Saturday, December 31, 2011

While We're Waiting

What God has in store along the journey

One theme has stood out to me in 2011: waiting. For the first time in my life, God allowed me to experience an extended time of waiting with no clue of what he had in store for me at the end. It was different from waiting a week for something to go on sale or waiting two weeks for the next paycheck. That kind of waiting involves little mystery about the outcome: I will buy the item I waited for and we'll pay the bill when the money is deposited. It is waiting for something we expect. It is simply delayed gratification.

It's much more difficult to wait for long periods of time for an unknown destination or answer to prayer. Instead of delayed gratification and discipline to stay calm and wait the prescribed amount of time, waiting for the unknown requires a heavy dose of trust in God as we push out the doubt that creeps in, force ourselves to wait instead of make our own way, and deal with the hurt, bitterness, and frustration when we've waited longer than we would have liked. We must keep reminding ourselves that God does want what’s good for us and that he will answer our prayers—even if the answers look nothing like we expected. To read more, click here.

Wafering over gluten-free host

Blenheim Anglicans are saying amen to gluten-free wafers during communion, but the idea has left a bad taste with one Christmas churchgoer.

Waihopai Valley man Patrick Rattray went to communion at the Nativity Church on Alfred St on Christmas morning and was surprised to be given the option of a gluten-free wafer and non-alcoholic grape juice.

He only went to church at Christmas and Easter and said the idea of having the options were too politically correct.

Mr Rattray wrote a letter to the editor asking if he should "go over to Rome, or am I already too late?"

"It's just a sadness that all these things are taken so seriously. We don't laugh at ourselves any more," he told the Express.

He opted for the more traditional wafer and wine.

Nativity Church's Rev Derek Harding, who is gluten intolerant, said the gluten-free wafers had been offered since at least 2004. Other Anglican churches in Marlborough also offered the choice and non-alcoholic grape juice as an alternative to wine.

The church in Spring Creek and the Nativity Church both had at least two people each communion who chose gluten-free, he said. To read more, click here.

Solar So Good

St Newlyn East Parish Church is set to make solar history

An ancient Cornish church is waiting to hear in the New Year if they’ve got planning approval to be the first solar-powered CofE Church in Britain.

St Newlyn East Parish Church is a listed, Medieval building set to cancel its soaring fuel bills with twenty-two photo-voltaic solar panels.

Church Warden David Scott, who manages more than a hundred other churches in the Duchy, is the brains behind the pioneering scheme.

The cost of heating ancient churches has always been high, but has rocketed in recent years with the price of electricity.

Because many local churches are only used for a few hours a week, heating is chiefly electric: the least economical way of keeping a large building warm.

David told the News he hoped solar panels would heat the Church and provide more energy besides. To read more, click here.

Related article: Church awaits solar planning outcome

Lao Officials Force Christians to Recant for Burial

Separately in Boukham village, authorities move Christians to animal pen.

Officials this week forced Christians in a Lao village to give up their faith in order to bury a family member in the village graveyard, according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).

In Huey, Ad-Sapangthong district of Savannakhet Province, where immediate burial is essential in the hot tropical climate, the village’s eight Christian families quickly began to arrange a funeral for the deceased, a woman who died on Christmas Day who went by the single name of Wang. On Monday (Dec. 26), however, village officials ordered that her body be buried according to Buddhist funeral rites or be taken to a burial ground in Savannakhet city, HRWLRF reported.

Lacking the resources for a city burial, the 40 Christians reluctantly agreed. But the village monk then refused to carry out the ceremony because Wang was a Christian.

On Tuesday (Dec. 27), district officials summoned representatives of the Christian community in Huey to their headquarters in Ad-Sapangthong. HRWLRF reported that one of them told the Christians, “Don’t do anything with the dead body; let the body rot if you insist on clinging to the Christian faith.”

With Wang’s body already decomposing, the Christians verbally agreed to cease practicing their faith in order to bury her in the village cemetery, according to HRWLRF.

Once the funeral was over, five of the families told church leaders in another city that they regretted their decision and that they would continue to worship God. To read more, click here.

A Peek at Modern Paganism: How to Preach to Pagans (Part 2)

Paganism is a blanket term covering practices ranging from witchcraft to nature worship. Such diversity creates a daunting task for Christian evangelism, since it’s difficult to identify a focus when finding common ground with pagans. With this in mind, how can Christians effectively share the Good News with their pagan brothers and sisters?

The answer, religious experts and pagans agree, lies in study and sincere empathy for paganism's many strands. Many pagans see their practice as an individual journey, so respecting each person's religious travels on a case-by-case basis is crucial.

"Pagans share with Christians the belief that we are fundamentally spiritual beings," said James Beverley, a professor of Christian thought and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada, and associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion. "With pagans, Christians long for meaning beyond the material realm and hope for life after death."

Beverley said such similarities offer a basis for Christians and pagans to initially interact on the same page. Both religions admire social justice and appreciate nature, he said, so believers from each can bond over eco-friendly or civic improvement programs. After that, he said they should share their beliefs and explore the differences between them.

"Christians focus on Jesus as lord and savior while pagans look to the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and northern Europe," Beverley said. "Like all other religions, paganism misses biblical truth about the one God who has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Christians should help pagans see the beauty of Jesus, his historical reality and his magnificent grace."

John Ramirez, an evangelical author and minister, understands this balancing act better than most. A former high priest in Santeria, a Caribbean occult tradition, he said he spent several years invoking spirits and demons in witchcraft rituals. The practice ultimately hurt him and his loved ones, he said, and he's since abandoned it for Christ’s love. To read more, click here.

Bible Reading Plans for 2012

There are lots of ways to read the Bible in a year, and I won’t try to capture all of them. But here are numerous options, in no particular order. You may want to look through it and see what you think would work best for you.

First off, if you’re not persuaded that having a plan is necessary and biblical in some sense, then here’s a helpful piece from John Piper, written in 1984.

Stephen Witmer has a helpful introduction—on the weaknesses of typical plans and some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan.

The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. To read more, click here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mission Rwanda: Moving Forward Together

The following email was posted on the Stand Firm website:

Dear Friends,

Please consider this email your invitation to attend: Moving Forward Together in Raleigh NC January 16th to 18th, 2012.

Moving Forward Together is a sacred assembly of worship, reconciliation, and connection will be held January 16 to 18th in Raleigh, NC at Church of the Apostles (333 Church at North Hills Street Raleigh, NC 27609).

Guests: Bishops from Rwanda including Archbishop Rwaje (PEAR), and Archbishop Bob Duncan (ACNA) and others leadership in North American Anglicanism.

Who is invited: Laity and Clergy who are either currently connected to Rwanda or those who would like more information about what it means to be under the oversight and leadership of the Province of Rwanda.

Cost of the Assembly: $125 per person

Assembly Schedule:
Begins @ 3.30 pm on Monday ending at lunch-time on Wednesday.

Meals provided: Dinner Monday, Lunch Tuesday, and Dinner Tuesday evening.

How to Register? Go to where we have an online registration with a Pay Pal component. This registration will be available on January 3rd, 2012.

What can we expect?
1. Plenary Sessions led by Archbishop Rwaje and other leaders
2. Breakout Sessions to explore and consider our future together
3. Breakout Sessions to explain canonical and jurisdictional questions and issues
4. Worship, Prayer, Eucharist for a time of repentance and healing

For Assembly Questions, please contact...

The post did not give whom to contact with questions about the assembly. I will post this information if and when I obtain it.

Islam's Inquisitors: A Review of 'Silenced'

Muslim blasphemy laws threaten global religious liberty and American national security.

Religious freedom is in global crisis. According to two comprehensive studies by the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 70 percent of the world's population lives in nations where this precious freedom is subject to severe restriction. Many people suffer "mere discrimination" (some serious form of civil, economic, or political disability) because of their religious beliefs or those of their tormentors. Others—tens of millions, in fact—are victims of violent persecution, such as torture, rape, "disappearance" (kidnapping and murder), unjust imprisonment, and execution.

You can be forgiven if you haven't heard much about this crisis from the mainstream press, whether left or right. Neither The New York Times and CNN, nor The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, have much time for religious persecution, beyond spectacular episodes of mass murder. Even then, the coverage is usually brief, thin, and void of analysis. How often, to cite one egregious area of neglect, has the secular press examined the effects of antiblasphemy laws in the Middle East?

In Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide(Oxford University Press), Paul Marshall and Nina Shea go bravely where the media fear to tread. Based on an extensive examination of Muslim-majority countries, they contend that laws and policies punishing blasphemy and apostasy are not only a major source of religious persecution, but also an obstacle to stable democracy and the defeat of Islamist terrorism. To read more, click here.

A Peek at Modern Paganism: What Paganism Is and Isn't (Part 1)

Modern paganism to outside observers often seems like a patchwork of random ideas. True paganism isn't far off from that description, its practitioners agree.

Ivo Dominguez, Jr., a high priest in Dover, Delaware’s Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, a Wiccan sect, said that paganism is usually used as a general term for faiths ranging from Wicca's witchcraft to reverence of nature. It's hardly definitive, he said, and for most pagans, their beliefs are built from a range of personal experiences and trial-and-error.

"It (paganism) contains a broad range of traditions and pantheons. Many pagans are drawn to particular parts of worship related to their genetic ancestry, while others just like what makes their hearts sing. Overall, most people that find their way into paganism have an interest with direct personal experience with the divine,” said Dominguez.

He added, "While most religions are religions of the book, paganism is the religion of the library. There is no overarching structure that says 'this is what you must believe.' It breeds a lot of diversity."

Brendan Myers, an author on paganism and a folk musician residing in Gatineau, Canada, agrees, saying that a major distinction between Christianity and paganism is paganism's acceptance of polytheism. He said that pagans can worship one god or multiple deities, with practitioners deciding what best expresses their faith.

For Dominguez, worship entails daily meditation and contemplation. He also prays before private altars to various beings, interacting with different forces as his needs and desires change. Dominguez said he most often communes with Hekate, an ancient goddess representing transformation and change, and Cernunnos, an antlered Celtic forest spirit associated with nature and fertility. He claims it allows him to better understand the overall scheme of the universe. To read more, click here.

Decline and renewal characterise the European church

Europe is a continent marked by church decline but it is not entirely dying, says Niek Tramper.

In fact, the General Secretary of the European Evangelical Alliance believes the word “paradox” is best describes the state of the church in the region.

Just a few weeks ago he attended a service at an Anglican church in Venice – he and just six others.

“You can hardly discern a future for such a church and there are many traditional churches like this in villages and cities all over Europe,” he concedes.

Conversely, he recalls a meeting with a Ghanaian who came to Dusseldorf in Germany 20 years ago with a desire to return the love back to the continent that brought Christianity to his own country. He now pastors a 1,000-strong multinational church that holds six services every Sunday and includes many Germans among its members.

This pastor is not alone. There are many African pastors coming to Europe to share the Gospel – GATE (Gift from Africa to Europe) is an umbrella organisation set up specifically to support them.

What they all remark on is Europe’s undeniable material wealth and equally undeniable spiritual poverty.

“This used to be a mission sending continent. Now it has become a continent to be missionised again,” Tramper told the Mission-Net congress in Erfurt, Germany. To read more, click here.

Rwanda: Bilindabagabo to Head Council of Protestant Churches

The Anglican Bishop of Gahini Diocese, Alexis Bilindabagabo, has been elected president of the Council of Protestant Churches of Rwanda (CPR), replacing the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, Dr Onesphore Rwaje.

Bilindabagabo, who has been the Bishop of Gahini since 1994, is also the Dean of the Province Episcopal au Rwanda (PEAR).

Established in 1962, the council brings together 23 religious denominations and Christian organisations, with the aim of promoting unity and cooperation among churches.

The members include the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda, the Province Episcopal Au Rwanda (PEAR) and the Association of Baptist Churches of Rwanda.

Others are the Lutheran Church, The Seventh Day Adventist Church, Association of Pentecostal Churches of Rwanda (ADEPR), the Nazarene Church, Free Methodist Church, Brethren Church, African Evangelistic Enterprise, African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM) and Youth for Christ.

In an interview with The New Times, Bilindabagabo noted that during his tenure, he intends to embark on fighting drugs among the youth as well as gender based violence.

"Top on my agenda is to fight drugs and GBV through collaborating with the government because these two issues need combined efforts by all stakeholders," he said by phone. To read more, click here.

Related article: Sudanese refugees and Rwandan bishop talk reconciliation

Iran Detains Sunday School Kids Celebrating Christmas

Iranian authorities raided a church that was celebrating Christmas and detained everyone in the building, including children attending Sunday school, a U.K.-based Christian charity said.

Officials in the southern town of Ahwaz raided an Assemblies of God-affiliated church last week and herded the entire congregation into two buses, according to the Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

While the majority of the members were “interrogated, threatened and eventually released,” the church’s senior pastor, identified only as Farhad, remained in detention, along with his wife and some church leaders, at press time.

CSW noted that the authorities raided a church that is not a part of the house church movement, but is an official and long-established church. Its membership largely consists of former followers of John the Baptist who converted to Christianity. Pastor Farhad had been detained on several occasions earlier and warned not to allow Muslim converts into his church.

Raids and detentions during the Christmas season are not uncommon in Iran, a Shi’a-majority country that is seen as one of the worst persecutors of religious minorities.

CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas pointed out that the arrests follow Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Larijani’s recent message to Pope Benedict congratulating Christians on the “auspicious anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ” and stating that the world’s ills were caused by ignoring ethics and justice. To read more, click here.

Related article: Christian Charged With 'Blasphemy' after Argument

Ordinariate Watch: Hundreds more Church of England defections expected

At least 20 clergy and several hundred of their parishioners are already lined up to join the Ordinariate, the new structure set up by the Pope a year ago that allows them to remain some of their Anglican heritage while entering into full communion with the Holy See.

But many more members of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England are likely to defect following a critical meeting of its governing body, the General Synod, if traditionalists who cannot accept the ordination of women are denied special provision.

The head of the Ordinariate, Mgr Keith Newton, told The Daily Telegraph: “There are in the region of 15 to 20 people who I think will be coming over this year. These are ordained Anglicans who wish to petition the Holy See for ordination.”

He said they are likely to bring a “couple of hundred” worshippers with them in a second wave of defections, following the 60 clergy and about 1,000 lay people who crossed the Tiber last year.

Mgr Newton, a former Anglican “flying bishop” who is now officially known as the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, went on: “Then next year it depends a little bit on what the Synod decides to do. To read more, click here.

Related articles:
Seeds of the Ordinariate, Part One: Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio
Doors open for Anglicans to join Catholic Church

Thursday, December 29, 2011

AMiA Upheaval – A Changing Course

After the meeting in London between the Triumvirate of former Archbishops, the ever present Canon Donlon and Bishop Murphy, the Pawleys Island leadership regrouped in North Carolina. Next, they sent two of the resigned bishops to Pittsburgh to meet with ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan.

Archbishop Duncan issued a Pastoral Letter following this meeting. What follows are my comments on parts of the letter.

For the Anglican Church in North America the starting point was the importance of our Provincial relationship with the Province of Rwanda (a sister GAFCON Province) and with His Grace Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, of our relationship with the North American Bishops Terrell Glenn and Thad Barnum and all the clergy licensed in Rwanda, and of our relationship to those represented by the Pawleys Island group with whom we were meeting. We, as the Anglican Church in North America, have been deeply connected to all three, and we can only move forward when issues and relationships have been adequately addressed and necessary transitions are in progress.

Archbishop Duncan wisely tells the Pawleys Island group that there must be some degree of restoration with the Rwandan House of Bishops. Consider that in the previous weeks, these PEAR bishops were attacked by Pawleys-aligned clergy and former Archbishops as being akin to Pharaoh and Lot and being part of a plot by Satanic forces! The tone of communication since beginning to dialog with ACNA has markedly changed. The harsh rhetoric has been replaced with pleas for harmony and an end to criticism.

The agreement from today’s meeting in Pittsburgh was that the Anglican Church in North America is prepared to enter into a process by which our relationship with those who will rally to the Pawleys’ vision and leadership (Anglican Mission in the Americas, Inc.) might be restored to a status like the one existing before the Ministry Partner decision of 2010.

Archbishop Duncan is outlining something that will take time and will result in a mission partner status at the end of the line. This status was rejected by Bishop Murphy in 2010 when he claimed that AMiA was “embedded in the constitution and canons of Rwanda.”

All those at the meeting today agreed “that there were no subjects that were not on the table.” For the Anglican Church in North America, these subjects must include leadership, relationships, and jurisdictional participation in a way that is fully Anglican.

To read more, click here.

Church Growth and Evangelism in the Anglican Catholic Church

Introduction. Archbishop Haverland has commissioned us to begin an American initiative to promote the growth of our churches and the planting of new churches. The intent is for this complement our mission efforts in other countries.

The issue to be addressed. Some Anglican Catholic churches are growing and some have built churches. But a large, perhaps majority number of our parishes exist in a steady or declining state. The typical congregation is faithful but older. There is a struggle to replace those who die or move and an even greater struggle to begin Sunday schools and other programs aimed at youth.

Before we can look for answers, we need to reflect upon the cause of our current condition. One contributing factor is the non-evangelical nature of the Anglo Catholic tradition as we have received it in the ACC. This is not a characteristic of Anglo Catholicism per se. For example, one can read the book, Glorious Battle, by John Sheldon Reed to see the very evangelical nature of many post Oxford Movement Anglo Catholics.

What is meant by the word evangelical? The Affirmation of St. Louis calls us to an "evangelical witness." This refers to a concern for the salvation and welfare of the world outside of our parish walls. More particularly, it refers to a concern for conversion of hearts to faith in Jesus Christ and a desire to instruct believers in the faith–to "make disciples."

One reason we have not been evangelically oriented is that evangelism was not the primary cause for which the ACC was founded in events of 1977-78 in St. Louis and Denver. The primary concern at our inception was to maintain the Faith that had been abandoned by the Episcopal Church. There was great and necessary concern to define and guard the parameters of Orthodoxy.

Many of the founding clergy of the ACC had, for many years, fought the battle against both low church attacks on the fullness of the faith and heretical attacks on the essentials of the faith. They held on to and bequeathed to us a church, but it was not their vocation and gift to shift gears and evangelize in the new world the ACC faced.

Most of the clergy who gathered for the events of St. Louis and Denver (1977-1978) were raised in the 1940's-1970's, which was a vastly different religious world that we now face. It was a world in which mainline denominations were strong and people identified with them. It was a world in which many were raised in a church. It was a world in which a man could go to seminary for three years and then expect to find a job in the church upon graduation. The ACC has in many ways continued to train men for ministry in the church that was.

In the years immediately following the 1978 consecrations, two others things undermined evangelism. First, the response to the Continuing Church was less than anticipated. There was expectation that thousands would join in a wave of enthusiasm over the new, orthodox Anglican alternative. Instead, thousands stayed put or stayed home. Also, many who came brought conflict. The raging battle of their former church became the defining feature of their new parish.

Second, there were internal divisions and fights among the Anglicans at the beginning and in subsequent chapters of the history. Those who were present know that sometimes issues of principle were at stake. However, the prospective converts did know this. In the Acts of the Apostle we are constantly told how the unity of the church was foundation for its growth. Evangelism is always undermined by disunifying conflict. It instills a contentious attitude in those parishes that are involved in the conflict. All parish energy is sapped by the conflict so that there is no energy left for ministry. The very issue itself, whatever it is, tends to instill a more inward focus.

The net effect of the things outlined above is that, while ACC parishes are typically confident about the faith they hold, the are also typically uncertain about how to share this faith in their community. To read more, click here.

A thoughtful article on the state of evangelism in the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC). However, Canon Scarlett does at times confuse evangelism with evangelicalism. They are not the same. True evangelicals recognize as the essence of gospel teaching the New Testament doctrine of salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (as opposed to good works and sacraments). True evangelicals reject the view that in the celebration of the Mass the priest reiterates or represents the sacrifice of Christ or that Christ continues his sacrificial activity in heaven and in the celebration of the Mass the priest and the people participate in this activity. True evangelicals affirm what the New Testament teaches--Christ's sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for all sin and eliminated any need for further sacrifice or sacrificial activity. Having made on the cross "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world," Christ rose from the dead, commissioned his disciples to proclaim the gospel to all the world and to make disciples of all peoples, promised to send the Holy Spirit to them, ascended into heaven, and sat down at his Father's side.

Secret Vatican Documents to Be Revealed After 13 Centuries

A collection of 100 documents preserved in the Vatican Secret Archives and never shown to the public will be revealed in a 2012 exhibition titled “Lux In Arcana.” The codices, parchments, strings, and registers, as well as other documentation dating back some 1,300 years, will be on display in the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

The exhibition was organized for the 4th Centenary of the foundation of the Vatican Secret Archives and it aims to explain and describe the papal archives, according to organizers.

What is likely to stir people’s curiosity is a web of theories and legends about the secrets contained within documents maintained by the Vatican. Many filmmakers and fiction writers have fed off those stories, as did Dan Brown in a series of mystery novels, the most famous one being The Da Vinci Code, in which the narrator argues that the Holy See is hiding the truth about Jesus Christ's bloodline.

The Vatican Secret Archives consist of 85 linear kilometers (about 53 miles) of shelving and contain records of extraordinary historical value, covering a time span that stretches from the 8th to the 20th century.

“It will be the first and possibly the only time in history that they [these documents] leave the confines of the Vatican City walls,” the exhibition website reads.

The writings offer an insight into the lives of Henry VIII, Martin Luther and Galileo, among others, as reported by the Daily Mail. The exhibition also contains a 13th-century letter from Genghis Khan’s grandson, in which he demands homage from the pope, according to the Daily Telegraph. In the letter, dated 1246, the grandson, Grand Khan Guyuk, reportedly demands from Pope Innocent IV that the pontiff travel to central Asia in person to “pay service and homage to us” as an act of “submission." To read more, click here.

Apocalypse: Could 2012 Be the Year of Christ's Return?

“Look, I am coming soon!” Revelation 22:7

The Mayans predicted it. Conspiracy theorists have confirmed it. Hollywood even made a movie about it. Could the next twelve months culminate in the end of the world as we know it?

Think about it from the Christian perspective. We’ve never been closer to the technology necessary for every eye to see him as the Bible predicted in Revelation 1:7. There was no way technologically this could have happened one hundred years ago. But today it could be as simple as telling your iPhone, “Siri, record Jesus riding that cloud down from heaven and post it on Youtube.” (If she refuses then maybe she is the antichrist! Aha!!!)

But, on the more serious side, there are true signs of the times on a global scale from economic turmoil to military tensions to religious conflicts. The Eurozone has transformed into a financial roller coaster and the “Arab Spring” has been carried over into Winter. A crazy dictator died and now his unknown son rules the nuclear-enabled roost (AKA “North Korea”). All of this sounds like iron mixed with clay (Daniel 2:43) mixed with the plot from a Left Behind DVD to me.

So will 2012 be the year of Christ’s return?

Drumroll please… To read more, click here.

Ordinariate Watch: Anglicans Joining Catholic Church: Not Much Will Change

As the Jan. 1, 2012 date given for the creation of a Roman Catholic Ordinariate, or church body, for disaffected Anglicans draws near, some departing churches say they do not expect significant differences in their worship and practice.

An ordinariate is a geographical region similar to a diocese except that it is national in scope. They are headed by an “ordinary,” which can be a bishop or a priest.

Some congregations that have severed their ties with the Episcopal Church have petitioned the pope to become part of the Catholic Church, under the condition that they retain elements of Anglican tradition, also known as “Anglican Patrimony.”

Bishop Louise Campese of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Orlando, Fla., who also serves as Bishop Ordinary for Pro-Diocese of the Holy Family, said that even though all changes had not been decided for his congregation, he believes there will not be extensive changes.

“There are going to be some changes, but not something foreign to the Anglican Patrimony,” said Campese, who added that he had “no more information than that at this time.”

Even before voting to join the Roman Catholic Church, Campese’s congregation considered itself Anglo-Catholic, which is a part of the Anglican Communion that has Catholic-like rituals and worship practices. To read more, click here.

In those churches in which the clergy already use the Roman Catholic catechism in istructing their parishioners and the Roman Catholic liturgy in celebrating the Mass, there may be few changes but one must ask are these churches really Anglican and will they preserve any kind of genuine Anglican heritage in the Roman Catholic Church? With the exception of being formally received in the Roman Catholic Church, they are Roman Catholic. A number of them have arguably never been truly Anglican. Roman Catholics and those influenced by their views regard the Anglican Church as a breakaway church from the Roman Catholic Church. On the other hand, Anglicans historically have a different view of the Anglican Church. They see it as ancient branch of Christianity that underwent a number of necessary reforms in the sixteenth century in order that the Anglican Church might be faithful to the teaching of the Scriptures and once more proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, remains unreformed, placing the teaching of Church tradition above the teaching of the Scriptures, and proclaiming a false gospel.

Poll: Churchgoers as digitally engaged as U.S.

American churchgoers are just as likely to use Twitter, Facebook and the Internet as non-churchgoers, according to a new study that shows the impact that technology can have on spreading a church's message.

The landline and cell phone survey of 2,303 adults by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project showed that....To read more, click here.

Would You Invite Jesus Home for Dinner?

You’ve probably heard of the changes made by the Catholic Church to the Mass recently. The stated aim of these changes is to make the English translation of the Mass more like the original Latin text, and to better reflect the words of Jesus. Most changes don’t seem particularly important and if anything seem to make the words less natural. For example, when the Priest says at the beginning of the service , “The Lord be with you.” The congregation are now to reply, “And with your spirit” instead of the more natural, “And also with you.”

There is one change however that does give us some good opportunities to share the Gospel with friends and family this Christmas.

At a very important point in the Mass, just before Catholics receive Holy Communion, the congregation say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”, they used to say, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you”. The reason given for this change is that these new words echo the words of the Centurion in Luke 7:6 and Matthew 8:8 who said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed”. This Centurion is commended by Jesus for his faith. He is not even a Jew, yet he trusts in Jesus’ power and authority more than all the Jews. However it is the faith of an outsider, a Gentile, not one of God’s chosen people. The Centurion recognises that as a Gentile, he is not worthy for a Jewish rabbi to come into his house as this would make the rabbi unclean.

In the Catholic Mass these words are said by baptised, confirmed Roman Catholics who have gone through extensive training before being allowed to participate in Holy Communion. Other Christians are even excluded from participating in this part of the service. In the Catholic Mass the words, “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” are said not by unbelievers but by those who are supposed to be closest to God. However in the Bible this is not the way Jesus encouraged his followers to approach God. In the Lord ’s Prayer Jesus tells his followers to say “Our Father in Heaven,” using the most intimate of words for Father – “Daddy”. Also Peter is rebuked for thinking of himself as unclean when Jesus washes the disciple’s feet. To read more, click here.

Muslim Extremists in Uganda Throw Acid on Bishop

Burns threaten eyesight of church leader who opposed Islamic courts.

Islamic extremists threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve shortly after a seven-day revival at his church, leaving him with severe burns that have blinded one eye and threaten sight in the other.

Bishop Umar Mulinde, 37, a sheikh (Islamic teacher) before his conversion to Christianity, was attacked on Saturday night (Dec. 24) outside his Gospel Life Church International building in Namasuba, about 10 kilometers (six miles) outside of Kampala. From his hospital bed in Kampala, he told Compass that he was on his way back to the site for a party with the entire congregation and hundreds of new converts to Christianity when a man who claimed to be a Christian approached him.

“I heard him say in a loud voice, ‘Pastor, pastor,’ and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face as others poured more liquid on my back and then fled away shouting, ‘Allahu akbar [God is greater],’” Mulinde said, still visibly traumatized two days after the assault.

A neighbor and church members rushed him to a hospital in the Mengo area of Kampala, and he was then transferred to International Hospital Kampala.

“I have to continue fighting this pain – it is too much,” Mulinde said. “My entire body is in pain. Most of the night I miss sleep.”

His face, neck and arms bore deep black scars from the acid, and his lips were swollen. To read more, click here.

Calendar Reform in the Twenty-First Century: Changing Times

For more than five hundred years, the most popular and influential book, after the Bible, was The Golden Legend by Jacques de Voragine.* At the end of the 13th century Voragine grappled with the sacralization of time and its usage. Following the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the rules of time that, for the most part, have ruled Western civilization, were established.

Recently, an interesting change occurred. On 28 March 2010, Russian President Medvedev eliminated two of Russia's eleven time zones. Russia circles almost half the globe. Using our present nineteenth-century method of marking the time, the clocks in Kaliningrad, far west of Moscow, read ten hours differently (9 hours differently, after Medvedev's change) than do clocks across the Bering Sea from Alaska. But, time, as measured by atomic clocks, is exactly the same in those two Russian locations. The time is the same everywhere, but the sun can be at very different locations in the sky — something that mattered in the nineteenth century far more than it does today.

Why did Medvedev make these changes? Imagine Washington, D.C. on our West Coast, and the U.S. stretched over eleven time zones. If that were the case, when President Obama began work at 6 AM, it would already be 4 PM on our (hypothetically stretched) East Coast, and all government workers would be going home in 30 minutes. Hard to keep in touch. That gives us a feeling for what Russia has to cope with. But, Medvedev's solution, while mitigative, clearly does not totally solve the problem. To read more, click here.
Related article: Professors' proposed calendar synchronizes dates with days

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lessons From an Usher

What I learned about humility from a gentle greeter.

A seminarian recently told me about the time he was chatting with a high-achieving classmate after they had both completed a difficult final exam. "You know that question on humility?" his friend asked. "I nailed it!"

The irony got me thinking about my friend Jimmy.

Jimmy is an usher at a church I used to attend; he takes his duties seriously. Every Sunday, Jimmy is a reliably warm, bespectacled, suspendered presence in the church foyer, handing out bulletins, clasping hands, and sneaking candy to the kids. Knowing my interest in music, Jimmy is always keen to report to me (even now, when I come to visit) which gospel quartets he recorded off the radio over the past week. Once, he gave my young son a wristwatch he no longer needed, out of the blue, much to their mutual delight.

There is something unusual about Jimmy. I know nothing of his background—there may have been an accident in the past or simply a genetic quirk. I only know that he is what some people call "a little different." To read more, click here.

To Pastors: Celebrate What God Is Doing

So, I wrote about celebration in the church and how we should CELEBRATE all that God is doing. (Here’s the link) :-)

I forgot to mention one thing though…

Blogs, twitter and facebook CAN be incredibly discouraging for pastors and church leaders as they monitor what is happening in other churches.

For example, we see where BLANK church had hundreds of salvations, and then we see where another church had the same…and then we look at our services and we had four salvations…and for some reason we are tempted to not celebrate and not let the world know because on the surface it seems insignificant in comparison to what God is doing in other churches…

So, we’ll just stay silent because “four salvations” isn’t as “sexy” as four hundred!

DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT believe that lie!!! To read more, click here.

A 'Real' War on Christmas? Police Across China Attack Christians for Celebrating Christmas

On Christmas Day, police across China tear gassed and beat down Christians for worshipping at "unofficial" Christmas services, according to an American aid group in the region.

“[On Christmas] morning at about 8.00 a.m. our church was holding a Christmas activity on Binjiang Road in Langzhong city,” Li Ming, said in an interview with RFA on Monday.

“There were around 20-30 police officers, and they used tear-gas canisters,” he said. “My eyes were so swollen I couldn’t see at all.”

According to Li, police arrested three people and confiscated the group’s musical instruments and sound system.

The alleged Christmas Day oppression was not limited to one city. ChinaAid, a Texas-based group that focuses on the abuse of Christians in China, reported that 30 members of Shouwang Church in Beijing were arrested while holding outdoor worship services.

According to eyewitnesses who spoke to ChinaAid, police looked as if they “were getting ready for a big battle” as they streamed in to break up the proceedings and detain worshippers. To read more, click here.

Southern Baptists to Plant Hundreds of Churches in New York City

Southern Baptists are planning to plant between 50 and 100 churches in the New York City area over the next five years as part of a larger movement to accommodate the ethnically diverse city and its ever-shifting population.

According to the North American Mission Board, a church planting initiative by the Southern Baptist Convention, 45 churches have been established in New York City over the last decade.

The group cites the ratio of one Southern Baptist congregation for every 6,828 people in North America as the motivation for the initiative.

The ratio in New York City is one SBC church for every 52,760 New Yorkers.

With over 22 million people in the New York City tri-state area, organizations like NAMB and the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association endeavor into a traditionally unyielding, if not stubborn, culture of people.

“While many still travel half-way around the world to witness to ‘the unreached,’ less is being done to reach many of the same peoples right here in NYC,” MNYBA said in a statement. To read more and to view the video, click here.

Survey: Unchurched Do Not Ponder Life's Purpose, Afterlife

Half of the Americans who do not attend church also do not wonder if there is an ultimate purpose for their lives or the possibility that God has a plan for them, according to a recent survey.

The study by LifeWay Research, which surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults, also found that people with even a slight curiosity about a higher purpose to life are more likely to participate in worship services.

About 75 percent of the adults surveyed indicated that they either agree or strongly agree with the statement, “There is an ultimate purpose and plan for every person’s life.”

However, 50 percent of respondents who never attend worship services disagree with the statement.

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, said in a statement that the study results have significant implications for churches.

“It is no wonder that many of the unchurched are unengaged in church activity when they don’t believe an exclusive purpose exists for their own lives,” McConnell said. “In other words, why go to church to learn about God’s plan if you don’t think there is one?” To read more, click here.

30 Christian Shops Burnt in Nigeria After Deadly Attacks; More Violence Feared (VIDEO)

More violence is expected in Nigeria, where an Islamist terror group killed 39 on Christmas Day, pushing many citizens to flee the targeted cities Monday, reports say.

After the deadly attacks on churches in five cities across the country Sunday (another church was reportedly bombed in the northeast on Christmas Eve, but no one was reported killed), Nigerians are gripped by fear. Thirty-nine people died in the sieges (40, according to some reports), including 35 in Madalla, a town near the capital, Abuja. In another bombing in a church in Jos, one other person has also reportedly been killed. Bombs also targeted churches in the cities of Kano, Damaturu and Gadaka.

Reports project a high likelihood of renewed attacks, especially after 30 Christian shops were burned down later the same day of the church bombings in the northeastern city of Potiskum, Agence France Presse reported. To read more and to view the video, click here.

Carols from St Andrew’s Cathedral Sydney

Australia's many different Cathedral church choirs are visited by ABCTV one at a time, year after year to share their Christmas carols with the nation. Lessons and Carols this year on ABC1 come from the oldest standing Cathedral in Australia; Sydney Anglican Cathedral. Sydney also happens to be one of the most distinctively evangelical Anglican diocese in the whole world. Its predominant evangelicalism has been continuously developing since the founding of the colony of Sydney.

World Anglicanism has had two chief polarities since its founding; firstly a "catholic" sense of continuity with the universal church, and secondly a "protestant" sense of reform and renewal which consciously rejects catholic ideas. These polarities have developed and changed over centuries to produce a complex international fellowship of Anglican churches - some "high" church, some "low" church, some "broad" church. The tensions among the various factions have played on the world stage over issues like how to interpret the Bible, the role of women in ministry, human sexuality (especially gay and lesbian issues) and, of course, styles of worship.

The founding of Sydney diocese predates the famous "Oxford Movement" that has so significantly produced a more catholic form of Anglicanism in most other locations in Australia and the English speaking world. Sydney diocesan leadership has consciously resisted the Oxford movement's influence, and promoted and developed the Reformed Protestant tradition of its founders.

The Anglican diocese of Sydney has been a significant influence on world Anglican affairs. It works through its emissaries, missionaries, its robust preaching, and through lobbying to argue its own understanding of Biblical Christianity. Moore Theological College in Sydney is its "brains-trust" where its ministers and lay leaders are educated. To read more and to view the video, click here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

4 Creative Ways to Thank Volunteers

Keep them coming back after the holidays

’Tis the season—the season when church leaders and volunteers feel the squeeze of work and family life. From Christmas cards to gift wrapping to party planning, Christmas adds a new dimension to our already hectic lives.

And then there’s church! For weeks, volunteers have been feverishly preparing Christmas programs, organizing gift markets, coordinating food drives. Church workers have been hard-pressed on every side with little relief.

All of the extra work that comes with the Christmas season—even when it’s fulfilling and meaningful—can lead to year-end burnout. So now is a perfect time to get creative about how you show appreciation to your ministry volunteers. Here are a few creative ways to say thank you as you begin the new year. To read more, click here.

Archbishop Peter Jensen's Christmas Sermon: God Becomes our Neighbour

Christmas, 2011
St Andrews Cathedral

‘And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.’ John 1:14

The success of the whole human enterprise depends on knowing God. That is the condition for us to have what the Bible calls ‘eternal life’, the fulfilment of all human hopes and aspirations in this life and in the world to come. Getting to know God is the central ambition and task of your life. Do you know God?

You may well reply, how can we meet God? We are incompatible. He is spirit; we are flesh.

I have to say, these questions makes sense.

Flesh. You and I, we know about flesh. Flesh is how we exist. Flesh is necessary, although flesh fails us. It perishes and we perish, for we are made of flesh. We have too much flesh, and then it dissolves and we are no more. We do not have eternal life. But flesh is also the way we know each other. Invisible persons, or spirits, are beyond us. Flesh and blood bodies are what we need to recognise each other, to know each other, and to deal with each other. Flesh we understand.

That’s the problem with God. He is not flesh, he is spirit. The Bible itself says, ‘no man has ever seen God’. How can flesh meet spirit? How can we see the invisible? How can we know God? Where do we meet him?

After all, doubt is plausible. God is not tangible – he does not show up in flesh so that we can touch and hear and see him. Why should we believe in him? If he has no body, does that mean that he is nobody?

And its not just that we can’t see him.. Real doubt also comes from anguished experience. Where is God when I need him? What about the moments when we have troubles? What about the breakdown of my relationships? What about my unemployment? What about my runaway children? What about my addiction? What about my loneliness? What about my failure? What about my guilt? What about my sickness and my death? What good to me is the God no one can even see, in my hour of need?

There is more to create doubt. He is such a big idea, God. The more we know about ourselves, about the world, about the universe, the more we see that if he made all this he must be the mightiest spirit there is or could be – the wisest, most powerful, most ingenious, most...if we can’t find another word...most glorious. Would you want to see God if you could? Would that resolve your doubts?

Well, yes, in order to be sure that there is a God; yes because the sight would be like none other in the whole universe; but no, because you would be completely overwhelmed and overthrown by his sheer glory. He is not like us; he is all powerful spirit, we are feeble flesh; worse, he is all righteous and in our flesh we are corrupt with sin. To see such a holy God in our state would not be an ultimate touristic experience; it would be terror beyond imagining; in the presence of such brightness we would scuttle, we would flee away. Indeed, why should so great a God have any interest in my relationships, my unemployment, my children, my sin, my addiction, my loneliness? What are they to him? What am I to him?

One of the great philosophers of the ancient world penetrated sufficiently into reality to realise that there is only one God. But he stopped there. For him, the one true God was a self-absorbed being, with no interest in the world and certainly no interest in you as an individual. He simply did not care.

This was where reason led, and it seems to make sense. The gulf between God and us is unimaginably vast. We don’t know, and we do not experience, him and we should not expect to. It is hopeless, and we are helpless.

Crashing into this helpless, hopeless world comes an almighty, astonishing revelation: ‘And the Word became flesh...’ Did God create the whole magnificent Universe? Yes he did. But he did it by speaking, through a personal Word, the Word who was with God and was himself God. And now, in an action which dwarfs even the creation itself, this Word of God, this Son of God, has become flesh. He has become one of us. He has crossed the gulf, from his side to ours. He has taken on our very flesh. He was born, he lived and laughed and loved and spoke and ate and slept...why he was even put to death. He who is God became man, because God so loved the world.

Can you see God? No man has ever seen God. But God takes on our humanity so that you may in fact see him. For Jesus said, ‘he who has seen me has seen the Father...’ We can no longer claim that God is invisible; he has made himself visible so that we may humans see him and know him. Indeed, the Word of God has set up home amongst us, has become a neighbour to us. He lives in our suburb. At this point, to say that we know nothing about God becomes mere evasion.

But what about the glory of God, the brightness which makes us flee from him in fear? We can see it, we can stand in its presence, we can even hope to share in it, because it has been focused on this one man, this person Jesus Christ, this neighbour of ours who is also the only Son of God. When we see him by hearing his story – and in particular when we hear about the way in which he died for us on the cross - we see not shame and humiliation, but the very glory of God. For the central heart of the glory of God is not so much his brightness, power and might, as his inward being, his grace and his truth.
God’s grace is his special love for people like us, who do not deserve his love, forgiveness and mercy. Even the greatest acts of human kindness and mercy are but a pale shadow of the grace of the God who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that those who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life. This is the glory of God.

God’s truth is his utter faithfulness and reliability. In a world of ignorance, confusion, deceit and lies, God stands by his word, clear and true. This is the Word through whom the world was created and by whom it is sustained. Good news! glad tidings! : At the very core of the Universe there is truth and righteousness. In a world in which you experience so much deceit and fraud and betrayal and confusion and ignorance, that you don’t know who to trust, God speaks the truth and that truth is Jesus Christ. You can entrust yourself to him. This is the glory of God.

We are mere flesh, you and I. Vulnerable flesh and in our flesh we cannot see the God who gives eternal life. But the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Such is the joy of that great event, that today the world stops still, in order to celebrate and to sing the praises of God. For your deepest fears and anxieties are not petty and trivial to this God; your worst sins are still forgivable; he is not aloof – he has entered the world to make himself known and to draw us to himself as beloved children.

You wish to meet God? I trust so, because in knowing him is the way to eternal life. Then take heart. God has made the first move. He has made himself open to you. He has one unique Son; his name is Jesus Christ; he joined in himself both true God and true man; if you come to God through him you will meet God , you will know God and you will have eternal life. No wonder the chief note at Christmas is one of joy.

Ordinariate Watch: Calgary Anglican church holds first mass under Catholic faith

St. John the Evangelist is Canada's first Anglican-use parish of the Catholic Church

The congregation of one of the oldest churches in Calgary will celebrate its first mass as part of the Catholic faith Saturday.

St. John the Evangelist in Inglewood is Canada's first Anglican-use parish of the Catholic Church after the congregation voted to join in November 2010.

Administrator Lee Kenyon says it will be a historic moment. To read more, click here.

Council of Protestant Churches of Rwanda Elects Anglican Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo as President

Anglican Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of the Diocese of Gahini, Rwanda has been elected to succeed Dr. Onesphore Rwaje (Archbishop of PEAR) as President of The Council of Protestant Churches of Rwanda (CPR - French Acronym).

The Council of Protestant Churches of Rwanda is a fellowship of 23 Protestant Churches and Christian Organizations. The CPR was created in November 1962 to create a forum promoting unity and cooperation among the Protestant Churches of Rwanda. The CPR has worked tirelessly to promote healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation among all Rwandan following the genocide of 1994. The CPR is noted and respected by both Church and Government leaders for its transparency, unity, and harmonious operations and for promoting the same across all denominations and Christian organizations.

Among the Members Churches and Organizations of the CPR are:

The Presbyterian Church of Rwanda
PEAR - Province Episcopal Au Rwanda
The Association of Baptist Churches of Rwanda
The Lutheran Church of Rwanda
The Nazarene Church of Rwanda
The Brethren Church of Rwanda
The Free Methodist Church of Rwanda
Association of Pentecostal Churches of Rwanda (ADEPR) African Evangelistic Enterprise
African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM)
The Seventh Day Adventist Church of Rwanda
Youth for Christ Rwanda

The CPR provides a forum for resolving conflicts and misunderstandings in and among churches, promotes and provided initiatives for many social development programs, provides leadership and resources for trauma counseling and other ministries to help the country recover and reconcile from the genocide. The nation of Rwanda is grateful for all of the help and support she has received from nations, organizations, and agencies around the world. However, the goal of President Kagame and the Rwandan people is to be a nation that eventually needs no assistance, but, rather provides help and assistance to others. The CPR has a strong emphasis in guiding the Protestant Churches in Rwanda towards financial autonomy and sustainability. To read more, click here.

Christmas carnage in Nigeria; 5 churches bombed

A string of bombs struck churches in five Nigerian cities Sunday, leaving dozens dead and wounded on the holiday, authorities and witnesses said.

The blasts mark the second holiday season that bombs have hit Christian houses of worship in the west African nation. In a statement issued late Sunday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called the bombings "a dastardly act that must attract the rebuke of all peace-loving Nigerians."

"These acts of violence against innocent citizens are an unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom," Jonathan said. "Nigerians must stand as one to condemn them."

Bombs targeted churches across the country, hitting the cities of Madalla, Jos, Kano, and Damaturu and Gadaka, said journalist Hassan John, who witnessed the carnage in Jos. The death toll in Madalla alone was 18, including two people reported dead overnight at a nearby hospital, Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Yushau Shuaib told CNN.

John said witnesses in Madalla reported a higher death toll, with more than 30 killed. Some victims died after being taken to a hospital, he said. To read more, click here.

Related articles:
"Nigerian Taliban" church bombings kill dozens
Nigerians fear more church attacks after 39 killed

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Vision of a Reformed North American Anglican Church

By Robin G. Jordan

What is needed in North America is an Anglican Church that:

1. Is unwavering in its commitment to the authority of the Scriptures and the Anglican formularies. There is a clear need for an Anglican Church in which the centrality of the Scriptures to the Christian life is recognized, in which the Scriptures are taken seriously as God’s word to humankind, in which the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles is acknowledged without equivocation as coming from their agreement with the teaching of Scripture and acceptance of their authority is unhesitatingly affirmed as constitutive of Anglican identity.

2. Is wholeheartedly devoted to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, to the task of making disciples, preaching the gospel, proclaiming the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins, and participating in God’s mission in and through Jesus, to the task of reaching all the nations and all the world. More than ever is there a pressing need for an Anglican Church for the congregations and clergy of whom the work of evangelism in its many forms is both their first priority and their second nature.

3. Truly values and practices responsible, synodical church government. Responsible church government is not autocratic. It is constitutional and governed by the rule of law. Those occupying positions of authority and leadership are answerable for their actions. Synodical church government is based upon the principle that the government of the Christian community properly belongs under God to the whole Church, clergy and laity together, and not exclusively to bishops. The role of a bishop is not that of “a lord over God’s heritage.” Rather his role is that of a presiding officer who shares in the governance of the Church with synods and other bodies of godly clergy and laity. His central task is to preach and teach the Word of God. Whatever spiritual gift of oversight he exercises is in “the form of sound advice and wise judgment” in matters affecting the Church.

God was behind the spiritual movement that lay at the heart of the Reformation, in England as well as on the Continent. It was the Holy Spirit that led men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Thomas Cranmer to rediscover the gospel and realize its full implications. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired them to reform the Church in accordance with the teaching of Scripture. As the apostle Paul wrote the Church in Philippi, “…it is God who works in you to will and act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV 1978). God raises up in every generation those who take with due seriousness the words that he has spoken and that he caused to be written for us.

God has permitted developments that not only call attention to the need for a reformed Anglican Church in North America but also create opportunities for its establishment. There have been several false starts—a number of Anglican entities built upon the wrong foundation. But here are opportunities to erect a new Anglican Church on the solid base of the Scriptures, the Anglican formularies, the Great Commission, and responsible, synodical church government. May God give us the courage, discernment, and wisdom to seize these opportunities and make the best use of them and not to squander them.

Christmas Greetings from the Province of Rwanda: A Letter from Bishops Thad Barnum and Terrell Glenn

December 23rd, 2011

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Grace and peace to all of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As this season of Advent leads us to the celebration of our Lord's birth, we are thankful for many things. Truly, He is with us, in fulfillment of the ancient promises and His own. The House of Bishops of the PEAR have just concluded a very important meeting this week in Rwanda and Archbishop Rwaje has asked us to forward a letter from him to you. We rejoice in the election of new Rwandan bishops as the HoB continues to move forward in unity and love. We are also grateful to Archbishop Duncan of the ACNA for his leadership and support for us, congregations and clergy, who find ourselves in this difficult season of grief, uncertainty and confusion over recent events in our life together. As you will read in his letter, Archbishop Rwaje is in communication with Archbishop Duncan as a fellow GAFCON primate and friend.

Next week, you will begin to receive information about a gathering that will take place in Raleigh, NC from January 16-18. (also referred to in the Archbishop's letter) The purpose of this assembly is to hear from our Archbishop and others about reconciliation, healing and next steps for all of us. Clergy and laity will be invited and will have opportunities to prayerfully discuss what it means to move forward together. Please keep this event in prayer as planning for it develops.

Just as the angels broke through the dark silence of the night sky with the radiance of God's glory and the thrill of praise to Him, may we all know His magnificent breakthrough in our hearts and lives this Christmas. And may Jesus' peace and hope rule in you now and always.

Faithfully in Christ,

+Thad and +Terrell

Christmas Greetings from the Province of Rwanda: A Letter from Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje

Kigali, 23rd December 2011

Dear Bishop Thad Barnum and Terrell Glenn,
Dear Clergy and Laity,
Friends and Colleagues in Ministry,

Christmas greetings from all of us here in Rwanda. May the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose birth we now celebrate, be yours in abundance today and forever.

The House of Bishops in Rwanda continues to enjoy a season of extraordinary unity and team work. We are pleased to announce the election of two new bishops to replace those who will be retiring next year. The Rev. Nathan Amooti Rusengo will follow Bishop Geoffrey Rwubusisi in Cyangugu (consecration and installation on January 19th), and the Rev. Emmanuel Ntazinda will follow Bishop Sendegeya of Kibungo (consecration and installation on January 12th). Please join us in prayer for these brothers and the congregations they serve during this time of transition.

On the behalf of the House of Bishops, I want you to know that we grieve with you over the resignations of our friends, brothers in Christ, and fellow bishops in the AMiA. I am thankful for the support shown to the Province of Rwanda by my friend and colleague, Archbishop Robert Duncan. I share the same confidence that with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). We are heartbroken over the shame that this division has brought to our Lord and to his bride. The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is the power to heal all our wounds, and we trust he will repair and restore what has been so badly broken. Forgiveness and reconciliation are Gospel imperatives for all Christians, and especially for us here in Rwanda. As you continue to move forward in mission in 2012, please do with mutual respect for one another, fostering open communion, trusting relationships, and accountability to those whom the Lord has called us to serve and lead.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the Moving Forward Together sacred assembly at Raleigh, N.C. on January 16-18. Together with my collegues from the House of Bishops of Rwanda, as well as Bishop Barnum and Glenn, we are eager to seek the Lord together in worship, confession, prayer, and the study of God’s word. I hope you make every effort to attending this gathering.

We want to encourage you as ambassadors of Christ. All of us are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ and disciple those who receive Him. Let us therefore preach the Gospel with integrity in all that we do.

Grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ,

The Most. Rev. Dr. Onesphore Rwaje,
Archbishop of the Province of Rwanda

Washington Bishop Budde Admits TEC in Decline on National Public Radio

"Over 50% of the parishes are in decline."

Only an occasional listener to the Diane Rehm show, I tuned in to hear Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde speak. My hat is off to Diane Rehm. She got all the questions right and learned how to bring the new bishop out of her New Age fog and face clearly uncomfortable realities.

First things first. The obvious public relations campaign swirling around Budde can be seen in her name change. At the request of the new bishop, she goes by Bishop Mariann in the Diocese of Washington, but Rehm refers to her as Bishop Budde (pronounced Bishop Buddeee.)

So it sounds like someone finally got to Budde about being called "Bishop Mariann" and said to her, "Washingtonians are not into cutesy and phony familiarity."

Or maybe Diane Rehm had the intelligence to say, Look. Take your title as Bishop seriously. I can't stomach this first name business.

Whoever did it, Budde at least temporarily changed her name. OK. One problem solved.

No lightweight, Rehm starts off strong. Budde's metaphor for the church is that it is cracked just like the Washington Cathedral.

In her opening, Rehm said, "The Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde was consecrated as bishop of the Washington DC Diocese last month in the National Cathedral which is marred by cracks resulting from an earthquake. She became, of course, Washington's first female bishop. She sees a metaphor in those cracks within the cathedral, cracks in the faith, whose foundation is crumbling, but she remains resolute in her hope that that can change."

Rehm cuts to the chase about the problems in the Episcopal Church and Budde admits that the Episcopal Church is in a significant decline. Talking in particular about the Diocese of Washington, she said, "Over 50% of the parishes are in decline." To read more, click here.

Survey: Christians Make Up 95 Percent of U.S. Religious Population

A major polling organization found that Christians make up 95 percent of Americans who subscribe to a religious identity.

In a survey of over 327,000 American adults, Gallup found that 78 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian, while 15 percent did not subscribe to a religious identity. Of those adhering to a religious identity, Americans who considered themselves Christian made up 95 percent of respondents.

“This nation has a very strong Christian heritage,” said the Rev. Dr. C. K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, to The Christian Post.

“Through the years, as the nation grew, new waves of immigrants and the changing migratory patterns of the citizenry as a whole has resulted in the continued spread of Christianity even as other faiths were transplanted to these shores and began to take root.”

An intriguing find was that 15 percent of respondents did not have a religious identity and yet, according to another Gallup study, only 8 percent of Americans do not believe in God.

“This suggests that the lack of a religious identity is not in and of itself a sign of the total absence of religiosity,” explained Frank Newport of Gallup. To read more, click here.

Beyond the Christmas Lights: Christmas in the Early Church (Part 2)

Christmas is a major event in modern America, involving weeks of shopping, lights, caroling and church services. It also is a federal holiday, where millions get off work and are with family every Dec. 25.

So it may come as a surprise to learn that for the early church, Christmas was actually a fairly unimportant holy day eclipsed by other spiritual observances.

“As far as I know the evidence of a celebration of Christmas is late and controversial,” said Professor Timothy E. Gregory of Ohio State University in an interview with The Christian Post.

“To make a complex story short, it is possible that there was some celebration of Christmas as early as the 340s, but this was almost always connected not with the event itself but with dates for the Annunciation and/or the Epiphany.”

Evidence that the church did anything special for the observance of the birth of Jesus predating the fourth century is scant if not totally nonexistent.

Gregory explained that John Chrysostom, an early fifth century bishop, was interested in pinpointing the actual date of the Nativity, but celebrations surrounding the Nativity came later. To read more, click here.

Southern Baptists have not always embraced Christmas

Baptists of the South and the faith community of Southern Baptists after 1845 originally did not attach much significance to Christmas. The holiday is not recognized as a special day of worship in any of the historic Baptist confessions, allusions to it are rare in Baptist history volumes before the 1880s, and the holiday possessed an association with worldliness and even paganism in the minds of many Baptist ministers. Such opinions can still be found among some Baptists today who voice, "The New Testament does not command us to celebrate a festival commemorating the nativity."

Nevertheless, according to Southern Christmas historian Emyl Jenkins, the people of the South had a long tradition of celebrating the holiday as a popular festival to honor the birth of Christ. At a time when Christmas was slow coming to New England (Boston did not celebrate Christmas until 1856), Southerners had made it a legal holiday in most states beginning with Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana in the 1830s. Southern communities and families observed the holiday with great enthusiasm. Included in these celebrations were distinctive regional customs such as the popular consumption of pork (over poultry); the broader use of almost anything green in nature for decorations besides holly, evergreens, and mistletoe; discharges of firearms; fireworks; and bonfires. These celebratory activities took place alongside more thoughtful observances of the Lord's nativity.

It is probable that while most Baptists in the South before the Civil War largely downplayed the observance of Christmas in their churches, they participated in Christmas activities with their families and in their communities. These Baptists exercised their Christian liberty about special days that Paul cited in Romans 14:5-6 and found festive but temperate activities and customs to celebrate the birth of Christ.

After the Civil War, Southern Baptists began a slow process of incorporating Christmas themes and activities into their church programs and services. One reason for this was the growing popularity of Christmas during the Victorian Era. Churches sang carols, implemented Christmas-themed nativity plays and holiday events staged for and by children, and created a series of sermons based on the Matthew and Luke accounts of the birth and early childhood of Jesus as valid means for proclaiming the Gospel and teaching the doctrine of the incarnation to all ages of Believers. For instance, in 1867 Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Basil Manly Jr. wrote a letter to his children relating how his church's Sunday School program celebrated the holiday with a decorated tree and the exchange of inexpensive gifts. Manly specifically stated that this custom had only taken place in his church after the Civil War, and the letter itself bore evidence of the growing tolerance for Christmas activities in church programs. To read more, click here.

Sudan again terrorizing its own people

Sudan's militant Islamic regime again is terrorizing its own people based on religion and ethnicity, driving about 280,000 people from their homes and producing another humanitarian crisis, according to a United States watchdog for religious liberty.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reported military and paramilitary forces controlled by the Khartoum government have targeted Sudanese in two southern states based on their religious belief, political affiliation and ethnicity. [Khartoum is the capital.] The result has been the internal displacement of about 230,000 people in Southern Kordofan, with many living in mountain caves, and the flight of another 50,000 from the two states to other countries.

USCIRF and members of Congress called on the Obama administration to lead an international effort to put an end to the attacks and to provide humanitarian assistance.

The only way to halt the Sudanese government's actions is by strong international pressure, USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. "Unfortunately, the world has been silent, and that silence must end."

USCIRF released an eight-page report in mid-December on the crisis in Sudan based on interviews staff members conducted in October with more than 80 refugees, including many at a refugee camp in the newly constituted Republic of South Sudan.

The Khartoum-backed attacks -- which followed the intra-country pattern of the past in the south and in the Darfur region of the west -- began in June in Southern Kordofan and in September in Blue Nile. They have included bombings as well as executions of Sudanese on a "blacklist," USCIRF reported.

The targets in house-to-house searches typically were Christian leaders and perceived supporters of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which opposed Khartoum during a 22-year civil war that ended in 2005. Others -- such as residents of the Nuba Mountains, including moderate Muslims -- were targeted because of their ethnicity, according to USCIRF. The military also destroyed church buildings and mosques.

Many pastors fled their homes for South Sudan after they learned troops were searching for them by name. As a result of the lack of pastors and the military attacks, the worship services of many churches have been disrupted in the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.To read more, click here.