Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One HOLY Catholic and Apostolic CHURCH

In the street-car of my Philadelphia boyhood, devout Roman Catholics would cross themselves when the trolley passed the Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Chester Avenue. The holiness they recognized was not only for the building, but it was particularly for the sacramental elements kept there. Most of the Irish in West Philadelphia were Roman Catholic. The rest were from North Ireland and worshiped at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

When Protestants speak of going to church, however, they are not thinking of a building but of a congregation. The congregation, not the building, is holy. The Scottish poet Robert Burns knew that the Bible calls the people of God “saints,” although he could not get beyond the louse he saw promenading on the bonnet of a saint seated in front of him in the kirk.

When worshipers are so easily distracted, they forget the awe of God’s holy name. Read more

Why Bible Study Doesn't Transform Us

"When all your favorite preachers are gone, and all their books forgotten, you will have your Bible. Master it. Master it." --- John Piper

I meet with women all the time who are curious about how they should study the Bible. They hunger for transformation, but it eludes them. Though many have spent years in church, even participating in organized studies, their grasp on the fundamentals of how to approach God's Word is weak to non-existent. And it's probably not their fault. Unless we are taught good study habits, few of us develop them naturally.

Why, with so many study options available, do many professing Christians remain unschooled and unchanged? Scripture teaches clearly that the living and active Word matures us, transforms us, accomplishes what it intends, increases our wisdom, and bears the fruit of right actions. There is no deficit in the ministry of the Word. If our exposure to it fails to result in transformation, particularly over the course of years, there are surely only two possible reasons why: either our Bible studies lack true converts, or our converts lack true Bible study.

I believe the second reason is more accurate than the first. Much of what passes for Bible study in Christian bookstores and church resource libraries just isn't: while it may educate us on a doctrine or a topic, it does little to further our Bible literacy. And left to our own devices, we pursue a host of unsavory (and un-transformative) self-constructed approaches to "spending time in the Word." Here are several that I encounter on a regular basis. Read more

Delayed Obedience is Disobedience

Over a period of months in 2005, God led me to realize that it was time to transition out of my role as pastor. The final confirmation came while I was preaching the last message in a series on Disciplemaking in December. The theme of the message was on obedience.I remember talking about how God called Abraham to leave the land in which he was living to go to a land which God would show him. And Abraham obeyed God.And I had this sense that I wasn’t preaching to others any more – that God was using my mouth to preach to my heart. It’s kind of a weird thing when this happens.

If you’ve ever experienced it, you know what I’m talking about. God had my attention.Then I went to the New Testament where Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John to follow Him. And the text says in Matthew 4, “they immediately left their nets and followed Him.” And I started talking about how delayed obedience is disobedience.

When I’d tell my kids to do something, I expected them to obey. And when God tells us to do something, He expects us to obey. And I knew that God was telling me it was time to leave Lake Hills Church. Read more

Downtown abbey tests limits

They use no gasoline. They don't require insurance or a license. They're inexpensive to buy and maintain. And, in an interesting twist, they're helping to underwrite an unusual Anglican congregation in downtown Vancouver.

David Knudtson is selling imported electric bicycles to support the Arnada Abbey at 2001 Broadway.

Is that a church? Despite the prayer circle, altar, murals of Jesus, prominent wooden lawn sign, website, a recent visit from an Anglican church official and a regular schedule of services and events, Knudtson insists it's not. Read more

Oxford University changes dress code to meet needs of transgender students

Oxford University has rewritten the laws governing its strict academic dress code following concerns that they were unfair towards transgender students.

Under the new regulations, students taking exams or attending formal occasions will no longer have to wear ceremonial clothing that is specific to their gender.

It will mean men will be able to sit tests in skirts and stockings and women will have the option of wearing suits and bow ties. Read more
Further evidence of the moral decline of the West.

When Should You Grieve in Ministry?

Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons" (1 Sam. 15:34-16:1)

For anyone in ministry, this is an interesting and informative moment in the life of Samuel. Samuel was prophet in Israel. He clearly loved Saul. He clearly longed for Saul to be a godly king, but Saul was everything but. Now, God had turned his back on Saul and had torn his kingdom from him. It was a devastating moment for Samuel and all of Israel. Samuel was overcome with grief. At some point God comes to Samuel to say, "The time for grieving is over. My plan marches on. It is time for you to turn and be part of the new thing that I am doing."

Ministry, this side of eternity, will be marked by moments of grief like Samuel's. Perhaps it will be the death of a vision, the need to discipline a trusted and influential leader, the knowledge of someone plotting against your God-given authority, sinful division among leaders, a resistant congregation, or a catalog of other difficulties that can obstruct and divert the ministry of a pastor and his congregation.

Here are some practical pastoral observations that flow out of this passage. Read more

Diocese of South Carolina Ponders Its Future

In a letter sent to the active clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina on July 30, 2012 the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary, summarized the meeting Bishop Lawrence held with the diocese' clergy on July 25. The full text of the letter is reproduced below:
Dear Brother and Sister Clergy,

On Wednesday, July 25th, the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence met with the clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina at St. Paul’s Church, in Summerville, to discuss decisions made at General Convention 2012 and their significance for us as a diocese. In particular, he shared the address he made to the House of Bishops, while in executive session, announcing his decision to depart from Convention with five members of our deputation.

The central purpose of his presentation to the Bishops was to convey his understanding that with the passage of Resolutions D002 and D019 (making all possible variations of “gender identity and gender expression” protected categories in the canons of the church), and the adoption of authorized provisional rites to bless same gender relationships, the doctrine, discipline and worship of this church have been profoundly changed.

He told the Bishops that the magnitude of these changes was such that he could no longer in good conscience continue in the business of the Convention. In fact, he was left with the grave question of whether he could continue as a bishop of an institution that had adopted such changes. It was with that question on the table that he took his leave from the House of Bishops.

Since that time, and in the gathering of the Diocesan Clergy, the Bishop stated that he believes the Episcopal Church has crossed a line he cannot personally cross. He also expressed to the clergy that though he might act one way if he were a priest in a diocese, as a Bishop he feels deeply his vow before God to faithfully lead and shepherd the Diocese of South Carolina. Both dimensions of this dilemma weigh upon him at this time.

The Bishop has asked for a period of grace as he prayerfully seeks the face of the Lord, and asks for God’s direction (Psalm 27:7-9,14 or BCP Ps 27: 10-13, 18). He left yesterday evening, July 29, to begin several weeks of vacation. It will be a time spent on mountaintops and in deserts where the Bishop will seek refreshment and discernment. Upon his return at the end of August he will meet with the Standing Committee and the clergy of the diocese to share that discernment and his sense of the path forward.

In the interim, the Bishop has asked that we hold this process in our prayers and pledge that there will be “no golden calves” or departures during his absence. Those present heartily agreed to both requests. He would also encourage the clergy as they are able to gather in deaneries for prayer and intercession. I commend the prayers below as pillars around which to order your prayers for the Diocese in the coming weeks.

The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis
Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Canon to the Ordinary

For Bishop Lawrence:
O Father, give to our Bishop Mark, in the midst of the stresses of his position, a daily renewal in your presence, that upheld in your peace, enlightened by your Word, and strengthened by your grace, he may be a true shepherd, enabling your church to fulfill the mission you have given us, for Jesus’ sake. AMEN.

For the Clergy of the Diocese:
Almighty and everlasting God, from whom comes every good and perfect gift; send down upon our bishops and clergy, and upon the congregations committed to their charge, the healthful spirit of your grace; and, that they may truly please you, pour upon them the continual dew of your blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honor of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. AMEN.

For the Parishes of the Diocese:
Almighty and ever living God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for our parish families. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

For the Leadership of the Diocese:
Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. AMEN.

For the Days Ahead:
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Almighty God, give us a new vision of you, of your love, of your grace and power; and then give us a new vision of what you would have us to do as your church in this nation at this time, and an awareness that in the strength of your Spirit we can do it, to your glory, in Jesus name. AMEN.

All Saints Pawleys Island Weighs Affiliation with the Anglican Church in North America

The flagship parish of the Anglican Mission in America – All Saints Pawleys Island – is set to vote at a special parish meeting this fall on its rector’s proposal the congregation join the Anglican Church in North America.

The Rev. Robert L. Grafe, Jr., rector of the founding parish of the AMiA, told Anglican Ink his congregation was entering a “season of prayer and discernment.”

He noted that a “change in affiliation requires an amendment to our by-laws and a parish vote,” which could take place later this year.

In a 27 July 2012 letter to the congregation, Mr. Grafe wrote that in the wake of the December split within the AMiA “it became clear that there would be other Anglican options for affiliation to consider.” Read more

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Bishop of Our Souls

The titles that the New Testament writers use for Jesus make for a fascinating and enlightening study. One of the most obscure and perplexing of these titles is found in 1 Peter 2:25, where the Apostle writes, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” In the classical language of the King James Version, this title is rendered as “Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Many evangelicals react negatively to the idea of Jesus as our Bishop. What did Peter have in mind when he spoke of Jesus in this way?

Although Peter’s letter is the only place in the New Testament where Christ is called our Bishop, the concept is deeply rooted in Scripture. We even find a hint of it in the song of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. Zechariah said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68). In the Old Testament, the promises of redemption that God made to His people included a promise of a day of divine visitation. The Jews were taught to expect a visit from God. Zechariah, however, said God had visited and redeemed His people. He spoke this way because he understood that the appearance of the Messiah was at hand, and He would be heralded by Zechariah’s own son.

What does this have to do with the title of “bishop”? The Greek word translated as “visited” in Luke 1:68 is episkeptomai, which is a verb form of the noun episkopos, the Greek word that is translated as “bishop” or “overseer” in 1 Peter 2:25. That word, episkopos, is reflected in the name of the Episcopalian Church, which is governed by bishops.

The word episkopos is composed of a prefix and a root. The prefix is epi-, which serves to intensify the word with which it is combined. The root is skopos, which gives us the English word “scope.” We find this root in such words as telescope, periscope, and microscope, all of which are instruments that help us to see things. If we were to add the prefix epi- to the word scope, we would have an instrument for intensive observation. That is precisely what an episkopos was in ancient Greece, except that it was a person, not an instrument. The episkopos was a high-ranking military officer who inspected the troops to be sure they were ready for battle. With that background, we can see that a bishop is one who is given oversight in the church, with the responsibility to look closely into all matters under his supervision.

Jesus, then, is our Bishop, our Episkopos, who has oversight of us as our Lord. He is vested with the power to look into our lives, to gauge our readiness for combat with the forces of darkness. Read more

Learning to Live Without Your Denominational Moniker

If you are a Christian who prefers to stick with definitions which are found in the Bible when explaining your faith to others, try doing this sometime. Ask the spiritual leader at your church, "Is it fine if I never use our denominational label, but instead only identify myself as a 'Christian' when talking to others about my faith?" The answer you are given will tell you a lot about the amount of spiritual freedom in your congregation.

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Cor. 3:17) In the Bible, those who are born again through faith in Christ are defined with words such as: "believer," "Christian," "disciple," "saint," "brothers," "sisters," and "the church." These are some of the designations God chose to use in His Word when defining you as a follower of Christ. There are plenty of other descriptors which get used by Christians that are man-made and are not listed in the Bible.

It is not a sin to use some man-made words to define yourself and your spiritual beliefs and practices. You have the freedom as a believer to use such words if you so desire. There are plenty of born again people who in good conscience say things such as, "I am a Baptist," or "I am a Catholic," or "I am a Pentecostal," or "I am a Calvinist." This can certainly be done in a way that does not cause offense or too much division within the body of Christ.

But having the freedom to use such definitions is a very different thing than feeling the pressure to use them. Are you in a church that would frown upon your choice to always use "Christian" or "believer" rather than your denominational moniker? Are you concerned that a denominational label often gets in the way of the Gospel being presented without unnecessary clutter? If so, you are one of millions of believers around the world who feel the same way you do on this issue.

All denominational labels carry baggage. Many times there is some good baggage. Other times there is less desirable baggage. The less desirable baggage may be related to people who use that label to teach doctrines or promote behavior which do not reflect biblical Christianity. In any case, the label will often muddy the water and confuse the person you are trying to reach for Christ. Hence, you are reluctant to use a definition which is not found in the Bible and might easily be misunderstood. It could easily overshadow the real message you are wanting to share.

As Christians, is our message about a denomination….or a Person? Is it about having someone subscribe to all the doctrinal distinctions of one particular denomination….or is it about a person committing his or her life to following Christ even if they do not agree 100% with every secondary doctrine of one denomination? Are you more interested in building your "brand," or more interested in making disciples who are free in the Lord to make plenty of personal decisions such as these according to their own conscience and their understanding of Scripture? Read more

Every Pastor Needs a Mentor

Every pastor needs a mentor. No matter what stage you are in your ministry, you need someone to coach you.

All sorts of organizations use the mentoring process to make people better at what they do. In medicine, doctors mentor younger doctors. In music, musicians mentor other musicians. Why? It works. We learn best when we have people who can speak into our lives and ministry. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Get all the advice you can and be wise the rest of your life.”

I will always need a coach – no matter how old I get or how successful I become. Lebron James is one of the best basketball players on the planet. He still needs a coach. You will never get to a point in your life when you can say, “I’ve learned it all. I don’t need anybody else to help me.”

A mentor brings out the best in you in three areas: your roles, your goals, and your soul. Mentors give us perspective. They help us look at ourselves and our ministry from the outside. We don’t always see what we’re doing outside of our own perspective. We see from our own limited focus. We need somebody else in our life to say, “Have you thought about…? What about this? What about that?”

Saddleback would not be where it is today without men who’ve poured their lives into me – people who’ve made me look at my ministry in a different light. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel but with many advisors they succeed.” What God has done through Saddleback over the past 30 years hasn’t happened because I’m smart. It’s because I’ve had great mentors and advisors. They are people I’ve bounced ideas off of and gotten feedback from. Read more

Dealing With Five Common Objections to New Member Classes

In my post last Saturday, I presented the new findings by LifeWay Research on new member classes. The report was mixed. On the one hand, there does appear to be an increase in the number of churches offering the classes. On the other hand, most churches still do not offer or require new member classes. Only 14% of churches required them; another 21% encouraged new members to attend but did not require them to do so.

The Clear Demographics

One facet of the research was extremely clear. The churches least likely to offer the classes fit one or both of two categories. They were smaller churches and their pastors were older. Both make sense. Smaller churches tend to have leaders who perceive they lack the resources for such a class. And older pastors have led churches many years without new member classes; they thus see little need to make the change.

I am attempting to persuade church leaders differently. Read more

Read also:
How Many Churches Have New Member Classes?

Global increases in expatriates challenge international churches in ministry

Exactly how many expatriates are there? Of course, nobody knows for sure, but some good, educated guesses abound.

Whatever the true numbers are, a new report says certain sectors of the globe are expecting more in the coming years with challenging implications for those who minister to expats with international congregations.

Over 1,000 English-language congregations serve people living outside of their home country around the world. Most of those congregations are multi-denominational as well as multi-national, though some were started by denominational groups such as Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist and Anglican.

These international churches function in a language, usually English, not normally spoken in the host country. They have a majority of people from other countries, ie expatriates, and they have a multi-cultural mix and diversity with a more global perspective than congregations in home countries. Read more

A century at Marra

The Marra Creek district of north-west NSW has long been associated with the breeding of Merino sheep, but its “shepherds” have long had human as well as ovine roles. A tiny bush church located on the creek’s blacksoil banks near well-known Lemon Grove Station was among the first in NSW to be ministered by the Brotherhood of the Good Shepherd.

The Brotherhood was founded in Dubbo in 1904 and for about 80 years a network of peripatetic “Bush Brothers” delivered Anglican services to isolated outback communities.

Built in 1912 from local pine and consecrated the following year by Bishop Long from Bathurst, the Anglican Church of St Mary the Virgin this year celebrates a century of outback worship.

And next Sunday at 11am, worshippers past and present will gather at the Marra to join Bishop Richard Hurford from Bathurst as he conducts the historic centenary service. Read more

Assembly: FiFNA On The Move

For the bishops, priests, and laypersons at the 24th annual assembly of Forward in Faith, North America (FiFNA) here July 11-13, it was – more decidedly than ever before – not about where they’ve been, but about where they’re going.

Meeting again at Our Lady of the Snows, this year’s FiFNA assembly/family reunion focused much more on mission and the positive teaching of the catholic faith than on legislation and resolutions.

But it was more than that. The “despondency” that one participant said had dogged the Anglo-Catholic organization not so many years ago seemed in Belleville to have been eclipsed by a “new confidence” about FiFNA’s vocation - including about the need to begin (re)presenting the case for historic holy order among the minority of its allies who remain unpersuaded on the matter.

In short, FiFNA is on the move, in good spirits and in good Spirit, so to speak. Read more
I noted with concern the presence of Canon Kevin Donlon at the meeting of the FIFNA Assembly and his promotion of a restructuring of the Anglican Communion "through the application of catholic (read "Roman Catholic") principles." FIFNA President Bishop Keith Ackerman and others are in agreement about "another ambitious effort"--"a new Oxford Movement, and particularly another Tractarian Movement...."

While recognizing that its pushing for a moratorium on woman's ordination is bound to create tensions, the FIFNA Assembly proceeded to adopt a resolution calling for such a moratorium. I especially noted the willingness of the FIFNA leadership to exploit any deference that Archbishop Robert Duncan may enjoy from the members of the ACNA. This prompts me to wonder if the FIFNA leadership are trying to force the proponents of women's ordination out of the ACNA by heating up tensions over this issue.

FIFNA has an agenda, which is to Catholicize the doctrine, order, and practice of the ACNA. Eliminating the ordination of women is only a step toward achieving its aims. I am NOT a proponent of women's ordination but I am also NOT a proponent of the further Catholicization of the ACNA. The ACNA has gone too far in the direction of Rome in its doctrine and governance structure as it is.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Anglicanism: Protestant or Reformed Catholic?

By Robin G.Jordan

In June 1995 J. I. Packer expressed a view that make some Anglicans quite nervous. He told a conference of Reform UK that the basic stance of Anglicanism is Protestant. In doing so, he was simply reiterating what Anglicans had believed until the Oxford movement created confusion about Anglican identity in the nineteenth century, and what Classical Anglican Evangelicalism holds to this day.

From English Reformation to the early nineteenth century members of the Church of England saw themselves as “Churchmen” and “Protestants.” They were Churchmen because they belonged to the Church of England and the Church of England was the established Church. They were “Protestants” because the Church of England was a Protestant Church. The English Reformers had joined the continental Reformers in protesting the errors of the Church of Rome. They had denied the universal authority of the Pope. They had rejected the Roman doctrines of apostolic succession and the sacerdotal character of the Christian ministry. The Thirty-Nine Articles affirmed such Protestant doctrines as the ultimate authority of the Bible in matters of faith and practice, justification by grace alone by faith alone in Jesus alone, and good works as the necessary fruits of faith and the evidence of justification. The Glorious Revolution had put a Protestant monarch on the English throne and Parliament had enacted a law requiring that all English monarchs as the supreme governor of the Church of England must be Protestant.

In the nineteenth century the Scottish Episcopal Church experimented with the use of the term “Reformed Catholic” but abandoned it for “Protestant Episcopal.” “Reformed Catholic was too closely associated in the minds of the Scots with “Roman Catholic.” In our time the late Peter Toon championed the use of the term “Reformed Catholic” instead of Protestant in an attempt to accommodate Anglo-Catholics. However, a number of Anglo-Catholics have begun to use the term for Catholic doctrine and practice that is by no means reformed. They redefine “Reformed Catholic” in accordance with John Newman’s fanciful reinterpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in which he claimed that the Articles only reject certain Roman abuses and excesses. While Anglo-Catholics might not like the term “Protestant,” it accurately describes classical Anglicanism. Unlike “Reformed Catholic,” it cannot be redefined to apply to unreformed Catholicism.

Being Protestant did not make the Church of England sectarian even though its sixteenth and seventeenth Roman Catholic detractors sought to portray the English Church as such. Unfortunately the Oxford movement would adopt this view of a Protestant Church of England and went to great lengths to demonstrate to themselves and the Church of England’s Roman Catholic critics that the English Church was Catholic. They also claimed that they more than any other church party, including the High Church party, stood for Catholic doctrine and practice and represented genuine Catholicism in the Church of England. They also claimed that they were not a church party. In all three instances their claim was untrue. A great deal of the uneasiness that modern-day Anglicans feel with the description of being Protestant reflects the influence of what the nineteenth century Evangelical Bishop of Ohio Charles P. McIlvaine called “Oxfordism.”

The English Reformers, however, were not uneasy with the use of the term “Protestant” to describe the Church of England. Between apostolic times and the sixteenth century the primitive catholic faith had become defaced and overlaid by so many innovations in doctrine and worship in the Church of Rome that it was no longer recognizably the “faith once delivered to the saints.” Free of the accretions of almost two thousand years, the faith of the Protestant Church of England was much closer to the catholic faith of the Primitive Church than the faith of the Roman Church. It was decidedly more apostolic than the faith of the latter. Rather than breaking with the Primitive Church, the Church of England had reinforced and strengthened its continuity with that Church.

The Church of Rome quickly realized that it could not win any debate over doctrine and practice if it appealed solely to Scripture, as did the Protestants. The claim of the Church of England and the other Reformed Churches that their doctrine and practice was that of the Primitive Church forced the Church of Rome to resort to several devices. The first was to claim that Church tradition had authority equal to that of Scripture if not greater than Scripture. The second was to claim that Scripture must be interpreted by Church tradition and only the Church of Rome could rightly interpret Church tradition. Consequently only the Church of Rome could rightly interpret Scripture. The third was to claim that in the imposition of the hands at the consecration of a Roman bishop a special grace of the Holy Spirit is passed on to the newly consecrated bishop. This grace has been passed from one Roman bishop to another throughout the centuries all the way back to the apostle Peter, whom Christ had designated as his earthly vicegerent. Only bishops to whom this grace has been passed on, those who stand in a line of succession going back to Peter, are true successors of the apostles. Only the true successors of the apostles taught apostolic doctrine. It was apostolic because the bishops teaching it were the true successors to the apostles, not because it agreed with what the apostles taught in the New Testament. This last device countered any claim of the Reformed Churches that their doctrine and practice was apostolic because the apostles taught it in the New Testament, that they were the true successors of the apostles because they retained apostolic doctrine and practice. This included the Church of England. The position of the Roman Church has substantially not changed since the sixteenth century.

So is Anglicanism a form of Protestantism or a form of Reformed Catholicism? The answer is both. Anglicanism is a conservative, distinctly English form of Protestantism. Classical Anglicanism holds that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the written Word of God and the Sole Rule of Faith and Practice, inspired by the Holy Spirit and containing everything necessary for salvation. This belief is one of a number of things that clearly link the faith of the reformed Church of England and its formularies to Protestantism and Protestant movement. While classical Anglicanism has first used Scripture and then reason in interpreting Scripture and has as a last resort consulted the writings of the early Church Fathers in regards to their opinions as to the meaning of a text, it has never given equal authority to Scripture, reason, and Church tradition as some modern writers have falsely claimed.

At the time of the English Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement the Reformers sought to make the English Church more apostolic by abandoning the false teaching of the medieval Catholic Church and conforming the teaching of the Church to that of the Holy Scriptures. This teaching applied not only to doctrine but also to practice. The Reformers sought to restore in the English Church the catholic faith of the Primitive Church. In this sense Anglicanism, the faith of the reformed Church of England and its formularies, can be regarded as “Reformed Catholic.”

Due to the influence of liberalism and ritualism Anglicanism in and outside The Episcopal Church has been viewed for the large part as a liberal form of Roman Catholicism. It is liberal to the point that it tolerates practicing homosexuals and women in ordained ministry, the blessing of homosexual liaisons and “gay marriage”. It is also pluralistic and universalistic, showing its tolerance of other religions by incorporating their practices into its own worship and recommending non-Christian spiritualities to Episcopalians. Like Anglo-Catholics, radical liberals show a tendency to redefine “Reformed Catholic” to include their particular ideology.

Due to the same influences Anglicanism is now increasingly viewed in the Anglican Church in North America as a bringing together or convergence of three disparate theologies—Catholicism, Pentecostalism, and evangelicalism. The liberal character of the ideology of the Ancient-Future or Convergence movement is evidenced in its stress upon open-mindedness toward the beliefs and practices of other Christian traditions, its call for a more “generous orthodoxy,” its emphasis upon practice and piety over doctrine, and its intolerance of Classical Anglican Evangelicalism’ insistence upon stricter adherence to doctrine. Convergentism is also liberal in its stance toward the ordination of women and divorce and remarriage. While Convergentist thinking does not goes so far as to embrace pluralism and syncreticism as does radical liberal thinking, it does to some degree adopt the latter’s theological inclusivism but confines its own inclusivism to conservative theologies. Like Anglo-Catholics, Convergentists are inclined to redefine the term “Reformed Catholic” to apply to their own emphases.

As we can see the term “Reformed Catholic” along with the term“via media” can be given a meaning quite different from how we might understand the meaning of the term. Unless the term is accompanied by a clear explanation of what it means, I recommend that we avoid these two terms in our preaching, teaching, and writing.

For the foregoing reasons we need to emphasize the Protestant character of Anglicanism in the twenty-first century. At the same time we also need to help people to acquire a better understanding of not only what it means to be Protestant but also what it does not mean. Too many misconceptions of Protestantism have been fostered by detractors of the Protestant movement. We need to challenge all mistaken and erroneous ideas about Protestantism and all deliberate misrepresentations or distortions of what it means to be Protestant. Being Protestant should not be the cause of unease in Anglicans. It should be something that they not only can acknowledge and affirm but also feel honoured to be.

Read also:
The Reform of the English Church
This article was originally posted on Anglicans Ablaze in May 2010. It is relevant today as it was then.

The Reform of the English Church

In America today “separation of church and state” is basic to both political and theological thinking. In contrast, in the sixteenth century in England the union of church and state was taken for granted as governed and guided by divine providence. In fact, the one definite thing that can be said about the English Reformation is that it was first of all an act of state. Central to it all was the assertion of royal supremacy, of king or queen, in ecclesiastical affairs. And the claim of royal supremacy was made explicitly not only by Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I, but also implicitly by the Catholic Mary when she decided to reconcile the English church with the Roman papacy in 1553.

It would be a mistake, however, to interpret the English situation as a mere “Erastianism” (named after Thomas Erastus), that is, a subordination of the church to the interests and policies of the state. The theory of royal supremacy justifying headship in both church and state emerged in the 1530s out of a long academic and legal debate that reached back at least to the twelfth century, with roots in a variety of sources — biblical, patristic, political, and historical.

Henry VIII and his advisers recalled that the ecumenical councils of the church in the first eight centuries were called by emperors through their imperial commissioners. Constantine the Great, for example, had the bishops of the Empire join him at Nicea in 325 to seek to bring theological peace to the church during the Arian controversy. Further, it was recalled that under the old covenant the godly king or monarch led his people in the worship and service of their covenant Lord God. Edward VI was called “the young Josiah” by the archbishop of Canterbury! Read more

Read also:
Anglicanism: Protestant or Reformed Catholic?

5 Ways To Lead Leaders

By necessity, ministry – children’s & family, in particular – requires us to lead in perhaps the hardest leadership arena possible: the volunteer arena. However, whether volunteer or paid staff, leaders are leaders, and we need to focus our attention on them in order to accomplish our grand vision.

Easier said than done! But here’s a framework I have found successful for leading leaders.... Read more

Protestant Churches in Brazil Experience Mixed Growth, Decline; Huge Increase for Pentecostals

A number of mainline traditional protestant churches in Brazil are declining in congregation numbers, according to a new research report out. However, at the same time the newly released analysis indicates that pentecostal churches are experiencing much of the huge growth explosion being reported among the evangelical community in the Latin American nation.

According to the analysis many denominations from the so-called "traditional churches" group experienced a decline over the 10 year period from 2000 through 2010. The Congregational Church showed a decline in membership of 26.37 percent; the Lutheran Church 6.10 percent; Presbyterian Church 5.9 percent and the Methodist Church 0.01 percent.

However, there was not a blanket decline among the "traditional church" group, and the Baptist Church revealed significant growth of 17.74 percent. The Adventist Church in Brazil, which was also included in the "traditional church" category, also experienced a 29.03 percent surge in membership over the 10 year period. Overall the "traditional church" group, when considered as a whole" experienced a growth of 10.76 percent.

But that growth seems small when contrasted with the growth experienced by "pentecostal churches" group. This group including the Assemblies of God, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Maranatha Churches, Foursquare Church Gospel, among others, experienced a massive growth of 44.01 percent. Read more

The Silver Bullet for Disciple Making

“Silver bullet”— Any straightforward solution perceived to have extreme effectiveness; a phrase that typically appears with an expectation that a particular practice will cure a major prevailing problem. i

Based on my 30+ years in studying the process of evangelism and church growth, I can confidently say there is a “silver bullet” for fulfilling Christ’s command to go and make disciples. Here it is:
The most effective evangelism—by far—occurs through meaningful relationships between Christians and non-Christians.

Did you know that over twice as many non-Christians come to Christ through relationships with Christian friends or relatives than all other reasons combined? Read more

Further Developments in the Title IV Disciplinary Proceedings against the Fort Worth Seven

The Title IV disciplinary proceedings initiated against the Fort Worth 7 has not been derailed by the intervention of the provisional bishops of Quincy and Fort Worth during the 77th General Convention, the accused have learned.

In an exchange of emails between seven bishops who endorsed an amicus brief in the Diocese of Fort Worth case pending before the Texas Supreme Court and the Rt. Rev. F. Clay Matthews, the Bishop for Pastoral Development in the Office of the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Matthews stated he would be “sending additional information to the Bishops involved after a period of reflection from the conversations at General Convention and some preliminary interviews. When a complaint has been received by the Intake Officer, the Disciplinary Canons are in effect.”

Bishop Matthews added “I trust this letter addresses the immediate concerns you raised, and you will hear more from me perhaps as late as September.” Read more

RefNet: 24-Hour Christian Radio on the Internet

Ligonier Ministries is making available a resource that I hope spreads far and wide: a free, always-streaming, 24-hour Christian internet radio featuring solid biblical teaching and preaching. Go here for more information. There you’ll find info on how to access this via your computer, your iResources, and other mobile devices. Read more

God-Honoring 24-Hour Internet Radio Committed to the Historic Christian Faith - Teaching, Preaching, Scripture, News, Music, Audio Books, & More
Can be streamed via a web browser or the RefNet iOS app. Worth checking out.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gerald Bray: The Anglican Way

The English Reformation produced the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion as its foundational documents. Both represent the more Reformed (as opposed to Lutheran) phase of the English reformation, though they are closer to patristic and medieval traditions than most Reformed documents are.

Archbishop Cranmer believed that he had to reform the worship, doctrine, and discipline of the church. The Prayer Book represents reformed worship, and the Articles contain reformed doctrine. Yet Cranmer’s reformed discipline failed to gain parliamentary approval, and that failure was a factor that led to the rise of puritanism.

The first Book of Common Prayer appeared in 1549. It contained services for daily worship, both morning and evening, and forms for the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, along with other ceremonies that were used less often. The services were full of biblical phrases and imagery, and English people absorbed a considerable knowledge of Scripture from the Prayer Book, which was often repeated and easily memorized. The most important service was the one for the Lord’s Supper. Cranmer used traditional medieval English liturgies like the Sarum rite (“Sarum” is Latin for the town of Salisbury, in southern England), a liturgy drawn from Norman, Anglo-Saxon, and Roman traditions in the eleventh century. Cranmer restructured the old liturgies, however, in order to bring out the centrality of justification by faith alone. The communicant’s attention was directed away from the consecration of the bread and wine, which recalled the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, and refocused on his spiritual state, in line with Reformed teaching. Read more

Read also:
Reformed Anglicans

Korean World Mission Conference Celebrates Milestone of 20,000 Korean Missionaries Worldwide

Prominent evangelical leaders in the U.S. joined famous Korean pastors at the Korean World Mission Conference, the largest gathering of Korean missionaries worldwide, in the Chicago area this week to celebrate a critical milestone in the world's fastest growing missionary movement. The number of Korean missionaries in 169 countries has exceeded 20,000 – more than doubling in 10 years. At this rate of growth, Korea is expected to surpass the United States as the top missionary-sending country in the world by the year 2020.

John Piper, preaching pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church; Loren Cunningham, co-founder of Youth With a Mission; Doug Birdsall, executive chairman of the Lausanne Movement; and Loni Arnold, executive director of Billy Graham Center were among the American evangelical leaders who spoke during the July 23-July 27 event held at Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Ill.

"There is a great calling by God for Korean churches," said Piper during the conference's opening service. "God has given great blessing to Korean churches all around the world. Where there is great blessing, great responsibility follows."

Over 5,000 people – half of them missionaries – participated in the 7th Korean World Mission Conference, which examined mission developments in the past and mission trends for the next 10 years. The missions conference, which has convened every four years at Wheaton College since 1988, was sponsored by the largest three Korean mission organizations – Korean World Mission Council for Christ, Korean World Mission Association, and Korean World Mission Fellowship.

The Korean missionary movement traces back to the late '70s but it began its rapid growth in 1990, when 1,000 Korean missionaries were dispatched overseas. Today, there are approximately 25,000 Korean missionaries around the world, indicating a 2,500 percent increase in Korean missionaries in the past two decades. Read more

Is your church website mobile-friendly?

iPhones, Galaxy S3's - Australians love their smartphones!

A simple definition of a smartphone is a phone (or tablet) that enables you to connect to the internet. And in Australia, lots of people have smartphones. In fact, according to an article I read recently in AdNews*, "Australians are online, mobile and are world leaders in terms of use and consumption."

Jason Pellegrino is Google's head of mobile ads, and he shared some other compelling statistics

  • 60% of Australians have a smartphone.
  • Every month, 1-2% of the Australian population gets its first smartphone.
  • Two thirds of Australian smartphone users will connect to the internet every day.
  • In-store, 25% of people change their mind [about a purchase] because they used a smartphone.
  • Australians are 10% more likely (than people in the UK) to do a local search on their phone, and then take action on that search.

The implication for churches? We need to ensure our websites can be viewed adequately on a smartphone. It's not enough to assume that everyone is using a laptop or desktop computer - more and more people want to view information on their phones. Read more

Small Groups: Mentor Your Coaches and Their Leaders

3 levels of spiritual mentoring that will keep your leadership coaches in the game

Leadership coaches face burn out and fatigue just as any uncared-for small group leader does.

As a pastor or staff member, one of your jobs is to focus on the needs of your leadership coaches and supervisors to ensure that they want to stick around and help you turn spiritual seekers into multiplying “shepherds.” Often just a little extra effort will pay off big. Let’s take a look at three main areas.... Read more

Communion Partner bishops apologize to the wider Anglican Communion for General Convention's actions

It was important for the four Americans to make their case to the wider Anglican Communion.

Bishop Martins noted that some of the Global South brothers were "very cool toward us because we remain in, what they see, as a hopelessly compromised church."

The Americans were not giving up. They had something to say to their like-minded Global South Anglican brethren. They wanted to be heard. "The consensus among the four Episcopal Church representatives here is that the trip was definitely worthwhile. It put our names and faces in front of people who might otherwise be tempted to forget about us or write us off," the bishop explained. "We want the Global South, which, let's face it, represents the overwhelming majority of the world's Anglicans, to be very clear that not all in The Episcopal Church are supportive of the Communion-shattering and self-absorbed actions of recent General Conventions." Read more

What's your church's FQ (Fellowship Quotient)?

When a church of 120 members set out to assimilate 3,000 converts (from a one-day revival!) into the life of their family, they ranked "fellowship" among the top priorities in accomplishing the task.

"Koinonia" is a Greek word which, while almost always translated "fellowship" in our Bible, refers to sharing life, a partnership. My own personal definition is "hanging out."

The FQ of a church -- the fellowship quotient -- speaks to how well the members love the Lord and one another and show hospitality to new believers.

Following are 10 aspects and insights about the FQ of your church. They are worth carving in stone, or better, engraving on the hearts of your leadership and membership. Read more

Tim Keller on How to Provide a Rational Justification for the Christian Faith

New York City pastor Tim Keller says Christians should be able to present rational arguments for their faith, noting that the "just believe" statement isn't going to cut it, especially today.

In a two-part blog post, the latest of which was published Tuesday, Keller stated, "Believing has both a head and a heart aspect, so while some non-Christians will need more help with one than the other, we can't ignore either one."

The Redeemer Presbyterian Church pastor was making the case for apologetics, or what apologist William Lane Craig defines as the branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith.

What apologetics aims to do is answer the "why" question, said Keller, who has seen many skeptics brought into a Christian community but still left asking "why should I believe you and not an atheist or a Muslim?"

Keller emphasized that rather than just presenting a case for Christianity, a "gospel-shaped apologetic" must "challenge the non-believer's worldview and show where it, and they, have a real problem."

"I try to show that it takes faith to doubt Christianity, because any worldview (including secularism or skepticism) is based on assumptions," he wrote. Read more

Read also:
How the Gospel Changes our Apologetics, Part 1
How the Gospel Changes our Apologetics, Part 2

United Kingdom: Christian groups angry over PM’s gay marriage comments

Christian groups have criticised Prime Minister David Cameron after he suggested the church was “locking out” people who are gay, bisexual or transgender.

Rev Rod Thomas, the Chairman of Reform, a conservative evangelical network within the Church of England, said the Prime Minister’s comments were “regrettable”.

He said the suggestion that the church was ‘locking out’ a section in the community was a “misinterpretation” of the church’s position. Read more

Read also:
Call to keep praying for marriage
Two-thirds of Scots not in favour of Government decision on same-sex marriage

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Balancing Group Life and Bible Study

“How do groups balance developing relationships and completing lessons?” When we hear a question like this the fear is that the answer will lie at one of two extremes. Either the group would be a bunch of Bible eggheads who care for God’s Word, but don’t really care much for each other or the group meeting would become a freewheeling discussion that is no more than a pooling of ignorance. There is a balance, but it’s not the same for every group. Read more

Five Characteristics of Transformative Small Groups

As culture drifts more and more toward individualism, transformational churches are taking on the responsibility of moving people into authentic relationships with each other, many through the instigation and encouragement of small groups. Though a hermeneutically responsible scriptural case cannot be made specifically for the institute of small groups, the Bible does offer examples of the need for and benefits of small units of community.

In Exodus 18, Jethro approaches Moses and says, “What you’re doing is not good . . . You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people” (Ex. 18:17-18). The principle here is applicable for pastors, church leaders, and members: when people do not have small units of connection and relationship, it wears everyone out – the pastors and leaders because they are constantly working to fulfill that need for connection; the members because they are unable to be in the nurturing relationships that they need but cannot necessarily have with pastors or leaders. Similarly, small units of community allow people to “carry one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) in a way that simply is impossible in large group settings. Therefore, Scripture favors small settings for accomplishing genuine community.

In addition to scriptural favor toward small units, the institution of small groups addresses significant cultural needs. In Bowling Alone, sociologist Robert Putnam explains the shift in our culture away from community and toward “cocooning.” Think about it. People used to bowl in leagues. They’d wear funny shirts, go in groups, and bowl together. Now, leagues are a fraction of what they used to be, and people bowl alone. Similarly, while we used to have front porches, now we have back decks. We have home theaters and home gyms. As a result of this societal shift, the nuclear family is nuclearized into small units, disconnected from others along the way. However, I believe a shift back toward interpersonal relationships is taking place. Read more

Priest, accused of meeting girl for sex, says he did it for research

The State Attorney's Office released video of investigators interviewing Brian Shriner, 46, a former Geneva School teacher and Episcopal priest at New Covenant Anglican Church in Winter Springs, shortly after his arrest.

Shriner was arrested in June, after he was accused of chatting with a detective posing as a 14-year-old girl online, investigators say he then traveled to Winter Springs to meet the minor for sex, instead he was met by deputies.

"I can guarantee nothing like this will ever happen with me again," said Shriner during the interview. "I was just planning on sitting and talking to her, I know this sounds crazy," he said. Read more

Only traditionalist Archbishop of Canterbury can save Anglican church, warn primates

In a major intervention in the selection process, an alliance of archbishops and bishops from four continents has written directly to the selection committee urging them to choose someone prepared to halt a drift towards liberal values on issues such as homosexuality.

The next Archbishop must be willing to “uphold the orthodoxy of the Christian faith” in order to secure the “future and unity” of the church “at a foundational level”, they say in a letter seen by The Daily Telegraph.

Only someone with an understanding of the more traditional views of Anglicans in Africa and elsewhere and the ability to gain their “respect” would be acceptable they add. Read more

US Church Remains in 'Coma' Despite Cataclysmic Events in Middle East, Says Watchdog

The church in America is no longer simply in a slumber when it comes to its lack of awareness about the persecuted church in the Middle East; it is in a "diabetic coma," says the leader of a persecution watchdog group in the U.S.

"For years we've said wake up and strengthen what remains," Open Doors USA President and CEO Dr. Carl Moeller told The Christian Post in an exclusive interview. "We would think of the American church as a napping church and that we would elbow it and it would wake up and rouse itself and do something.

"In my mind today, the picture I have is a church in a diabetic coma that has gorged itself on the sweets of affluence, materialism, and the idolatry of worshipping the materialistic world. That diabetic coma is now life threatening. We as a church are at the point of death – not the church in the Middle East. We are the ones who can no longer rouse ourselves to even pray for an hour on behalf of things that God would have us pray for."

Moeller said he has been working with Open Doors for almost 10 years to bring an awareness of "the suffering church to the American church conscience."

"Revelation 3:4 says, 'Wake up, and strengthen what remains about to die.' For 50-plus years Open Doors has taken that verse as a motive to wake the church in the West up and to motivate them to go and strengthen what remains in the Body of Christ that is about to die in those places where the church is suffering," he explained. "It's always been a case where we talked about waking the church up in the West, but also serving the church that is in utter persecution."

However, Moeller now believes that even the "cataclysmic events that are going on around the world today" have not awakened the church in the West. Read more

School superintendent: Churches opposed to homosexuality not welcome

The head of Miami-Dade County Public Schools wants to evict a Southern Baptist church that rents space in one of its buildings because of the congregation's opposition to homosexuality.

Supt. Alberto Carvalho released a statement to a local television station alleging that Impact Miami's opposition to homosexuality "appears to be contrary to school board policy as well as the basic principles of humanity."

"I have asked for immediate legal review to seek the termination of the contract that is involved," he told Local10.com. "I am making this decision not on the basis of policy or politics but as a rejection of prejudice and intolerance."

The controversy surrounds Impact Miami, a new Southern Baptist church that is currently renting space inside North Miami High School for its Sunday worship services. Read more

Read also:
Statement on Homosexuality, Marriage, & Freedom of Speech

Reasonable Christian: The Irony of Evangelical and Reformed Liturgy: It Does Not Exist

I was recently encouraged by a couple of e-mails and Facebook messages I received this week. So in light of that I would like to say a few things in brief about the order of worship in the churches I have attended and the purpose of a good liturgy. Why does having a common form of worship and order matter in the first place?

At the risk of sounding redundant let me say first that even the Papists understand that most people learn doctrine from the lectionary readings and the sentences of Scripture quoted during the services. The trouble with the Roman Catholic Church and with the Anglo-Catholic movement within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion is that Scripture is not the test of sound liturgy. Rather Tradition, understood as a divine revelation, is introduced and the repeated lines from the common prayer service becomes an indoctrination in semi-pelagian theology and sacerdotalism. The problem here is that this is a violation of the principle of Sola Scriptura, which the confession of the Anglican Communion outright denies.... Read more

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Out of Ur: Bieber Fever and the Worship Wars

How brain science might help us major on the majors.

I thought the worship wars were over. The church I grew up in put our traditional Southern gospel-style music out to pasture in favor of a more generic contemporary style in the mid 90s. We weren’t exactly in the most progressive region of the country. Surely we were among the last band of skirmishers in a war winding down.

But it seems the war is raging still. I interact with a lot of pastors, and I hear from them time and again that their number one problem is helping the old-timers turn loose of the hymnals and welcome such innovations as overhead projection, electric guitars, and a backbeat. At stake for these pastors is the future of their church. How can they reach younger generations with outdated forms of worship?

I’ve often marveled at how visceral these discussions can get. Older Christians can imply that if you add one praise song to the bulletin, you might as well just harvest their remaining healthy organs and send them out in the woods to die alone. Younger Christians can give you the impression that when Jesus ascended, he ordained the drum set as the primary vehicle of the Holy Spirit.

A recent article in the The Wall Street Journal shed some interesting light on this subject for me. Reporting on the mass hysteria set afire by celebrities like Elvis and the Beatles and, more recently, Justin Bieber, Melinda Beck suggests victims of “Bieber Fever” suffer from a legitimate malady. Read more

Lee Strobel: Why Does God Allow Tragedy and Suffering?

Reflections on the shooting tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.

It's already being called the worst mass shooting in American history: 70 people shot by a gunman, 12 of them killed, while they were watching the midnight showing of a new movie. It all happened just 21 miles from where we're sitting. There are no words to describe the anguish being felt by those who are suffering today; our heart and prayers have, and will, go out to them. There are so many tragic stories, so much pain. And many people are asking the question, "Why? Why did God allow this?"

This has been a heart-rending summer for Colorado. First came the wildfires, which ravaged the houses of hundreds of our neighbors, prompting many of them to ask the same question, "Why?"

And those two tragic events are just added to the everyday pain and suffering being experienced in individual lives. There's illness, abuse, broken relationships, betrayal, sorrow, injuries, disappointment, heartache, crime and death. And perhaps you've been asking the question too. "Why? Why me? Why now?"

That "why" question is not a new one; it goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th Century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn't start any better. There was 9/11 and now the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why do all of these horrific things happen if there's a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Several years ago, I commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they'd ask if they could only ask God one thing. The number one response was: "Why is there suffering in the world?" Read more

Small Groups: Give Your Study Some Context

Help group members understand the Scripture you're discussing

Many small-group leaders feel the need to teach their group members by providing a lot of information, principles, and theories instead of leading an actual discussion. In case there is any ambiguity, let me be clear: this is a bad idea. It's called lecturing, and it should be reserved for professors behind their lecterns (and to some extent pastors behind their pulpits).

But that doesn't mean small-group leaders should have nothing to say. We should. In fact, I believe it's important that group leaders spend a little bit of time explaining the context of a Bible passage or topic before the group digs into a discussion. I also believe that group leaders need to address context on two levels: textual and personal. Read more

Read also:
Creating Team Players
When Serving Becomes Too Much
Help! I’m Hosting a New Small Group!
Follow in the Footsteps of Bonhoeffer

Four questions about suicide

What do you say at the funeral of someone who has committed suicide?

Gladly, I’m no expert on this. But I did have a number of unrelated suicides over a two year period recently and thought I might share a few things I learnt.

Suicide is so hard for the family. Grieving the loss of a loved one is exhausting. Double that when it is a sudden death. Triple it when it is a suicide. Unlike most other funerals, people can some with a strange mix of shock, anger, shame, and guilt. One moment life seems normal, the next they are busy organizing a funeral, and speaking with doctors and the police and the minister... and figuring out sandwiches for the wake.

Sometimes it isn’t clear if there has been a suicide - at other times there is no doubt. Where the family knows it is a suicide I’ve encouraged them to let me say this at the funeral and not to keep it hidden.

I’ve found these four questions arise: why did it happen? is this my fault? is it wrong to feel angry? and is forgiveness possible? I’ve tried to answer each of them with the family and, where appropriate, to speak at the funeral on them. Read more

Read also:
7 Tips for Preaching a Stranger's Funeral

America's liberal Christians might be progressive and inclusive, but they are also dying out

The marketing mantra of liberal Christianity is “change or die.” Here’s the pitch: society has evolved since the 1960s, shedding its old prejudices and misunderstandings and replacing them with a new consensus based on reason and tolerance. Unless the mainstream churches embrace women priests, socialism and gay marriage, they will lose relevance and die out. Conservatives might protest that the beauty of God is rooted not in relevance but timelessness. But, like any other business, Christianity is a numbers game – so making that argument sounds like saying, “Yes the car might be popular, but the horse and cart is a design classic.” Intellectual momentum, liberals insist, is with love and diversity.

Not so, says Ross Douthat in a New York Times article that has caused quite a stir among the liberal faithful. Douthat charts the strange demise of the US Episcopal Church, which he describes as “flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.” And yet, against the predictions of liberal theologians, the result has been the evolution from a pseudo-national church to a hippie sect. “Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase.” Read more

Read also:
Is liberal Christianity worth saving?

Survey finds 19% without religious affiliation

Unbelief is on the uptick. People who check "None" for their religious affiliation are now nearly one in five Americans (19%), the highest ever documented, according to the Pew Center for the People and the Press.

The rapid rise of Nones — including atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe "nothing in particular" — defies the usually glacial rate of change in spiritual identity.

Barry Kosmin, co-author of three American Religious Identification Surveys, theorizes why None has become the "default category." He says, "Young people are resistant to the authority of institutional religion, older people are turned off by the politicization of religion, and people are simply less into theology than ever before."

Kosmin's surveys were the first to brand the Nones in 1990 when they were 6% of U.S. adults. By 2008 survey, Nones were up to 15%. By 2010, another survey, the bi-annual General Social Survey, bumped the number to 18%. Read more

Lee Gatiss: The Evangelistic Strategy of the Book of Common Prayer

It’s not entirely a Puritan thing. But it is very much a seventeenth century thing. Last week I gave a talk to a bunch of Anglicans at a clergy conference all about the evangelistic strategy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

If you’d like to listen in, you can do so here: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/13690817/The%20Evangelistic%20Strategy%20of%20the%20BCP%20%28Lee%20Gatiss%29.mp3.

I even included a little aside about Vermigli, which began life as a post or two on this blog. Hope you enjoy it!
Originally posted on Meet the Puritans

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top Secret: For Your Eyes Only

By Robin G. Jordan

On my latest visit to the Anglican Church in North America website I found nothing new on that website. Even the latest article on the “news” page was an interview with Archbishop Bob Duncan that had previously been published in The Apostle in May 2012.

The reason I visited the ACNA was to see if its communications officer had published anything on the business session at Assembly 2012, especially on what changes to the constitution and canons were ratified and whether any of the Provincial Council approved-changes to these governing documents were sent back to the Council—an unlikely but newsworthy occurrence. I also wanted to see if the versions of the constitution and canons on the “governance” page had been updated to reflect any changes. It has been almost two months since Assembly 2012 ended on June 9.

I was not surprised to not find anything new. The ACNA website is beginning to resemble the static websites of a number of the Continuing Anglican Churches. When I checked the ACNA staff directory, I discovered that the ACNA has no communications officer!

I had gleaned from Bishop Jack Iker’s report to his diocese on the June 2012 ACNA meetings that the Provincial Council approved “some constitutional and canonical amendments.” He did not offer any details. He did not mention whether the Provincial Assembly had ratified these amendments. This suggested that in his mind the Assembly’s ratification of the amendments was not important—not worth space in the report.

The only bishop who did mention a specific amendment was CANA Bishop Felix Orji in his June 10 communiqué to CANA West. He wrote:
Second, Canon 6, Section 4 was amended to read: "No rector may be called to or dismissed from a congregation without the consent of the Bishop. No other clergy (assistants, etc.) may be called to or dismissed from the congregation without consultation with the Bishop. A diocese may adopt canons not in conflict with this section. All assistant clergy and lay employees of the congregation shall serve at the pleasure of and under the direction of the Rector, except as may be otherwise provided under local law." This ACNA Canon is consistent with the policies of the Congregation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), and therefore, we will function in compliance with this new directive. Rectors, please make sure your Vestries, Boards, and Parochial Councils are aware of and understand this new amendment. In addition, other amendments were made within the ACNA Canons this past week, so it is critical you download and familiarize yourself with the current version of the ACNA Canons from the ACNA website.
Obviously Bishop Orji is not aware that the version of the ACNA canons on the ACNA website has not yet been updated.

Among the proposed amendments to the ACNA governing documents that interested me were the proposed changes to Canon I.1.5. These changes are shown below in brackets:
Section 5. Concerning Officers of the Church

[1.] The Archbishop shall be the Presiding Officer of the Church, and the Presiding Officer of the Council. The Council shall appoint a Deputy Chair, a chancellor, a secretary, a treasurer, a registrar, and such other officers of the Church as it deems necessary. The Council shall define the duties of each officer of the Church. [The Archbishop may appoint a Provincial Dean in consultation with the College of Bishops to serve at the pleasure of the Archbishop until his successor is appointed and who may be authorized by the Archbishop to represent him in his absence.

2. The Terms of the Officers shall be as follows: The term of the Archbishop shall be as provided in Article IX of the Constitution. The terms of the remaining officers shall be:

• The term of the Deputy Chair shall be at the pleasure of the Archbishop.
• The term of the Chancellor shall be at the pleasure of the Archbishop.
• The term of the Secretary shall be for three years.
• The term of the Treasurer shall be for three years.
• The term of the Registrar shall be for three years.

A vacancy occurring in any office other than that of the Archbishop shall be filled by the Executive Committee until the next meeting of the Provincial Council.]
The preceding changes to the canons regularize Archbishop Duncan’s highly irregular creation of the office of ACNA Provincial Dean and his equally irregular appointment of his friend ANiC Bishop Don Harvey to that position. The appointment not only violated the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons and made Archbishop Duncan liable to presentment, but also opened him to the charge of croneyism.

At the time Archbishop Duncan created the office of ACNA Provincial Dean and appointed Bishop Harvey to that position, the ACNA governing documents did not give power to the Archbishop to create such positions and to make appointments to them or recognize as inherent in his office power to do the same. Archbishop Duncan arrogated this power to his office by creating the position and making an appointment to it.

Was it really necessary for Archbishop Duncan to have taken this action? The answer is “no.” If the Archbishop needed an assistant, the College of Bishops could have, under the existing provisions of the ACNA canons, nominated and elected a bishop for special missions to assist him.

Although the College of Bishops and the Provincial Council went along with Duncan’s creation of the office of ACNA Provincial Dean and his appointment of Harvey to that position as they did his later creation of other offices and his subsequent appointments to these positions, they, in doing so, violated the provisions of the ACNA governing documents and made themselves liable to presentment. The whole affair shows how little regard the ACNA leadership appears to have for constitutionalism and the rule of law. It also reveals the inability or the unwillingness of other ACNA leaders to exercise a restraining influence upon the Archbishop. The ACNA system of ecclesiastical governance has no effective checks and balances where they are needed. It has no real accountability.

An article on the ACNA website, “College of Bishops Gathers in Ridgecrest,” had further piqued my curiosity. It briefly described the business transacted at the meeting of the College of Bishops preceding the July 2012 Provincial Council meeting. It contained this statement, “A formal statement was also adopted on the rules of the College of Bishops….” It also contained a reference to the election of Bishop Harvey as the dean of the College of Bishops.” “Officers were elected for the upcoming year, including The Rt. Rev. Donald Harvey, who will continue to serve as dean of the College of Bishops, and The Rev. John Cruikshank, who will continue to serve as secretary.”

The rules of the College of Bishops identify the Archbishop, a Dean, and a Secretary as the officers of the College of Bishops. They do not state how the Dean is to be selected. They do, however, state how the Secretary is to be chosen: “The Secretary is appointed by the Archbishop and need not be a bishop.”

The College of Bishop’s rules contain a number of provisions that rightly belong in the canons, not the rules of that body. Indeed they were proposed by the Governance Task Force for inclusion in the canons and so approved by the Executive Committee. Their inclusion in the College of Bishops’ rules exemplifies the extra-constitutional, extra-canonical way that the ACNA leadership operates.

The amendment to Canon I.1.5, the article, and the College of Bishops’ rules raise questions about the status of the office of Provincial Dean in the ACNA. Is the Provincial Dean an officer of the Province or an officer of the College of Bishops or both? How are the Provincial Dean and the Dean of the College of Bishops selected? Are the offices of Provincial Dean and the office of Dean of the College of Bishops two separate offices? In which case, why are they held by the same bishop?

While the appointment of the Dean of a Province by its Archbishop in consultation with the Bishops of the Province is unusual, it is not entirely unknown. In the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) the Metropolitan of the Province appoints the Dean of the Province after consultation with the Province’s Bishops. Canon C2.3 states:
Dean of the Province

3. The Metropolitan shall at the first meeting of the Synod of Bishops in each calendar year appoint, after consultation with the Bishops, one of their number to be the Dean of the Province until the first meeting of such Synod in the year following. Whenever the Metropolitical See is vacant or in the absence for a period in excess of six weeks from the Province, or during the incapacity of the Metropolitan, the Dean of the Province shall execute all functions appertaining to the office of Metropolitan, until the See be again canonically filled, or until the return of the Metropolitan, or until his recovery from the incapacity. During such vacancy, absence or incapacity, the other Bishops of the Province shall render the said Dean of the Province such obedience as they are bound to give to the Metropolitan. Should the Dean of the Province be unable to perform his duties, or should the office fall vacant for any reason whatsoever, the Diocesan Bishop senior by consecration shall perform the duties of the Dean of the Province. If the office falls vacant, a new Dean shall be similarly appointed at the next meeting of the Synod of Bishops, and he shall hold office until the first meeting of the year following.

Articles of the Constitution, iii, iv, v, xiii, xv, xxi
The ACSA was formerly known as the Church of the Province of Southern Africa. It is the most liberal Anglican province in Africa. Recently one of its dioceses elected a woman bishop. Under the provisions of its canons a woman may serve as its Metropolitan.

Typically Anglican provinces that have a Dean of the Province make provision for that office in their constitution. Usually the Dean of the Province is elected by the Provincial House of Bishops from its members or the senior most bishop by consecration automatically becomes the Dean of the Province upon the election of a new Archbishop of the Province. The Dean of the Province serves for a specific term of office prescribed in the constitution or canons of the Province. It is highly unusual for the Dean of a Province to serve at the pleasure of its Archbishop. I have not come across any such provision in the governing documents of the Anglican provinces that I have studied to date.

Note the Dean of the Province of the ACSA serves for a one year term. He automatically assumes the functions of the Metropolitan in the prolonged absence of the Metropolitan, during a vacancy in the Metropolitical See, or in the incapacity of the Metropolitan. He does not require the authorization of the Metropolitan. When the Dean of the Province is performing the functions of the Metropolitan, the Bishops of the Province must render the same canonical obedience to the Dean of the Province as they would to the Metropolitan.

The requirements in the amendment to Canon I.1.5 that the Provincial Dean is to serve at the Archbishop’s pleasure and cannot represent the Archbishop in his absence except with his authorization suggest the fear that opposition might develop to the leadership of the Archbishop in the ACNA and the Dean of the Province might become the leader of that opposition and the Archbishop’s rival for leadership in the ACNA. The requirement that the Deputy Chair is to serve at the Archbishop’s pleasure suggests the same thing. Under the provisions of the amendment to Canon I.1.5 the Archbishop can demand the resignation of both officers for any reason that he chooses.

For those who are wondering why I picked “Top Secret: For Your Eyes Only” as the title of this article, it is a commentary on the willingness of ACNA leaders to share information with lay followers and outsiders. Some ACNA leaders are pretty up-front. Others operate on a “need to know” basis. Even major stakeholders in the ACNA are kept in the dark.

Generally the ACNA leadership has not shown itself to be as open and transparent as it could be, and indeed as it ought to be. I would have expected the Governance Task Force to have produced a series of articles explaining the changes to the constitution and the canons following their adoption and ratification, why they were necessary, and what they mean. I would have expected that task force to have given similar treatment to the rules of the College of Bishops. But it is becoming increasingly evident that the ACNA leadership does not value an informed membership. Rather it appears to take the position, “the less they know, the better.”

At times it seems like the ACNA leadership does not want to draw attention to what it is doing for fear that it will led to public discussion and criticism and possible opposition. Such an attitude will do irreparable harm to the ACNA in the long-term. We have seen what happened in the Roman Catholic Church where its hierarchy took a similar attitude and withheld critical information from its members.