Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Evangelical Bar in the Anglican Church in North America

By Robin G. Jordan

In my article series, “A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America,” I examined the bar that exists in the ACNA and which affects conservative evangelicals. Like the color bar in the South in the last century, it is discriminatory and exclusionary. It keeps out evangelicals committed to beliefs and principles long associated with Anglican evangelicalism. These beliefs and principles are not welcomed in the ACNA.

In this article I will look at who is responsible for this bar in the ACNA, how it was erected, and why.

The Common Cause Partnership, its Roundtable, its Leadership Council, its Moderator, and its Governance Task Force together share primary responsibility for the bar. Conservative evangelicals had no representation in the CCP, its Roundtable, its Leadership Council, or its Governance Task Force. All of these bodies were dominated by church leaders strongly influenced by Anglo-Catholicism and Ancient Future convergence theology.

While the CCP Moderator, then Bishop, now Archbishop Robert Duncan, sometimes refers to himself as a “High Church Evangelical,” he is no Evangelical. In his speeches he has attacked the Elizabethan Settlement and called for a “new settlement,” and has championed practices that the English Reformers rejected. He has spoken of the need for the Anglican Church to regress in a crisis. From his comments what he appears to have in mind is going back to a time after the apostolic age and before the Reformation.

The original draft of the CCP Theological Statement, developed by the CCP Roundtable under Archbishop Duncan’s leadership, and approved by the CCP Leadership Council, was more unreformed Catholic than the final draft. For example, it would have affirmed all the teachings of the first seven general councils of the undivided Church. Even the final draft quotes with approbation the words of Anglo-Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher: “The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.”  

The CCP Theological Statement was adopted before GAFCON and the drafting of The Jerusalem Declaration. The seven elements that the CCP Theological Statement identifies as characteristic of the “Anglican Way” form the basis of the ACNA’s fundamental declarations—the ACNA’s primary shibboleth to separate “true” Anglicans from imposters. They include the declaration that the historic episcopate is an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, a partisan doctrinal position not shared by all Anglicans. The ACNA’s affirmation of The Jerusalem Declaration is relegated to the preamble to the ACNA constitution and is purely incidental to its account of the ACNA’s formation.

Among those who worked on the ACNA governing documents—its constitution and its canons—were AMiA Canon Kevin Donlon, a former Roman Catholic and a militant Anglo-Catholic, and AMiA Chairman Chuck Murphy, a champion of Ancient-Future convergence theology. Canon Donlon drafted and Chairman Murphy approved what would eventually become the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s 2008 Code of Canon Law. Donlon drew heavily upon the doctrine, language, norms, and principles of the Roman Catholic Church’s 1983 Code of Canon Law in his preparation of this set of canons. A comparison of the ACNA canons and the PEAR canons show that they share a number of provisions that are also found in the RCC canons. There has been some rewording but the doctrine stated or implied in these provisions is unaffected. If there was any opposition to these doctrinal provisions in the CCP Governance Task Force, it has never been made public.

At the June 2009 Provincial Council meeting in Bedford, Texas CANA Bishop Martyn Mimms raised the issue of the Anglo-Catholic bias of the fundamental declarations. The Anglo-Catholic members of the Council were adamantly opposed to any changes in their wording, asserting that such changes would lead to the unraveling of the alliance between the Anglo-Catholics and the other groups in the ACNA.

The only alteration in the wording of the fundamental declarations that was made was that “1563” in the phrase “the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1563” was changed to “1571.” If the change in date had not been made, the ACNA would have received the 1563 Articles, not the long recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism—the 1571 Articles, “taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.”

By this stage the critical “the” in the phrase “expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief” had been dropped. As Ephraim Radner would point out, the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571 were not the only authoritative doctrinal standard for the ACNA as was evident from the wording of its fundamental declaration relating to the Articles.

It is worthy of note that the Governance Task Force in An Overview of the Work of the Governance Task Force of the Anglican Church in North America claim that the ACNA upholds the teaching of the Thirty-Nine Articles. The report was posted on the internet in response to criticism of the proposed constitution and canons in the days leading up to the inaugural meeting of the Provincial Assembly in Bedford, Texas.

The reference to the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 in the proposed constitution suggests that the Governance Task Force either did not know the difference between 1563 Articles and 1571 Articles or the difference was unimportant to the task force. The 1571 Articles contain Article 29, which maintains that the wicked and those in whom a vital faith is not present are not partakers of Christ even though they consume the sacramental elements at the Lord’s Supper.

It is also noteworthy that the Governance Task Force in An Overview of the Work of the Governance Task Force of the Anglican Church in North America defends the proposed governing documents’ abandonment of a genuinely synodical form of church governance at the provincial level, their reduction of the laity’s role in governance at the same level, and their promotion of the selection of bishops by the College of Bishops over the election of bishops by diocesan synod. In the case of the laity’s role in governance the task force goes as far as to claim that the proposed constitution and canons enhance that role.

The Governance Task Force dodges the criticism that the principles of internal organization embodied in the proposed governing documents are authoritarian and elitist. They give structural form to what amounts to a concentration of power in a limited group of people who are not constitutionally responsible to the general membership of the Anglican Church in North America. Accountability is minimal, if not non-existent.

AMiA Bishop John Rodgers also posted an open letter on the internet, urging Evangelicals to support the proposed constitution and canons. He maintained that the fundamental declarations could not be changed but offered no explanation as to why. He argued that there would be no new province if the proposed governing documents were not adopted and ratified.

Bishop Rodgers was, as it would turn out, not the only CCP leader to exploit this fear to marshal support for the proposed constitution and canons. A number of delegates to the Provincial Assembly’s Bedford meeting would later admit that they voted to ratify the proposed governing documents for this reason even though they were not happy with the provisions of the documents.

Bishop Rodgers in his open letter claimed that the proposed constitution and canons made the legislative process in the Anglican Church in North America less complicated. They took the development of legislation out of the hands of a deliberative assembly and placed it in the hands of a committee of specialists. They did away with the legislative maneuvering that characterized the proceedings of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention. What he failed to point out was that they permit a single group or party to control the entire legislative process. After the proposed constitution and canons were adopted and ratified, Bishop Rodgers’ open letter was removed from the internet.

Archbishop Duncan has been the most vocal supporter of the model of ecclesiastical governance that the ACNA has adopted, repeating in his speeches and sermons a number of the talking points that the Governance Task Force introduces in An Overview of the Work of the Governance Task Force of the Anglican Church in North America. Both at Bedford, Texas, and more recently at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, he emphasized in his address to the Provincial Assembly that the Assembly is not a legislative body. It only approves and sanctions formally decisions that other bodies have made.

At the Provincial Assembly’s Bedford meeting Archbishop Duncan would not permit any extended debate of the provisions of the proposed constitution and canons or any amendments to their provisions. The delegates were instructed to ratify each provision or reject it. He allowed frequent interruptions while at the same time urging the delegates to finish their work as quickly as possible as speakers were waiting to address them. The two documents might have been ratified by acclamation except that the Governance Task Force had prepared a number of amendments.  

A number of factors account for the direction that the Anglican Church in North America has taken in its form of governance at the provincial level. Among these factors are the authoritarian and elitist leanings of its leaders, the influence of unreformed Catholic ecclesiology (Anglo-Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic) upon these leaders, a strong propensity toward clericalism on their part, and impatience with the negotiation, compromise, and attention to parliamentary procedure involved in the decision-making process of deliberative assemblies.

These factors are troubling enough. However, a particularly disturbing factor is the ACNA leaders’ basic distrust of the laity and their tendency to blame them for developments in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the USA and to minimize or ignore the part that the clergy, particularly the bishops, played in these developments.

An even more troubling factor is that this particular form of governance permits a single group or party to control the decision-making bodies of the province. To make matters worse it is justified on the grounds that it purportedly makes the Anglican Church in North America more missional. It is supposed to spare the laity from the distraction of making decisions affecting the life and ministry of the church so they can focus on mission.

The same factors to large part also account for the ACNA canons’ commendation of the selection of bishops by the College of Bishops as the preferred mode of choosing bishops. It is justified on the grounds that it minimizes, or so its supporters claim, what An Overview of the Work of the Governance Task Force of the Anglican Church in North America describes as “the kind of deceitful politicking that has characterized episcopal elections in North America.” In actuality it replaces one set of problems with another.  Rather than end politicking, this mode of choosing bishops shifts it to a different arena—the College of Bishops. The priorities of the group or party dominating the College of Bishops replace the needs of the diocese in the selection of bishops.

Related: A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 1
A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 2
A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 3
A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 4

Pastors: Christianity Rejected, Deemed 'Evil' for Opposing Homosexuality

Christianity is being rejected and deemed evil by many today because it opposes homosexual practice, say pastors from The Gospel Coalition.

The Gospel Coalition held a Council meeting several weeks ago to discuss current issues and the state of ministry among evangelicals. Among the topics discussed was homosexuality.

John Piper, pastor for Preaching & Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and a TGC Council member, summarized what the pastors concluded during the meeting in a blog post last week.Read more

Songs that changed the way we worship

Integrity is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a double CD compilation jam-packed with some of the most definitive worship hits of the last quarter century.

These songs have inspired us through the seasons of our lives but do you know what inspired the writers behind them?

Here are just some of the stories behind the songs that changed the way we worship. Read more

Next Generation Needs

Leading Millennials requires exercising a different type of authority

They are America's most educated generation, most diverse generation, and surprisingly, America's largest generation. They're the Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000. And they are beginning to get married, enter the workforce, and lead the world.

This generation is hopeful. In fact, 96 percent of them agree with the statement, "I believe I can do something great." But the majority say individual prominence is secondary to helping the community and accomplishing things for the greater good.

Yet this hopeful generation lacks a solid spiritual foundation on which to base their hopes. As few as one in four attend church weekly. Nearly two-thirds never attend religious services. Church leaders face unique challenges in reaching them.

Older generations tended to place a higher priority on church activity and attendance. The younger generation, however, demands to know the purpose behind each activity. For Millennials, just attending church does not equal faithfulness. The only way they'll attend is if they see the church as being a meaningful part of their lives.

Older generations also were less bothered with uniformity. The homogenous groups championed by the church growth movement worked well with most Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and Builders (born prior to 1946). Most Millennials, however, prefer heterogeneous groups. Perhaps this is being driven by the diversification of our culture. For example, preschools are projected to become minority white in 2021. Diversity is normative for Millennials, and they will gravitate toward churches that look like their diverse schools and workplaces. Read more

Province of West Africa: New Bishop of Accra ordained, but election of Primate still to come

The Venerable Dr Daniel Silvanus Mensah Torto was ordained the ninth Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Accra this weekend, but the Church of the Province of West Africa is yet to elect a new Primate.

Commenting on erroneous media reports that Bishop Torto would automatically become Primate on the current Archbishop's retirement, the Provincial Secretary the Revd Canon Fr Anthony Eiwuley told ACNS that the election of a new Archbishop would take place in September.

"The reports were incorrect. The journalists just assumed that whoever is Bishop of Accra also becomes the new Primate. We are yet to elect an Archbishop," he said. "We will meet in September to do this and the Primate steps down in October."

Canon Eiwuley explained that the Province has an electoral college comprising all active bishops, and one clergy and one lay representative from each diocese. These vote for which bishop they would like to see become Archbishop and then the group votes on the two people with the most nominations.  Read more 

David Platt Still Addressing Controversy Over 'Sinner's Prayer' Remarks

It was a three-minute video clip that was shared across the evangelical community. In it, Pastor David Platt famously called the "sinner's prayer" "superstitious." A few months later, he still finds himself explaining the heart behind that message

"I believe we simply need to be as biblical as possible (2 Timothy 2:15). Do I believe it is 'wrong' for someone to pray a 'prayer of salvation'? Certainly not," Platt maintained in a blog post this week.

The 33-year-old pastor, who leads The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., sparked debate earlier this year when he told attendees at the Verge Conference that there is "no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament," referring to the popular "sinner's prayer." Read more

David Platt: What I Really Think About the 'Sinner's Prayer,' Conversion, Mission, and Deception

NYC churches can meet in schools, judge rules

A federal judge ruled Friday (June 29) that churches and other faith groups can continue to meet in New York City public school buildings for worship services.

Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the churches a permanent injunction against the New York City Department of Education, determining that the city's policy of prohibiting worship violates the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The city, the court said, is permanently forbidden from denying churches' applications to rent space in public schools for meetings that include religious worship. The city is expected to appeal. Read more

Seven more TEC bishops charged with misconduct

Support for ACNA pleading is grounds for discipline complaint alleges

Seven bishops have been charged with misconduct for having endorsed a friend of the court brief prepared by the Anglican Communion Institute in the Diocese of Fort Worth case.

On 28 June 2012, the Rt Rev Maurice M. Benitez, retired Bishop of Texas, the Rt Rev John W. Howe, retired Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt Rev Paul E. Lambert. Suffragan Bishop of Dallas, the Rt Rev William H. Love, Bishop of Albany, the Rt Rev D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana, the Rt Rev Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield, and the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas were informed they had been charged with misconduct.

“As the Intake Officer for the Church, I am obliged to inform you that a complaint has been received against you for your action in filing of Amicus Curiae Brief in the pending appeal in the Supreme Court of Texas in opposition to The Episcopal Diocese of Texas and The Episcopal Church. In the next few weeks, I will initiate a disciplinary process according to Title IV Canon 6 Sec. 3 & 4 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church,” Bishop F. Clayton Matthews wrote to the seven bishops.

The bishops have not been notified with violation of the canons they have committed, but Bishop Matthews’ notice refers to the pleading they endorsed in the Diocese of Fort Worth case presently before the Texas Supreme Court. Read more

Bishops Salmon, Beckwith, and MacPherson charged with misconduct
Stalinist Tactics Deployed to Silence ECUSA Bishops in Court

Friday, June 29, 2012

Province of West Africa: Bo Diocese Observes Synod in Kenema

The Anglican Diocese of Bo has ended a three-day Ordinary Session of Synod under the episcopacy of Rt. Rev. Emmanuel J. S. Tucker, the third Episcopal Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Bo. The Synod thanksgiving service, installation and ordination took place at the St. James Church along Mission Road in Kenema City.

 In his message to the congregation, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel J. S. Tucker welcomed all to the First Ordinary Session of the Diocesan Synod which he notes marks his fourth year at the episcopacy and in the 31st year of the existence of the Diocese in the Province of West Africa. Read more

What Happened at the RCA General Synod?

The short answer is: a lot. Some of it was incredibly heartening–making new friends with some dear brothers and sisters, laughing with old friends, and having sweet times of prayer and fellowship outside of Synod. Some of Synod was goofy, like putting sticky notes on paper cubes and walking by the massage tent (no joke). It was an exhausting week, one from which I still have not recovered. I'm glad I don't have to go back for five years.

But while there are many experiences and frustrations to share, let me cut to the chase and summarize the two biggest issues. Both items are not being described entirely accurately in the outside press. Read more

'Bible storying' is key to reaching 2/3 of world

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to reach two-thirds of the world's population who "learn through stories or music, drama or poetry."

"If you hand them a book to read, they either can't read it or they won't read it," IMB worker Annette Hall said of chronological Bible storying's impact in addressing WMU's Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting June 17-18 in New Orleans.

Hall, who has worked for nearly 40 years with North African and Middle Eastern peoples, said chronological Bible storying also holds the key to evangelism in the U.S., with 50 percent of all Americans being functionally illiterate. Read more

Vietnamese Officials Destroy Two New Church Buildings

Third worship place threatened with demolition.

Vietnamese officials in Muong Cha district, Dien Bien Province, destroyed two new church buildings of ethnic minority Hmong Christians this month and threatened to tear down a third.

The Ho He Church, erected in April by the unregistered Vietnam Good News Mission, was demolished on June 17. The Phan Ho Church of the registered Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North) was destroyed on June 13, 2012. The church threatened with demolition, The Cong Church, also belongs to the Vietnam Good News Mission.

These congregations of 500 to 600 people, which began as house churches, had long outgrown even the largest home, so the Hmong had sacrificed and worked to erect wooden worship buildings. As local police, paramilitary forces and other authorities descended on the church buildings by the dozens, the Christians could only watch with deep sadness and frustration as the houses of worship were reduced to rubble and government promises about freedom of religion were again broken, area sources said. Read more

It Can Happen Here: Religious Freedom Threatened

Christians are often asked by gay activists why they oppose same-sex "marriage." "How does our marriage hurt you?" they ask.

Well, I can think of one significant way it will hurt us: It will destroy religious freedom and free speech rights.

The handwriting is on the wall in Canada, which legalized same-sex "marriage" in 2005, in effect completely changing its true meaning. Since then, as Michael Coren notes in National Review Online, "there have been between 200 and 300 proceedings … against critics and opponents of same-sex marriage." Of course he means legal proceedings. Read more

Ga. Student Counselor Fired for Religious Views on Homosexuality Loses Case

Ordinariate Watch: Ordinariate returns £1m grant to charity after ruling

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has returned a £1 million grant to an Anglo-Catholic charity after the Charity Commission ruled that it was invalid.

The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, founded in 1862, gave the money a year ago to ensure that the ordinariate’s priests would not be left penniless. It represented almost half of the charity’s assets.

The Charity Commission, however, said the grant was invalid because most of the trustees who agreed to it had a “personal financial interest” in it. Five out of six of its trustees had already been ordained as priests in the ordinariate. Read more

Ordinariate head wants group to grow, evangelise
Clergy need to explain message of Catholicism better

Sydney Anglicans III. Complementarian ministry

Some of the most insistent critics of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney are those who oppose its complementarian approach to the ministry of men and women. A number of those critics feel personally injured by the repeated decisions of the diocesan synod to reject measures authorising the ordination of women to the presbyterate. Others go further and insist these decisions arise from a deep-seated misogyny, perhaps related to the peculiar conditions of the early colony, but in any case fuelled by a way of reading the Bible which is authoritarian and androcentric. Yet men and women in Sydney respond that they are seeking above all else to be faithful to the word which God has given us. It is the Bible which teaches us to celebrate the differences between men and women and the way attention to those differences enhances our unity rather than undermines it, not least as together we seek to serve Christ and his gospel. This is not an authoritarian reading but a submissive one.

In the last quarter of the twentieth century measures promoting the ordination of women to the presbyterate were brought before the diocesan synod on a number of occasions and defeated each time. A succession of reports on the subject were commissioned, not least from the Sydney Diocesan Doctrine Commission. Each of these argued that the teaching of Scripture supported the equal dignity of men and women, equal access to salvation and all the blessings brought to us by Christ and through his Spirit, and yet celebrated a difference between men and women that should not be erased and which has a direct bearing on what is appropriate in the exercise of Christian ministry. This has become the settled position of the diocese, though this should not be taken to mean there is absolute unanimity on either the principle or its implications for practice. Read more

The Wisdom of the Cross (2)

In part one of this series I considered Paul’s question to the church in Corinth concerning wisdom, Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? (1Cor.1:20). There I concluded that Christian wisdom is neither a matter of gaining kudos amidst worldly fashions nor the desire we have for God to do something spectacular to make us feel like we are on the winning side. Instead, we seek a world-view that rests on God’s actions for us in the cross of the Lord Jesus.

Next, I’d like to add Job’s question to the mix: In Ch.28:12 Job asks, Where shall wisdom be found?  Read more

The Wisdom of the Cross (1)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reformed Church Removes 'Conscience' Exemption for Women's Ordination

The General Synod of the Reformed Church in America has voted to remove a conscience-based exemption for individuals regarding the ordination of women.

In a vote of 143 to 69, the General Synod removed a clause from the denomination's Book of Church Order that specified instances in which someone could refuse to participate in the ordination of women and when they could not.

Christina Tazelaar, managing editor of the denomination's publication RCA Today, told The Christian Post that the decision came in response to a survey of female RCA ministers. Read more

The Tragedy of the Dumb Church

I have a friend who’s an experienced pastor, teacher, and Christian apologist. He’s very well educated, articulate, teaches in a way that hits the mark, and has a passion particularly for grounding young people in the faith during their high school and early college years.

Currently, he’s employed with Youth for Christ and a while back he felt a burden to try and help churches in our area do what he does best, which is equip youth to defend the Christian faith in the world and know what/why they believe. Because he’s developed a number of curriculums to use for such situations, he sent a letter to all the churches in our metropolitan area (which is quite a lot) explaining what he does, and offered to come to their church free of charge and conduct Christian apologetic training for their youth.

How many churches took him up on his offer?

Zero. None. Zilch. Read more

Your Church Will Die (Part 4: The End is Near)

Several weeks ago I started a series of posts called Your Church Will Die in which I outlined the natural life-cycle of a church. Since then I’ve shared the concept with several individuals and groups which has clarified and expanded my thinking on this idea of natural progression of growth in a local church congregation. What I’d like to do today is roll out what I’m thinking and get your feedback.

First let me define my terms. When I say YOUR CHURCH I’m not implying that the church belongs to anyone but God, or that the Church universal will die. I am referring to the local faith community you lead or belong to. My premise is that your church, the local body of believers you are attached to, has a natural life-cycle that ends in some form of death. Read more

Protect Your Church’s Children Against Sexual Abuse Nightmare

He looked like the ideal youth minister — recommended by a friend of the pastor, personable, and leading a thriving ministry to teens at Wayside Baptist Church in Miami.

But looks were deceiving.

For months, he had been sexually abusing boys during sleepovers at his home. When the offense came to light, the church had its very existence jeopardized by a $6 million civil judgment in favor of the victims. Eventually the case was settled for an undisclosed amount, and Wayside determined to do everything it could to protect children in the future.

“Now we do criminal background checks on anyone who is volunteering, and they put glass in all the doors ,” said Carrel Youmans, a longtime member at Wayside who taught youth when the abuse occurred in the 1970s.

Wayside is not an isolated case, said Patrick Moreland, vice president of marketing at Church Mutual Insurance Company. Church Mutual averages four to five reports of child sexual abuse each week from its approximately 100,000 clients, the vast majority of which are churches. That includes roughly 9,000 Southern Baptist congregations.

Every church needs to have policies in place to protect its children, Moreland told SBC LIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.

“It is common for a congregation to think, ‘It can’t happen here. We’re small and everyone knows everyone,’” Moreland said. “That is not sound thinking when it comes to child sexual abuse. Most abusers are known to the child and trusted by the congregation. Child sexual abuse occurs in churches of all sizes and denominations and in all parts of the country — urban and rural.” Read more

Apologetics: Why baptized lions & talking crosses didn't make it into your Bible

From the first century forward, Christians viewed testimony that could be connected to eyewitnesses of Jesus as uniquely authoritative. The logic of this standard was simple: The people most likely to know the truth about Jesus were either eyewitnesses who had encountered Jesus personally or close associates of these witnesses.

So, although Christians wrangled for some time about the authority of certain writings, it was something far greater than political machinations that drove these decisions. Their goal was to determine which books could be clearly connected to eyewitnesses of Jesus.

With this in mind, let's look at a couple of real-life examples of how some writings ended up excluded from the churches' collections of authoritative books. Read more

Getting the context right

I can’t look at Facebook without seeing another ministry friend jetting off to the States. Conferences, church visits, post graduate study - we’re looking across the Pacific more and more to think about how to do ministry here. There are some great reasons for that. American churches are rich in resources and even more generous in the way they give of them to the world. The enormous online presence of American christianity has opened doors to new friends and places of inspiration for many of us. They are brilliant at ‘getting things done’ and are miles ahead of us in having great ministry systems in place to see their theological convictions expressed in everyday ministry. On top of all this, the language is the same (almost), its much cheaper than getting to Europe, and the natives are friendly.

I wonder though whether its the best place of us to be looking and learning from. The great strength of the American church and its impact in the culture creates a very different context for ministry. That’s seen most bluntly in church size. Although average church size is not that different no-one is going to the States to study average churches. Instead we visit Redeemer, Willow Creek, Saddleback, Mars Hill, Sovereign Grace - big churches with even bigger leaders. Praise God that they are there and for the great work they do! But be careful about thinking their strategies will translate directly to an Australian context.

More significant than difference in church culture though is the different mission field we are in. Australia is less ‘christianized’, more secular, less churched, and more biblically illiterate. In short we are largely doing post-Christendom mission. And if you want to think about post christendom mission there are much better places to go than the States. You’d be much better going to England. It’s more expensive to go and stay than the States. The locals aren’t always as friendly - especially when a Test is on - but the mission situation is much closer to the one we face.

If I was going I’d be interested in learning from the following.... Read more
We would be wise to pay attention to context here in the United States. The mega-churches make up only a very small percentage of the churches in this country.

Reform says 'furore' over women bishops shows need for better provision

Reform members on General Synod encouraged to vote against Women's Measure

Reform Chairman Rev’d Rod Thomas said today that “Reform deeply regrets that we have reached such an impasse on women bishops” with the current House of Bishops’ amendments not satisfying the conservative evangelical network’s concerns over their future in the Church of England.

Speaking in advance of a prayer meeting for over 200 Reform members in central London, Mr Thomas said: “We thank the House of Bishops for their work. They have tried to find a way through. But their amendments have not succeeded in persuading our members that there is a secure future for those who cannot in conscience accept the oversight of women as bishops. In light of that we will be encouraging our members on General Synod to vote against the legislation as it stands.”

Mr Thomas added: “The furore created by some in response to these small amendments reveals most clearly the reason why those who hold to our Biblical position need legislative clarity, not just a code of practice if we are to continue to encourage young people to come forward for ordination. Read more

A double-minded man

Those with long memories will recall that when Dr. Williams was appointed a decade ago we at Churchman predicted that his tenure would not be a happy one and that he would have been better off refusing the poisoned chalice of Canterbury altogether. It was not a popular view at the time, and particularly not among those ‘open’Evangelicals for whom toadying to the establishment is what believing in the holy catholic church is all about. Now however, we can look back and see that this unwelcome pronouncement was prophetic and that it has come to be shared by a wide range of church opinion.

Read the rest of Gerald Bray's editorial from the Spring 2012 Churchman

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Body of Christ Now Body Of Crises

“The Church today is in great turmoil, suffering from internally self-imposed persecution and suppression of the Word,” the Most Reverend Dr. Peter Akinola, a retired Archbishop and Primate of Anglican Church of all Nigeria, said on Sunday.

Most Rev. Akinola said it was unfortunate that in recent times, the body of Christ had been turned into a body of crises.

"Work of the Ministry has been made much more difficult over the years for the leadership of the Church by fellow servants of God,” he stated.

“When we turn every church service into a fund-raising event, every sermon is about money, when we feed the people with theological jargon and not the spiritual milk for their nourishment, we must be aware that the Lord, the Owner of the flock is watching." Read more

Kenyan Anglican Bishops Accused of Corruption

Some Anglican bishops in the country have come under fire from their flock over corruption in the church, the Star learnt yesterday.

Workers within the church headed by Archbishop Eliud Wabukala claimed that some of the 46 bishops had used church funds to enrich themselves and ignored the welfare of their juniors. There have been accusations that some of the clergy, who control massive sums of cash, have purchased personal vehicles using church resources.

Sources within the church identified bishops in Nyanza, Western and Rift Valley alleged to have made such purchases in the last one year. One source told the Star: most of the dioceses do not comply with the ACK constitution, government legislation and income tax requirements, adding that there is need to probe and ensure that all bishops pay taxes because they earn salaries and responsibility allowances.

When Mature Believers Disagree on Secondary Doctrines

While all born again people agree on the Gospel....and the doctrine of the Trinity....and the doctrine of Christ's two natures....we are not in full agreement on many secondary doctrines. This isn't necessarily a problem in and of itself. Unfortunately, we sometimes take it a step further and attempt to push our "pet doctrines" upon one another.

I suppose we have all done it at one time or another. We mean well....but sometimes we go too far. We allow our minds to be driven by a secondary doctrine, even though there is much disagreement among mature believers on the doctrinal issue in question.

Pet doctrines can easily promote spiritual pride. Our "enlightened interpretation" can make us feel superior and smarter than all those Christians who don't agree with our perspective. "If only they were as impeccable in their interpretation as those in my group."

It may be our doctrine on the gifts of the Spirit....or our doctrine of the end times....or our doctrine concerning baptism....or our distinct view of church structure....or one of many other issues where mature believers hold differing views.

To grasp how this plays out among Christians, first think about those religious organizations that don't even have the Gospel. Their followers become obsessed in pushing their religion and their man-made doctrines. Why? Because the flesh drives man to obsess over the teachings which he believes make him and his earthly organization superior to other groups. Just look at the Pharisees in the New Testament as an example, as well as the various cults today that have come up with their own unique doctrinal positions.

The obsession with pet doctrines is widespread....but the flesh doesn't only drive unbelievers. Christians too become driven by their flesh at times. This happens when we become consumed to make our pet doctrine a constant theme and focus of our message. After all, we feel it distinguishes us from "all those other Christians." That in itself should be a red flag for us....the fact that we think our select group is the only one among all Christians worldwide to get this issue correct. Yea right. Read more

Toward Denominational Unity

If there is one biblical theme we've heard a lot of in the RCA (Reformed Church in America) for the past 15 years it's the theme of unity. And no one is against unity. Jesus prayed for and Paul commends it, so who doesn't want unity? Truth-filled, grace-saturated, gospel-centered, Bible-grounded unity is precious beyond measure. And yet, such unity does not come by wishing for it, announcing it, or devaluing truth. The only unity worth having is a unity that takes doctrinal backbone, effort, prayer, and guts.

So what events would have to take place and what problems would have to be addressed for the RCA to experience genuine, vibrant, Christ-pleasing, Spirit-filled, God-glorifying unity?

Let me suggest ten things we would have to do as a denomination to enjoy this kind of unity. Though some points are specific to the RCA, I believe most suggestions are applicable to other church bodies as well. Read more

Are There Many Paths to God?

There is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ.

Jesus often surprised people with teachings that cut across the grain of human nature. "Lose your life to save it." "The first will be last." "The meek will inherit the earth." "Rejoice in persecution." "Pray for your enemies." "It's better to give than to receive." "Turn the other cheek." These are revolutionary teachings.

But by far the most outrageous assertion that Jesus ever uttered is in John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." This claim rankles people like nothing else. It's been called narrow-minded. It's been called bigoted. It's been called snobbish. Some of you are seekers and something inside of you chafes at the idea that Jesus is the only way to God, for you are living in a world where there seems to be endless options in virtually every area of life. For some of you this is a stumbling block to faith.

Why is this claim so controversial? One reason is that it strikes at the core of three great myths about religion. Read more

The Bigfoot of the Bible (aka 'The Sinner's Prayer')

"There will be plenty of people in hell who said the sinner's prayer."

That's what I told the host of a nationally broadcasted Christian radio program when he tried to force a reluctant caller to "just say this prayer" to be saved. To the host's chagrin I intervened (and for some reason haven't been invited back since!)

A lot of bad theology is hidden behind the phrase, "Just say this prayer and you'll be saved." Think about these Scriptural realities:

-Jesus never led anyone through a sinner's prayer.

-The disciples didn't either.

-Nor did the Apostle Paul. Read more

Sin: Treating the Symptoms and Not the Sickness

This past week I was really sick, I mean really sick. Fever, headache, chills, you name it. For days I took pain relievers and the turmoil in my body would ease for a while.. but inevitably, the gut wrenching symptoms returned. Although treating the symptoms of my sickness provided a temporary solution to what I was experiencing, it did not cure it. And that goes for all types of sicknesses. We can treat our symptoms all we want, day in and day out, but until our immune system (the real weapon) kills the virus/bacteria, we are waging a battle that won’t end.

How similar is this to our struggle with sin in our lives, as believers in Christ? Off the top of my head, the major external sins that I wage war against are pornography and smoking. (FYI I’m not trying to label smoking as a sin universally, but for me, it is). For months and months I have been doing everything that I can think of to cease these behaviors… but nothing seems to work. I’ll try not to be on my computer when I don’t need to be, or I’ll make myself not go buy cigarettes, or I’ll try to occupy myself with some other activity to distract my mind from the things I really want to do… the sins I really want to commit. I’ve been trying (and admittedly not as hard I could) to modify my behavior, but is that even the solution? If I impart enough restrictions into my life, to the degree that I’m not externally sinning…am I really any better off? Your first inclination may be to say, “Well yes, Matt, of course you’re better off. You’re not sinning.”… and to a degree, I’d agree. But is begrudging, joy-less, obedience really what the Lord wants from His children? Does living our lives in constant paranoia, fearfully attempting to dictate our surroundings at all times to avoid possible temptation, invoke in us any sort of praise to our Father? If you say yes, you’re lying. That kind of life is miserable. I don’t want that kind of life, and I don’t want anyone else to live that kind of life.

So should we neglect this whole battle with sin? Should we just stop trying? Should we not set filters on our computers? Should we just live in complete license and presume upon the grace of God, doing whatever we want to do, whenever we want to? Read more

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reformed Church Appoints 'New Committee' on Homosexuality

The Reformed Church in America has opted to appoint a "new committee" to recommend a set of plans to deal with certain issues pertaining to the denomination's position on homosexuality.

The General Synod voted Monday during its annual meeting to create this new group so as to deal with the many overtures made by RCA churches about the controversial issue. Christina Tazelaar, managing editor of the denomination's publication RCA Today, told The Christian Post that the new committee came as counterproposal to a recommendation to create a "study group."

"A recommendation was presented to the General Synod to appoint a study group on homosexuality," said Tazelaar. "Delegates discussed the recommendation and, in the end, adopted a substitute recommendation that affirmed the General Synod's stance on homosexuality and called for a new committee…"

According to Tazelaar, this new committee will "pray and work together to recommend a way forward given the disagreement in the denomination around homosexuality." Read more

Reformed Church to Discuss Response to Homosexuality on Monday

Ed Stetzer: Preach the Gospel, and Since It's Necessary, Use Words

There's a popular saying often repeated by Christians. It has found new life on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you have even uttered these words, commonly at tributed to Francis of Assisi: "Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary."

I think we can appreciate what many are getting at when they say something like this. As Christians, we should live in such a way that our lives point to the person and work of Jesus. However, good intentions cannot overcome two basic problems with this quote and its supposed origin. One, Francis never said it, and two, the quote is not biblical.

Mark Galli has pointed out that there is no record of Francis, a member of a preaching order, uttering anything close to this. In fact, everything we know about the man suggests he would not have agreed with his supposed quote. He was well known for his preaching and often preached up to five times a day.
The idea may not have resonated with Francis, but for many today, wordless ministry is a compelling approach. "Words are cheap," we like to say, and "Actions speak louder than words." Galli explains that the sentiment complements our culture rather well:

"Preach the gospel; use words if necessary" goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets, Jesus, and Paul put on preaching. Of course, we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns.

And this is the real problem -- not from whom the quote originally came, but just how it can give us an incomplete understanding of the gospel and how God saves sinners. Christians are quick to encourage each other to "live out the gospel," to "be the gospel" to our neighbors, and to even "gospel each other." The missional impulse here is helpful, yet the gospel isn't anything the Christian can live out, practice, or become. Read more

Pressure mounts to put off women bishops vote

A bishop last night called for an historic Church of England vote next month on ordaining women to the episcopacy to be put on hold amid growing acrimony over concessions to traditionalists.

The Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings, said a recent compromise to those who cannot accept the authority of a woman should be reconsidered.

His comments echo a call from representatives of parishioners in the Diocese of Salisbury who dramatically broke ranks this week in a special vote demanding bishops rethink the recent concessions.

The Church’s General Synod is due to take a final vote on women bishops when it meets in York next month, supposedly ending a tortuous 12-year process.

But senior figures are now bracing themselves for the prospect of the measure collapsing altogether because of the new row.

There is strong support in the Church of England for women bishops but sharp disagreement over the details of any special arrangements to accommodate those who are opposed. Read more

Three Things Communicated by Vision

Leadership and vision go hand in hand. Therefore, leadership must begin with a clear vision: whether it be for our personal life, our family, our church, or organization. If people around us don’t know where we’re going and where we’re trying to take them, they will have a hard time making the journey.

A clear vision communicates three things.... Read more

3 Things Every Pastor Must Keep in Mind

Bear in mind these three things – Read more

Ordinariate Watch: Anglican parish in Towson switches to Catholicism

Christ the King is the largest Anglican church in the U.S. to make the switch

The Rev. Edward Meeks and his flock attended to a "million and one details" last week in the run-up to a momentous day for their church. People to talk to. Flowers to arrange. Food to cook. And, of course, the new sign.

On Sunday, Christ the King Church — Anglican — became Christ the King Catholic Church.

The Towson congregation of about 140 is one of the first groups in the United States to join a new "ordinariate" established for those who want to be Catholic but hold on to Anglican traditions. The largest Anglican church in the country to do so, it follows in the footsteps of Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore and St. Luke's Parish in Bladensburg. Read more

Southern Baptist Leaders Warn: Battle Over Scripture Will Never End

Conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention fought what is believed to have been a "bloody" battle some 30 years ago when the authority of the Bible was at stake. Though that battle was won, the threat of theological liberalism remains.

"The debate about ... Scripture is never going to be over," said Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a principal figure in the Conservative Resurgence, to hundreds of young Southern Baptists earlier this week.

"The enemy never sleeps and he will make every appeal in very unique ways. He will come at this issue of whether or not the Bible is really believable." Read more
This warning applies to North American Anglicans as well as to Southern Baptists. As panelist, Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, warned, theological positions always drift to the left. If we're not careful we'll find ourselves in a place we would have never thought we were going to go. There is evidence of liberal theological drift in the Anglican Church in North America. The former Episcopalians who make up the core of the ACNA brought liberal theology into the ACNA with them, and it is flourishing in that church. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 4

By Robin G. Jordan

In this fourth and final article in my article series, “A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America” I examine two other barriers to conservative evangelical participation in the ACNA—the provisions of the ACNA governing documents relating to property and finances. I also look at provisions of the ACNA model diocesan constitution that if they are adopted as worded in that document also raise a barrier to conservative evangelical participation.

Article XII of the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America permits a diocese or other grouping to hold the property of a local congregation in trust or other wise to lay claim to a local congregation’s property: “Where property is held in a different manner by any diocese or grouping, such ownership shall be preserved.”

Canon I.6.6 of the canons of the ACNA reiterates the provisions of Article XII of the ACNA constitution word for word with one addition, “… neither may any Diocese assert any such claim over the property of any of its congregations without the express written consent of the congregation.” This addition amounts to an amendment to Article XII. It modifies Article XII, going beyond the scope of the article’s existing provisions. It should have been included in the constitution. It is one of a number of examples of where the Governance Task Force and the Provincial Committee have sought to change the provisions of the constitution without formally amending it. It permits a diocese or other group to assert a claim over the property of a local congregation if the local congregation consents to the claim in writing. Otherwise, Title I.6.6 is superfluous. There is no need to reiterate the provisions of the constitution in the canons.

The first sentence of Article XI of the ACNA model diocesan constitution states:

“All congregation property, real and personal, owned or held by or on behalf of a congregation which is a member of this Diocese is and shall be solely and exclusively owned by the congregation, free of any trust or other claim in favor of the Diocese or the Province.”

The second sentence of Article XI of the ACNA model diocesan constitution states:

“The provisions of Article XIII of the constitution of the ACNA are incorporated herein.”

This includes the provision, “Where property is held in a different manner by any diocese or grouping, such ownership shall be preserved...,” which contradicts the first sentence of Article XI of the ACNA model diocesan constitution. There is no need to include this reference to Article XI of the ACNA constitution unless the intent was to deliberately modify the first sentence of Article XI of the ACNA model diocesan constitution. If that was the case, the modifying provisions should have been stated in full.

Article XIII of the ACNA constitution states, “Each member diocese… or any group of dioceses organized into a distinct jurisdiction agrees to share the cost of operating the Province as provided by canon.” The provisions of this article bind the dioceses and the groups of dioceses forming the ACNA to support the cost of its operation.

Canon I.9.1 of the ACNA canons establishes the biblical tithe as the minimum standard of giving to support the mission of the church, and directs tithing to be taught and encouraged at every level in the church. The guidelines for completion of the application form for recognition as an ACNA diocese give some idea of the level of giving the Governance Task Force and the Provincial Council would like to see at the local congregational and diocesan levels: “Congregations moving into new groupings are encouraged to give ten percent of local income to the new grouping, while each new grouping is encouraged to give ten percent of group income to the support of the cost of operating the Province.”

Canon I.9.2 directs the Executive Committee, with the Finance, Budget, and Stewardship Committee’s assistance, to develop the program and the budget of the church based on the dioceses’ commitments and other revenues. It further directs the Executive Committee to present the program and the budget annually to the Provincial Council for its adoption. The Finance, Budget, and Stewardship Committee is a rather pretension title for a finance committee. The choice of language in Canon I.9.2—“adoption” rather than “consideration” does not suggest that the Council has much leeway. There is nothing to suggest that the Council can make changes in the program and the budget. As Canon I.9.2 is presently worded, the Council appears to have no choice but approve the program and the budget.

Canon I.9.2 directs the Finance, Budget, and Stewardship Committee to consult with any diocese that is unable to meet the requested support of the church. It does not say anything about the nature of these consultations or where they might lead. Under the provisions of Article XIV a diocese or a group of dioceses organized into a distinct jurisdiction may be removed from membership in the ACNA after the Executive Committee has warned the diocese or the group of dioceses, and two-thirds of the members present and voting of the Provincial Council, which must include at least a majority in two of the three orders of bishops, clergy and laity, has agreed to its removal from membership. Canon I. 9.2 does not preclude the use of these provisions against a diocese or group of dioceses that do not meet their financial obligation to the ACNA.

Under the present constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America the diocese determines the extent that a local congregation is protected from seizure of its property. The ACNA governing documents do not prohibit dioceses from taking such action, only the province. Conservative evangelicals who join the Anglican Church in North America must not only check their beliefs and values at the door but they must also support bishops and rectors who do not share their views and whose views may conflict with their own. They are expected fund the establishment of churches that do not proclaim the New Testament gospel as they understand it. They are also expected to fund the training of clergy at institutions that do not teach what they believe and value. They are faced with a situation not far different from that which conservatives face in the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of England, and the Episcopal Church in the USA.

The reduction or elimination of the barriers identified in this article series would require the repeal and replacement of the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America and the revision of the ACNA model diocesan constitution and canons. A number of these barriers affect other conservative groups beside conservative evangelicals. It would be in the best interest of these groups to support a major rewriting of the ACNA governing documents along with a redrafting of the ACNA model diocesan governing documents. In a future article I will consider what steps conservative evangelicals and other conservative groups might take to bring about these much-needed reforms in the ACNA.

A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 1
A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 2
A Conservative Evangelical View of the Anglican Church in North America—Part 3

Anglican Church consecrates Akrofi's successor

The Anglican Diocese of Accra, Church of the Province of West Africa, on Sunday consecrated Venerable Dr Daniel Silvanus Mensah Torto as the Ninth Anglican Bishop of Accra.

As a Co-Adjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Accra, an assistant, Mensah Torto will succeed the Most Reverend Justice Ofei Akrofi, as Archbishop and Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa, when he retires on October 29, after attaining 70 years. He would have served for 16 years.

The consecration was performed by the Most Rev. Ofei Akrofi.

The Most Rev. Dr Peter Akinola, a retired Archbishop and Primate of all Nigeria, delivered the sermon for the occasion and advised priests to uphold the core principles of Christianity. Read more

Uganda: Ntagali Faces Uphill Task
Bishop's View of Ministry: Hearing and Obeying God
Nigerian Christian worship subdued by church bombs

Sexting craze draws in kids at age 10

Children as young as 10 are experimenting with sexting and should be educated about its dangers, a leading charity has warned.

BoysTown, which runs the Kids Helpline counselling service, said sexting-related awareness and education campaigns should target children and young people aged 10-18.

Almost 500 young people across Australia contacted the service with concerns about sexting - sending sexually explicit texts or photos to mobile phones - between January and March. More than 75 per cent were female. Read more

Antidote to Juvenilized Faith

Yes, American Christians will grow up when they have to

Christianity Today's June edition features an article by Thomas Bergler that speaks to the content of his new book, The Juvenilization of American Christianity. He dares pose this question: When are American Christians going to grow up?

"We're all adolescents now," he writes of juvenilized Christianity, a form of faith he calls "self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually empty."

Describing how he thinks we got into this condition, Bergler looks to the influence of youth-based ministries since World War II, the period that mirrors the years of my life. Fearful that young people might be wooed away from Jesus by a larger culture where there was serious moral decay, Christian leaders began to reform the traditional saving message of repentance and grace into one that emphasized inner peace, purpose, and general happiness—things more appealing to the adolescent mind. In other words: a gospel more aptly titled "What's in it for me right now?" Read more 

Final SBC resolution on the sinner's prayer expresses anti-Calvinist sentiment

How did you become saved? Did you admit you were a sinner, repent of your sins, believe Jesus Christ died for your sins, and call on the Lord and pray to accept Jesus into your life?

The recent decision by delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention to affirm the use of the "sinner's prayer" – known as a prayer of repentance and "inviting Jesus into your heart" – has undermined Calvinism in the denomination and placed a renewed emphasis on traditional Baptist soteriology: if you repent, call on the Lord and believe in Christ for mercy, you are saved.

The resolution, which passed Wednesday by a majority vote of around 80 percent, affirmed the belief that "repentance from sin and personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are necessary for salvation." Citing Romans 10:13, it also affirmed that "repentance and faith involve a crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord," more commonly known as the "sinner's prayer," as a "biblical expression of repentance and faith." Read more

Georgia County Church Zoning Laws Unconstitutional?

Alliance Defense Fund Files Lawsuit Against Rockdale County's 3-Acre Requirement

Rockdale County in Georgia is being sued for zoning restrictions that are discriminatory against small churches unable to afford the three-acre property size requirement to function, say attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund.

Lawyers for the Christian-based ADF, who filed the lawsuit on Thursday, said Rockdale County is refusing New Generation Christian Church access to several different properties for its worship services because the properties are less than three acres. The restriction does not apply to nonreligious groups.

"Government officials should not use zoning restrictions to close down religious services of small, start-up churches," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. "Not only is it irresponsible to target small ministries dedicated to serving the community, it's unconstitutional and violates federal law." Read more


"I contend for this, that to gospelize a man is the greatest miracle in the world. All the other miracles are wrapped up in this one. To gospelize a man, or, in other words, to convert him, is a greater work than to open the eyes of the blind; for is it not opening the eyes of the blind soul that he may see spiritual matters, and understand the things of heavenly wisdom, and is not a surgical operation easier than operation on the soul?" Charles Spurgeon

"Gospelize"…I love that word! I like it better than the word evangelize. Gospelize's verbal twin has too much baggage and too many misconceptions. Gospelize has the same destination as the word evangelize but it's sporting nicer (not necessarily newer) shoes to cover her beautiful feet. Read more

Why We Must Celebrate Grace

What does it look like to celebrate grace? I think the answer is found in the beginning of Psalm 122:1-2: "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.' Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem."

Envision the scene here as David speaks for the average Israelite. A farmer and his family are planning their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They are brimming with excitement as they make their plans and preparations. They are actually going to the tabernacle where God dwells, and they can't believe it! They are enjoying the same kind of excited anticipation that a family would experience as they prepare to go on a particularly wonderful vacation. They are imagining the sights and sounds. Their hearts are not just excited about worship. No, their hearts are filled with worship already. They are recounting and remembering all that God has done for them to make this pilgrimage possible. The very thought of being in the presence of God absolutely thrills them, even as it fills them with holy fear. They have not even begun the trip and already their hearts are overflowing with joy.

The second sentence, "Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem," advances the scene. Now the pilgrims are actually inside the walls of the holy city. They simply cannot believe they are there, and are repeating to themselves, "I'm inside the gates. I'm inside the gates. I'm really inside the gates!" It is almost impossible for them to take it in. They are having trouble grasping that it is really true. What are these Israelites doing? They are celebrating the amazing grace of a sovereign Redeemer.

Pastor, it's like us waking up in the morning and saying, "I'm redeemed. I'm redeemed. I'm redeemed. I'm redeemed. I can't believe that I am one of God's children! I can't believe that God has placed his love on me. I can't be live he has called me to his work! No, my life and ministry isn't always easy, but I'm redeemed. No, the relationships with people around me don't always work the way they should, but I'm redeemed. Yes, I live in a world that is broken and does not operate as intended, but I'm redeemed. Yes, I face personal and ministry disappointment, but I'm redeemed. I can't believe it, I am one of God's children and one of his spokesmen!" Read more

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Don't Let Your Small Group Get Too Big

Ten reasons everyone suffers

It's good to have a growing group where new people are regularly stopping by. On the other hand, if your group's too big and stays too big, your entire group will suffer. Here's why.... Read more

Sacked rector lays siege to ACA church

In what could prove to be a made for TV miniseries, an inhibited Anglo-Catholic priest has broken into and illegally occupied his former church, defied a court order, allegedly taken tens of thousands of dollars of church funds, been accused of stealing parish financial records, lying, deception, gossip, character assassination and dividing his small congregation by wanting to join the Roman Catholic Church through the Pope's offer of an Ordinariate.

It is being described by onlookers and observers as a "bizarre drama" involving a bishop, a Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in America (ACA), the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the Los Angeles Police Department, a frustrated woman judge and a priest, Fr. Christopher P. Kelley who along with his family and a handful of followers, has taken over the lower portion (downstairs area) of the church, covered the windows refusing to leave the parish and rectory, rejecting an inhibition and must now face a trial and possible defrocking.

The end of the siege at St. Mary of the Angels, now in its fifth day, seems nowhere in sight, with no court order demanding his removal currently in effect and a reluctant Los Angeles Police Department to cross church/state lines. Read more