Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Prelacy in the Anglican Church in North America


By Robin G. Jordan

A disturbing trend in the Anglican Church in North America is the emergence of prelacy as the form of episcopacy in the ACNA. This trend is more evident at the provincial level than at the diocesan and local congregational levels at this point in time but having become established at the provincial level, it will influence ecclesiastical governance at the diocesan and local congregational level as it is already showing signs of doing.

The principal support for prelatical episcopacy comes from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Church in North America. Anglo-Catholics holds that bishops are indispensable to the church. They subscribe to the belief that God has vested bishops with supreme authority over the church as the successors to the apostles.

This belief, however, has no real basis in Scripture. The English Reformers found no warrant for any particular order or form of ecclesiastical polity in the Bible. They would reject the exclusive claim of both episcopalians and presbyterians. They recognized episcopacy, not as of divine right, but as an ancient and allowable form of polity.

A number of factors are contributing to the emergence of prelacy as the form of episcopacy in the Anglican Church in North America. In this article I touch upon six of these factors.

One factor is that we live in a time of uncertainty and in times of uncertainty people turn to more authoritative forms of leadership. Authority is apt to become confused with infallibility.

A second factor is that the elimination of the more radical forms of liberalism from the Anglican Church in North America has removed a major obstacle to Anglo-Catholic aspirations. Anglo-Catholics no longer have to deal with competition from the adherents of these ideologies for hegemony. Anglo-Catholic organizations like the Forward in Faith North America and the Society of the Holy Cross have an agenda, which is to promote Catholic faith, order, and practice in the ACNA. By “Catholic” they do not mean the reformed catholicism of historic Anglicanism. They seek to move the ACNA closer to the so-called apostolic churches—the Independent Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Churches. These churches are prelatical in their form of ecclesiastical governance as well as unreformed in their doctrine and practice.

A third factor is that entrepreneurial concepts of leadership and management imported from corporate America have influenced thinking in some quarters of the Anglican Church in North America and have increased receptivity to authoritative leadership especially in the area of new church development. A popular approach to church planting is to assemble a launch team of experts headed by a lead pastor. This approach has demonstrated its effectiveness in the establishment of new churches. A major drawback of this approach, however, is the tendency of church leaders to fail to implement needed accountability mechanisms at the appropriate stage in the church plant. The result is church leaders with extensive authority but negligible accountability. A temptation is to take this approach and to apply it at the provincial and diocesan level as well as the local congregational level. This is what happened in the Anglican Mission, and appears to be happening in the Anglican Church in North America at the provincial level.

A fourth factor is the attribution of the social and theological conservatism and explosive growth of the African provinces to the authoritative leadership of the African bishops. By emulating their style of leadership, it is argued, similar results may be achieved in North America. This argument fails to take into consideration the differences between Africa and North America. What works in Africa may not work in Canada and the United States. It also ignores or minimizes other factors beside authoritative leadership lying behind these developments in Africa. This includes God.

What is promoted as an African style of leadership in North America upon close examination turns out to be a North American interpretation of an African leadership style that owes very little to Africa and a great deal to corporate America and the Roman Catholic Church.

In my study of the governing documents of a number of African provinces I found that the Africans incorporated more safeguards, checks, and balances, and accountability mechanisms in these governing documents than the Common Cause Governance Task Force did in the final version of the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America. Archbishop Robert Duncan pushed what he described as a minimalist set of canons but as it turned out his intention was not to streamline the governance of the province but to provide himself with a mandate to do what he saw fit. He has repeatedly disregarded the provisions of the ACNA governing documents and encouraged other ACNA leaders to do the same. He has promoted the development of an ecclesiastical culture that shows negligible regard for constitutionalism and the rule of law.

A fifth factor is that the laity has been made the scapegoat for the ascendancy of liberalism in the Episcopal Church. Those who promote prelacy in the Anglican Church in North America not only display mistrust of the laity but also synodophobia, the irrational fear of representative legislative assemblies.

A sixth factor is that episcopacy is equated with prelacy in the minds of North American Anglicans. The equating of the two is not surprising in Anglo-Catholics but it is in other groups represented in the Anglican Church in North America. It points to the strong influence of Anglo-Catholic views of bishops and episcopacy. This is seen in various articles on the Internet, which treat these views as if they are the views of the Anglican Church rather than of one school of thought in the Anglican Church.

This trend is particularly disturbing to a conservative evangelical Anglican like myself who has made more than a cursory study of Anglican Church history. Prelacy in Anglican Church history is not associated with a strong commitment to the Scriptures and the Anglican formularies. Rather it is associated with times in which the Scriptures and the Anglican formularies have been neglected and the gospel of salvation by grace by faith in Jesus Christ has gone unpreached. False and strange doctrine contrary to God’s word has flourished as has ungodliness and worldliness.

The emergence of prelacy as the form of episcopacy in the Anglican Church in North America and the accompanying concentration of power in the ACNA in the hands of a small elite are two of a number of reasons that Anglican pastors and churches strongly committed to the Scriptures, the Anglican formularies, the Great Commission, and responsible, synodical church government should think twice before they affiliate with an existing ACNA judicatory or seek recognition as a new ACNA judicatory. In a future article I will examine the serious challenges affiliation with an existing ACNA judicatory or recognition as a new ACNA judicatory represent to Anglican pastors and churches that have a strong commitment to the Scriptures, the Anglican formularies, the Great Commission, and responsible, synodical church government.

Related article: Foundation Stones: Responsible, Synodical Church Government

Foundation Stones: Responsible, Synodical Church Government


By Robin G. Jordan

In a previous article, “Anglican Mission: God’s Church under Construction” I drew attention to four essential foundation stones upon which a new orthodox North American Anglican province must be built: They are:

1. A strong commitment to the Scriptures;
2. A strong commitment to the classic formularies;
3. A strong commitment to the Great Commission; and
4. A strong commitment to responsible, synodical church government

Without these foundation stones forming its base any structure established to serve as a new orthodox North American Anglican province is going to collapse. All four foundation stones are needed to support it. In this article I examine the fourth foundation stone—a strong commitment to responsible, synodical church government.

The Bible does not prescribe or prohibit any particular organization for fellowship of congregations. It does, however, lay down certain principles that we would be wise to incorporate into such an organization.

The New Testament not only emphasizes that we must give an accounting to God for everything we have said and done but we are also accountable in this life to the church—to the assembly of believers or to a subdivision of it.

We see this accountability in practice in the report Peter gives to the church in Acts 11:1-18. A sense of being accountable to others is seen in Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders before his departure to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17-28) and his report to James and all the elders upon his arrival in Jerusalem (Acts 21: 18-20).

Whatever organization we form, its leaders should be responsible. They should be liable to be called to account, answerable in clearly defined manners to the church. Responsible leaders and responsible government are not autocratic. Their authority is not unrestricted. They are morally accountable for their actions.

The New Testament stresses that the officers of the church should be capable of rational conduct, should be of good repute, and should be apparently trustworthy (Acts 6:3; 1 Timothy 3:1-13). It is these characteristics that make for responsible leadership. While it does not specifically appear in New Testament lists of desirable qualities in church officers, a sense of being accountable to others is seen in the New Testament from the preceding examples as a desirable quality in those in a position of influence or leadership in the church.

A synod is a deliberative assembly. It may consist of laypersons as well as clergypersons. In a synodical form of church government deliberative assemblies of clergy and laity play a large role in the discussion and determination of major issues affecting the church. Among the New Testament examples of a synod are the Jerusalem Council that sent a letter to the Gentile believers.

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:22-29 ESV)

With this council the early disciples were following an established Jewish practice. Earlier in Acts 4:5-6 we read how the rulers and elders and the scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family, to examine Peter and John and to decide how they should deal with these two apostles. We read later in Acts 6:1-6 how the apostles summoned the full number of disciples and instructed this gathering to select seven men from amongst themselves to care for the needs of the widows of the Hellenists.

Underlying the synodical principle is the recognition that the same Spirit is given to the whole church (1 Corinthians 12:4). To each member of the church is given the manifestation of the Spirit—some form of the Spirit’s working—for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) The Body of Christ is interdependent. One member cannot do without another (1 Corinthians 12:14-26). The Homily Concerning the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost for Whit Sunday affirms these New Testament teachings against the claim of the Roman Catholic Church that God has granted the Bishop of Rome a special gift of the Holy Spirit that sets him apart from other men. In its repudiation of this claim the homily also does not recognize the Anglo-Catholic claim that bishops have received a special grace from the Holy Spirit and the government of the Christian community is solely their concern.

If we look at the history of the Church of England from the Reformation on, we see put into practice the belief that God is working in the entire church, not just in the bishops and the clergy. The reigning Monarch, the Privy Council, and Parliament as well as both houses of Convocation were involved in the making of major decisions that affected the English Church. Bishops were elected by the cathedral chapter of the diocese but the diocese’s cathedral chapter elected whomever the reigning Monarch nominated. Bishops were, under English law, functionaries of the State and servants of the Crown. The model of church government used in the Church of England, while more complicated than that of the continental Reformed Churches, was based upon the same model. This model recognized God to be at work in the Christian magistrate, and guiding him in his government of the Christian community. The Christian magistrate appointed pastors to care for the flock and in turn the pastors served as the conscience of the Christian magistrate. Synodical church government not only has a basis in the New Testament but also in the Reformation. The underlying principle is that the government of the Christian community under God rightly belongs to the whole church, clergy and laity together. It is not the exclusive province of bishops.

The Church of Geneva adopted a different model of church government from the other continental Reformed Churches. Its model, like that of the Roman Catholic Church, vested the government of the church and the state in the clergy and subordinated civil authorities to the church authorities. The pastors governed the Church of Geneva. They also chose the magistrates of the city and governed the city through them. The sixteen and seventeenth century presbyterians in the Church of England sought to establish a similar theocracy in England. They would provoke a strong reaction from the royalists who would assert the divine right of bishops alongside the divine right of kings. The party of the King would become the party of the bishops.

The position of the English Reformers and classical Anglicanism, however, is that the Church of Christ is not limited to one particular order or form of ecclesiastical polity. It rejects the exclusive claim of both episcopalians and presbyterians.

We do not find in the Anglican Church in North America, its ministry partner, the Anglican Mission, or the Continuing Anglican Churches a strong commitment to responsible, synodical church government. But this is not the only essential foundation stone missing in these ecclesial bodies. So are the other three indispensable foundation stones needed to form the base of a new orthodox Anglican province in North America. Without these four foundation stones the necessary groundwork for such a province will be absent and any structure built without it will collapse. We have only to look at the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church, and a number of the Continuing Anglican Churches. It may take more than two hundred years or just a few decades to collapse but it will collapse.

The Episcopal Church is collapsing due to its weak commitment to the Scriptures, the Anglican formularies, and the Great Commission that has become more pronounced in recent years. It had the mechanisms to require accountability from its leaders but failed to use them, not only in this century and the twentieth century but also in the previous century.

The older the Anglican Church in North America grows the more difficult it will be to replace its poor foundation. The time to provide it with a strong base formed from the four foundation stones is now. Building upon a poor foundation only hides it from view. It does not strengthen it or keep it from crumbling. It does not prevent it from giving way and the whole structure erected upon it collapsing. A poor foundation is not something that can be fixed later. It is not something that can be postponed to another day. It demands immediate attention. Indeed it should have taken care of more than three years ago!

Anglican Bishop to Visit Growing Anglican Church of the Valley


The first Bishop of the new Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic of the Anglican Church in North America will visit the Anglican Church of the Valley December 10 and 11.

The Right Rev. John A.M. Guernsey, who was installed as the Dioceses first Bishop September 10, will meet with church members and interested people from the community from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, December 10 for a pot-luck supper. He will then lead a Holy Communion and Confirmation service at 11 a.m. the following day. A reception will follow the service.

The Anglican Church of the Valley (www.AnglicanChurchOfTheValley.org) meets at the Temple House of Israel, 15 North Market Street in Staunton. The potluck and reception will be held in the Temple social hall. Services are held weekly in the Temple sanctuary. To read more, click here.

Why Your Ministry Needs More Grit and How to Get It


True grit is more than a great movie. It’s what Jesus calls us to in the world of professional ministry.

Jesus set the pace for all of us with his own brand of hands-on earthly outreach. He got up close and personal with sinners so that he could transform them into saints. As a result he got dirtier than a cowboy on a cattle drive during his three and a half year stint of earthly ministry. If touching contagious lepers, casting out pesky demons and scrubbing the crud encased feet of his sweaty disciples doesn’t count as gritty, I don’t know what does. Suffice it to say that the only thing lacking in the ministry of Jesus was a great big bottle of Purel.

What does all of this have to do with you and your ministry? More than you might think! To read more, click here.

Profile of Megachurches: Young, White, Still Growing


If megachurches were a denomination, they'd be the second largest Protestant group in the country, researchers say.

With that, Leadership Network and Hartford Institute for Religion Research decided to take a closer look at the large churches (2,000 or more attendants) that draw a total of nearly 6 million worshippers in a weekend. Their findings are in a report titled "A New Decade of Megachurches: 2011 Profile of Large Attendance Churches in the United States."

According to the study released this month, while 15 percent of megachurches did not grow or were in decline over the past five years, the stated average attendance for megachurches grew from 2,604 in 2005 to 3,597 in 2010. Growth, the researchers concluded, continues to be steady for America's largest churches.

"Megachurches," the study's authors say, "remain one of the most robust religious organizational expressions within North America."

Notably, these churches believe they're spiritually strong despite what critics say. In fact, 98 percent agree that their congregations are "spiritually alive and vital" and that they have strong beliefs and values. A majority also say they have a clear mission and purpose.

Another finding that debunks popular perceptions about megachurches is that they place a strong emphasis on personal accountability and Christian spiritual practices among attenders. To read more, click here.

Related article: Report Paints Picture of the Average US Megachurch

How Great Leaders Build Great Teams


I am a fan of Chic-fil-A.

Not only do they make a fantastic chicken sandwich, I love the culture that the company has created. In an industry whose typical employee turnover is 107%, Chic-fil-A’s turnover is a whopping 60%. The employees that I have experienced have always been pleasant… responding with “my pleasure” after I thank them, and genuinely seeming to enjoy their jobs. Whether you eat chicken or not, you have to admit that this is not the typical fast food joint.

With that in mind, I was excited to read Chic-fil-A’s Vice President of Training and Development Mark Miller’s new book The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do. This short book (125 pages) is a great primer for starting a team based culture in any organization, but especially in the church. Miller stresses the importance of leaders focusing on talent, skills, and community in order to develop a team culture that will provide excellent results. Without giving away too much of the book, here were my three key takeaways for church leaders.... To read more, click here.

Apartment block disciples


The Tenderloin district of San Francisco is one square mile. There are 37,000 people in that one square mile living in 586 apartment buildings. And San Francisco City Impact wants to plant a church in every single one of those apartments.

Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love and former pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, is working with the new initiative, called Adopt a Building. SFCI provides food, clothing and housing for those in the San Francisco area. Christian Huang, operations director for the new initiative, told The Christian Post that Adopt a Building is filling a need in the community that wasn’t being met before. It was the “missing component of City Impact,” he said.

The idea is simple. First they pick a building and get a prayer team together to start praying for residents in the building. Then a “grace team” is assembled to knock on the doors of every residence in the building.

Those on the grace team ask residents if there is anything they need: food, school supplies, prayer. In a video about the ministry Francis Chan says grace team members are really there to say, “We don’t want anything from you, we just want to give.”

Huang said many might question SFCI’s involvement in this particular district because there is a lot of crime and homelessness, but the real community is represented in these apartment buildings. They house families, single people, and many immigrants who don’t have a lot of people “interested in their lives”, he said.

Those on the prayer and grace teams are volunteers with SFCI and their sole mission is to be interested in those who live there. Since they already had a large volunteer base, SFCI knew that this ministry was a good place to “equip and mobilize Christians,” said Huang.

After the grace team has a list of needs from residents they will come back the next week to deliver what they requested. In doing so, the teams continue the dialogue that they started the week before with those in the apartment. To read more, click here.

Why Are So Many Young Christians Leaving the Church?


The search for ways to connect the 60% who are unreachable with the attractional model is an important part of my mission and certain books offer clues that are clearly part of the hunt. One of the most recent entries in the collection is You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church…and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman. New from Baker, if you recognize Kinnaman’s name, you might have read unChristian, published in 2007 (with Gabe Lyons).

Kinnaman is the president and majority owner of the Barna Group, known for its body of research. You Lost Me is based on a study of young insiders, “young adults who once thought of themselves as Christians–who have left the church and sometimes the faith.” A series of national public opinion surveys conducted by the Barna Group for the You Lost Me project between 2007 and 2011, along with the findings from two decades of prior national studies, form the basis for the conclusions reached in the book. In “research tailored to understand eighteen to twenty-nine year olds,” participants were asked “to describe their experience of church and faith, what pushed them away, and what connective tissue remains between them and Christianity (p. 21).”

Packed with stories from survey interviews, You Lost Me is very readable and at the same time will call to mind conversations you’ve had with young adults who attend your church (or used to). The book also includes a steady supply of charts, graphs and references to the actual questions that formed the basis of the interviews. To read more, click here.

Related article: Connecting the Widening 60% (who are unreachable by the attractional model)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rwanda: Church Donates Cows to PLWAS


The Anglican Church of Rwanda (EAR) recently donated cows worth Rwf8million to people living with HIV/Aids in Karangazi Sector, Nyagatare District.

The donation of eight Frisian cows, and veterinary equipment was handed to eight families living with the pandemic.

According to Rev. Moses Gatarayiha of EAR Karangazi, the church has been assisting PLWAs in the area by providing them with milk and other foodstuffs. To read more, click here.

Related articles:
How the churches practise what they preach in Africa
Rep donates motorcycles, building materials to churches

Nigerian Muslims and Christians Clash, Leaving Dozens More Dead


Another 25 people were buried over the weekend in the aftermath of deadly clashes between Christians and Muslims last week in Nigeria.

An estimated 45 Christians have already been killed since last week, when Fulani Muslim herdsmen along with Muslim soldiers attacked a Barkin Ladi church on Nov. 23 and killed four Christians, returning the next day to slay 35 more in a nearby village named Kwok, Compass Direct News reported. Before the major deadly attack, several smaller attacks reportedly took place, starting on Nov. 20.

Local media have reported a sharp rise of deaths resulting from violent clashes between Nigeria's Berom Christians and the Fulani Muslim population living in the country's central, turmoil-torn area of Plateau State.

Thousands of Christians are reportedly fleeing the area, which is known for instability with violence dating years back.

Plateau state lies in the so-called middle belt region between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south of Africa's most populous nation, according to Agence France-Press.

"Beroms and other mainly Christian ethnic groups are viewed as indigenous in the area, while Hausa-Fulani Muslims are seen as the more recent 'settlers' despite the fact that many have been there for decades," the agency reports. To read more, click here.

Related article: At Least 45 Christians Killed in Plateau State, Nigeria

Stonehenge Discovery Reveals Older Religious Site Buried Beneath


An international team of archeologists identified what might be a huge lead into the mystery of Stonehenge.

It is believed the two uncovered pits found at the site were part of a large ancient sun-worship ceremony that took place before the stones were erected.

The old English legend is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site and has fascinated people for centuries.

The size and arrangement of the rocks has itself been a mystery for long, but the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project discovered two new pits positioned within the Neolithic Cursus pathway that are aligned with the markers of sunset and sunrise on the longest day of the year, according to a BBC report.

The configuration is viewed when standing from the “heel stone” that sits just outside the main entrance of the henge.

It is likely that sun worshipers practiced their religion at the site long before the monument was built 5,000 years ago. They would have used stones, posts or fires to mark the sun and celebrate the midsummer solstice, The Inquisitr described. To read more, click here.

Church Creates First Virtual Christmas Choir


Going to church to rehearse Christmas Carols or the latest Christmas tunes has become a routine part of the Christmas season. Those unable to physically make it to rehearsal usually miss out, but this year a New Jersey-based church is making it possible for anyone with a computer to be part of the melodious Christmas cheer.

Liquid Church of New Jersey is inviting people around the world to participate in the first virtual Christmas choir, utilizing webcams and YouTube.

Singers from around the world will be united by the iconic Christmas song “Silent Night” as the church will put technology to good use to synchronize the army of individual singers into one unified, harmonious group. To read more, click here.

Chick-fil-A Says 'Eat More Kale' Shirt Confuses Public


A silkscreen design artist from Vermont is being warned by national fast-food chain Chick-fil-A to stop selling his bestselling t-shirt that simply states “Eat More Kale,” citing the phrase muddles the company’s famous “Eat Mor Chickin” cow campaign.

Bo Muller-Moore, who is also described as a folk artist, told The Christian Post that when he came up with the phrase and began printing the individually made t-shirts in his Montpelier studio 10 years ago, he had never heard of Chick-fil-A's ad slogan.

“The closest one is 120 miles away,” Muller-Moore said. “I don’t know this for sure, but when I started in 2000, I’m sure Chick-fil-A had a whole lot fewer franchises and I’m sure they were much more a deep South regional thing.”

Kale, a leafy vegetable known for its nutritional value, is a popular crop among farmers in Vermont. Muller-Moore’s first order of the shirts was from a local farmer whose crop included kale.

“It became popular enough that I started handing out round green bumper stickers (with the phrase) as my business card,” he said. He now passes out tens of thousands of the stickers, instead of business cards, in an effort to promote his t-shirt selling website, EatMoreKale.com.

A lawyer for the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A stated in a letter that Muller-Moore’s promotion of his “eat more kale message” "is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A's intellectual property and diminishes its value," reported The Associated Press. To read more, click here.

Bivocational pastors needed for church planting


If the North American Mission Board's Send North America evangelistic church planting initiative is to succeed, it must include thousands of bivocational pastors who are willing to plant churches.

"We must leverage the laity to plant churches," said Aaron Coe, NAMB's vice president of mobilization, "and we need to do it through a bivocational church movement.

"There are thousands of men sitting in church pews listening to their pastors each week who more than meet the qualifications for being pastors and church planters. We need to mobilize them to be involved in church planting if we're serious about the Great Commission," Coe said.

NAMB church planting leaders and members of the SBC-wide Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network (BSCLN) have begun to explore ways for bivocational pastors to become involved. To read more, click here.

Bivocational pastors are also needed to plant Anglican churches in North America. As long as the North American Anglican Church limits its church planting efforts to areas that can support a full-time, fully-credentialed residential pastor, it will not be truly fulfilling the Great Commission. If North American Anglicans are to be faithful to our Lord's commission, they must be willing to make a very large place in their overall church planting strategy for bivocational pastors, lay ministry teams, and lay pastors. They must be willing to rethink how they "do church."

Letter to grandfather prompts professor's venture to Africa


Nearly 18 years after his death, the reach of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's first full-time evangelism professor C.E. Autrey continues.

In 2008, a letter addressed to Autrey made its way from Nigeria to Southwestern Seminary and was forwarded to Autrey's grandson, Denny Autrey, dean and professor of pastoral ministries at the seminary's Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston.

The letter -- a plea for help addressed to his grandfather -- prompted Denny Autrey to respond by venturing to Africa this summer.

"A need for help," the author of the letter, an Anglican theology student, wrote as a heading to his letter.

"Thanks be to God almighty," the student wrote to the late professor, "for the gift and opportunity given to you for opening the eyes of many towards the understanding of the Scriptures, mostly to seminarians and individuals who are seeking to know the facts of the written word of God."To read more, click here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Anglican Mission: God’s Church under Construction


By Robin G. Jordan

Anglicans in North America need to understand that doctrinal changes that Bishop Chuck Murphy and Canon Kevin Donlon introduced with what would become the 2008 Rwandan canons are not changes that Anglicans in Rwanda welcomed. It does not sit well with them when I suggest that the Anglican Mission might be renamed the “Rwandan Catholic Mission” (see my previous article, ”Anglican Mission Chairman Chuck Murphy Announces Retirement”). This is not how Rwandan Anglicans see themselves. My suggestion was to show how far the Anglican Mission has through Bishop Murphy and Canon Donlon’s machinations departed from authentic historic Anglicanism.

The sweeping doctrinal and structural changes that Bishop Murphy and Canon Donlon introduced with the 2008 canons completely changed the character of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. They also altered the official doctrine of the Anglican Mission, doing away with the doctrinal norms and formularies found in its Solemn Declaration. This was not drawn to the attention of Anglican Mission clergy, congregations, and mission partners any more than the alterations to the doctrine of the Church of Rwanda were drawn to the attention of the Rwandans. Anglican Mission clergy continued to gather annually to formally subscribe to the doctrinal norms and formularies in the Solemn Declaration.

One is prompted to wonder how long Murphy and Donlon expected their subterfuge to last. Did they really expect it to go undiscovered? Among the unanswered questions is why Murphy himself approved a document that made the kind of doctrinal changes that 2008 Rwandan canons would make. Did he fail to understand the implications of these doctrinal changes? Did the doctrinal content of the canons make no difference to him? We may never know the answers to these questions and questions like them.

As well as serving as proof of the ineffectualness of bishops in safeguarding the doctrine of the ecclesial bodies over which they have authority and oversight, this affair also demonstrates the weaknesses of the “three streams” theology, which has become prevalent in the Anglican Church in North America as well as the Anglican Mission. “Three streams” theology emphasizes piety and practice to the neglect of doctrine. Its tolerance of variations, to quote J. I. Packer, suggests a fragile commitment to revealed truth in Scripture. It treats as differences of emphasis what are in actuality differences arising from opposing readings of Scripture. It is na├»ve and overly romantic in its view of the early and medieval churches. It also displays an unacknowledged antipathy toward the Reformation and the Reformers. It provides fertile soil in which retrograde Anglo-Catholic beliefs and practices flourish.

These weaknesses point to the need for the reintroduction of confessional Anglicanism in these two subdivisions of the North American Anglican Church. As long as these two ecclesial bodies are unwilling to fully bind themselves by confessional formulae, such as the Thirty-Nine Articles, we can expect to see a repetition of what happened. There will be further attempts to subvert the biblical and Reformation teaching of authentic historic Anglicanism.

As the GAFCON Theological Resource Group calls to our attention, “the New Testament concept of fellowship is anchored in a common faith and a common mind (Philippians 2:1-2; 1 John 1:1-3) [Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, p. 91]. Where there is no common faith and no common mind, there can be no fellowship. We cannot build fellowship on a common enemy any more than we can on common worship, common work, and common experience, the three focuses upon which liberals seek to build fellowship.

While those who have invested in the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission may not like hearing it, what is missing from these two ecclesial bodies are one or more of four critical foundation stones. They are a strong commitment to the authority of the Scriptures, a strong commitment to the authority of the Anglican formularies, a strong commitment to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and a strong commitment to the implementation of responsible, synodical church government. Without these foundations stones there is no likelihood of these two ecclesial bodies, either together or separately, forming an alternative orthodox North American Anglican province to the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church. Any such structure needs all four foundation stones, one at each corner, to support its weight. Without them it will eventually collapse.

I am convinced that God is at work in the midst of this whole business. The Bible tells us that God is the builder and we are only workers. As would any good builder, when his workers do poor work, God has them tear down what they have done and build again. If we neglect to lay the corner stones upon which he intends to erect the edifice, he will have us go back and do what we should have done in the first place. The edifice that he is building, after all, is his Church.


Related articles:
Anglican Mission Chairman Chuck Murphy Announces Retirement
A Call for a Thorough Reappraisal of the Direction of the Anglican Church in North America
Sharper than a Thorn Hedge: A New Phase in the Crisis in Doctrine, Leadership, and Morality in North American Anglicanism

Visitors Expect to Hear the Bible


Making your Christmas worship services comfortable and understandable for the unchurched doesn’t mean changing your theology. It means changing the environment of the service - such as changing the way you greet visitors, the style of music you use, the Bible translation you preach from, and the kind of announcements you make in the service. To read more, click here.

Critic of new Catholic liturgy: 'Make it work'


America's Roman Catholics on Sunday had their first test of a revised English liturgy for the Mass, with one of the new text's former critics -- St. James Cathedral pastor Fr. Michael Ryan -- vowing to "make it work."

"This is still the Mass: We are still celebrating Christ who is in our midst . . . We must not let anything get in the way of that," Ryan told a crowded cathedral at morning mass marking the beginning of the season of Advent.

The worshipers had to adjust themselves to often-formal language that carefully reflects Latin liturgical texts.

The description of Jesus as "one in being with the Father", in the creed, has been supplanted by "consubstantial with the Father." In taking communion, Catholics used to say: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you," but now declare, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof."

"I think we did pretty well, all things considered," Ryan said just before the final blessing.

As he intoned "The Lord be with you," however, the majority of worshipers replied with "And also with you." The correct words, now, are "And with your spirit."

The changes to the Mass have stirred intense controversy. The revisions are the most substantial since the church's language of worship switched from Latin to English in the late 1960's. To read more, click here.

Catholics are being deceived into attending non-Catholic services


Foreign visitors may be attending High Anglican services under the impression that they are Roman Catholic

The Church Times has reported the Bishop of London’s recent pastoral letter about Anglicans using the Roman rite in its new translation, and you can read the article here.

I have already commented on this matter, so forgive me if I return to it. What I find particularly interesting about this report is the contrasting reactions to the bishop’s letter. One vicar, the Rev Paul Bagott, of Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, and St Mark’s, Myddleton Square, has decided to do exactly what the Bishop has asked of him, namely switch to Common Worship, which he says will involve very little substantial change for his congregation.

But then there is this.... To read more, click here.

Lawyer: No basis to Anglican's claim of rape by Australian priest


A prominent church-appointed lawyer who investigated an Anglican archbishop's claims of rape against a Catholic priest has found there is no substance to the allegations.

The primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, Archbishop John Hepworth, claimed in September that a still-living Catholic priest had raped him more than 40 years ago when Hepworth was a young Catholic priest. He also claimed he had been a victim of two other priests who have since died.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, who appointed a Michael Abbott, queen's counsel, to conduct an investigation into the claims, said, "Mr. Abbott found that there is no substance to the allegations made by Archbishop Hepworth." To read more, click here.

Related articles:
Hepworth cries foul as church inquiry clears priest of rape

From Reformation to Revival


Lee Gatiss has been speaking in Cambridge at the ‘Saturday School of Theology’ on the theme ‘From Reformation to Revival’.

The audio of the first two sessions is now available, with the third to come. Below are the descriptions of each session:

The 16th Century Reformers

It’s almost 500 years since Martin Luther started the Reformation and changed the course of history. But what did this beer-drinking, outspoken ex-monk really stand for? How did he have such an impact?

Many will also know the name of the French Reformer, John Calvin, but associate him with “chauvinism” or predestination or a little boy with a toy tiger called Hobbes. But what really was the pious heartbeat of Calvin’s life and ministry? And what was it that has made him one of the greatest names in church history?

The 17th Century Puritans

The Puritans saw themselves as pilgrims, warriors, and servants of Christ in an age of great conflict. From them we get our word “puritanical” but were they as bad as that makes them sound? They also gave us several Cambridge colleges, mountains of great books, spread the gospel to far away lands, and chopped off the head of a bad king. So they were anything but dull! What was it that made people either love them or hate them? And what can we learn from them to reinvigorate our lives as Christians today?

The 18th Century Evangelicals (coming soon)

The church was cold and lifeless, infected with worldliness and a lack of vigor. Love for Christ and the Bible was at a low ebb. That is until John Wesley and George Whitefield set the world on fire and revived the nation’s spiritual life with passionate and powerful gospel preaching! Or did they? What can we learn from these heroes of the faith who sought to win the world for Christ? Was all as rosy as it seemed within the Evangelical movement? Or did revival rivalries almost tear it apart from within? Discover the glory, and the dark side, of the great awakenings.

To hear the talks, click here.

Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Anglican Mission Chairman Chuck Murphy Announces Retirement


By Robin G. Jordan

The Christian Post has published a tantalizing article that refers to a letter that Anglican Mission Bishop Thomas “T. J.” Johnston released on Friday. This letter addresses the Anglican Mission’s relationship with the Anglican Church of Rwanda, Bishop Terrell Glenn’s resignation, and Bishop Charles “Chuck” Murphy’s retirement announcement. The first two topics were not news but the third would indeed be news if it could be confirmed. I searched the Internet for further articles on this letter, the text of the letter, and Bishop Murphy’s retirement announcement. I found nothing.

Bishop Murphy has on a number of occasions talked about retiring from the position of chairman of the Anglican Mission but has repeatedly postponed his retirement date. Given the controversy surrounding the recent disclosures involving the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission Murphy’s retirement would be one way that he could preserve his reputation. But in light of his past history, one does well to take a wait and see attitude toward this announcement.

Bishop Murphy’s retirement, however, would not resolve the questions relating to the doctrine and structure of the Anglican Mission, its ongoing relationship with the Anglican Church of Rwanda, and the role of Canon Kevin Donlon in the development of a new structure for the Anglican Mission. The canons that Canon Donlon drafted for the Church of Rwanda and the Rwandan Church’s adoption of which Murphy facilitated moved an Anglican province away from historic Anglicanism in doctrine and structure. Until the Church of Rwanda undertakes the task of revising or replacing them, these canons are binding upon the Rwandan Church and any missionary jurisdiction or missionary society affiliated with that province. While the doctrinal norms and formularies found in the Anglican Mission’s Solemn Declaration may be Anglican, the official doctrine of the Anglican Mission is now Roman Catholic.

This alteration of doctrine under the provisions of its Solemn Declaration dissolved the Anglican Mission. This raises questions as to whom the assets of the Anglican Mission belong—to the stakeholders who launched the organization, to whatever Christian missionary organization they donate these assets under the Solemn Declaration’s provisions, or the organization that is now using the Anglican Mission name.

If Canon Donlon is involved in the redesign of the structure of the Anglican Mission, one can expect him to seek to preserve in some form the Roman Catholic doctrine and structure that he introduced. At the same time it is difficult to see how the Anglican Mission will be able to claim to be Anglican and to be planting Anglican churches as long as it is Roman Catholic in doctrine and structure.

To be genuinely Anglican the Anglican Mission must be unwaveringly committed to Scripture and the Anglican formularies. It must also be synodical in its form of ecclesiastical governance with its clergy and laity sharing in the government of the Church with its bishops. A centralized hierarchy with all levels of the hierarchy, including bishops at the upper levels of the hierarchy, deriving their authority from a patriarch, pope, or primate at the top of the hierarchy, and the clergy and the laity having at best a consultative role, is not an Anglican form of ecclesiastical governance.

If the Anglican Mission is going to represent itself as Anglican, it must embody Anglican doctrine and practice. If its leaders do not have the will to do away with the Roman Catholic doctrine and structure that the machinations of Bishop Murphy and Canon Donlon imposed upon the organization three years ago, they need to drop “Anglican” from the organization’s name. They need to consider adopting a new name for the organization. The “Rwandan Catholic Mission” might be appropriate.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Call for a Thorough Reappraisal of the Direction of the Anglican Church in North America


By Robin G. Jordan

In A Free Lutheran Church Declaration of Faith Part III – Church Polity states, “Scripture does not command or forbid any particular organization for fellowship of congregations.” This view is not particular to Lutherans. It was also shared by the sixteenth century Anglican Reformers and the nineteenth century Episcopal Bishop William White. Bishop White was the architect of the original constitution of the Episcopal Church

Most Anglicans and Episcopalians in the United States have a distorted view of Anglican ecclesiology due to the influence of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the American Church. They have been sold the idea that bishops are essential to the Church and they form a superior order to presbyters, vested by God with supreme authority over the Church as the successors to the apostles. This view of bishops, however, was not the view of the English Reformers, the Elizabethan divines, or even the Caroline High Churchmen. The English Reformers found no warrant for one particular order or form of ecclesiastical polity in the Scriptures as did the Elizabethan divines. They rejected the claims of both the episcopalians and presbyterians. The Caroline High Churchmen, while holding that God had bestowed upon the reformed Church of England the grace of episcopacy, nonetheless refused to de-church the continental reformed churches because they lacked bishops. They recognized the orders and sacraments of the continental reformed churches.

The Thirty-Nine Articles, while recognizing the threefold ministry of deacon, presbyter, and bishop as normative for the reformed Church of England does not impose that norm upon other churches. Article 19 identifies as the marks of the visible Church of Christ a gathering of believing people, the preaching of the pure word of God, and the administration of the sacraments with due order and discipline as ordained by Christ. Article 26 implies and the Homily on the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost for Whit-Sunday recognizes a fourth mark—the exercise of church discipline. Article 23 does not require ordination, episcopal or otherwise, for those ministering in the congregation, only that they have been selected and called to this work by men entrusted with public authority in the Church to call and send ministers into the Lord’s vineyard. In the reformed Church of England the men entrusted with this authority were the bishops who were officers of the Crown. In the continental reformed churches with the exception of the Church of Geneva, they were the city magistrates. Both reformed Church of England and the continental reformed churches, exclusive of Geneva, adopted the same model of church government. In the reformed Church of England the magistrate was the Queen who was the supreme governor of the English church. The bishops were functionaries nominated by the Queen, subordinate to her, and serving at her pleasure. When Archbishop Edmund Grindle defied the Queen, she sequestered him in his palace and appointed royal commissioners to perform all his duties with the exception of preaching, administration of the sacraments, and ordinations. Other rebellious bishops she stripped of their office and imprisoned in the Fleet.

Prelacy or prelatical episcopacy—the view that bishops are the sole governors of the Church and that they derive their authority from the apostles—was promoted by a number of Anglo-Catholic bishops in the Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century. This included the view that whatever authority the diocesan convention and the diocesan standing committee exercised was delegated by the diocesan bishop and might be withdrawn by him as the ordinary of the diocese. Whatever limitations the diocesan canons imposed upon his authority were voluntary. He could disregard these limitations with impunity.

This view was a significant departure from the theory of church government upon which the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church were based. In this theory the Episcopal Church was a voluntary association of churches organized into state conventions and a national convention. The authority of these conventions was derived from the churches forming them. Bishops were officers of the state conventions whose functions and powers were defined by the constitution and canons of their respective state conventions.

The history of the Continuing Anglican Movement in its early years was marked by tension between those who were loyalist Anglican in their beliefs and supported a synodical form of church government with bishops sharing the governance of the church with clergy and laity and those who did not regard the reformed catholicism of Anglicanism to be Catholic enough and supported a prelatical form of church government in which the bishops governed the church. This tension lay behind the fragmentation of the Continuum during this period.

In the Anglican Church in North America we are witnessing the emergence of a similar tension. The Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Church in North America and those who have been influenced by their views are not satisfied with the existing governing structures of the ACNA at the provincial level but have been introducing changes in these structures without making corresponding changes in the governing documents of the ACNA. The present Archbishop of the ACNA created the office of Dean of the Province, a position for which the ACNA governing documents do not make any provision. The ACNA governing documents also do not give authority to the Archbishop to create such a position or recognize this authority as inherent in his office. Archbishop Robert Duncan would his long-time friend Bishop Don Harvey to the newly created position. Archbishop Duncan has also appointed a provincial missioner and a provincial canon, two positions for which the ACNA governing documents also do not make any provision. Here again the ACNA governing documents do not give authority to the Archbishop to create such a position or recognize this authority as inherent in his office. Duncan has also created an Archbishop’s Cabinet, a governance structure that is found in the Roman Catholic Church and for which the ACNA governing documents do not make any provision. He has made appointments to this Cabinet, which has taken over the functions of the Executive Committee of the Provincial Council. More recently the College of Bishops under Duncan’s leadership have wrongfully assumed the authority of the Provincial Council to approve an ordinal for use in the ACNA. The ACNA governing documents do not recognize the College of Bishops as having this authority, only the Provincial Council. The ACNA governing documents do give the bishops the authority to individually approve the services used in their own dioceses but the ACNA governing documents do not give them authority to collectively approve services for use in the entire province. The latter authority the ACNA governing documents give to the Provincial Council.

The same group of ACNA leaders, which introduced these unconstitutional and uncanonical changes in the governance of the Anglican Church in North America at the provincial level or which permitted the introduction of such changes, are responsible for promoting an attitude of synodophobia in the ACNA. Synodophobia is an irrational fear of representative legislative assemblies composed of clergy and laity. The address that Archbishop-elect Duncan made to the inaugural Provincial Assembly in Bedford, Texas, at which the present ACNA constitution and canons were ratified, was characterized by an appeal to this fear. The neutering of the Provincial Assembly in the ACNA governing documents was an outgrowth of the synodophobia of the Common Cause leaders who drafted these documents.

The Provincial Assembly is modeled upon the Anglican Mission’s annual Winter Conference, which plays no role in the governance of the Anglican Mission. The Provincial Assembly has no authority beyond ratifying changes to the ACNA governing documents. Only the Provincial Council can initiate such changes. The Provincial Council has so far avoided the convening of the Provincial Assembly and kept this more representative body out of the decision-making process by the simple expedient of not adopting any constitutional amendments or new canons even though a number of changes in the governance of the ACNA that it has approved or to which it has acquiesced require the adoption of constitutional amendments and new canons.

As the recent disclosures involving the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission have revealed, the form of governance of the Anglican Mission is modeled upon that of the Roman Catholic Church with a single bishop at the top of a centralized hierarchy and all levels of this hierarchy, including the other bishops, deriving their authority ultimately from this bishop. Canon Kevin Donlon who drafted the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s present canons and the Anglican Mission’s present Canonical Charter for Ministry drew heavily upon the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law. Canon Donlon also served on Common Cause Governance Task Force that drafted the ACNA governing documents, as did Bishop Chuck Murphy, the present head of the Anglican Mission. The ACNA governing documents also incorporate doctrine, language, norms, and principles from the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law.

I have in the past been criticized for questioning the Anglican identity of the Anglican Church in North America on the basis of its weak commitment to the Anglican formularies and the Roman Catholic doctrine expressed or implied in its canons. But if one looks at developments in the ACNA since its formation as well as its governing documents, it gives every sign of being on the same path as the Anglican Mission. Among the developments to which I allude is the model diocesan constitution and canons that the ACNA Governance Task Force has produced for the use of dioceses in formation in the process of drafting their own governing documents and the advice that representatives of the ACNA Governance Task Force have given to the bodies undertaking this work. Both the documents and the representatives encourage dioceses in formation to relinquish authority over diocesan matters to the Archbishop. The ACNA constitution and canons do not recognize the Archbishop to be a metropolitan with metropolitical jurisdiction over the province and even if the Archbishop was a metropolitan, the recommended provisions go beyond the authority that a metropolitan typically exercises and represent a gross violation of diocesan autonomy. The ACNA canons already give the Archbishop authority over diocesan matters that represent an infringement of the traditional prerogatives of diocesan bishops.

One argument that is put forward in support of expanding the authority of bishops and archbishops is that it strengthens their ability to defend the faith. But the fallacy of this argument has been demonstrated by what is happening in the Anglican Church in North America and what has happened in the Anglican Mission. The Anglican Church in North America and its leaders can hardly be described as unwavering in their support of the Anglican formularies, which are the longstanding doctrinal standard of Anglicanism. I have already noted the weak commitment of the ACNA to these formularies and the presence of Roman Catholic doctrine, explicit and implicit, in the ACNA canons. In its approval of the new ACNA ordinal this past summer the College of Bishops allowed the optional use of ceremonies and ornaments that are closely connected to doctrines and practices of the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic Church and the post-Tridentian Roman Catholic Church, which the English Reformers rejected on solid biblical grounds at the Reformation. Even in permitting the optional use of these ceremonies and ornaments the College of Bishops gave countenance to the doctrines and practices with which they are closely connected. It failed to drive away false and strange doctrine and related practices that are contrary to God’s word and privately and publicly to call upon and encourage others to do likewise.

Those who champion prelatical episcopacy in the Anglican Church in North America are actively working to give more power to the same body. This prompts the question, “For what purpose?” It is certainly not to uphold the teaching of Scripture and the Anglican formularies. The time has come for a thorough reappraisal of the direction in which the present leaders of the ACNA are taking that body—doctrinally and structurally. If one tries the doctrine of the ACNA against the Anglican formularies and The Jerusalem Declaration, it falls short of these doctrinal standards. If one compares its governance against Anglican practice, the ACNA at the provincial level and in some areas at the intermediate level misses the mark too. While the governance structures of Anglican provinces are varied, they do exhibit common patterns. The only form of governance that bears a family resemblance to that of the ACNA is that of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, and as the recent disclosures have revealed, its form of governance is modeled upon that of the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, it is time for a thorough reappraisal of the direction in which its present leaders are taking the ACNA.

Anglican Mission: Breakaway Anglican Group Considering Changes


The Anglican Mission in the Americas (the Anglican Mission), a conservative group trying to keep the outward focus and missionary tradition of the Anglican Church alive in the United States and Canada, is in the midst of significant transitions.

Motivated by a new archbishop in Rwanda, the resignation of Bishop Terrell Glenn and Anglican Mission Leader Chuck Murphy’s retirement announcement, church leaders are considering their next steps as an organization.

Bishop T.J. Johnston, rector at St. Peter’s Church in Mount Pleasant, S.C., released a letter Friday regarding the changes. He said he wanted to address the recent resignation and the church’s relationship with Rwanda.

The letter said, in part: “The addition of many new bishops, a new archbishop, the establishment of new dioceses, and the retirement of several bishops have led to a desire in both Rwanda and in the Mission to review and consider all the structural options that have been used to date in our relationship.”

The Anglican Mission began in 2000 after a break with The Episcopal Church over the authority of Scripture and theological differences, including the ordination of non-celibate priests within the church.

Before that, in 1997, 30 priests led by Chuck Murphy declared the authority of The Episcopal Church to be “fundamentally impaired” because they no longer upheld the truths of the Gospel. To read more, click here.

Five Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts


The Barna Group team spent much of the last five years exploring the lives of young people who drop out of church. The research provides many insights into the spiritual journeys of teens and young adults. The findings are revealed extensively in a new book called, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith.

The research uncovered five myths and realities about today's young dropouts. To read more, click here.

Courage For the Small Church Pastor


This week I'm preparing a talk for my congregation from the great text found in Joshua 1:9. "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." As so often happens God is allowing me to learn these great truths of His Word through the pages of my life as each day turns anew.

I know that this divine encouragement was given to the great army general, Joshua. However, on this day, God is reminding me of the courage necessary for church planters and small group pastors.

I remember those intense days of three years ago on Thanksgiving 2008, when Church Requel was given its first breath of life. Because of the horrible local economy, I lost my middle management position as an executive pastor of a megachurch. I remember thinking - as my father had taught me repeatedly - that this setback was not the problem it appeared to be, but rather an opportunity to do something new and something different. Rather than look for another pastoral position with an existing church, we would start a new church with a few friends and see how God would bless it. To read more, click here.

Christians Injured in Attack in Vietnam Denied Medical Care


House church network leaders finally resort to private hospital far from attack site.

Three Christians seriously injured during a savage attack near Hanoi on Nov. 13 have been evacuated to an undisclosed hospital in Ho Chi Minh City after several hospitals in the region refused to examine and treat them.

The attack on a church leaders’ worship service of an Agape Baptist Church (ABC) house church in Lai Tao village, Bot Xuyen commune, My Duc district left one woman, evangelist Nguyen Thi Lan, with her pelvis broken in two places and with badly damaged internal organs, according to doctors who recommended emergency surgery. Yet previously doctors at three area hospitals had told her and two other seriously injured Christians that they were fine and dismissed them, said Pastor Nguyen Cong Thanh, head of the ABC.

When doctors in Vietnam learn that religious motives play a role in violence, commonly they do not dare to treat or even examine the victims of persecution. To read more, clcik here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

St Mary's reborn


The only heritage listed building in Herons Creek is celebrating a new lease of life.

The tiny hamlet of Herons Creek between Taree and Port Macquarie has something to celebrate this weekend as the former Anglican Church St Mary's the Virgin is re-opened after two and a half years of restoration.

Jeanette and Martin Parish purchased the Church in 2009 and have since then put their heart and soul into restoring the building so that it can be used again by the local community.

Martin Parish is a retired Minister and his grandparents, Harry and Sarah Parish were the former Post Masters at Herons Creek. To read more, click here.

Ordinariate Watch: Archbishop John Hepworth to return to Catholic fold as Indian, not chief


Archbishop John Hepworth will be forced to relinquish his role as the primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion if he is to reconcile with the Catholic Church, after being informed he will only be accepted as a layperson.

Archbishop Hepworth has been notified by the Catholic Church that his bid to reunify the TAC with Rome has been successful, but his own case is conditional.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference general secretary Brian Lucas confirmed that under the Anglicanorum coetibus -- guidelines created by the Vatican two years ago -- Anglicans and members of the TAC would be welcomed.

"Each Anglican bishop or each group of Anglicans who apply are treated individually, so we anticipate there will be some groups within the TAC that for their reasons do not want to join the Catholic Church," Father Lucas said.

He said the document confirmed any Catholic priest or bishop who became an Anglican and then wanted to return to Catholicism would only be able to do so as laity. To read more, click here.

Did Hepworth really expect to return to the Roman Catholic Church as a priest?

3 excellent church database solutions


Yesterday I attended the 'Effective Ministry' conference and I'm sure all who attended will agree it was a stimulating day and much thinking and praying should result. I'd be interested to hear of your reflections from the day.

During the 'Meet, Greet, Integrate' panel session, Raj Gupta mentioned how his church was using a church member database to, among other things, care for people who are new to the church. I thought it might be helpful to let you know a couple of the tools that I've discovered that I would recommend for this purpose. To read more, click here.

Catholics Revise Mass; Changes Get Mixed Reviews


Catholics across the nation may find themselves a little confused Sunday when the church begins to use a revised Mass.

“I’ll be with everyone else next week (Nov. 27) – I’ll have to relearn the prayers, while this week I already know them,” Jeff Morrow said with a laugh, in an interview in The Christian Post.

“Those who go to Mass only on Easter and Christmas are in for a little surprise,” said Morrow, assistant professor of theology at the Immaculate Conception School of Theology – Seton Hall, in New Jersey.

The English liturgy, which has been in place for 41 years, will be replaced with a newer English translation that is closer to the word-for-word translation of the Latin. That also means the biblical references will become clearer, said Morrow.

“I think this is a good move. It will help Catholics be more conscious of what they are praying,” he said.

“It’s only in the English-speaking Catholic Church. You won’t find it in the Latin-based language churches – the French Catholic Church or the Spanish Catholic Church,” he explained. “Basically they kind of revised the mass that resulted from the Second Vatican Council, where they translated the Latin text and pared it down.” To read more, click here.

My Wife Had a Bad Experience at Chick-fil-A!


I love Chick-Fil-A! (AND love Tim Hawkins song about it)

We eat there at least two or three times a week (not kidding…we’ve actually pushed that number up to 6-7 a few times.)

The food is ALWAYS good, they get the order right nearly every time and their customer service is second to none. It is always clean and no matter how long the line seems to be people are always served as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So, imagine my surprise when my wife came home the other day and, as we were catching each other up on the things that had taken place while we had been apart all morning and afternoon she told me about a bad experience she had at Chick-Fil-A.

I was immediately frustrated! (Any husband would be!) AND…before I knew it I had literally told myself in my mind, “Well, if that’s the way things are going to be then I guess we just won’t be going to Chick-Fil-A anymore, they’ve lost my business.”

TIME OUT!!! How stupid was THAT thought? Seriously, let’s review…
■#1 – They ALWAYS deliver great food!
■#2 – They ALWAYS have friendly people!
■#3 – They ALWAYS have a clean environment!
■#4 – What my wife had experienced was not in line with what normally happens.To read more, click here.

New breed of missions afoot in Europe


It's taking a different breed of outreach to engage people in secular Europe these days.

Many Journeymen -- recent college graduates serving as short-term IMB missionaries -- have found creative ways to rub shoulders with people, develop relationships and have spiritual conversations.

Kim works with artists in Paris, Jeremy has joined a Reggae band in Finland, Hannah and Ginna run a coffee house in Macedonia, Alex plays guitar for open mic nights in Marseille and Lauren teaches English in Spain.

"We are beyond postmodern. Our culture is what I would call 'post-God,'" says a young resident in Copenhagen, a Danish city that often is a cultural indicator of European trends. In Denmark, people aren't even asking the pertinent questions anymore about meaning and existence, he says. "They just don't care." To read more, click here.

The Manifesto of the Reformation - Luther vs. Erasmus on Free Will


The clash betweenMartin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus over the issue of free will is ‘one of the most famous exchanges in western intellectual history’.1 In this article, we will examine the background to the quarrel between these two professors, and two of the central themes of Luther’s response to Erasmus—the clarity of Scripture and the bondage of the will. In doing so it is critical to be aware that studying these things ‘operates as a kind of litmus test for what one is going to become theologically’.2 Ignoring the contemporary relevance and implications of these crucially important topics will not be possible; whether thinking about our approach to the modern reformation of the church, our evangelism, pastoral care, or interpretation of the Bible there is so much of value and vital importance that it would be a travesty to discuss them without at least a nod in the direction of the twenty-first century church. From Luther’s perspective, as Gerhard Forde rightly says, this was not just one more theological debate but ‘a desperate call to get the gospel preached’.3

This is a fundamentally significant dispute historically since it involved key players in the two major movements of the sixteenth century: Erasmus the great renaissance humanist and Luther the Reformation Hercules.4 The debate between these two titans reveals not only the reasons behind ‘humanism’s programmatic repudiation of the Reformation’5 but also a clear view of the heartbeat of the Reformation itself since, as B. B. Warfield wrote The Bondage of the Will is ‘the embodiment of Luther’s reformation conceptions, the nearest to a systematic statement of them he ever made. It is the first exposition of the fundamental ideas of the Reformation in a comprehensive presentation; it is therefore in a true sense the manifesto of the Reformation’.6 If modern evangelicals have lost Luther’s clarity and faithfulness to Scripture on this issue of free will, we will have lost something very precious and foundational indeed. To read more click here.

To read Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Human Will online or to download it, click here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sharper than a Thorn Hedge: A New Phase in the Crisis in Doctrine, Leadership, and Morality in North American Anglicanism


By Robin G. Jordan

Woe is me! For I am like those who gather summer fruits, like those who glean vintage grapes; there is no cluster to eat of the first-ripe fruit which my soul desires. The faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net. That they may successfully do evil with both hands—the prince asks for gifts, the judge seeks a bribe, and the great man utters his evil desire; so they scheme together. The best of them is like a brier; the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge; the day of your watchman and your punishment comes; now shall be their perplexity. (Micah 7:1-4 NKJV)

The GAFCON Theological Resource Group in The Way, the Truth, and the Life identify two challenges to the authority of Scripture and the classic formularies in the Anglican Church originating in the nineteenth century. The first is John Henry Newman and the Tractarians’ interpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in a Roman direction and the second is modernism. Newman and the Tractarians not only would reinterpret the Articles in what they described as a “Catholic sense,” they would also reinterpret the Prayer Book and the Ordinal. The result was these formularies were given meanings that bore no relation to the historical context in which they were compiled or the intent of those who compiled them.

Newman would maintain that Royal Declaration of Charles I that the Articles should be taken in the literal and grammatical sense freed him and his fellow Tractarians from considering the Articles’ historical context and the intent of its compilers in their interpretation of the Articles.

While modernism has eclipsed Tractarianism as the major challenge to the authority of the Scripture and the classic formularies in the twenty-first century, Tractarianism’s challenge to their authority has not disappeared but persists in an extreme form of Anglo-Catholicism found in and outside of North America.

In historic Anglicanism tradition is subordinate to the authority of the Bible. This form of Anglo-Catholicism emphasizes the authority of tradition at the expense of the Bible. It is a discernable influence not only in the Continuing Anglican Churches in North America but also in the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission in Canada and the United States. Its adherents take the position that the reformed catholicism of historic Anglicanism is not Catholic enough and the Anglican Church needs to move closer to the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches in faith, order, and practice in order to become genuinely Catholic.

The influence of this form of Anglo-Catholicism in the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission is attributable to a number of factors. Before the ascendancy of liberalism it was a dominant ideological stream in the Episcopal Church. A substantial number of former Episcopalians have never been exposed to genuine Anglican teaching. With the removal of modernism as a competing influence in the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission its adherents have sought to restore this dominance. As well as issuing a call for a new Oxford movement to promote its ultra-Catholic ideology, its adherents have taken a number of steps to achieve this end. They have sought to establish themselves in positions of influence. They are responsible for the creation of ultra-Catholic governance structures in the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission. They have produced a Prayer Book that is ultra-Catholic in tone. They persuaded the ACNA College of Bishops to authorize an Ordinal that countenances the doctrines and practices of the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic Church and the post-Tridentian Roman Catholic Church.

The “three streams” theology popular in the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission has failed to act as a check or counterbalance to the resurgence of this form of Anglo-Catholicism. Indeed it may have actually helped its rising again to prominence.

The disappearance of traditional Anglican evangelicalism from the Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century and its weak revival in the twentieth century is another factor behind the rise of this ideology. The charismatic movement would capture the imagination of North American Anglicans at the time traditional Anglican evangelicalism was beginning to make a recovery in North America.

In this type of environment the news that an Anglo-Catholic canon had taken advantage of his position in the Anglican Mission to introduce sweeping changes in the doctrine and governance structures of the Anglican Mission’s parent province, thereby moving it and the Anglican Mission in an ultra-Catholic direction is not particularly surprising. What were his objectives beyond demonstrating how easily the doctrine of an Anglican province and a missionary jurisdiction of that province may be subverted have yet to be fathomed.

The Anglican Mission has a substantial number of pastors and congregation that identify themselves as evangelical. The Anglican Church of Rwanda was founded by the Church Missionary Society, which has its roots in the Evangelical Revival. The East African Revival that has impacted a number of African provinces began in Rwanda. If any agreement that Bishop Chuck Murphy and Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje reach fails to rectify these doctrinal changes, the result will be a missionary organization in which a large number of pastors and congregations do not subscribe to the doctrinal positions imposed upon that organization through the machinations of one individual. It will also be a missionary organization that is no longer genuinely Anglican in its identity.

One is led to suspect that GAFCON and The Jerusalem Declaration are the real targets of this individual. He is known as a sharp critic of a number of provisions of The Jerusalem Declaration. He presently serves on the GAFCON Theological Education and Formation Committee and has been promoting a revamping of Anglican ecclesiology. His apparent aim is to effect a large-scale movement in an ultra-Catholic direction—a movement involving not only the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission but also the entire global South Anglican community. With this movement he also appears intent upon effecting the destruction of historic Anglicanism.

This raises the question of whether the sentiments of this individual are typical of the proponents of the new Oxford movement. In this case GAFCON 2013 may need to consider how the provinces and dioceses forming the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans should respond to this challenge to the authority of Scripture and the classic formularies in the Anglican Church. In challenging their authority, it is also presenting a challenge to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, substituting false teaching for what Anglicans have historically understood to be the New Testament gospel.

Adherents of this form of Anglo-Catholicism are showing themselves to be untrustworthy allies in the struggle against liberalism. While evangelicals are going out of their way to work with Anglo-Catholics, they are taking advantage of this cooperation to further their agenda. They demonstrate that they have not outgrown the lawlessness that characterized the Ritualist movement in the nineteenth century. They are proving that the suspicions that conservative evangelicals harbor toward Anglo-Catholics are not unfounded. Today’s Anglo-Catholic is the old Romanizing Ritualist in a new guise, assiduously at work to undo the Reformation and to promote the innovations of post-Tridentian Roman Catholicism as well as the errors and superstitions of pre-Reformation Medieval Catholicism in the Anglican Church. The calls for tolerance, acceptance, and diversity from Anglo-Catholic quarters are self-serving as are similar calls from liberal quarters.

The disclosures involving the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission and the developments in the Anglican Church in North America should give North American Anglicans who are committed to the Scriptures, the classic formularies, the Great Commission, and responsible, synodical church government pause to think. There is serious cause for concern. The future of Anglicanism in North America is at stake. The time has come to band together and work for the reform of the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission.

If the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission are beyond reform, as may be the case, it is also time to begin planning the next step—the formation of a truly Biblically orthodox Anglican province in North America, a province that preaches, believes, and defends the New Testament gospel of salvation by faith in Christ and is unwavering in its adherence to the Anglican formularies, a province in which the gospel imperative is a clear priority; a province where governance of the Christian community is shared by the entire Church, clergy and laity together; constitutionalism and the rule of law are respected; and leaders at the provincial, intermediary, and local congregational levels are held to high standards of accountability.

This is the path that the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission should have followed. But neither body appears to have succeeded in freeing itself from the corrupting influence of the Episcopal Church. The problems of the Episcopal Church go deeper than liberalism and those who migrated from the Episcopal Church to the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission appear to have brought these problems with them.

Related articles:
Further Implications of Recent Disclosures Involving the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission
Implications of Recent Disclosures Involving the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission
All Is NOT Well in the Anglican Mission
What the Future Holds for the Anglican Mission
The Curse of Trust in Man: Fatal Weaknesses in the Anglican Mission