Saturday, August 31, 2013

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: August 31, 2013

On this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Ed Stetzer: Why We Multiply Everything, Including Churches and Campuses

Four Reasons Grace Church Started a Second Campus

When we planted Grace Church in a local movie theater two years ago, we assumed that one day we would have a more permanent location. Meeting in a theater is not without challenges, and we assumed we'd eventually have a place for offices and more permanent meeting space, etc.

We also had plans (which are currently in process) of sending out a planter and were excited about planting a new church. We think it is essential to plant and to do it early so that multiplication is part of the life of our church.

However, we did not expect that we would be multiplying our local campus so soon. Keep reading
A new church that does not multiply within the first five years after it was planted is not likely to multiply at all. It is not likely to become a church that plants new churches.

The Role of a Campus Pastor at a Multi-Site Church

This past week I was contacted by a minister that was getting ready to start his new role of Campus Pastor at a multisite church in 2014. He asked me to share with him what my week looked like, my responsibilities and explain the role of the Campus Pastor. Believe it or not, this is something I do often and will be doing more in the future as a resource and partner on my friend Scott Williams’ new website:

Basically, I told this future Campus Pastor that it all comes down to people. I spend my time with, for, helping, serving, leading, training and equipping people. How is this different from a Senior Pastor? I guess I would say it’s the amount of extra time I have for investing in personal relationships. A good portion of a Senior Pastor’s week is locked away in a study preparing a sermon for Sunday. That’s the hard reality of his job. I don’t have that pressure. What I do have is time. Time for people. Keep reading

Measuring Church Health: Are We Understaffed or Overstaffed?

This is one of the more eye-opening metrics we share with churches as we help them take next steps. We determine the ratio of the number of worship service attendees per full-time equivalent staff person. Here’s what our data has confirmed:

As you can see the average ratio of attendance to staff is 86:1. In other words for every 86 people in attendance including adults and kids, there’s typically one full-time employee. Keep reading

Also see
Ministry Grid: Trends in Church Staffing [Video]

King Jesus on Your Campus: Resources for Effective College Ministry

College campuses are abuzz with energy and anticipation this week as another fall semester begins. My life was changed in college; in fact, there's a decent chance yours was, too. The Lord Jesus loves to invade hearts and transform lives during the college years.

Here are a few articles (and one panel discussion) we've published at TGC related to the challenges and joys of campus ministry. Keep reading

The 3 Privileges and 3 Temptations of Leadership

Do you think it’s easier handling success or failure? Thomas Caryle once said, “For every one hundred people who can handle adversity there is only one who can handle prosperity.” I think most people can’t handle being at the top. It changes them. In fact, success destroys some people. There are several legitimate benefits of being in leadership.

Position — you can become more
Power — you can do more
Privilege — you can have more

The extra effort and work you put in you get more position, more power and more privilege. With each one of these comes a very great temptation that can be your downfall as a leader if you misuse it. I Cor. 10:12 “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

We’re going to look at the temptations of leadership, an appropriate thing if you read the newspaper. The three greatest nations of the world often face turmoil because of the abuses of leadership. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Today we’re going to look at the temptations of leadership and the antidote. Keep reading

Also see
Why Some Leaders are Gifted, But Don’t Reach Their Potential

Are All Christians Missionaries?

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.”

Let that sink in for a minute. Quite a bold statement, isn’t it? This is a quote from the famous 19th Century British pastor and theologian, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He pastored one of the first megachurches of the modern era, The Metropolitan Tabernacle, in London. Thousands of people came to faith under his ministry and it’s estimated that he preached to upwards of 10 million people over the course of his life.

So, why would he say that every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor? Seems odd to me. Is he saying that every true follower of Christ should pack up their bags and move to Africa and become a missionary? That’s what a missionary is, right? Keep reading

Social Media for Ministry: 5 Steps Before You Run

I recently read a quote by Seth Godin that got me thinking. He said, “Social media is a marathon, a gradual process in which you build a reputation. The best time to start was a while ago. The second best time to start is today.”

That statement could be said of just about any effort to reach out to our communities, connect our church members or lead for change. Social media obviously isn’t the answer in and of itself, but it happens to be a valuable tool that can support those goals (as well as a lot of others).

The options can be paralyzing, and it’s easy to feel stuck in cycles of online activity we’re not sure how to evaluate or staff. So, I’ve listed a few strategic steps to help you start the marathon with an expectation of finishing well. Keep reading

Also see
Digital footprints & online landmines
Some Things to Remember about Offering and Receiving Criticism on Twitter (Or Elsewhere)
Friend request denied: Most people don't want to connect with colleagues on Facebook

Feds: We won't stop states legalizing pot

Photo: United States Fish and Wildlife Service
Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said yesterday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it - as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.

In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.

The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska could vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.

The policy change embraces what Justice Department officials called a "trust-but-verify" approach between the federal government and states that enact recreational drug use. Keep reading
Commercial hemp was at one time a major cash crop in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It is refined into products like hemp seed foods, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel. However, the federal marijuana laws led to a ban on its cultivation in the state. This change in federal policy may lead to a lifting of this ban, which would be good news for Kentucky farmers.

San Antonio 'Non-Discrimination' Ordinance Would Discriminate Against Christians, Argue Christian Leaders

A group of mostly black and Latino Christian leaders have led efforts this week to oppose San Antonio's proposed "non-discrimination" ordinance. The proposal to add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" would make illegal some actions based upon Christian convictions, they claim.

The proposed non-discrimination policy would include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to a list of categories, including race, color, religion, national origin, sex, veteran status, age and disability, for which discrimination would be prohibited.

There is an exemption in the proposal for religious groups, but it only says that religious groups may limit hiring to co-religionists. Keep reading

Also see
Freedom: Another Casualty of the Gay Agenda

Across US, fears, ambivalence, anguish over Syria

The specter of U.S. military action against Syria and further intervention in the Muslim world is generating troubled and conflicting emotions throughout America.

People cite misgivings about their country's role as "world policeman." They express moral outrage at atrocities in a faraway nation, tempered by dismay about trying to decide who's good and who's bad in a sectarian slaughter. There's a deep ambivalence about how to use American military power for good without committing the United States to another intractable war.

Those sentiments are reflected in a series of interviews conducted Friday by The Associated Press across the country and borne out in recent polling.

In town after town, Americans weary of war after a dozen years of it are expressing unease, concern, fear and often resignation. Keep reading

Also see
'War-weary' Obama Says America Must Hold Syria to Account; US Bishop Warns Against Armed Intervention
Russia's Vladimir Putin challenges US on Syria claim
A US military attack on Syria, no matter how limited, runs a high risk of being perceived on the street in the Muslim world as an attack on the House of Islam. It also runs a similar risk of helping Islamist extremists to seize power in Syria and to establish an Islamist regime in that country, as well as providing grist for the Islamist propaganda mill, which can be exploited to generate support for Islamist extremism. It certainly will not protect the United States from Islamist terrorism. Rather it will increase the likelihood of chemical weapons falling into the hands of Islamist terrorists. Whether it will serve as a deterrent against the future use of chemical weapons is open to debate.  

1 million Syrian refugee children gripped by bloodshed, upheaval

To make the image larger, click on the image
"I am staying," a Baptist pastor in Syria said. "They tell me to travel, to leave, to emigrate, but I tell them I am staying."

He is one of several pastors who serve in Baptist churches throughout Syria caught up in civil war.

"I am staying for the church, to keep the message of Jesus as a light for the lost and frightened," the pastor said. "I am staying because the harvest is plentiful. I am staying to serve the needy." Keep reading

Also see
UK's decision against Syria military action welcomed

ANALYSIS: Egypt, Coptic Christians & turmoil

The news from the banks of the Nile River has left many without hope of ever understanding from the outside what has happened over the past several months in Egypt, especially in recent weeks. We live in a small world deeply affected by other places which operate within different cultures. This is true of Egypt. What is important there differs from here. Let's look at various aspects of this reality.

Egyptians expect a stable strong ruler. However, the decades of dictatorship under Hosni Mubarak made them wary of that style of leadership. After deposing the dictator, Egyptians elected Mohamed Morsi by a slim majority, and he soon began to install men in governing functions whose only qualification was their Muslim Brotherhood party membership. The economy and other vital parts of Egyptian life began to deteriorate in his first year of office.

As an elected president Morsi began to gather to himself unrestricted power. He hurriedly formed a constitutional revision committee devoid of non-Islamist input and drafted a pro-Islamic constitution. He then recanted on his promise to hold elections after the constitution was approved by the Egyptian Parliament's upper house. Freedom of expression was suppressed. Non-governmental organizations monitoring civil liberties and human rights were harassed and employees arrested. Leaders of state-run media and news outlets were replaced. All of this led Egyptians to see that the president was not a stable and strong ruler but just another dictator like his predecessor Mubarak. After one year Morsi's actions, administration and words were destabilizing the country and its economy and threatening the future of Egypt. Keep reading

Fred Nile Calls For Muslims Brotherhood To Be Named A Terrorist Organisation

‘I speak on the Coptic Christian protest and the tragic events occurring in Egypt. I am greatly disturbed and alarmed, as are many Christians, including the Coptic Christians in Sydney, by the rapid turn of events in Egypt and the senseless loss of life overall. I had the opportunity of observing some of these events during my nine­day visit to Egypt, which commenced on 30 June this year. I arrived at the climax of the peaceful revolution by 33 million Egyptians calling for the removal of President Morsi. Coptic Christians are now living under siege all over Egypt as the Muslim Brotherhood unleashes its terror after having launched widespread co­ordinated attacks on Coptic Christians throughout Egypt. For that reason, I believe the Muslim Brotherhood should be declared a terrorist organisation.

‘As a result of these disturbances and violence, more than 80 Coptic churches, monasteries, schools, and Coptic­owned prop­ erties across the country have been destroyed in violent rampages by members of the Muslim Brotherhood since the military crackdown. Hundreds of Copts have been killed and injured. Eleven Coptic Christian institutions have been looted and burned, including an orphanage. Coptic churches dating back as far as the 4th Century have been destroyed. The Copts are not the only target. In an effort to terrorise the entire country, the Muslim Brotherhood has also reportedly killed hundreds of policemen, stormed and attempted to take over police stations, burned blood banks, and damaged hospitals and public buildings, includ­ ing historic museums in Upper Egypt where more than 1,000 ancient Egyptian artefacts were stolen. They even attempted to burn the Library of Alexandria. They are intent on turning Egypt into a rogue State for their own agenda. To read the entire article, click on this link and scroll down to page seven.

See also
Egypt's Interior Ministry says police officer killed in a shooting while on patrol in Sinai

Friday, August 30, 2013

Surprising Bouquets of Grace

Photo: Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog
I was pleasantly surprised recently while on a walk with my 4-year-old daughter. She pointed out a flower, stooped over it to smell it, and then turned back at me to smile. Armed with this cute smile that was framed by her curly hair, she made her request, “Come and smell this one, Daddy.” Being neither willing nor able to refuse her, I complied. And after smelling the flower I have to admit, it smelled surprisingly beautiful. The strange thing is I have walked up and down this street for years but never noticed this flowerbed. My little girl pointed it out and gave me the privilege of enjoying this moment with her.

Do you walk down the same road week after week in your worship gathering or personal devotions? Have you become too familiar with the scenery? Does the bouquet of grace fade into the background of life? As Christians we want to be regularly taken by the beauty and sweetness of the gospel flower.

This happened to me twice in the last few days. On both occasions it was while singing some of the most common hymns that we sing as Christians. Keep reading

3 Signs Your Church is Too Busy

Reaching people for Christ is our main mission in ministry and most churches use a variety of methods to attract a diverse audience. That makes sense and yet if we’re not careful, this can lead to a scattered approach that drains your people and church finances. Then once a program or event is in-place, it becomes part of the routine regardless of whether it attracts people or produces the desired results.

From a lack of defining goals, to not measuring effectiveness, or just plain not wanting to rock the boat, we can quickly fall into the trap of mistaking abundant activity for actual fruit.

Here are a few ways to tell if your church is too busy – and how to combat the problem. Keep reading
A good book that outlines principles for helping to make your church more streamlined and focused on disciple-making is Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger's Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples. The church with which I am sojourning employs these principles in its ministry. I definitely recommend the book.

Out of Ur: Don’t Laugh; Your Church Might Be Miley Cyrus.

She’s nothing if not pragmatic. And so are we

Yes, it was bad.

Judging by the reactions to the former child star’s very adult performance at the VMA awards, we had a cultural moment there. We again realized that not everything that can be done should be done.

She did things that clearly made many in the audience uncomfortable, though many seemed to enjoy it very much. It was over the line, but it was also something else— it was effective. Her routine did just what it was meant to do. It got people talking (about little else, in fact); it grabbed ratings, headlines and publicity. It was… creative. And it worked.

But at what cost? Is publicity worth that type of debasement? Her management surely must think so. Was it worth the further coarsening of our culture and the message it sent to the many children and teens watching? “She’s an adult now,” people say. “She can do what she wants to do,” as her song and her actions so adamantly proclaimed. But again, not everything that can be done should be done, just because “it works.”

I’ve read a lot of reactions from Christians in the past few days. Some laughing, some judging and derisive, some expressing sorrow for a young woman so seemingly off track. But most missing that we’re increasingly seeing the same “whatever works” dynamic play out in the local church.  Keep reading

How the Seeker-Sensitive, Consumer Church Is Failing a Generation

We don’t need gimmicks; we need the gospel.

The millennial generation's much-talked-about departure from church might lead those of us over 30 to conclude that they have little interest in Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, their spiritual coming of age has coincided with many Protestant pastors relying on a consumer business model to grow and sustain their churches. This template for doing church and the millennials' hunger for authenticity has caused an ideological collision.

Seeker-sensitive services originally promised to woo post-moderns back into the fold. Out the stained glass window went the somewhat formal 45-minute exegetical sermon, replaced by a shorter, story-based talk to address the "felt needs" of the congregants while reinforcing the premise that following Jesus would dramatically improve their quality of life.

Contemporary worship had already found its way into the mainstream, but their new model nudged the church further toward a rock-concert feel. Finally, programs proliferated, with programs for nearly every demographic, from Mothers of Preschoolers to Red Glove Motorcycle Riders.

None of these changes were pernicious or even poorly intentioned. In the case of my previous church, choosing the seeker model began innocently. The staff endeavored to create a wide on-ramp for folks who might ordinarily bypass the sanctuary in favor of Starbucks. (As an incentive, we provided fair-trade coffee and bagels each week.) Trained not to assume that everyone was on the same page politically or spiritually, we sought to have friendly, nuanced conversations with visitors.

Being aware of those who come through the doors of any organization is a good thing. I have walked out of many services without a single person engaging with me. However, many churches gradually, and perhaps unwittingly, transitioned from being appropriately sensitive to the needs of their congregants to becoming–if you'll permit some pop-psychologizing–co-dependent with them. Keep reading

Bishop Iker and Church of the Good Shepherd Win in Texas

Today the Texas Supreme Court handed down decisions in the two ECUSA cases pending before it: No. 11-0265, Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, et al. v. The Episcopal Church, et al.; and No. 11-0332, Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas. In the first case, the Court sided with Bishop Iker's Diocese by a closely split vote of 5-4, reversed the summary judgment of Circuit Judge John Chupp which had awarded all of the property and assets of Bishop Iker's Diocese to the Episcopal Church and its rump diocese, and sent the case back to the trial court. The majority held that the trial court had improperly failed to apply a "neutral principles of law" analysis to the issues. The four dissenters did not disagree with that result, but instead believed that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear a direct appeal from the trial court's judgment in the case. Keep reading

Call for Prayer: Marked for Destruction: Christian Targets Marked with a Black X

As the threat to the vulnerable Christian minorities in Syria and Egypt reaches cataclysmic proportions, Barnabas Fund is calling Christians around the world to pray, act and give in a special show of support for their suffering brothers and sisters.

This Sunday (1 September), we are urging churches and individuals to hold a time of prayer for Syria and Egypt’s Christians. This could take place as part of a church service, in a small group or during a quiet time alone. We have prepared a poster Download and a PowerPoint slide Download to aid communal prayers.

Barnabas Fund is using a black X for this campaign as a symbol of solidarity with Christians who are being targeted because of their faith. Islamists have daubed this sign on the walls of Christian homes and businesses in Egypt to identify them for attack, while Muslim properties have been painted with a red X for protection.  Keep reading

Also see
An Epistle in Prayer for the Forgotten Church in Syria

In speech to House of Lords, Archbishop of Canterbury warns against military strike on Syria

But there is a further point, talking to a very senior Christian leader in the region yesterday, he said “intervention from abroad will declare open season on the Christian communities”. They have already been devastated, 2 million Christians in Iraq 12 years ago, less than half a million today. These are churches that don’t just go back to St Paul but, in the case of Damascus and Antioch, predate him. They will surely suffer terribly (as they already are) if action goes ahead. And that consequence has to be weighed against the consequences of inaction. In civil wars, those who are internal to the civil conflict fight for their lives, necessarily. Those who are external have a responsibility, if they get involved at all, to fight for the outcome, and that outcome must be one which improves the chances of long term peace and reconciliation. If we take action that diminishes the chance of peace and reconciliation, when inevitably a political solution has to be found, whether it’s near term or in the long term future, then we will have contributed to more killing and this war will be deeply unjust.  Keep reading

Updated: Washington Post: Military Has Doubts About Syria Strike

The U.S. military is hesitant to embrace President Barack Obama's plan to launch a missile strike on Syria, current and former officers revealed in interviews.

Military officers ranging from captains to four-star generals said they are uneasy about a potential Syrian missile strike because it could have unintended consequences, such as turning attention away from their exit from Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported.

"I can't believe the president is even considering it," a young Army officer, who is wrapping up a yearlong tour overseas, told the Post under the condition of anonymity. "We have been fighting the last 10 years a counterinsurgency war. Syria has modern weaponry. We would have to retrain for a conventional war."

Some military officials worry about retaliation from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which supports Syrian President Bashar Assad, while others fear ripple effects that could include Iran following through on its threat to attack Israel, retaliation from radical groups, or the U.S. being charged with war crimes.

"The application of force rarely produces and, in fact, maybe never produces the outcome we seek," Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with ABC News earlier this month.

Active-duty military leaders said they feel strongly that a strike in Syria would serve no purpose for the U.S. Keep reading

Also see
New: Scud missiles moving: Syrian soldiers take Scud missiles out of strike zone
New: Syria Could Become Another Iraq on Religious Freedom, Says Retired Army Lt. Col.
New: As Western Powers Debate Military Action, Syria Christians Face Uncertain Future
UK Syria vote leaves US asking 'what's so special?'
U.S. ready to go it alone on Syria after stinging British defeat
UK vote a blow to plans for a military strike on Syria
U.S. Prepares for Solo Strike On Syria After Britain Balks
U.S.: 'High confidence' that Syria chemical attack killed 1,429
Kerry Outlines Evidence of Chemical Attack by Syria
Insight - For U.N. inspectors in Syria, samples hold answers
France's Hollande backs US on Syria action
The US needs to consider the long range consequences of even limited military strikes against Syria to the stability of the region. Of particular concern should be how these strikes would affect the region's Christian communities and advance the cause of Islamist extremists in the region.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thom Rainer: Five Different Ways Leaders Respond to Anonymous Critical Letters

Every leader will get one or more at some point in his or her leadership: the harsh, critical letter that is unsigned and unidentifiable. I recently asked via Twitter how leaders respond when they get the anonymous letter. The responses were fascinating.

First, it was evident that many leaders have received such letters. Second, most leaders and leadership groups view writers of these letters with a fairly negative view. They do not understand why they do not have the courage to criticize with clear identity, regardless of the consequences the writer may think he or she will face.

Overall we heard five common themes on how the leaders respond to anonymous letters. They are listed in order of frequency of response.... Keep reading

Wallace Henley: Millennium Fading, Tribulation Rising: The Fading Millennium (Pt. 1)

A millennial season is fading for the church and western civilization, and a period of tribulation is rising.

I'm not saying The Millennium has come and is now going, or that The Tribulation is upon us. Rather, I use these terms in their broader symbolic sense, in which a "millennial season" signifies a period of favor for the church, and the advance of its message and ministries, while a tribulation-time symbolizes the withdrawal of that favor and the ensuing consequences.

The Christian Church in the West has enjoyed a millennial era for centuries, but now that sun is setting. Darkness increasingly drapes the bright sky under which the western church has flourished.

The Church of Jesus Christ in the West must now learn how to function in tribulation. Christian communities in America, Canada, and Europe must note the example of churches in Syria, Egypt, and other countries where tribulation is deadly rather than mere social and cultural ostracism.

Even better, the contemporary western church must note the model of the first century church in the Roman Empire, which we will examine in an upcoming column in this series.

Events in that early Roman era and current actions perhaps mark the dawn and sunset, respectively, of the millennial season for Western Christianity. Keep reading

Also see
Michael J. Ovey: From Moral Majority to Evil Disbelievers: Coming Clean about Christian Atheism

Most Americans Want the Bible in Public Schools

"The State of the Bible 2013" survey conducted by Barna Group on behalf of the American Bible Society has found that two-thirds of Americans think it is important for public schools to include in their curriculum values based on the Bible.

Not only do 66 percent of U.S. adults think teaching the Bible in schools is important, but a whopping 75 percent are of the opinion that teaching about the Bible in public schools could help reinforce moral principles — a viewpoint shared by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. In general, 77 percent of those surveyed believe the morals and values of the nation are on a decline, and that a decline in Biblical literacy was one of the main causes (32 percent) in addition to the media's negative influence (29 percent) and "corruption from corporate greed" (25 percent).

There were reservations about endorsing a Bible-based curriculum, however, as nearly half (45 percent) of those who support the move were concerned that such a curriculum could end up favoring one religion over another. Another 32 percent were concerned of such a move possibly causing offense; 11 percent worried about children losing time from learning other subjects; and 9 percent found no valid reason to teach the Bible in schools. Keep reading

Miley Cyrus at VMA: Can We Stop Pretending to Be Shocked?

The look on the faces of Will Smith and his family said it all. Watching the performance of Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

Yet for anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention to what has been happening in our culture, there was sadly nothing remotely shocking about it. Keep reading

Also see
Miley Cyrus 'Twerking,' What Would Hannah Montana Say?
Forget Miley, What About the "Man" on Stage With Her?

Archbishop urges Christians to ‘repent’ over ‘wicked’ attitude to homosexuality

The Most Rev Justin Welby told an audience of traditional born-again Christians that they must “repent” over the way gay and lesbian people have been treated in the past and said most young people viewed Christians as no better than racists on the issue.

Archbishop Welby, who as a young priest once opposed allowing gay couples to adopt children, said the church now had to face up to what amounted to one of the most rapid changes in public attitudes ever.

While insisting that he did not regret voting against same-sex marriage in the House of Lords, he admitted that his own mind was not yet “clear” on the wider issues which he was continuing to think about. Keep reading

Also see
Archbishop of Canterbury: My gay marriage view can be seen as 'akin to racism'
Young people think opposition to gay marriage is wicked, says archbishop

Christian Woman in Pakistan Beaten, Sentenced to Death 'For Being Thirsty'

Asia Bibi Was Sentenced to Death Under Pakistan's Blasphemy Law After Trying to Drink Water With Muslim Co-Workers

A Christian woman in Pakistan has claimed that she was handed a death sentence simply because she was "thirsty." The mother of five, who is currently in prison on death row, was sentenced to death by hanging in 2009 after being accused of blasphemy – a charge she adamantly denies. She has now released her memoir, "Blasphemy," from prison where she tells her shocking side of the story.

Asia Bibi's case has gained widespread international media attention since she was arrested four years ago on blasphemy charges while working as a fruit-picker in the northeastern area of Pakistan. Bibi co-wrote Blasphemy with French television journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet. The book details her struggles as a Christian in a predominately Muslim land, including her arrest and sentencing to death. Although the book was released in France in 2011, media outlets have recently released excerpts from the book to keep the memory of Bibi's hardship alive, and a new wave of media attention has been drawn to Bibi's case. Keep reading

Also see
'Sentenced to death for being thirsty'

US to Release Evidence of Syria Chemical Weapons Attacks as UN Rejects UK Proposal for Action

The United States is preparing to release proof that Syrian President al-Assad's regime carried out chemical attacks on Damascus last week, while the United Nations have in-effect rejected a proposal for a resolution tabled by the United Kingdom requesting military action in Syria to protect civilians; sending back the proposal for further consultation.

The Obama administration's Office of the Director of National Intelligence has reportedly compiled a timeline of evidence that proves Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the chemical attack on Aug. 21 outside of Damascus, which reportedly killed hundreds of civilians. The evidence could be released as early as Thursday and serves as one of the last necessary steps many feel is needed before President Obama can order a military strike on Syria.

A senior official from the Obama administration told CBS over the weekend that the evidence that caused the U.S. to accuse the Assad regime of the chemical attack is based on "the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured," and witness accounts. Additionally, a U.S. official added that there is "very little doubt" that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime on Aug. 21. Keep reading

Also see
Syria Military Intervention: What Military Options Are Open for US and Its Allies?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Anglicans Ablaze Special Midweek Edition: August 28, 2013

On this special midweek edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Sinclair Ferguson: 4 Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty

It was years ago now, but I still remember the discussion. I was making my way out of our church building some time after the morning service had ended, and was surprised to find a small group of people still engaged in vigorous conversation. One of them turned and said to me, “Can Christians eat black pudding?”

To the uninitiated in the mysteries of Scottish haute cuisine, it should perhaps be said that black pudding is not haggis! It is a sausage made of blood and suet, sometimes with flour or meal.

It seems a trivial question. Why the vigorous debate? Because, of course, of the Old Testament’s regulations about eating blood (Lev. 17:10ff). Keep reading

Alister McGrath: Focus on Anglican Identity - Anglicanism and Protestantism

David Virtue reposted this article on his website, noting that it is as relevant today as it was in 2007 when the article was originally published in The Church of Ireland Gazette. I am posting the article for the same reason. Due to the influence of liberalism and Anglo-Catholicism Anglicans in the United States are to a large extent ignorant of the Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical heritage and character of the Anglican Church. 

In a remarkable article in the London-based Church Times (13th April), Canon Gregory Cameron, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, publicly distanced Anglicanism from Protestantism. Canon Cameron spoke of an Anglican "dialogue with the Protestant traditions," making it clear that he regarded Anglicanism as lying beyond the pale of Protestantism. Many in Ireland will regard his views with puzzlement, and perhaps not a little concern. So will many historians.

We need to appreciate that the sixteenth-century Reformation was a complex phenomenon. There was no single Protestant ‘template’. Rather, a variety of reforming movements emerged during the sixteenth century, whose specific forms were shaped by local politics and personalities, as much as by the broader commitment to a recognizably Protestant agenda. The forms of Protestantism which emerged in the great imperial cities (such as Strasbourg), territories (such as Saxony) and nations (such as England or Sweden) had their own distinct characteristics. Some, for example, retained the episcopacy and a fixed liturgy; others discarded one or both. Yet each represented a local implementation of the Protestant agenda.

Historians generally consider that one of the most remarkable and influential forms of Protestantism emerged in England, and has come to be known as ‘Anglicanism’. Reformers in the reign of Henry VIII did not refer to themselves as ‘Protestants’, partly because this was seen to have foreign associations at the time. (Henry VIII, it will be recalled, disliked foreigners having influence over English affairs.) Yet from the reign of Edward VI onwards, English Church leaders began to use this term to refer to themselves, and see themselves as being connected with the great reforming movements and individuals on the continent of Europe. Keep reading

Carl Trueman: What the Hijabi Witnessed (and What She Didn't)

I have had the pleasure on a couple of occasions of sitting next to a girl wearing a hijab. Typically, this has occurred in departure lounges of airports or on the platforms of railway stations. Never has it happened in a place of worship at the time of a service. Never, that is, until recently.

On the last Friday in June, I happened to be in Cambridge with my youngest son and decided to expose him to one of my alma mater's true delights: choral evensong at King's Chapel. We dutifully queued in the pouring rain (for me, those blue remembered hills are definitely English and cloud covered), and, when the chapel finally opened, we took our places at the far end of the aisle. It was then that I realized that the young girl sitting to my left was wearing a hijab. It was an interesting, if unlikely, juxtaposition: the middle aged Orthodox Presbyterian and the twenty-something Moslem waiting for the Anglican liturgy to begin. I assume that - rather like me - she was probably in the chapel for aesthetic reasons rather than religious ones. King's choir is famous; the preaching in the chapel was, at least in my student days, at best, infamous. Sermons then were the ultimate Schleiermacherian nightmare: rambling reflections on the religious self-consciousness by the irremediably irreverent. It may have improved in recent decades but, not being remotely postmillennial, I have no confidence that that is the case.

Once the choir had entered and taken its place, the service began. For the next hour, the sardonic Presbyterian and the attractive hijabi sat, stood and on occasion knelt together as the congregation worked its way through the Book of Common Prayer's liturgy for evensong, modified to take into account the appropriate Feast Day (as a good Presbyterian, I have erased the detail of whose day from my memory). The singing, both corporate and choral, was beautiful; and the austere elegance of Cranmer's liturgy seemed to find its perfect acoustic context in the perpendicular poise of the late Gothic Chapel. Then, at the end, we filed out in silence, having, at the level of mere aesthetics, heard one of the great male choirs singing words of deep and passionate piety. Outside, the rain continued and my son and I left the young hijabi chatting on her phone as we headed off to Don Pasquale's, a favourite haunt of my student days. Indeed, it was the place where one took a girl on a date if one wished to appear sophisticated while still operating on a budget. (For any would-be sophisticated but impoverished Cambridge bachelors out there, I can confirm that it is still there, and still a prudent balance of atmosphere and good value for money). Keep reading

The Wars Over Christian Beards

Church leaders have almost always faced off over pastors' shaving habits.

You're more likely to see a beard in the pulpit today than at any time since the 1800s. But beards—especially among clergy—were once serious, symbolic matters. They separated East from West during the Great Schism, priests from laity during the Middle Ages, and Protestants from Catholics during the Reformation. Some church leaders required them; others banned them. To medieval theologians, they represented both holiness and sin. But historian Giles Constable says that rules on beards sound more forceful than they really were. Clergy (especially powerful ones) were likely to follow fashion in their day, too. Keep reading

Michael Horton: How To Be Polemical Without Being a Downright Nasty Person

po-lem-ic (pelem'ik) n-1 an argument, dispute, etc., especially a written one, that supports one opinion or body of ideas in opposition to another (The New Scholastic Dictionary of American English).

"Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

Fondly remembered as "The Lion of Princeton," B. B. Warfield held the chair of Didactic and Polemic Theology at the Seminary from 1887 until his death in 1921. Many felt the blow of his pen, not a few expressed gratitude for his erudite candor, but nearly everyone recognized Warfield as perhaps the most formidable defender of the faith in the Presbyterian Church at the turn of the century. Having sharpened his wits in the forge of German universities, and consecrating his eminent gifts to God, here was a scholar who refused to surrender to the war between the intellect and the heart (or doctrine and life). Not in spite of, but because of, his constant devotion to Reformation theology, Warfield was an early proponent of civil rights for blacks as well as a defender of orthodox Calvinism who warned against reducing one's studies to dry, merely objective, academic data that might well turn a heart into stone. Keep reading

Russell Moore: What Martin Luther King Can Teach Us About Preaching

This week the nation marks fifty years since the 1963 March on Washington. The most famous moment of that historic event is, of course, the speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., now one of the most iconic speeches in American history. The refrain of that speech is one that is so embedded in the American memory that most people know the speech simply as the “I have a dream” speech. There are some things about that speech that I think could inform Christian preaching today.

The primary lesson we need to learn from this speech is the way it spoke to the conscience. Part of the gravity of this speech came from its location, before the monument to the Great Emancipator. Part of the gravity came from the surroundings, a mighty throng of men and women and children gathered in the nation’s capital to ask for the cashing of that metaphorical “check” of equality guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence. But a great deal of the power behind this speech came from the way that King was pressing a claim onto consciences. Keep reading

Gerald Bray: Preaching Christ in an age of Religious Pluralism

Church Society has published online the audio of Gerald Bray’s talk at the 2005 Church Society Conference.

The topic: Preaching Christ in an age of Religious Pluralism (Acts 17 v16).

It’s a 38MB / 80 minute mp3 file (direct link).
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website

Jesus on Every Page: 7 Reasons to Study Your Old Testament

On the basis of my less-than-scientific survey of Christians' Bible reading habits, I would estimate that the Old Testament forms less than 10 percent of most Christians' Bible reading. Remove the Psalms and Proverbs, and we're probably down to less than 5 percent.

"So what?" many say.

"No great loss, is there?" others shrug.

Let me suggest seven reasons to stop shrugging and start studying the other 60 percent of our Bibles.

1. The Old Testament reveals Christ.

The Old Testament doesn't just "point forward" to Christ; it reveals him. It isn't merely a series of signposts to Christ; his revealing shadow falls on every page, exciting faith and love in believing hearts.

But why linger in the Old Testament shadows when we have New Testament sunlight?

Have you never found it easier to read and be refreshed in shade? Have you never admired the unique and wondrous beauty of the dawn?

Consider the unparalleled revelation of Christ's substitutionary atonement in Isaiah 53. And although the Gospels describe Christ's outer life, the messianic psalms disclose his mysterious inner life, the unfathomably deep emotional and mental struggles of his earthly suffering. Keep reading

Free Download: “Jeremiah” from the Gospel Transformation Bible

To help readers preview the Gospel Transformation Bible, we’ve made the complete book of Jeremiah available for free download. Respected Old Testament scholar Graeme Goldsworthy prepared the introduction and study notes for this important book. Keep reading

Jiffy Pop For Your Groups

Encouraging your members to launch their own groups spreads their gifts and yours

Once your group members have discovered their ministry “SHAPE”, why not set a goal one week that no one leaves your meeting without a plan to serve over the next three months. Maybe it would be in a group project. Maybe some individuals have a plan to join a ministry at your church or to launch something new.

Another idea to consider for yourself and to propose to your group is “Jiffy Pop” groups. The idea here is that one or more of you agree to take a break from your current group to lead new people through a six-week Bible study. This way members aren’t leaving your group forever. They’ll just take six weeks off to help another group get launched. During that time, they can raise up one or two members of that group to take over when they go back to your group. Keep reading

Game Changer: Pastors Blame Kids' Sports for Attendance Dips

Would embracing organized youth sports help?

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans told Gallup they rarely or never attended religious services in 2012. And many pastors blame the secularization of Sundays, led by a commonly perceived culprit: children's sports.

That's what Steve McMullin found after the Acadia Divinity College professor interviewed church leaders and members at shrinking congregations. His study, published in the Review of Religious Research, showed that pastors most often identified "competing Sunday activities"—led by youth athletic events—as the primary reason for declining worship attendance.

The sentiment echoes the 2008 Faith Communities Today survey. On its list of "obstacles making it difficult for people to regularly participate in [a] congregation," pastors cited driving distance, conflicts with work schedules, and fear of crime (among other reasons).

But children's school and sports activities proved to be "by far the greatest obstacle." This held true for rural, suburban, and urban churches alike. Keep reading

Andrew Symes: Reaching the lost in England

Paul said to the Athenians “I can see that you are very religious” (Acts 17:22). There are parts of the world where people are aware of the spiritual realm, where talk about God and prayer and salvation does not cause embarrassment, where organized communal worship is a regular feature of people’s lives. If it’s Islam then Gospel work can be hard, but in places with other religious systems evangelism can reap abundant rewards and churches grow rapidly. Of course in such places there are also massive problems – untrained pastors, syncretistic practices and often serious poverty and deprivation – but the people are “very religious”. Where faith in Jesus has taken root, communities of poor uneducated people are relying on Him for their daily needs, experiencing daily answers to prayer and sharing faith as well as bread with those around them.

There are other parts of the world where the language and practice of religion are not part of the culture in the same way. Like the Stoics and Epicureans of Acts 17, people are not open, and evangelism is difficult. While in parts of Latin America or Nigeria a street preacher can regularly lead 20 people to make a decision for Christ in half an hour, in France or Britain even Christians will hurry past a street preacher, embarrassed, and the brave speaker may be more likely to get arrested than make a convert. In Port Elizabeth, South Africa, I saw new churches being planted almost every week, sometimes in the same street as, and of different style to or even in opposition to, existing churches, and all would be growing. In Northampton, England, many churches struggle to maintain numbers, and it’s a cause for celebration if a new church is planted by any denomination in a year.

In secularized Britain, church-planting and church growth has been a particular challenge in poorer urban areas and newly built housing estates. People in such areas are “not religious”, and increasingly so. Churches work hard to earn a hearing through community service and pastoral care, but at some point there has to be talk about God, which people find incomprehensible. Its not that ordinary people don’t believe in God (hence the “new atheism” is not the real enemy as it’s rarely found outside intellectual circles) – rather people see no relevance or interest for their lives. That means that evangelism and church planting is difficult, long term work. Also public discourse on issues which take for granted a religious framework, such as marriage, and spiritual basis for social service (such as the Girl Guides, here and here ), is increasingly fraught with misunderstanding, potential for causing offence, and inevitable marginalization of religion out of the public square. Keep reading

Jay Dennis: Pornography and Pastors

Pastor, there are two truths I want to share: (1) Many of your fellow pastors are personally struggling with pornography and; (2) pastors must address the issue of pornography among the people they lead.

Several questions emerge based on these two truths. What if you are personally struggling with pornography? Who can you tell? Who can you trust? What if they break your confidence? What should you do? How should you broach the subject of pornography in the pulpit? I mean, it is awkward and could be controversial. Besides, are that many Christian men (and women) really struggling? Should the whole church have to endure the uncomfortable discussion on pornography in your preaching because a few are struggling?

The reality is, it is not just a couple of men in your church who are battling this temptation. Pornography has invaded the homes of the members of your church. Someone you know, someone you love, someone you are close to, is struggling at some level. Let me first address a pastor’s personal struggle and then how to approach the subject in church.

Pastor, if you are struggling, let me suggest that you do the following.... Read more

Dan Delzell: Try Asking God to Overwhelm Your Issue

So you have an issue do you? Welcome to the human race. What's that? You say you have several issues? OK. Try this. Ask your Creator to overwhelm your issue. And then just watch what happens.

Perhaps your issue is anger, or jealousy, or lust. Or maybe your issue is the biggest one people tend to encounter, namely, unbelief. Just know this - it's not too big for God to handle. He can rush in like a flood and overpower that thing in your life. He really can. Remember, He is God. He can do anything, anytime, anywhere. So what have you got to worry about?

Unfortunately, we tend to assume that our besetting issue is going to remain the dominant feature of our life. That's a lie. It doesn't have to stay that way. Things change. People change. God changes things everyday all over the world. Have you ever been in on one of God's amazing changes? If not, you likely are clueless to what you have been missing. Keep reading

How young people are sucked in by raunch culture

Sex sells: the Pussycat Dolls
We can help young people challenge the porn industry's influence in everyday media.

Why should girls feel ashamed for posting sexy photos online, asked year 11 student Olympia Nelson on these pages last week. It is a question I have heard girls ask when talking about feeling shame in relation to sexuality and boys being treated like studs by their peers.

During my research, I have found that young people may be digitally adept but they are largely uncritical of the raunch culture they consume and emulate. Girls and their male peers take for granted a world where ''hotness and sexiness'' is central to their image. Raunch culture dominates much of the media that they prefer. It's not ''Why am I sharing highly intimate shots of myself and how may this affect my life?'', but ''This is the norm - why shouldn't I?''

Children as young as 12 are taking and distributing sexy images because it seems acceptable. And not just ''rude'' photos of kissing and boobs but graphic photos of girls in outfits and poses that amount to pornography. Keep reading

Also see
Raising Children in a Sex-Saturated Society [Videos]

Trevin Wax: I Weep for Miley

Picking up a sub sandwich today, I saw a news report on CNN about Miley Cyrus’ performance at last night’s VMA’s. I was shocked, then sickened, then saddened.

For the rest of the day, I wondered:

What kind of people are we?

What kind of culture have we created?

What do we want our children to be?

No more wondering. Tonight, I weep. Keep reading

Also see
Has Miley gone too far? Cyrus strips to nude latex bra and hotpants to perform lewd dance with Robin Thicke at MTV VMAs
Miley Cyrus MTV VMA performance draws criticism and complaints; Robin Thicke's mom says she can never 'unsee it'
Jesus Loves Miley Cyrus

Judge Dismisses Suit by Episcopal Church Against Breakaway SC Diocese Over Bishop Trademark

A U.S. District Judge in South Carolina has dismissed a trademark lawsuit leveled against a diocese that broke away from The Episcopal Church over theological differences.

Judge C. Weston Houck of Charleston decided last Thursday that The Episcopal Church in South Carolina's suit claiming rightful ownership of the title of bishop was to be "denied without prejudice."

The suit, filed by Rev. Charles vonRosenberg against Rev. Mark Lawrence, was over which of the two men could rightfully use the title of bishop of the South Carolina Diocese. Keep reading

Also see
Trademark violation lawsuit against Mark Lawrence dismissed

10 years after Gene Robinson, African Anglicans to take stock

Concerned that the crisis in the worldwide Anglican Communion is deepening, conservative Anglican primates in Africa are organizing a second conference to discuss ways of returning the church to what they describe as biblical faithfulness.

The primates held the first conference in Jerusalem in 2008, five years after openly gay New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson was consecrated in the Episcopal Church. The action threw the communion into disarray.

At the Jerusalem meeting, the primates called for the creation of an Anglican province in North America to rival the Episcopal Church. Five years later, the primates say the new Anglican province, known as the Anglican Church in North America, is thriving.

Now, the archbishop of Nigeria and archbishops in East Africa have organized the second Global Anglican Future Conference at which they hope to accelerate the process that began in Jerusalem. The so-called GAFCON II meeting will take place Oct. 21-26 in Nairobi. Keep reading
"...The clergy trust one another to preach according to the Bible...” Have the Africans conducted a thorough investigation into the true state of the Anglican Church in North America? From what I have been able to determine, they have not. If they had, they might not be so unqualified in their recognition and support of the ACNA. 

Hawaii Churches Divided on Gay Marriage as State Could Be 14th to Recognize Such Unions

Hawaii began struggling with the issue of same-sex marriage in the early '90s, when three same-sex couples sued for marriage licenses in the 1991 case Baehr v. Miike. Following a Hawaii constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to outlaw gay marriage, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled against the couples in 1999. In February 2011, however, the current governor, Niel Abercrombie, signed a new law allowing civil unions, which came into effect on January 1, 2012.

A QMark Research poll reignited the issue early this month. It found that 54 percent of Hawaiians support same-sex marriage, while only 31% oppose it. In January, an Anzalone Liszt Grove Research poll found opposition 6 percent higher at 37 percent. Keep reading

Gay Marriage Legalized by New Mexico Judge Who Claims It Is 'Discrimination' Not to

A New Mexico State District Judge has in effect legalized same-sex marriage Monday, justifying his ruling by claiming that the state's constitution prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Alan Malott ordered that the Bernalillo County clerk should begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples today.

The American Civil Liberties Union, who earlier this month had asked the state to specifically rule to recognize a dying woman's marriage to her partner, were surprised by the scope of Malott's decision and his explicit recognition of same-sex marriage, calling it "monumental." Keep reading

Also see
6 New Mexico Counties Buck State Law, Issue Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples