Saturday, September 29, 2012

Revisiting the Three Streams

This article is published with the permission of its author, Dr. Gillis J. Harp. The article appears in the Fall 2012 issue of The Anglican Way, the magazine of the Prayer Book Society USA. Dr Harp is a professor of history at Grove City College, New Jersey, and a Board Member of the Prayer Book Society USA.

By Dr. Gillis J. Harp

The September/October 2009 issue of Mandate printed an article that explored some concerns about a historical and theological paradigm that was fast becoming a popular way to explain the peculiar genius of Anglicanism.

Since then, this Three Streams model has become very fashionable in some circles. Although versions of the paradigm vary considerably, most iterations contend that Anglicanism can best be understood as synthesizing the Evangelical (or Protestant), the Catholic, and the Pentecostal (or Charismatic) traditions within Western Christianity.

Recently, the organ of the ACNA, The Apostle, published an interesting and informative piece that used three historical vignettes to define the Three Streams. Without repeating the arguments developed in the initial Mandate article, the following discussion seeks to explore several further problems with this sort of interpretation.

Given the deep divisions that have characterized global Anglicanism since at least the 1960s, virtually any attempt to identify and emphasize common ground among creedally orthodox Anglicans is a laudable exercise. Highlighting the important core beliefs we share as Anglicans, and more generally as Christians, can be invaluable.

Still, Anglicans need to take care that we don't indulge thereby in historical fantasies or in theological wishful thinking. Back in the 1980s, an Anglican academic commented wryly that sometimes he preferred the bygone era when Anglicans identified themselves plainly as Evangelicals, or Anglo-Catholics. "These days," he quipped, "everyone claims to be both evangelical and catholic. It can sound glib and, frankly, makes me a little suspicious." In addition to the difficulties identified in the first Mandate article, the following discussion explores four additional problems with this popular conceptualization.

To begin, sometimes the Three Streams hermeneutic can treat our current theological muddle as a virtue rather than honestly recognizing its incoherence. As Peter Toon often observed (and he was rarely thanked for doing so), one should never underestimate the negative influence that the confused Protestant mainline had for decades on its members.

The muddled thinking and bad habits of The Episcopal Church had a subtle but formative influence on those who chose (often for legitimate reasons) to stay. It encouraged some to make a virtue out of necessity; it discouraged drawing clear lines, and it induced otherwise faithful clergy to compromise Biblical standards with the comforting reflection that the church on earth would always be a mixed bag.

In order to avoid being labeled a fundamentalist, few pursued consistency or precision in doctrinal matters. Listening to liberal bishops and seminary faculty repeat endlessly that the Scriptures don't in fact affirm what they plainly appear to affirm undermined confidence in the perspicuity and sufficiency of Holy Writ. In short, Anglicans today may need to ask if the muddled thinking of TEC has had a deeper and more pervasive influence on us than we often recognize. Perhaps not all of the diversity celebrated by Three Streams champions should be prized.

Second, some Three Streams interpretations tend to focus exclusively on individual personal narratives and implicitly treat them as normative standards. Clearly, evangelical Anglicans have long stressed the importance of a personal faith commitment. Leaders of the eighteenth-century evangelical revival criticized formalism and rightly advanced what Wesley and others called an "experimental faith."

Church history includes many inspiring stories of holiness and personal sacrifice, but ultimately God's Word written is our objective standard. While a pious individual may think she or he has had a "word from the Lord," we are told to "test everything" (1 Thes 5:21) by the high standard of truth rather than simply the sincerity or the fervency of a man's commitment. It would seem that something other than a simple subjective interpretation of Scripture is required to make a claim for 'truth'.

 Similarly, defenders of the Three Streams are guilty of philosophical pragmatism.

"Our system may appear contradictory," they counter, "but the odd mixture really works in our parish." When the standard is practice rather than doctrine, it is clear American evangelicals haven't been thinking and so they should consider carefully the theological implications of certain doctrines or practices. The history of American evangelicalism in the twentieth century demonstrates how common this sort of pragmatism has been.

Third (and clearly related to the preceding point), some proponents of the Three Streams view subscribe to what resembles a Post-Modern attitude toward truth, seeming unbothered by holding views that traditionally have been seen as incompatible. Embracing contradictory views is celebrated as preserving a creative tension and engaging in a deeper sort of thinking that transcends modernist "rationalism."

Occasionally, their approach veers away from theology and toward pop-psychology or even pop-anthropology. Robert E. Webber (a popular authority among Three Streamers) cites Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson when he describes assorted non-BCP rituals as "all prelogical forms of expression. These symbols communicate through the senses to a level of consciousness deeper than our thoughts. The point of contact that builds the bridge between this world and the next is not the mind, but the heart."

Similarly, advocates sometimes will sometimes speak of the Three Streams as part of a larger movement of "convergence" that understands itself as seamlessly reconciling Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Yet the sort of convergence one actually witnesses on the ground in Three Streams parishes looks decidedly untheological.

Few have attempted the sort of historical and theological investigation required to, say, understand the opposed positions staked out in the 39 Thirty Nine Articles and the Decrees of the Council of Trent. Certainly progress has been made in ecumenical discussions since World War II, but few Three Streams treatments work through the assorted ARCIC reports (given their tendentious character this may be understandable) or the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification agreed to by a committee of Lutherans and Roman Catholics in 1999.

Instead, there is a lot of emoting about the importance of personal relationships and the supra-rational power of symbols. One often witnesses believers from fundamentalist backgrounds blithely adopting Roman Catholic vestments and ritual. But what if the revived medieval ceremonial teaches doctrines that the Anglican Articles explicitly repudiate? Those who press such questions are usually greeted with quizzical stares.

Finally, the Three Streams approach tends to either denigrate or neglect both the Anglican Reformers and the Anglican Formularies. Because Cranmer 's role within Anglicanism was different from that of Luther within Lutheranism, some argue that Anglicans need not defer to Cranmer's theological views.

Following the dated and partisan work of Benedictine Dom Gregory Dix, they characterize the chief author of the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles as a gifted liturgist but not a deep or sophisticated theologian. His gift to Anglicanism was a sort of studied ambiguity that his successors were then free to develop in their distinctive directions. Yet recent historical scholarship on Cranmer by academics (and not Anglican partisans) clearly contradicts this portrait. Cranmer's knowledge of the Patristic literature was surpassed by no one during his lifetime and his mature doctrinal positions came only after years of intense and wide-ranging study.

 Surely a better way to understand Anglican identity and its peculiar genius would be to study its foundational documents - the Book of Common Prayer (especially in its definitive 1662 edition), the Articles of Religion, the 1662 Ordinal, and the First and Second Books of Homilies. The writings of later Anglican thinkers (including - but not limited to - those of Jewel, Hooker, and the Caroline Divines) can certainly help interpret that bedrock foundation, but where later thinkers wander from the Formularies, they are less able to claim to be authentically Anglican in any historic sense.

The original title of the Articles included a significant description of their larger purpose: "for the avoiding of diversities of opinions and for the establishing of consent touching true religion." Prior to the destabilizing changes that came during the mid-nineteenth century, most Anglicans of either the Evangelical or High Church party (and even many Broad Churchmen) neither ignored the Formularies nor sought to impose upon them far-fetched interpretations that flatly contradicted the views of their authors.

By the turn of the century, a difference of emphasis among the traditional parties had led to an unwieldy heterogeneity; by the 1960s, there was diversity bordering on incoherence. Some treatments of the Three Streams resemble an attempt to baptize this incoherence. The approach to Anglican history here is problematic at best. It is not necessary to affirm all historical movements within Anglicanism as equally helpful and positive in order to avoid a narrow fundamentalism.

 John Henry Newman later came to understand his earlier theological efforts as reflecting a similar error. After entering the Roman Catholic Church, he remarked that his fanciful attempt to remake Anglicanism into something at odds with its actual history was "an impossible idea" and ultimately "untenable" because it was "indeterminate in its provisions, and without a substantive existence in any age or country."

The Church of England emerged from the Reformation with distinctives (such as an episcopal polity and traditional liturgical forms, to mention only two) that had not been preserved by Protestant Reformers elsewhere. High Church Anglicans can legitimately celebrate these features. But all Anglicans would do well not to read back into the formative sixteenth and seventeenth centuries an easy synthesis that is, in some respects, at odds with the historical reality.

Read also:
Navigating the "Three Streams:" Some Second Thoughts about a Popular Typology - Gillis J. Harp
Recovering Confessional Anglicanism - Gillis J. Harp

The Anglican Church in North America’s Catechism Geared for Two-Prong Focus

From the font...from the front porch

The call to “make disciples” has been sorely neglected in mainline denominations over the last several decades, and Christian formation in the 21st century represents a challenge to clergy and families alike. The Anglican Church in North America’s Catechesis Task Force is committed to equipping clergy, congregations and families in the Province to meet this challenge. After a four-year process, the group is putting final touches on a draft Catechism and will present the 300-Question and Answer portion to the College of Bishops later this year so that Bishops can review and then discuss the document at their next meeting in January 2013.

The Task Force has identified a two-prong primary need and strategy for the Catechism, envisioning its use within the church to come alongside parents, intentionally raising children and teens in the Christian faith and also to reach and make disciples of those outside the Church, much like the model of the first century.

“We’re referring to this catechetical process as ‘from the font’ and ‘from the front porch,’” explains the Rev. Dr. Jack Gabig, Chair of the Task Force and Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary. “We are committed to the concept of teaching the basic doctrine and discipline of the faith within our Anglican tradition as a progressive journey for all ages, in all stages of life – to those baptized as infants and to those seeking to understand and embrace faith for the first time.”  Read more
This article lit up more red warning lights for me. They include the composition of the ACNA task force charged with preparing the catechism and the lack of familiarity with the history of the Prayer Book Catechism evidenced in the article. The Prayer Book Catechism in its original form was prepared by Dean Alexander Nowell. Archbishop Duncan's charge to “write a Catechism SO APPEALING THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO USE IT” particular caught my attention. Note that Duncan emphasizes the subjective attractiveness of the catechism, as opposed to its adherence to the teaching of the Bible and the Anglican formularies and its theological soundness. Two earlier warning lights were the task force's preliminary survey of congregations and clergy as to what they believed and its adoption of The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992, 1997) as the model for the ACNA catechism.

ACNA Archbishop addresses gathering of Anglicans from Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia

It had been a stormy day but the sun broke through the gloom on Tuesday, Sept. 25, when the Most Rev. Robert Duncan spoke to about 200 Anglicans at St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Versailles, Ky. The archbishop's visit brought encouragement to those who had gathered from three states and 11 congregations.

St. Andrew's rector, the Rev. David Brannen, introduced Archbishop Duncan as "our fearless leader" and spoke about His Grace's personal courage in the face of challenges and hardships.

Brannen came to Kentucky from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh where then Bishop Duncan had ordained him to the deaconate in 1996. Speaking on Tuesday evening, Brannen recalled one particularly significant moment with his former bishop. Read more
Dave Brennan's reference to "our fearless leader" evoked the mental image of Pottsylvania's Fearless Leader of the TV series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and the movie The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

In addition to speaking at Asbury Seminary did Archbishop Duncan meet with the clergy and lay members of these eleven congregations to promote the formation of a new ACNA diocese? The article does not touch on this subject.

I could not help but wonder at Duncan's comment,"Anglicanism is becoming less British, less Anglo, more global and MORE AUTHENTIC." Is Duncan implying that the seventeen century, eighteenth century, nineteenth century, and twentieth century Anglican chaplains and missionaries who proclaimed the gospel in Africa, the Americas, Australia, and Asia were not genuinely Anglican? I doubt that he explained what he meant. It is typical of Duncan to pepper his addresses and sermons with trendy buzz words. "Authentic" is one of them.

Such remarks remind me of Duncan's rejection of the Elizabethan Settlement that shaped historic Anglicanism and his call for a new settlement.

Viewpoint: Barring 'Innocence' Would Be Barring Freedom

The "Innocence of Muslims" trailer that has sparked deadly protests overseas is crass, intentionally offensive, and grossly inappropriate. That much is clear.

As crude as the video may be, however, Google did the right thing in not removing it from YouTube because its content is not, in itself, what the law would call an "incitement to violence." Its message did not urge others to participate in violent conduct, but was used by a violent and irresponsible faction as an excuse for more violence.

Furthermore, new media giants like Google, Facebook or Apple should not censor content on their platforms because of pressure from the government, or because of groups that might be offended by controversial yet lawful viewpoints.

A free marketplace of ideas will always serve a free republic best. It should alarm us all when new media giants like Google and Facebook begin tolean in a direction and have the kind of influence where they will have an adverse impact in the free marketplace of ideas. Read more

Managing Your Church: Building a Culture of Risk Management

Church boards, staffs must collaborate for the good of the ministry

Now more than ever before, church leaders must recognize the importance of risk management as an inherent part of organizational oversight and leadership. But what does proper risk management look like, and whose responsibility is it? Many boards assume that the pastor and staff have the “bases covered” and board involvement is often limited to reacting to flare-ups. Such an approach to risk management is problematic and dangerous for multiple reasons.

Church leaders are typically consumed with day-to-day operating activities and decisions— the “tyranny of the urgent.” As a result, they frequently do not have, or take, the time to step back and proactively assess organizational risks and address them proactively. If that is the case, and the board is operating under the assumption that staff “has it covered,” the church may be a ticking time-bomb for obvious reasons. Read more

Vatican Newspaper: 'Jesus Wife' Document a Fake

A Vatican City newspaper has claimed that a controversial ancient document that alludes to Jesus possibly being married is a fabrication.

L'Osservatore Romano ran an article by Alberto Camplani, a leading scholar on Coptic documents, who said that the Coptic papyrus recently unveiled as saying Jesus was married is a fake.

"In spite of the drift in the media marked by tones which are quick to shock, unlike so many other items presented at the conference, the papyrus was not discovered in the process of excavation but came from an antiquarian market," wrote Camplani.

"Such an object demands that numerous precautions be taken to establish its reliability and exclude the possibility of forgery."

Camplani and Giovanni Maria Vian, editor at L'Osservatore who wrote an accompanying editorial column, both cited scholars who doubted the authenticity of the papyrus document.

"At any rate, a fake," wrote Vian, who in addition to being editor also has expertise in early Christian history. Read more

Vatican walks a fine line on trying to combat blasphemy

Just one week after Pope Benedict XVI ended his successful visit to Lebanon, the country's most senior Catholic leader called for a United Nations resolution “that will ban denigrating religions.”

Meanwhile in Pakistan, the country's only Catholic cabinet member, Minister of Harmony Paul Bhatti, this week told an interfaith gathering in Lahore that he will press U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to pass a UN resolution that condemns "defamation and contempt against religions." Bhatti said "we must not allow anyone to break our harmony" between Christians and Muslims.

Both moves are understandable in light of increasingly popular efforts in predominantly Muslim countries to outlaw blasphemy or defaming religion. But they could prove problematic for the Vatican as it fights to protect the rights of Christian minorities around the world.

The debate suggests a widening gap between the Vatican's official position, which opposes such measures, and the day-to-day reality of Catholic leaders on the ground, who often feel compelled to support Muslim efforts to protect religious tenets and religious figures from defamation. Read more

Crown Nominations Commission deadlocked

Photo: Victoria Short
Selection of a new Archbishop of Canterbury delayed until the "Autumn"

The Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) has been unable to agree upon a candidate for the post of Archbishop of Canterbury.

This week’s third and final meeting of the CNC was to have provided two names to Prime Minister David Cameron – a first choice and an alternate. However, on 28 Sept 2012 the Church of England press office released a statement at the close of the three day meeting of the Commission that indicated it had not been able to agree upon a candidate.

The statement read:

“This week's meeting of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) has been accompanied by much speculation about possible candidates and the likely timing of an announcement of the name of who will succeed Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury when he steps down to become Master of Magdalene College.”Read more

Read also:
On (not) choosing a new Archbishop

Friday, September 28, 2012

Differences Between Motivational Speaking and Biblical Preaching

There are tremendous differences between "motivational speaking" and "biblical preaching." In America today, many churches offer one or the other. One approach leaves people "encouraged" in their emotions and in their "self-esteem." The other builds up Christians in the Gospel as the Holy Spirit applies the Scriptures to the hearts and minds of the hearers.

Motivational speakers tell a lot of stories and seek to sway through emotion and pop psychology. Biblical preachers tell some stories, but above all seek to have people influenced by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Motivational speakers may or may not throw in a few Bible verses to "salt" their main topic. Biblical preachers rely totally upon the Scriptures to "drive" the content and to feed God's sheep. The Bible is the basis of their message.

Motivational speakers seek to never speak of things which might offend anyone in attendance. Biblical preachers seek to proclaim God's Word with a loving heart as they rely upon the Holy Spirit to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." That is, to apply the message of forgiveness to those who are repentant....and to apply the weight of the Law toward anyone content to continue sinning. After all, if I am never offended by my own behavior, I am certainly not growing in Christ....and I am living in denial. Motivational speakers do not tend to think about the Law and the Gospel when presenting a message. Instead, they attempt to persuade people to change their behavior.

Motivational speakers are good at knowing how people think and behave....but not good at "rightly dividing the Word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) They reach the level of man's emotions with their appeals, but they are not equipped with the proper biblical knowledge to lead people into the realm where souls meet God and then grow in Christ.

Motivational speaking tends to be man-centered and people-pleasing. Biblical preaching is Christ-centered and God-honoring. Motivational speaking is often aimed largely at unbelievers. Biblical preaching typically aims where St. Paul aimed in his epistles....that is, it aims mainly at believers.

New Testament worship services are designed for believers....with a loving and open heart for unbelievers to also attend in hopes of them receiving Christ as Savior. Motivational seminars are aimed at anyone who will help to fill the auditorium. Read more

Read also:
Is Your Name in Heaven's Reservation Book?

Amid U.N. debate, different models on free speech

Amid the firestorm over an American film that mocks the Prophet Muhammad, the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva voted Friday on a resolution by a group of African and Latin American governments urging countries "to counter the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred."

The developing world nations are essentially telling the West: Curb free speech that inflicts wounds based on race or religion. But the West is far from uniform on how to balance free speech rights it considers sacrosanct with efforts to tackle the spread of racial, ethnic or religious hatred.

The "Innocence of Muslims," an amateurish, privately produced U.S. video that mocked Muhammad's image, sparked deadly violence in some Islamic countries. The anger was enflamed by the publication of lewd caricatures of the prophet by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The non-binding resolution from South Africa — on behalf of the Africa Group — as well as Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, follows calls by the Arab League for the international community to criminalize blasphemy. The vote passed with 37 council members in favor, nine — including European Union members — abstaining and only the United States voting no.

Here is a look at different models for dealing with the conundrum of protecting freedom of expression, while ensuring that speech does not become hate crime. Read more

Read also:
Wanted Pakistani Terrorist Says Obama Has Started a 'Religious War'
Egyptian President Urges Limits on Free Speech
Egypt to Hold Rare Blasphemy Trial for Man Who Tore Up Bible

Theologians Find Vines' 'Homosexuality Is Not a Sin' Thesis Not Persuasive

"Being gay is not a sin" is the mantra that one young Harvard student is trying to promulgate. But while Matthew Vines has attracted a growing following with what some are describing as accessible, scholarly arguments, evangelical scholars don't believe he'll make much headway in the Christian community.

"His arguments are not new, and his predecessors failed to win the day within the Christian community," said Dr. Evan Lenow, assistant professor of Ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. "Therefore, I doubt he will have significant impact in the long term."

Vines, 22, grew up in a Christian home and takes his faith seriously. Thus, as a homosexual feeling conflicted with the church's teaching – that homosexuality is a sin – he decided to take a leave of absence from Harvard University two years ago in order to study Scripture and dozens of scholarly works on the subject.

The Wichita, Kan., resident went into his research questioning the "traditional" teaching as it has caused emotional devastation among gay persons in the church, according to Vines. Also motivating his study was a picture of a bleak future for him – where he would "always be left out" and "always be alone" while his friends get married and have children.

Two years later, he ended up producing a dissertation that he believes "dismantles every Bible-based argument against homosexuality." Read more

What Galileo's Telescope Can't See

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in contemporary understandings of science and faith.

Analogies have persuasive power, a suggestive force that operates on an almost unconscious level. To say that A is "like" B is to suggest that everything we associate with A should also be associated with B—whether good, bad, or ugly.

So, for example, if I describe American soldiers as "crusaders," I have just painted them with an analogical brush that colors them as religiously motivated warriors guilty of the worst bigotries of the West. The analogy is loaded with a moral depiction that exceeds what's actually said. So all the disdain we have towards our (usually caricatured) understanding of the Crusades is now overlaid on our perception of military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Conversely, if I describe the proponents of my cause as "prophets" or "martyrs," I have loaded the perceptual deck with images of heroism and purity. Just by the analogy, we get to don our white hats and claim the moral high ground. Or if we describe our regime as "Camelot," we associate ourselves with romance and royal privilege. Never underestimate the power of an analogy. And never simply accept it.

There is a particular analogy often invoked in current discussions about the relationship between Christian faith and science. Ours, we are told, is a "Galilean" moment: a critical time in history when new findings in the natural sciences threaten to topple fundamental Christian beliefs, just as Galileo's proposed heliocentrism rocked the ecclesiastical establishment of his day. This parallel is usually invoked in the context of genetic, evolutionary, and archaeological evidence about human origins that challenges traditional Christian understandings.

Historical analogies like this are often particularly loaded because our age is characterized by chronological snobbery and a self-congratulatory sense of our maturity and progress. Since we now tend to look at the church's response to Galileo as misguided, reactionary, and backward, this "Galilean" framing of contemporary discussions does two things—before any "evidence" is ever put on the table. Read more

A New Chapter in the Homeschooling Movement

Homeschooling families will thrive if they work together, not maroon themselves on separate islands

No home school is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each kitchen table classroom is connected to neighborhood, big “C”
Church and culture,
A part of the main.

With apologies to John Donne, this is a story that the homeschooling community hasn’t always been good at telling itself.

A generation ago, the first wave of homeschooling parents were doing the work of pioneers: fighting court battles, developing educational philosophy, creating and adapting curricula, and answering endless questions about whether their kids would be socialized properly.

These pioneers continue to shape popular perceptions of the movement: quirky, brainy children who get master’s degrees at 16; super-sized, ultra-conservative broods; or crunchy attachment-parenting families. There are flat-out negative stereotypes as well, like that of the barely literate truants parked in front of a flickering TV all day, eating bags of chips and playing video games. Read more

Don’t be ashamed, Franklin Graham tells UK’s Christians

Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham at the launch of Operation Christmas Child
Franklin Graham has called on Christians to be faithful in preaching the Gospel message as he visited the UK to launch this year’s Operation Christmas Child.

“Secularism has conquered much of Europe and the West and it came in overnight,” he told reporters.

“As evangelicals and Christians we need to be more outspoken than we’ve ever been about our faith and not be ashamed.” Read more

Did we get Jesus right? Jesus in the Canonical and Apocryphal Gospels

Another lecture given at The Lanier Theological Library in Houston has been released. It’s Dr Simon Gathercole (Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University) on “Did we get Jesus right? Jesus in the Canonical and Apocryphal Gospels.”

He looks at the message of the four Gospels, and then compares them with the later Apocryphal ‘Gospels’.

The talk runs for 49 minutes, followed by two responses and then questions. Worth watching and sharing, and a good answer to notions arising from The Da Vinci Code and similar.

See it on Vimeo.

Related: Dr Peter Williams, New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts. (Vimeo)
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Six Ways Churches Reverse a Decline

I don't particularly like the "quick-fix" formula some pundits offer to leaders of churches that are plateaued or experiencing a decline. The approaches often appear to be man-centered and methodological. Indeed, many times I think the solutions offered could just as easily apply to a civic organization as they could a church.

Nevertheless, I have had the wonderful opportunity to research churches across America, as well as to have literally hundreds of conversations with church leaders in a variety of settings. What I have learned is that many churches are plateaued or declined. Many leaders are frustrated and seeking God's solution to the situation. And a number of churches exhibit common patterns when they break out of their numerical slump. Allow me to share six of the more common ways I have seen churches reverse a decline. Read more

Read also:
7 Traits of Breakout Churches

Discipleship: Getting to Know Him

My words shall not pass away
Catechesis at its best is a very personal 'school of faith.'

The decline in biblical literacy and the loss of a "faith culture" is no longer news, but it is somewhat shocking. Twelve years ago, New Testament professor Gary Burge reported the results of a survey given to students at Wheaton College, the premier evangelical higher education institution. He found that one-third of the students tested could not put the following in sequential order: Abraham, the Old Testament prophets, the death of Christ, and Pentecost. One-third could not identify the Book of Acts as the location of Paul's missionary travels; half did not know that the Christmas story was in Matthew.

Many studies since have only confirmed these findings. Combine this with increasing anxiety over the church's loss of the younger generation, and we can understand the church's growing need for fresh resources to disciple not just youth but Christians of all ages. To put it in terms that feel a little old-fashioned, at the core we have a growing sense that we need to learn again how to catechize.

I believe we need to resurrect this old word—catechesis—and the big idea it encapsulates. The word has too long been associated with the more formal and liturgical traditions, and has been more or less ignored by evangelicals. But according to the New Testament, to catechize is more than just a matter of passing along essential information about the good news of Jesus Christ. It is instruction in the "way of the Lord" (Acts 18:25). As suggested by J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett in their book on catechism, Grounded in the Gospel, this means aiming at "sound workmanship, thoroughness of construction, solidity, stability, and utility," producing the "living stones [who] are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5, ESV).

Catechesis has waxed and waned throughout history, but today many evangelicals show a growing interest in the biblical origins of catechesis. More and more are looking to the catechetical work of the early church fathers, its recovery among the Protestant reformers, and its renewal among leading evangelists and pastors like John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards.

We are also rediscovering some not-so-distant pearls of wisdom, like the little-known The School of Faith: The Catechisms of the Reformed Church, by Scottish theologian and pastor Thomas F. Torrance, first published in 1959 and now reissued by Wipf and Stock. Read more

Read also:
The Lost Art Of Catechesis - J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett

Reaching Muslims (& Hindus & Buddhists) in our own backyard

"One can never be sure that he will get into heaven," Yusuf said.

His comment was something I had come to expect, but it was still striking all the same. I had asked Yusuf, as I had asked dozens of other Muslims, if he was sure that God would allow him into heaven because of his Islamic faith. And just as with Yusuf, time after time the answer had come back the same: No, a man could never be sure that he was approved by God -- a holy God, a God of unrelenting justice; there's always another good deed to be done, always another sin to be repented of, always another religious obligation to be observed. Perhaps, when the time comes, Yusuf will not measure up to God's dizzyingly high standards, as he told me. As even the great Muslim figure Abu Bakr reportedly lamented, he couldn't trust that God would accept him at the end "even if I had one foot in paradise."

It was against this backdrop that I replied to Yusuf, "What if I told you that you could be certain of God's love and your salvation, and that not because of your good deeds, but because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" Yusuf was skeptical; he had heard of Christians and was prepared for something along these lines. So, to put his fears at rest, I asked, "Don't you, as a Muslim, believe that Jesus is a prophet?" Yusuf did. "And don't prophets speak the truth?" They did, Yusuf agreed. "So when Jesus spoke about Himself, about who He was and what He was about, didn't He speak the truth?"

Hesitantly, Yusuf nodded. This then led into a discussion of Jesus's claims of divine authority, the atonement on the cross, and the reliability of the Bible in which all these wonderful, merciful truths are vouched safe to us. Read more

'Jesus' wife' fragment: authenticity is doubted

Various news outlets, perhaps jumping to cast doubt on the Bible, caused a stir over the announcement of a small, newly translated Coptic manuscript fragment indicating that Jesus may have had a wife.

But what should Christians make of the new claim?

Not much, according to scholars at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In fact, the scholar who presented the discovery Sept. 18 at the International Association of Coptic Studies in Rome downplayed any possible link between the Coptic fragment and the Jesus of the New Testament Gospels.

James Leonard, assistant registrar at New Orleans Seminary's Leavell College, studied Coptic texts intensively during his doctor of philosophy studies at Cambridge University, ultimately writing his dissertation on a Coptic manuscript of Matthew. And while he has only seen photographs of the recent discovery, he is skeptical about the authenticity of the document. Even if the document were proven to be authentic, Leonard said it does not have historical value in understanding Jesus. Read more

Read also:
'Jesus Wife' Research Leads To Suspicions That Artifact Is A Fake

Back articles of Church Society's quarterly journal Churchman digitized for the web

Church Society are pleased to report that Rob Bradshaw, Director of "Theology on the Web", has recently digitised and uploaded to the internet, most back articles of Churchman (est 1879), dating from the 1920s. In total Rob has uploaded 3,531 individual Churchman articles to his Biblical Studies website, for which the Council of Church Society express their deep gratitude.

Click here to view the Churchman page on Rob's Biblical Studies website. It is hoped in due course that these files will also be made available on the Churchman website.

Rob Bradshaw comments:

"Due to the growing demand, particularly from Bible Colleges and teachers in the Majority World for this kind of material it was a great encouragement to be asked to digitise and make available on-line the back-issues of (The) Churchman. This not only represents the largest single collection yet made available by Theology on the Web, but also one of the most valuable, both in terms of the diversity of subjects covered and the expertise of the individual contributors. The scanned articles will be available both on the Church Society website and on More of the older articles will be added as copies of the rarer issues become available for scanning.

Since 2001 "Theology on the Web" has sought to make high quality theological articles freely available via the Internet. Working in partnership with authors and publishers these websites now host over 15,000 articles from over 60 theological journals, many of which can be accessed on-line nowhere else and are difficult to obtain in print, even in the UK."

Lee Gatiss, Director-Elect of Church Society, adds:

"Churchman has been around since 1879, and the back catalog contains a huge wealth of articles on an amazingly diverse number of topics by an array of evangelical academics, ministers, and writers. Thanks to Rob Bradshaw's digitisation project, these articles will now be available for scholars and general readers in an easy to access format for many years to come. Churchman has served evangelicals very well for a century and a half (and by God's grace continues to do so), and Rob has done us all a service by helping to make it more readily available."

Source: EVnews
Churchman is an international Anglican theological journal produced quarterly by Church Society. The journal was first published in 1879 and since that time it has established its place as essential reading for Christians who wish to gain a Biblical perspective on a range of matters. Leading writers deal with current issues, historical themes, and the Evangelical doctrine in which we believe.

Churchman is unique in being an Anglican journal with a consistently high standard of scholarship that is not aimed at academics alone. It deals with topics that need to be clarified in the light of the Bible, the Thirty-nine Articles and the Canons of the Church of England. Each issue also contains a substantial number of book reviews.

EVnews is a service provided by Church Society.

Usage of LifeWay background check program is up 100%

The number of churches signing up for LifeWay Christian Resources' background check program increased by 100 percent over the last year.

Jennie Taylor, marketing coordinator in LifeWay's direct marketing department, said the dramatic increase "shows how serious churches and organizations are about protecting their children, students, employees and congregations."

In 2008, LifeWay endorsed, (, to offer background screenings for churches and religious organizations. Subscribing through LifeWay enables churches and religious organizations to conduct background screenings for their camp counselors, bus drivers, staff, volunteers and others at discounted prices. Read more

An easy way to help volunteers sign-up

For organising weekly church rosters, I still highly recommend Planning Center Online. However, churches have lots of other irregular events that require volunteers to either bring things or do things. VolunteerSpot is a service that makes it easier for people to sign-up (with a really easy interface for smart phones, too). According to VolunteerSpot:
"VolunteerSpot makes signing up to help so simple, most groups see a 20 percent increase in new volunteers at their VolunteerSpot-powered events."
Here's a brief overview.... Read more

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Enrichment Journal: Growing Leaders For Ministry In The 21st Century

I want to help pastors develop their emerging and current leaders for high-impact ministry in their churches. While this certainly includes staff, Ephesians 4:7–16 makes it clear that developing laity is key. Consequently, the following general process is designed to help pastors craft a unique leadership-training approach for their ministry in general (a more specific, detailed process is in my book Building Leaders, Baker Book House, 2004), and their lay leaders in particular. As you read this article, ask how you might apply this material to your people in your unique situation. Read more

Georgian Church Banners Violate Sign Ordinance, Says City

A banner erected by West Hall Baptist Church of Oakwood, Georgia
A city in Georgia has told a local church to remove a couple banners, saying that the use of such displays is in violation of an ordinance regarding signs.

The City of Oakwood informed West Hall Baptist Church that the banners placed on its property that gave the church's name and times for worship were not in compliance with the Code of Ordinances.

Dr. Mike Reynolds, pastor at West Hall Baptist, told The Christian Post that the banners were put on display last year, well before the recent complaints were made by Oakwood officials. "We put up the banners to announce our service times. We did not have enough numbers and letters for our permanent sign and it was a pain getting replacements," said Reynolds.

"We also were changing our logo with a new slogan and wanted them up to announce all of that. We put them up nearly a year before the city said anything about them." Read more

'Gospel of Jesus' Wife' Historian Admits to Having Doubts About Authenticity

A Harvard historian admitted recently that she "absolutely" has doubts about the authenticity of the ancient papyrus fragment that she calls the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife."

Since Professor Karen King of Harvard Divinity School unveiled the torn piece of papyrus last week in Rome, many experts in Coptic manuscripts have expressed extreme skepticism and believe it is forgery. But King told Time magazine that she welcomes that discussion.

"Part of the reason for making it public at the Coptic conference in Rome was to engender a discussion about the fragment, about its authenticity, about its meaning, and to raise questions before we went to publication with it," she told the magazine. "So I actually welcome a lot of the comments that have been made." Read more

Committee considers next Archbishop of Canterbury

The Crown Nomination Committee is meeting today to consider the appointment of the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

The 16-member committee is meeting over two days in an undisclosed location to decide who to recommend as the successor of Dr Rowan Williams.

There is much speculation over who the committee will nominate, with Bishops Christopher Cocksworth, Richard Chartres, Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu among the favourites.

Only two names will be put forward to Downing Street at the end of the two days – one being the preferred choice of the committee and the second an acceptable alternative.

The name will then be approved by the Queen, before a public announcement is expected to be made by Lambeth Palace in October. Read more

Read also:
Anglican church chooses new leader to weather storms
Church of England looks set to take a swing to the right with choice of new Archbishop of Canterbury

Out of Ur: Uh Oh, Canada

Research shows young adults in Canada are leaving churches too. What can we learn?

You know the research isn't going to be good when the title of the report includes the word "hemorrhaging." A new study published in Canada shows the same trends evident in U.S. churches are no less real in hockey country. The report titled "Hemorrhaging Faith" (I can already imagine the solution-based conference and book: "Clotting Faith"), is featured in the latest issues of Canada's Faith Today magazine. Read more

Read also:
Looking at Religion Among Young Canadians

Small Groups: Accountable Application

Don't forget to ask application questions . . . and then follow up.

Small-group leaders often believe they have to possess the gift of teaching in order to produce a great lesson. This is far from accurate. The reality is that biblical truth is more caught than taught. The group leader's role is not to be the teacher. Rather, the leader is to be a guide. The leader should facilitate discussion, helping people discover biblical truth for themselves. Read more

Coming Clean

Confession is good for the soul--and the souls of those you lead.

I like beer. I always have. Ever since my high school buddy and I drank ourselves sick with a case of quarts, I have liked beer. I like the way it washes down a piece of pizza and mutes the spice of enchiladas. It goes great with peanuts at the baseball game and seems an appropriate way to crown eighteen holes of golf. Out of the keg, tap, bottle, or frosty mug—it doesn't matter to me. I like it.

Too much. Alcoholism haunts my family ancestry. I have early memories of following my father through the halls of a rehab center to see his sister. Similar scenes repeated themselves with other relatives for decades. Beer doesn't mix well with my family DNA. So at the age of 21, I swore off it.

I never made a big deal out of my abstinence. Nor someone else's indulgence. I differentiate between drinking and drunkenness and decided, in my case, the former would lead to the latter, so I quit. Besides, I was a seminary student (for the next two years). Then a minister (three years). Next a missionary (five years). Then a minister again (twenty-two years and counting). I wrote Christian books and spoke at Christian conferences. A man of the cloth shouldn't chum with Heineken products, right? So I didn't.

Then a few years back something resurrected my cravings. Too many commercials? Too many baseball games? Too many Episcopalian friends? (Just kidding). I don't know. Quite likely it was just thirst. The south Texas heat can rage like a range fire. At some point I reached for a can of brew instead of a can of soda, and as quick as you can pop the top, I was a beer fan again. A once-in-a-while … then once-a-week … then once-a-day beer fan. Read more

Anglican Church of Canada faces gloomy financial future

A strict regime of cost cutting and layoffs has not cured the Anglican Church of Canada’s cash crunch, the primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz told members of the synod of the ecclesiastical province of Canada last week in Montreal.

Archbishop Hiltz stated that the close of the second quarter of 2012, the Anglican Church of Canada was running a deficit of C$900,000. The national offices of the Anglican Church of Canada are not the only institutions facing financial shortfalls, dioceses and church institutions are reporting a decline in income, and last week a seminary announced it was closing its doors.

"The General Synod is struggling financially and if the truth be known we have been on this trajectory for a long time," Archbishop Hiltz according a report printed by the Montreal Anglican. Read more

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Makes Small Churches Great Churches: Part 2: Mature Love

This is the third article in the series on the importance of small churches. The introduction article presented the reason for the series, and part 1 dealt with the foundational truth of the gospel and the Bible. To read these articles, click on the linked words.

When I first arrived at Parkway Baptist Church, I found myself in one of the most difficult situations ministry families face. I had to start at my new position, while my wife and children had to stay at our house three states away. The plan was simple: get to my new ministry, find an inexpensive month-to-month rental so my family could move up with me, and then buy our next house once our current one sold. The way the members of Parkway responded to my self-inflicted family crisis displayed the love that people experience over and over again at our church. A wonderful couple immediately provided me room and board as I began my ministry. Along with this Christian hospitality came several invites to meals from other church members. The church also allowed me to travel back to see my family as often as I could get away. Eventually, I found a pretty rustic 2 bedroom and a closet they called a third for a price my family could afford while still paying on our mortgage. When moving day came, twenty people showed up to help us move in half of our possessions (the rest remained in our staged house). Of course, the next Sunday, the church held a pounding for us that came with plenty of can goods, paper products, and gift cards to the local grocery store and Walmart.

Needless to say, our family felt very loved by their generosity. Then unexpectedly we received a gift from an anonymous family that covered our rent in the apartment for the first five months. Add to that, when we finally sold our house and bought one in our church field, the people who moved us into the apartment showed up again to move us into the house.

Some will chalk such actions up to the energy a church feels at the arrival of a new pastor, but this was more than that. As I began to acquaint myself with my new congregation, I kept hearing story after story of great displays of love and then received firsthand experience of love in action. When a tornado struck a family’s home, the first people there, even before the police, were church members who helped sift through the rubble for keepsakes and important papers. When a church member has surgery, a couple in our church sits with the family in the waiting room. When someone loses a family member, church member or not, our church provides a meal at our facility at no cost to the family and one of our members sits at their house during the funeral to prevent robberies. When a retired minister from another church in our community passed away from cancer, our church adopted his family and provided for their bills, meals, and necessities. Read more

Viewpoint: Can the Islamic Faith Tolerate Criticism?

The violent response to an anti-Muslim movie has cast the subject of religious tolerance into the limelight. Is Islam a religion that can tolerate criticism? Can Muslims bear up gracefully when their religion is insulted? As I wrote last week, when it comes to Islam as practiced and understood in much of the Middle East, the short answer to these questions appears to be "no." Read more
The article's author does not take into consideration how fundamentalist Muslims view their secularized or Westernized brethren. He appears to be unacquianted with the eighteenth century Wahhabist movement's persecution of Muslims who did not share its beliefs, in particular those whose practices its adherents viewed as innovations and impurities in Islam. Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia and has adherents around the world. The Salafists in Egypt are Wahhabists. The Sunni Muslim persecution of  Shiite Muslims has its origins in the Wabbahist revival.

Shedding Lethargy

Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee.
What it takes to move people from complacency to follow Christ.

Imagine you're a pastor in Africa in the mid-1990s. It's the height of the AIDS pandemic and the adult population is dying off. What would you do?

Every day it seems there are more orphans in your community. Surely your church would rise up to this humanitarian crisis. You would have done something as millions died, as families disintegrated, as the coffin-making business boomed.

Wouldn't you?

When I visited Uganda during the worst of the AIDS crisis, it wasn't seen as a problem that required extraordinary action.

Yes, some people were taking in orphans. Everyone knew a terrible illness was spreading. But the response was hardly sufficient.

"During that time, all we preached was judgment," says Pastor Joseph Senyonga, of Kasangombe, Uganda. The disease was viewed as a well-deserved consequence of immoral behavior. "There was little talk of love or compassion."

Attendance at Joseph's church dwindled as people in the community died. Yet, he didn't know what to do.

"As pastors, we were worried and scared," Joseph recalls. Read more

New course to boost rural evangelism

The Arthur Rank Centre has developed a new training course to help churches in the countryside share the Christian faith.

The course has been put together in recognition of the difficulty some churches have with the "concept and practice" of evangelism.

The ARC said rural churches may struggle with evangelism because they do not understand what it is or because they have a "fear" of speaking out about the Christian faith. Read more

New Resources for Rural Churches from the Arthur Rank Center

The Jesus Conspiracy

Judas hangs himself
It’s been six years since National Geographic revealed, amid much fanfare and discussion, the existence of a heretofore-unknown document that seemed to retell the New Testament narrative from the point of view of Judas Iscariot. That experience should have been a cautionary tale about the intersection of Biblical archaeology and media sensationalism: The first wave of coverage suggested that the document painted Judas as a misunderstood hero who was “only obeying his master’s wishes when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss,” but the evidence soon mounted that this sensationalistic claim relied on dubious translation decisions, and that the Judas in the fragmentary gospel might well actually be the embodiment of a Gnostic “king of demons” rather than Jesus’s most loyal friend.

It’s possible that a similar reassessment may be in store for this month’s entry in the “lost gospel” genre, a fragment of a fourth-century transcription of a late-second century Gnostic text that contains a line in which Jesus seems to refer to Mary Magdalene as his wife. Indeed, the document may ultimately prove to be an outright forgery or fraud, as some scholars are already suggesting. But from the point of view of Christian faith and the quest for the Jesus of history, it actually doesn’t matter all that much either way. Even if this scrap of text has been authentically identified and interpreted, it still tells us much more about the religious preoccupations of our own era, and particularly the very American desire to refashion Jesus of Nazareth in our own image rather than letting go of him altogether, than it does about the Jesus who actually lived and preached in Palestine in the early decades A.D. Read more

Read also:
Doubts about Jesus’ wife papyrus

Books: Equipping people to be everyday evangelists

Everyday Church, Tim Chester & Steve Timmins.

Tim Chester begins this book with a startling and real story of the change of the place of church in our society. He talks about his grandmother who lived all her life in the same house. When she was young the life of the surrounding community revolved around the church. Church concerts, teas and outings were the working-class alternatives to the pub. There were 100 in the congregation, 50 in the Sunday school and 20 in the choir. Fast-forward 90 years, and his grandmother is still playing the piano for the Sunday service, because there is no-one else. There are only 12 in the congregation, none of whom are under 50. The church is now seen as irrelevant to the community.

This introduces the theme of the book, that Christians live in a post-Christian culture, and that changing what we do in church will not attract those in our community, rather what we need to do is meet people in the context of their everyday lives. Read more

Inefficient ministry

Perpetual Motion - Norman Rockwell

Inefficiency has to be part of our church life existence!

Part of surviving in a busy world is to eliminate inefficiency. The more efficient we become the more we can get done. This makes so much sense.

And so we streamline our meetings, our relationships, our times together so that we can make the most of time. After all we mustn’t squander our precious times together.

The problem with eliminating inefficiency is that inefficiency enables relationships to develop in deep ways. Friends just ‘hang’ together – spending time in the same space with each other with no particular agenda. And this permits the relationships to chart their own course and give experiences that build for the future. Read more

Monday, September 24, 2012

Out of the Horse's Mouth: Myths about Christianity

Are Christianity and science opposed to each other? Is religion just a myth? Does modern scholarship actually debunk the Bible? On this edition of White Horse Inn, Mike Horton talks with Jeffrey Burton Russell, professor of history at University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Exposing Myths about Christianity: A Guide to Answering 145 Viral Lies and Legends.   Hear audio

ACNA News: Archbishop Robert Duncan to visit, speak at Asbury Theological Seminary

Robert Wm. Duncan, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America and Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, will visit the Kentucky campus of Asbury Theological Seminary on Sept. 25. Duncan will speak in chapel and participate in lunch and a talk-back session with students, faculty and administration immediately following chapel.

The Anglican Church in North America unites approximately 100,000 Anglicans in almost 1,000 congregations across the United States and Canada into one Church. Asbury Seminary’s President, Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, said, “We are honored to host Archbishop Duncan on our Kentucky campus. He is an extraordinary Church leader, and his devotion to mission and church planting inspires us.” Read more

Read also:
US CANA Bishop Reports Suffering and Killing of Christians in Nigeria
Lutheran and Anglican Representatives Hold Second Ecumenical Meeting
Is Archbishop Duncan recruiting for the ordained ministry in the ACNA students from an Arminian Wesleyan seminary? What kind of commitment will they have, if any, to the Reformed Anglican formularies--the Thirty-Nine Articles,the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the 1661 Ordinal?

Viewpoint: Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Islamist Terror

Sadly, four Anglican bishops in the Middle East have joined to endorse international blasphemy laws.

"In view of the current inflamed situation in several countries in response to the production of a film in the USA which evidently intends to offend our Muslim brothers and sisters by insulting the Prophet Mohammed, and in view of the fact that in recent years similar offensive incidents have occurred in some European countries which evoked massive and violent responses worldwide, we hereby suggest that an international declaration be negotiated that outlaws the intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith," they wrote the United Nations general secretary.

The four bishops serve in or are responsible for churches in Egypt, Cyprus and the Gulf, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. Read more

Pakistani Police Absolve Christian Girl of Blasphemy Charges

A police investigator in Pakistan told a trial court Saturday there was no evidence that a minor Christian girl, believed to be mentally disabled, had desecrated Islam's holy book as her accusers had alleged seeking to expel Christians from the area.

The investigator, Munir Hussain Jaffri, told the court in Islamabad that his final report shows there is no evidence against Rimsha Masih, and it is possible that the cleric of a nearby mosque tampered with evidence by putting pages of the Quran into a bag the girl had been carrying, local media reported.

Police brought Rimsha to the court in a helicopter, and took her back to an undisclosed location after the hearing as her parents have received death threats. Read more

Islamic extremists burn Pakistani church

Islamic extremists have attacked an Anglican Church in Mardan Pakistan and an adjoining school. Some believe the stimulus was the government announced day of protest against an anti-Islam film.

The attack occurred on Sept. 21.

According to a news release from the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), protesters set the church and school on fire and looted the premises, taking everything from computers to chairs and whatever else seemed valuable from the school.

The BPCA said that Muslims desecrated Bibles and religious artefacts, especially many of which were used in ceremonies within the Anglican church. Many were brought out into the public compound of the church and were set on fire.

The BPCA is concerned that similar incidents will reverberate throughout Pakistan. Read more

Read also:
Appeal for prayers after Pakistan church stormed

TAC News: Archbishop John Hepworth quizzed on renovation funds

The former Australian head of the Traditional Anglican Communion has been questioned about his involvement in financial irregularities within the breakaway church.

Archbishop John Hepworth, who was instrumental in seeking his church's reunion with Rome, was forced to resign as the global head of the TAC in April, seven months after he raised allegations that he had been raped by Adelaide priest Ian Dempsey and two others in the 1960s.

Monsignor Dempsey returned to work last week after he was stood aside by the church for 12 months. Police investigations into the matter are ongoing and the South Australian Director of Public Prosecutions, Adam Kimber, is considering whether or not to lay charges. Read more

The Attitude of the Church of England towards the Ministry of Non-episcopal Churches - Church Association Tract 424

At the dawn of the Reformation in England, when tentative efforts were made to introduce the use of services in the Mother tongue, written questions were put to the divines as to how far the various usages and beliefs then current rested on the warranty of Holy Scripture. This is seen in the preliminary enquiries to which written answers were elicited before the drafting of “The Institution of any Christian Man” (A.D. 1537) and “The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition” of 1543. In the former of these the conclusion reached was—“The truth is, that in the New Testament there is no mention made of any degrees or distinctions in orders, but only of deacons or ministers, and of priests or bishops. Nor is there any word spoken of any other ceremony used in the conferring of this sacrament; but only of prayer, and the imposition of the bishop’s hands” (Formularies of Faith, p. 105). The reactionary book of 1543 said, “And of these two orders only, that is to say, priests and deacons, scripture maketh express mention, and how they were conferred of the apostles by prayer and imposition of their hands” (p. 281). The received belief among the “schoolmen;” who were the builders-up of Latin theology, was that the distinction of bishops from presbyters was not one of “Order,” but simply of dignity and function, a distinction which had originated in natural selection and local convenience.

Mr. Dimock, in his valuable pamphlet on “Christian Unity “ (p. 20, note), observes that “in the Church of Rome” (meaning by that phrase, the local church at Rome), “perhaps by reason of its faithful adherence to the truth, the development of Episcopacy was exceptionally tardy,” and he quotes Bp. Lightfoot, who says, “The episcopate, though doubtless it existed in some form or other in Rome, had not yet (it would seem) assumed the same sharp and well-defined monarchical character with which we are confronted in the eastern churches.” Canon Robertson, the historian, when speaking of church government in general, says, “We do not refuse to acknowledge that the organisation of the Church was gradual; we are only concerned to maintain that it was directed by the apostles . . . and that in all essential points it was completed before their departure” (Hist. I.,12). It is only in that sense that the Preface to our Ordinal asserts that “from the apostles’ time there have been these orders of ministers in Christ’s church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” That statement does not allege that these orders are of divine obligation, or that any one of them is essential to the very being, or to the definition of a “church,” though it does, by inference, lay claim at least negatively to apostolic sanction. Read more