander from the Anglican Way when we wander outside these markers.

The Bible determines the direction in which the Anglican Way goes. God has given us the Bible not only to mark the route but also to show us its beginning and its destination. The Bible is not only our map and compass, but it is also our guide.

The Bible does not work like a GPS unit. It does not say, “Turn here; turn there.” It does give us directions. They are sometimes exact directions. But often as not they are just general directions. God has given us His Holy Spirit to help us make sense of the directions and to enable us to follow them. It is not that the directions are unclear but we are prone to misreading them and going our own way.

North Americans who are accustomed to modern highways in which the route and the track are one and the same may have difficulty grasping the concept of a route that in some places has more than one track. Those who hike and backpack on backcountry trails should on the other hand have no problem. They have walked trails like what I am describing many times.

The Anglican Way does not demand an ultramontane uniformity in all things—everyone marching in perfect step, turning at the same time, blinking their eyes as if they were a one person. On essential matters such as the gospel it does require oneness of mind, unity of thought. On non-essential matters it permits freedom of conscience. As the Bible teaches, it teaches that we should show leniency in our judgment of others and their motives. As the apostle Paul wrote the Church at Ephesus, we are to be imitators of God as dear children, walking in love as Christ has loved us and given himself for us (Ephesians 5:1-2).

A lot of the conflict and confusion that we see in the contemporary Anglican Church centers on not only the authority of the Bible but also on the nature of essential and non-essential matters. There is no agreement on what is important and what is not. One group wants to make all matters secondary matters; another group wants to make them primary matters.

Discerning matters that do make a difference from those that do not is a challenge. Some matters may in isolation be matters of indifference but in conjunction with other matters may cease to be matters of indifference. This point is often missed in the debate over these matters.

The Anglican Way is foremost a way of being followers of Jesus the Nazarene, of practicing godliness and pursuing holiness. It is a way of discipleship that seeks to be faithful to the teaching of the Bible. In the Bible we find the teaching of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself—the teaching of God. This teaching is not as the modernists tell us our reflection upon the divine but God’s revelation of his mind to us. In the Bible God has spoken and through the Bible God continues to speak. God is not a babbling infant whose utterances we must struggle to decipher. He speaks very clearly on those matters that relate to how we should live in harmony with Him and with each other.

The Anglican Way is also a way of being God’s temple, of being his people in whom his Spirit dwells, of being the new humanity that God has created. It is a way of being fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, of being a part of the church of which Jesus is the Head and of the body of which he is the Savior.

We walk the Anglican Way not in isolation from each other although circumstances may force us to do so. We journey to the heavenly Jerusalem in the company of fellow pilgrims and travelers. We bear each other’s burdens. We lend our strength to the weak and faltering, knowing our strength comes from God, and is not for us alone. Christ is our companion on the journey and our destination.

We do not forget that we are strangers and sojourners in the land, as were our forefathers before us. We remember that our Lord had nowhere to lay his head. He was even buried in a borrowed tomb. We give food to the hungry and water to the thirsty. We take in the stranger. We clothe the naked and visit the sick and those in prison. We are mindful that what we do to one of the least of these, we do to him.

Our Lord has given us a charge. As he called the apostles to him and made them fishers of men, we are to do likewise. We are to swell our company with those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and who believing have life in his name. God has shown us his grace and in doing so made us stewards of his manifold grace.

This is the Anglican Way. To some it may seem rather spare. The English Reformers, however, did not strip away what had overgrown the primitive and apostolic faith to let a new overgrowth to take its place. They sought not only to restore the pristine simplicity of that faith to the English Church but also to keep the Church from loosing it again. To this end they gave the Church the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal. When we misinterpret their teaching, depart from that teaching, subtract from it, or add to it, we wander from the Anglican Way and take another path. We may walk the same route of the Anglican Way for a time but eventually that path will lead us away from its route and into a different way.

The Heritage Anglican Network: What Is Protestantism?

The Ritualists to which the Rev. T. H. Sparshott refers to in this tract is a part of the Romeward Movement that emerged in the Church of England in the nineteenth century. The Romeward Movement sought to reunite the Church of England with the Church of Rome. To that end the Ritualists sought to introduce into the Anglican Church the doctrine and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The thinking was that if they made the Anglican Church like the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope would accept the Church of England back into the Roman fold.

Their efforts to change the character of the Church of England naturally would engender resistance from churchmen who did not share their aspirations. Among these churchmen were Protestant High Churchmen as well as Evangelicals. The Church Association was formed to combat this development and to uphold the Protestant and Reformed character of the Church of England.

In the twenty-first century the Romeward Movement has borne fruit in the form of Anglicanorum coetibus and the Personal Ordinariates of Pope Benedict XVI. The Romeward Movement failed to attain its goal of so transforming the Church of England that the Church of England would be acceptable to the Pope. But it has left its mark on the modern-day Anglican Church. It has created within the Church of England and her daughter churches pockets of Christians who are Anglican in name but Roman Catholic in doctrine and practice.

In the United States Anglicans and Episcopalians are, due to the influence of the Romeward Movement, more familiar with the Tracts for the Times than the Church Association Tracts that were written to counter the stream of propaganda that the Ritualists produced in support of their introduction of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice into the Church of England in defiance of English ecclesiastical law. The Heritage Anglican Network will be publishing the Church Association Tracts, which provide us with a window into this critical phase in English Church history and are a reminder of the Protestant and Reformed character of historical Anglicanism.

To read the tract and learn more about the Church Society, which was formed from a merger of the Church Association and the National Church League in 1950, click here.

Ordinariate Watch: Dissident Anglicans step closer to Rome

The path to Rome detours by the Gold Coast for those disaffected Australian Anglicans planning to take up Pope Benedict's offer to join the Catholic Church.

Up to 50 clergy and laity will gather for the first time nationally at St Stephen's College at Coomera for three days from Tuesday to discuss the Australian Anglican ordinariate - the local framework which will allow them to keep their married clergy, liturgy and church structures within Catholicism.

The prominent Sydney barrister John McCarthy, QC, has been briefed to advise the main dissident group of conservatives, the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion, on constitutional and legal issues arising from the historic move.

"Certainly the exercise has never been done before, not since the Reformation," he said.

To read the full article, click here.

Discovering a Meeting Place for Your New Church Plant That Works

I am amazed just how often I get a call from a church planter asking me about making him a list of potential meeting places for their new church to meet! Usually, their request comes prefaced with some sort of declaration that the one they had lined up fell through and now they need a place to meet and they need it fast! A few years ago, I was coaching a church planter in the northeast and I suggested to him during the year prior to launching that he not only needed a Plan A for a meeting place but he should also have a backup plan as well. He was a good planter and had developed a backup plan. About three weeks before his launch he lost the first place they had reserved and moved to their second selection quickly and except for the need to do an additional phone and print follow-up, everything went off with little trouble. In one of the church plants that I have been a part of since I have lived in the southeast, we had a wonderful school picked out and had what we thought was a rock solid commitment and contract to use a high school. Less than 30 days before launch we were informed they were not going to allow us to use the building. Providentially, we had always had a backup plan and while it cost us a little more and we had to do some quick last minute advertising and calling of our prospects, we launched in a warehouse with a little less than one hundred people (87) and never looked back. What has always brought me a smile is that the school in less than a month had begun renting it to another church plant from another denomination. Today both new churches are doing well but God’s hand of protection spared us from getting into a facility that was just too small for our growth. Our wise pastor moved quickly to secure our second option and it allowed us to grow to well over 800 people in attendance before we ever moved out of the launch facility and on to our own property and facilities. There was a time when a church planter had few choices in deciding on the facility they would rent. Today is a whole, new ball game!

So with the idea of securing a meeting place for your new church may I suggest some places that church planters have found useful over the years? Your call to talk over the options is still welcomed, but here are some ideas that might lead you to discovering that perfect place for you and your new plant to meet....

To read more, click here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

West Kentucky Anglicans: An Interview with the Revd. Chris Larimer

West Kentucky Anglicans recently interviewed the Rev’d Chris Larimer the new rector of Holy Apostles Anglican Church in Bardstown, Kentucky. The Right Rev’d. John Guernsey, Bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Spirit, will be installing Chris as Holy Apostles’ rector on Sunday, January 30, 2011.

The Diocese of the Holy Spirit was originally affiliated with the Church of Uganda. It is now a part of the Anglican Church in North America.

In the interview Chris tells us about himself and how he became a journeyer on the Anglican Way. He shares with us his vision for the future of Holy Apostles and his hopes for the growth of the Anglican Church and Anglicanism.

What is your background, Chris? What were your earliest religious or spiritual experiences and how did they impact you?

I come from Johnson City, TN, born to older parents (my mother was almost 40 when I arrived). Though my parents originally were members of the Presbyterian Church, my father’s family had been Brethren / United Methodist – and that was the church in which I was baptized. My mother received a fresh experience of conversion in the 1970s that led to involvement in a charismatic church. When my parents divorced, we moved to the charismatic church full-time. The church grew to 500 in a short time, but experienced a severe split that led us to a membership of less than 20. It was during this time of hardship that I began to get a glimpse of what the church was really all about – not buildings and programs, but a group of people that band together to stick it out during hard times, and to share the love of Jesus among themselves and with those around them....

To read the entire interview, click here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bishop Guernsey to Install New Rector

Sunday, January 30, 2011
10:00am – 11:30am
Holy Apostles Anglican Church
56 Public Square
Elizabethtown, KY

The Rt. Rev’d. John A. M. Guernsey, bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Spirit, will preach, celebrate the Eucharist, and install the Rev’d. Chris Larimer as rector of Holy Apostles Anglican Church. The service will begin at 10 AM. Holy Communion is available to all baptized Christians. Afterward, light refreshments will be served and there will be a meet-and-greet with the bishop.

Childcare will be available. Children are welcome in the service. Parking is available around the square and behind the church in Strawberry Alley.

For details, contact the church (270-769-1170) or the rector (

Visiting clergy are welcome to process (red stoles, please).

"For our wisdom ought to be nothing else than to embrace with humble teachableness, and at least without finding fault, whatever is taught in Sacred Scripture." John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bk. 1, Ch. XVIII, sect. 4)

Look Before You Leap

By Robin G.Jordan

”We say…Loke yer thou lepe, whose literal sense, is doo nothinge sodenly or without avisement.” William Tyndale, Obedience of Christian Man, 1528

Anglican congregations and clergy in North America weighing the option of converting to Roman Catholicism and joining a personal ordinariate in Canada or the United States under the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus (Groups of Anglicans) would be wise to explore what is going to happen to them in the Roman Catholic Church before they make any decisions. They should thoroughly investigate what they can expect upon becoming Roman Catholics. They should seek answers to these questions.

1. What is the likelihood that their particular congregation will be granted personal parish or personal quasi-parish status? Will they know beforehand?

Anglicanorum coetibus and its complementary norms do not guarantee personal parish or personal quasi-parish status to every Anglican congregation that converts to Roman Catholicism.

2. What is the likelihood that their priest or priests will be reordained? Here again, will they know beforehand?

Anglicanorum coetibus and its complementary norms do not guarantee the reordination of every Anglican priest who converts to Roman Catholicism. A number of them will be laicized.

3. What they will be expected to do if their congregation is not granted personal parish or personal quasi-parish status and their priest or priests are not ordained? Will they be expected to attend a regular Roman Catholic parish in their area?

Anglicanorum coetibus and its complementary norms do not rule out this possibility.

4. What will happen to any church buildings and property they own?

Anglicanorum coetibus and its complementary norms do not address the issue of property ownership. Once a congregation converts to Roman Catholicism, there is strong likelihood that the Roman Catholic Church will take possession of its property. If the Roman Catholic Church disbands the congregation, there is a very real possibility that it will dispose of the property as it sees fit.

5. What is the present situation of the Roman Catholic Church in their area?

The present situation of the Roman Catholic diocese in which their church is located warrants their attention. The personal ordinariates will not be entirely independent of the Roman Catholic archdiocesan and diocesan structure in North America. The Roman Catholic diocesan bishop with jurisdiction in a particular area must be consulted by the ordinary of the ordinariate on certain matters and the Vatican will consider his opinion in its final decision on these matters. He will also have oversight over personal ordinariate clergy resident in his diocese in certain matters. The present situation of the Roman Catholic diocese also warrants attention in the event a congregation is not granted personal parish or personal quasi-parish status and its priest or priests are not reordained.

Was it affected by the sexual abuse scandals of recent years? How was the sexual abuse handled?

Is it suffering a shortage of priests?

Are churches being closed and consolidated?

Do some churches have Sunday celebrations without a priest at which a nun gives a “reflection” after the readings and distributes the reserved communion elements with the assistance of lay ministers of communion?

A statement that one of the country’s leading ecclesiologist Lyle E. Schaller makes in the introduction to his book Small Congregations, Big Potential prompted this article:

Fifth, the current resident pastor is a woman. That is an increasingly common pattern for small and midsized Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations in America, but not yet the norm.

This was a reminder of what I have read elsewhere. In a number of Roman Catholic dioceses women, usually religious, are pastoring Roman Catholic congregations due to the shortage of priests. They do not preside at Mass or consecrate the bread and the wine for the Eucharist. They do, however, provide spiritual care and guidance to the congregation. The congregation is yoked to other congregations that are served by a single priest who celebrates Mass at each congregation on one or more Sundays in a month. The woman pastor presides at the congregation’s Sunday celebrations on those Sundays the priest is elsewhere.

Do nuns and women pastoral assistants preach homilies at the Mass?

The canons of the Roman Catholic Church strictly prohibit lay preaching in the Mass. However, a number of dioceses ignore this prohibition. The lay homilists in these dioceses are often women.

What kind of music is used in the area’s Roman Catholic churches?

In some Roman Catholic parishes a small ensemble consisting of guitar, keyboard, and vocalists leads the congregational singing, using hymns and songs from one of a number of contemporary Roman Catholic collections like Gather and Ritual Song. The ensemble may play the hymns and songs from a paperback missalette. In other Roman Catholic parishes such as those that use a Roman Catholic hymnal like Worship the music is more traditional with a cantor or choir leading the singing and accompanied by an organ. In charismatic parishes contemporary Christian and praise and worship songs are popular.

6. If the congregation is granted personal parish or personal quasi-parish status and its priest or priests ordained, what liturgical rites will they be allowed to use?

Anglicanorum coetibus and its complementary norms stress that all liturgical rites used in the personal ordinariates must be vetted and approved by the Vatican. The Book of Divine Worship, the Anglican Use service book used in the United States, is out of print; the Vatican has not produced a replacement. The Book of Divine Worship is based upon the Episcopal Church’s 1979 Book of Common Prayer and has a Rite I and a Rite II. It is not based upon the 1928 Prayer Book and the American Missal. In its official statements the Roman Catholic Church has emphasize that the personal ordinariates will not be ecclesial bodies with their own rite. They will be Roman Rite. They may always use the Roman Rite liturgy. The Roman Catholic Church is introducing a new liturgy in November of this year. All regular Roman Catholic parishes will be expected to use it. There is a very real possibility that the personal ordinariates will be encouraged to use it and the Vatican will take its time in authorizing a new Anglican Use service book. If the ordinariates are persuaded to use the new Roman Rite liturgy, the incentive for the Vatican to authorize such a service book disappears.

7. What worship aid such as hymnals will they be permitted to use?

When the Roman Catholic Church in its official statements speaks of “worthy patrimony,” it means what it considers estimable, deserving respect, or entitled to recognition. Vatican officials, not the ordinariates themselves, will be determining what customs, music, and the like personal parishes and personal quasi-parishes may retain in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church is being forthright in its official statements but Anglican congregations and clergy may be misreading these statements and giving heed to those who are misinterpreting them. A small traditionalist Anglo-Catholic congregation that takes the Pope’s offer and converts as a congregation to Roman Catholicism will be deeply disappointed if having been received into the Roman Catholic Church it discovers that its aging priest will not be reordained and the congregation will not be granted even personal quasi-parish status. It will be outraged if it further discovers that the congregation is to be disbanded and its church building sold. It is expected to attend a regular Roman Catholic parish in the area, a parish in which a worship leader with a guitar leads the congregational singing and a nun officiates at the Sunday celebration twice a month.

This list of questions is not exhaustive. I am sure that Anglican congregations and clergy contemplating migrating to the Roman Catholic Church can think of additional questions. For some Anglican congregations and clergy becoming Roman Catholic will be a real coming-home experience. They are Roman Catholics at heart. For other Anglican congregations and clergy becoming Roman Catholic may prove a great disappointment. All Anglican congregations and clergy considering such a momentous decision need to ask these questions and similar ones to help them in discerning what will be the right choice for them. They need to take all necessary steps to ensure that they do not make a rash and precipitous decision.

As well as asking questions of this kind, they also need to give ample time to the process of discernment. They need to be wary of those who seek to rush them into making a hasty decision for reasons of their own. They do not want to make an unwise choice at the urging of such individuals and groups that they will regret later on. They should always consider the motives of an individual or group in pressing for a particular course of action and in the case of an individual the temperament of that individual, his judgment, past decisions that he has made, the outcome of these decisions, and so forth.

A young man I know suffered a serious head injury when he as a teenager went bicycling without a helmet. He has not completely recovered from the effects of this injury. However, he has come a long way. His story is an example of courage, faith, and perseverance against great odds.

He and some fraternity brothers were this past spring diving off the roof of a pontoon boat they had rented. The boat drifted too close to shore. They were having so much fun that they did not notice the boat’s shoreward drift. One after another his fraternity brothers dived off the roof into the water. The young man’s turn came. He dived headfirst into the water without first checking the water where he was diving. He rammed his face into the gravel bottom of the lake. He was fortunate. He received no more serious injuries than a number of cuts and abrasions to his face.

“Look before you leap” is an old saying. It is also very sound advice.

Churches Find End Is Nigh

Residential and commercial real-estate owners aren't the only ones losing their properties to foreclosure. The past few years have seen a rapid acceleration in the number of churches losing their sanctuaries because they can't pay the mortgage.

Just as homeowners borrowed too much or built too big during boom times, many churches did the same and now are struggling as their congregations shrink and collections fall owing to rising unemployment and a weak economy.

To read more, click here.

Pacific churches in Australia upset over gay ministers

Several Pacific island congregations in the Uniting Church of Australia have formed a potential breakaway movement, over the issue of homosexuality. They've been joined by other congregations from the Chinese, Korean and Aboriginal communities, who accuse the Uniting Church of straying from biblical teaching by moving to ordain homosexuals as ministers. The group is called the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church. One of its leaders, Reverend Dr Hedley Fihaki, a Tongan minister in Cairns, says Pacific island christians in particular have found it impossible to go along with the Uniting Church's views.

Reverend Dr Hedley Fihaki, a Tongan minister in Cairns and deputy chair of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church of Australia. And a panel discussion on this developing split in the Uniting Church can be heard on Pacific Beat this Friday. Reverend Fihaki will debate the General Secretary of the Uniting Church Assembly, Reverend Terence Corking, and also participating will be Reverent Tavake Tupou from Auckland, a former President of the Methodist Church in New Zealand who took his Tongan congregation out of the church entirely over the issue of homosexuality.

To hear audio file or to read the transcript of this interview, click here.

Anglican Leaders Begin Talks amid Dissent

Anglican leaders from around the world began their weeklong meeting on Tuesday in the Irish capital of Dublin.

Not in attendance are about a third of the 39 primates – senior bishops or archbishops – many of whom are choosing to stay away because they feel it would be a waste of time.

Just days before the Primates Meeting, Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of the Middle East said he believes the global gatherings are "manipulated" and "orchestrated."

"I felt now that it's a waste of time when you go to a place where the results and the outcome is already decided," he explained during the Mere Anglicanism Conference in Charleston, S.C. "And there is no consultation in order to own the agenda of a meeting like this.

"It's cooked, pre-cooked thing," he contended. "And it is very sad, very sad, that this is happening."

Other archbishops from the Global South have also expressed that it is "pointless" to join the Primates Meeting.

To read more, click here.

Related article: Global Conservative Anglican Leaders Duck Worldwide Meeting

Related article: Primates’ Meeting – Briefing #1

Mere Anglicanism Conference: Recovering the Word of God for the Anglican Communion

The writer of the letter of Hebrews, when describing the word of God, he wrote these words:

“For the word of God is alive, active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” [Hebrews 4:12]

Note here that the Word of God is described as ‘living’, ‘active’, ‘sharp’, ‘it penetrates’ and ‘it judges’.

It is living means that it continues to speak to us every day, at every age, and in every situation. It continued to speak, it is alive, it is a living word.

It is ‘active’ and this means that it works in us, it transforms us, exactly like the yeast working in dough which causes growth. So the word of God grows growth of the church.

It is a sharp double-edged sword – it is similar to the sword that comes out of the mouth of God in the Book of Revelation, you know the Book of Revelation puts this image of God with a sword coming out of his mouth. It is like this because it is the Word of God. This means that it does not change and it is decisive and honest. In Egypt we have a saying that describes the word of a person who keeps his or her word as a sword. So we say “This man - his word is like a sword.” It means he does not, or she does not, change his or her word - keeps it - he cannot say lies – he speaks the truth all the time. And that is perhaps the idea about describing the Word of God as a sharp double-edged sword.

‘It penetrates’ means that it can reach to the deepest and most hidden part of our soul and spirit.

‘It judges’ and discerns the thoughts of our hearts. It helps us to discern, if the thoughts of our hearts are Godly or not. Jesus in the parable of the farmer sowing the seeds described the Word of God as seeds which when accepted by the good hearts brings forth fruits of eternal life. Indeed the Word of God helps us to know Jesus and his plan for our salvation.

To see a video of Bishop Mouneer Anis' entire presentation or read a transcript of that presentation, click here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Great Commission

By Robin G. Jordan

The Great Commission is the task that our Lord has committed to his Church. It is a task that He has committed not to one group in the Church—the bishops or the clergy. It is a task that He committed to the entire Church. Consequently, I believe that it is helpful to take a look at what the New Testament tells us about the Great Commission. We all need to know as much as possible about the task that our Lord has committed to us. We need this knowledge not for its own sake but so that we can apply it in carrying out the Great Commission.

If we examine the passages of the New Testament that refer to the Great Commission, we discover that the Great Commission consists of a number of elements. I am going to look at these passages one by one, drawing attention to these elements as I examine them and considering their implications. I am going to begin with Matthew 28:18-20. The translation of the Bible I am using is the New King James Version.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

Jesus spoke these words to his eleven disciples after he had risen from dead. They had gone to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to go and tell the brethren they would see him. When the eleven disciples saw him, they worshiped him but some doubted. In this passage Jesus is speaking to all of them, those who worshiped him and those who doubted. Keep this in mind. Even today some of us fall at his feet and worship him. Some of us entertain doubts. Jesus’ words are addressed to us all. Note what Jesus says.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth.”

Jesus is not someone that we call “lord” as a term of respect. We call him “Lord” because he is Lord. Since he is Lord, it is not enough that we call him “Lord,” he must really be our Lord in our hearts. He must occupy that place there. If we turn to anyone as King, Lord, Master, or Teacher, it is him and no other. There is no uncertainty as to whom is Lord over our lives, who is Ruler of our consciences, who is Bishop and Shepherd of our souls. It is Jesus.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations….”

Jesus does not tell the disciples to stay where they are—to wait on the mountain in Galilee for others to come to them. He tells them to go from the mountain--to begin or be moving away from Galilee. Their ministry is not to be there. In the Greek the word is literally “going.” Note his use of word “therefore,” that is, “for this reason.” The reason to which he is referring is that he has been given all authority. He is not making a suggestion to them. He is speaking authoritatively to them, in the name of God. He is commanding them. They are bound by what he says. What is he commanding them to be on the move to do—what is the task which they are charged to undertake—“to make disciples of all the nations.”

The eleven apostles became his disciples. They followed him when he called them. He promised them that he would make them fishers of men. They would no longer be casting their nets in the waters of the Sea of Galilee for the fish that swam in its depths. They would be casting the nets of the Kingdom for their fellow men and women. They would be calling others to follow Jesus as he had called them. He was not commanding them to make disciples of Galileans. He was charging them to make disciples of all nations.

Jesus is not speaking of “nations” in the modern sense. He is speaking of “people groups”---all groups of people whatever affinity links them together—kinship, race, ethnicity, locality, social-economic class, caste, religion, language, dialect, a passion for the game of cricket, anything.

“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….”

Jesus further charged them not just to make disciples of them, Jesus followers like themselves, but also to baptize them. They were to mark them as Jesus’ own with water. They were to baptize them in the name of the Holy Trinity, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, of the three Persons of the Godhead.

…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you….”

He went on to charge them to instruct these new disciples in all things that he commanded them. Whatever he had commanded them to do; they were to pass on these commands. This included the command that he was giving them on that mountain in Galilee. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on a mountain. Jesus gave the Great Commission to the eleven apostles on a mountain. The Jewish readers of the Gospel of Matthew would not miss the point.

“…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus concludes the Great Commission with a promise and an assurance. He will be with the eleven apostles always. He gives this promise and this assurance to the apostles not as his closest followers during his earthly ministry, not as the bishops of his Church, but as the nucleus of his Church. The promise and the assurance that Jesus gives to the eleven apostles are the promise and the assurance that he gives to his whole Church throughout the world and for all time. Should his Church leave this planet and go with some future space travelers to a new planet, Jesus will go with his Church.

Note Jesus’ use of the word “lo.” For us, it has become an archaism. It is used to draw attention to what the person speaking is saying or going to say. It is used to introduce the mention of surprising fact. Jesus was sending the disciples away from him. They would not be staying with him on that mountain in Galilee. He would be leaving them. Indeed he would ascend into heaven before their eyes. Yet he is telling them that that he will be with them always!

Mark 16:14-20, the next cluster of New Testament verses relating to the Great Commission, has generated a series of controversies.

Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.(Mark 16:14-20 NKJV)

One controversy has centered on the passage, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved….” This passage has been interpreted in a number of ways. Baptists have historically insisted that believing and being baptized must follow in that order. A believer in baptism makes a public declaration of his acceptance of Jesus as his Saviour and his commitment to Jesus as his Lord. Baptists have generally insisted upon baptism by full immersion upon profession of faith albeit some Baptists permit baptism by partial immersion—the baptismal candidate kneeling in the water up to their waist and copious amounts of water being poured over them. Nineteenth century Bishop of Liverpool J. C. Ryle wrote that what matters is that a person believes and is baptized and not what order believing and being baptized occur. Church of England Evangelicals have generally taken his position.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer establishes baptism by dipping—that is—immersion as the standard for the Church of England, a fact that is seldom recognized. Baptism by pouring—that is infusion is given as the alternative method when the baptismal candidate is too weak to undergo immersion. Baptismal minimalism has come to dominate the Church of England and her daughter churches; the practice of sprinkling, which is not authorized by the rubrics of the 1662 Prayer Book, has replaced immersion and infusion as the most common mode of baptism.

Another controversy has centered on the signs that Mark 16:17-18 says will follow those who believe. Like Mark 16:16 this passage has been interpreted in several ways. It must be noted that where believers have been faithful in going into all the world and proclaiming the gospel to the whole creation, God has delivered the demonically-oppressed. Believers have spoken in languages that they did not learn at their mother’s knee. God has performed miracles and healed the sick. When believers have gone out and preached everywhere in obedience to Jesus’ command, God has, as with the apostles, worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

Luke wrote his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles to be read together. Passages that relate to the Great Commission are found in both Luke’s Gospel and Acts.

Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."

And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen. (Luke 24:44-53)

Before Jesus departs from the apostles they learn from him that “it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem….” They are witnesses to these things. Jesus uses “behold” in this passage like he uses “lo” in Matthew 28:20. They are to take notice of what he is saying. He is going to send “the Promise of the Father” upon them—the Holy Spirit. They are to await the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit will clothe them with “power from on high.” Jesus does not specifically mention the Holy Spirit but we learn from Acts that the Holy Spirit is to whom he is referring.

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:4-8 NKJV)

In Luke 24:47 Jesus tells the apostles that repentance and remission of sins is to be preached in the Christ’s name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem; in Acts 1:8 he tells them that they are to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”—in all the known world and beyond. For the Jews Jerusalem where the Temple was located was the centre of the world. Devote Jews moved to Jerusalem in their old age to live and die in close proximity to the Temple. They went to the Temple everyday to worship God.

Jesus is telling the apostles that once they have been clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit, they are not to linger in Jerusalem. They are to be witnesses to him, not just in Jerusalem or even in the surrounding countryside of Judea but in the territory of the hated Samaritans and “to the end of the earth”—to the remotest corners of the world. This meant going into the lands of the unclean Gentiles. It meant sailing on the Great Green Sea of the Mediterranean, which the Jews dreaded. The sea symbolized to them chaos and destruction. We balk today at the prospect of leaving our comfort zones to witness to Jesus in our world. How must the apostles felt at the prospect of leaving the familiar surroundings of Jerusalem and Galilee?

The last passage at which I am going to look in this article is John 20:19-23.

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Space does not permit me to do as thorough exposition of this cluster of verses as might like to do. In John 20:21 Jesus says, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Here again it must be stressed that the apostles represent whole Church. Jesus is not sending one class of his followers. He is sending all his followers—throughout the world and in every generation.

John 3:16-18 tells us why God sent Jesus.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

The Comfortable Words that follow the Absolution in the 1662 Communion Service are taken from these verses and from 1 John 2:1-2.

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

God sent Jesus to be the means of our salvation. Through God’s grace we are saved by faith in Jesus. At the same time Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. Jesus suffered death upon the cross for our redemption. He made upon the cross, in the words of the 1662 Prayer of Consecration, “(by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.”

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17:20 we learn why he sends his Church as he was sent. It is so that others will believe in him through our word as we have believed in him through the apostles’ word. We are the instruments through whom God spreads the good news of the salvation that he has wrought through his Son Jesus. We are the living books that God has written that others may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing they may have life in His name. Our lives as well as our words are our testimony to Jesus.

One question I sometimes hear is “Doesn’t it trouble you that these accounts of the giving of the Great Commission are different?” My response is “no.” The New Testament tells us that Jesus appeared to the apostles several times after he had risen from the dead. Jesus understood human nature. He recognized that our attentions wander. We may not be listening even when we should be. His followers might be too excited or too frightened at seeing him alive again to pay full attention to what he was saying. They would not be hanging on every word he said. The New Testament also tells us that some did not believe. Jesus recognized that some people might block what he was saying out of disbelief and hardness of heart.

Preachers and teachers learn that their congregations and classes may not hear them the first time they draw something to their attention. They may have to repeat what they are saying over and over again before their audience hears what they are saying. They may have to repeat it further before they grasp what they are saying. Even then they may not realize its full meaning or import until later after they have an opportunity to reflect upon what was said. Sometimes it may take sharing notes or recollections with others who were present. This is one of the reasons that small groups which meet during the week to discuss the sermon, the biblical truths and principles in the sermon, and the application of these truths and principles to the lives of individual small group participants and their common life together are so beneficial to the formation and growth of their participants as disciples.

During sermons, lectures, and even small groups discussions people’s attentions drift away and then return to the sermon, lecture, or subject of discussion. The astute preacher, teacher, and small group discussion leader will repeat an important point several times in hope that the members of the congregation, class, or small group will be tuned in at one of these times and hear what is said.

The differences in the accounts of what happened also make them more reliable. I learned this fact as a child protection investigator. If, when investigating an allegation of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect or a child fatality, an investigator heard the identical story from all whom he or she interviewed, the likelihood that they had gotten together on a story and the story that they were telling was far from the truth was very high. Witnesses are apt not to agree on every detail. Some may remember one thing; others another. The investigator pieces together what happened from their different accounts.