Monday, June 30, 2014

Why Church Guests Return


There are a variety of reasons why a person visits a specific church. For many people, it is because someone personally invited them. Others may end up at a particular church because of the location. Still others may choose a place of worship based on the size of the congregation or certain ministries that are offered. Once inside the doors however, what is it that keeps them coming back for more? Keep reading

Bivocational Perspective: Redeeming the Curse of Labor


It was my junior year of college, and I was broke. Realizing that next semester’s $3,500 bill was looming, I went down to a local paint store and asked the manager how a youngster like myself could learn how to paint houses for a living. He gave me about 30 minutes of his time and soon filled my Honda hatchback full of brand-new gear. I spent that day and the next nailing signs on telephone poles around Seattle to try to get work.

Within two hours I got my first call, and by the end of the summer I had put away $10,000 for the next school year.

At the time, I was so thankful that I would be able to finish my college degree, but I had no idea how important this trade would be to God’s call on my life.

I’m now 46 and haven’t had to paint a house for four years. With a bad back, I’m quite content to make a part-time living from speaking and training other leaders around the globe, but I will never lament the 20-some years God blessed me with a trade that would sustain my full-time calling to ministry.

Wait. Read that last statement again. I want to make sure you caught this incarnational key: my worldly vocation was directly connected with my calling as a vocational minister. I received my call to ministry from God when I was a sophomore in college, and I remember it like it was … today. I woke up and knew that every waking moment would now be about helping the lost, leery and least find faith in Jesus. I just knew it! I changed my major to religion and psychology and upon graduation went right into seminary. From there it was 10 years with Youth for Christ, then I made the transition into our first church plant. And although each phase of full-time ministry changed drastically, one common gift held it all together. My job as a painter. I unknowingly experienced the power of seeing my secular life as inextricably linked to my sacred calling.

As my family grew, expenses grew and the stakes got higher, but I never varied from my morning and evening prayers that went something like this: “Lord, thanks for how you always provide, so send me work or send me money. I’ll respond to whatever way you choose to bless me.”

And it worked. Keep reading

How to Find a Good Commentary


Those of us who preach and teach are no strangers to using commentaries. As the years go by we typically find a few favorites that we adopt as our go-to resources. But sometimes we need something more in-depth, or that has better suggestions for application, or that provides outlines or illustrations for sermons. In these cases we can always ask a friend or colleague, but there are also several resources online and in print that can quickly help us home in on the best commentary for our current need. Let’s look at some of the best of these resources. Keep reading

Get a Basic Overview of the Bible


Virtually every Christian at some point has resolved to read the entire Bible. If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, it’s natural not to want to miss a word of it. If God delivered a letter to your mailbox, I am sure you would read it. But the Bible is a pretty big letter, and its sheer bulk is somewhat daunting, even to the person with the best of intentions. Therefore, few Christians actually keep a resolution to read through the Bible.

At seminars, I often ask for a show of hands indicating how many people have read the entire Bible. Rarely do even 50 percent of the people answer “yes.” I ask, “How many of you have read the book of Genesis?” Almost everyone raises his hand. Then I say, “Keep your hand up if you’ve also read Exodus.” Only a few hands are lowered. “Leviticus?” That’s when hands start dropping quickly. With Numbers it’s even worse. Keep reading

Pastor’s Library: The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield


Little will stir the soul of a pastor and challenge him to press forward in ministry more than a good biography. Biographies often aim to champion the character and legacy of a person. The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield (here forward Evangelistic Zeal), does much more. This book from Reformation Trust is part of the A Long Line of Godly Men Profile series. Series Editor, Dr. Steven J. Lawson, both a professor and pastor, expertly weds biography, theological formation, and pastoral exhortation into a single package.

As a biography, Evangelistic Zeal provides a comprehensive look at George Whitefield’s life and itinerant preaching ministry. Whitefield is widely considered the one who blew to flame the match that Jonathan Edwards set to the Great Awakening. His fervor for the gospel and his enduring fortitude for travel permitted Whitefield to preach 18,000 sermons, over the course of a thirty-four year ministry, crossing to America seven times for preaching tours. Keep reading
George Whitfield was an Anglican, an evangelical Protestant, and a Calvinist. His evangelical Protestantism and Calvinism were consistent with the Protestant Reformed faith of the reformed Church of England and authentic historic Anglicanism unlike John Wesley's particular brand of Arminianism. Both Whitfield and Wesley were ordained ministers of the Church of England. Whitfield was loyal to the Church of England throughout his life and ministry. Wesley, on the other hand, broke with the Church of England and formed his own denomination. More recent scholarship shows that Wesley's break with the Church of England was premeditated. 

New ACNA Archbishop Ranges over Issues Facing the Church


VOL: First of all congratulations on becoming the second Archbishop of the ACNA. Were you surprised in being elected?

ABP. BEACH: Yes and no. Yes, because the College of Bishops are full of some of the most godliest men I have ever known, and for them to believe I was the one whom the Lord has anointed for this task is quite humbling. On the other hand, AB Duncan asked us back in January to go back home and prepare as if we were the one who was elected since there isn’t much transition time. During these past months, the Spirit has been stirring my soul so I knew something was up – just wasn’t quite sure what.

VOL: Can you tell us anything about the process, or is the process as secretive as the cardinals in Rome electing a pope? Were there a number of ballots? Were you elected on the first ballot?

ABP. BEACH: No, I can’t. Sorry. We made a vow together before the Lord that we would be silent about our time in the Conclave. keep reading
The secrecy surrounding the election of a new ACNA archbishop plays into the ACNA's characteristic lack of openness and transparency and is itself a manifestation of this proclivity. ACNA stakeholders and the general public deserve to know how Archbishop Foley Beach was selected, the compromises made, the deals that were struck. The College of Bishops's adoption of this process for choosing a new archbishop does not bode well for the ACNA. The secrecy of the process places an unnecessary emphasis upon the office of archbishop which by a strict interpretation of the ACNA constitution is essentially that of a presiding bishop. Former Archbishop Duncan with the collusion of the College of Bishops, the Provincial Council, and the Governance Task Force has taken steps to make the office more powerful that the ACNA constitution envisions it. These steps have at times if they have not been unconstitutional or uncanonical, have been irregular.

The 'Islamic Caliphate' Is Now A Reality


A then-ISIS militant summarily executes a prisoner. The group publishes images and videos of savage acts to spread fear and promote its images among jihadis.

The Arab Spring has become the Jihadi Spring as Libya devolved into lawlessness, Egypt reverted to military dictatorship, and the uprising in Syria turned into a sectarian civil war that's engulfing Iraq.

On Sunday, the extremist ISIS militants who are leading the Sunni insurgency in Iraq announced the creation of the Islamic State (IS), or "Caliphate," with its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "the Caliph" and "leader for Muslims everywhere."

IS is well-funded (largely from extortion and selling oil) and has become attractive for extremists across the globe who want to join global jihad. The group is also savage, crucifying rival Syrian rebels and chopping off the hands of thieves. Keep reading

See also
ISIS Risks Everything to Declare a Caliphate
Alarm, ridicule for declaration of Islamic state
Al-Qaida breakaway formally declares Islamic State
The ISIS, now a self-proclaimed Caliphate, has in effect declared war on all Muslims who do not accept the claim that its leader is successor to the prophet Muhammad. With this proclamation the most savage of jihadist organizations has not only created a self-style Islamic State but also shown itself to be a new sect in Islam, donning the mantle of representing pure Islam like the followers of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century. Wahhab, however, never proclaimed himself caliph.
Photo: youtube

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: June 28, 2014


In this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

What Is the Real State of the Anglican Church in North America?


By Robin G. Jordan

In his Address on the State of the Church Archbishop Duncan made this statement:
“The 2013 congregational reports reveal a healthy Church.  Most of our people are at worship most Sundays. Of a total number of 3097 baptisms, thirty-one per cent, 969, are of those above the age of 16, converts not transfers. There were 3197 conversions reported. There were 6011 new people reported to have been brought into our congregations through evangelism and outreach. There were 2079 confirmations, 1312 receptions and 293 reaffirmations of Faith. (These figures are for the 763 congregations reporting.) Tremendous thanks go to Fr. Andrew Gross, Director of Communications, for his efforts at giving us a congregational reporting system that is finally adequate to our needs, and that most congregations are employing.”
The figures Duncan gave sound good, but are they? What criteria were used to determine what constitutes a “conversion”? Was this determination left to the congregations reporting conversions?  Only 969 individuals over the age of 16 were baptized. Of the 3197 conversions reported, what happened to the remaining 2228?

6011 new people are reported to be attending the worship services of a ACNA congregation. This is presumably what is meant by the phrase, “…have been brought into our congregations through evangelism and outreach.” The phrase is misleading. Only 3391 people are reported to have become official communicants of the ACNA by confirmation or reception. We cannot, however, assume that the entire number of confirmations represents newcomers who were baptized and joined an ACNA congregation. A number of the confirmands were in all likelihood already baptized members of an ACNA congregation. The figures are conflicting and do not provide an accurate picture of ACNA growth. A more detailed breakdown is warranted as well as a description of the criteria used for determining conversions.

I imagine that ACNA members, clergy and lay, welcomed these figures because they wanted to hear positive things about the denomination in which they are stakeholders. However, if they are really serious about their investment in the ACNA, they will want more information. As stakeholders in the ACNA, they should be provided with more information.

To put the number of newcomers to ACNA churches in the proper perspective, the population of the United States at the beginning of this year was 318,892,103. The population of Canada was 34,834,841. 6011 newcomers is a very tiny drop not in a bucket of water but in an ocean of water. I leave to the reader to calculate what percentage of the combined population of these two countries this figure represents.

763 out of 983 congregations that Duncan claims were active at the end of 2013 submitted annual congregational reports. 220 did not. If 6011 is divided between 763 congregations, each church had roughly 7.8 newcomers.

On another website I was reading an ACNA member’s description of the kind of growth that her church has been experiencing. I do not know how representative of ACNA churches her church is. However, what her church is experiencing may be significant.

She reports that her church is primarily attracting three groups of people. The first group of people have been attended an Anglican or Episcopal church but transferred their membership to her church because it is closer to where they live.  

The second group of people consists of two subgroups. The folks in this group have also been attending a church. Those in the first subgroup have changed churches because they are attracted to a more traditional or liturgical church. Some may fit the description of what the late Robert E. Webber labeled “evangelicals on the Canterbury trail.” The folks in this subgroup are attracted to the worship of a traditional or liturgical church, to its ambience, more than they are to its doctrine.

The folks in the second subgroup, on the other hand, were dissatisfied with their old church for a variety of reasons and had gone looking for a new church. What made her church attractive to the folks in this subgroup was that it was different from their old church. They are basically church consumers and her church is a new product.

The third group of people came from a church background. They had attended a church at some point in their life or even irregularly continued to attend a church. Some were baptized or even confirmed, depending upon their church background.

The smallest group in her church had no church background and had never previously attended a church.

In its make-up her church fit the make-up of the Episcopal church that I helped to plant in the 1980s. If her church is indeed representative of most ACNA churches, then the growth of the ACNA can be expected to plateau after ten years. I base this conclusion upon my experience with that church. The church grew initially, having been planted in a part of the county that was growing. It grew with the area. It did not grow because it had an evangelistic culture. Members of the congregation did tell friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues about the church and invite them to church services and functions. But once they exhausted their relationship networks, they did not try to establish new relationships in order to reach more people.

The church offered a mother’s day out program and operated a preschool. While these programs attracted some new families, the lion’s share of the families that these programs served were already a part of the church or were otherwise churched.

The church was symptomatic of a wider problem in the Episcopal Church, which is true today as it was then. Very few churches had an intentional strategy of evangelism and outreach, much less an evangelistic culture. The denomination relied upon these churches, the appeal of its worship, its reputation as a “bridge church,” and births to maintain its numbers. The liberalization of the Episcopal Church and the normalization of homosexuality in that denomination was a serious blow to the denomination. It not only lost members, congregations, and even dioceses but also its new reputation as a liberal, gay-friendly church failed to offset the losses. Liberals and gays are also not known for their large families and church attendance. The Episcopal Church’s liberal, gay-friendly reputation has proven to be a liability to date.

Churches that are really growing in North America are churches that teach the plain sense of the Bible. They are also churches that practice what they teach. The unreformed Catholic doctrine that is countenanced by the ACNA fundamental declarations and stated or implied in the ACNA canons, ordinal, trial eucharistic rites, catechism, and proposed rites for admission of catechumens, baptism, and confirmation is based on a particular tradition and consensus in the interpretation of the Scriptures. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrine that these formularies (not be confused with the classic Anglican formularies) permit ACNA clergy to teach has the same basis. It does not fit into the category of the plain sense of Scripture. (It also does not fit into the category of the plain sense of the classic Anglican formularies and is identified with liberalism as a major challenge to the authority of the Scriptures and the classic Anglican formularies in the twenty-first century Anglican Church in the Fellowship of Confessing Anglican’s 2008 document, The Way, the Truth, and the Life: Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future.) As in the case of liberalism, it does not fully accept the canon of the Bible as “a functional rule for faith and life.”

Like the Episcopal Church’s liberal, gay-friendly reputation, the unreformed Catholic doctrine of its formularies may prove a liability to the ACNA over time. Denominations that share this doctrine are not known for their spectacular growth in North America. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, is only growing in those parts of the United States and Canada where the Roman Catholic population which continues to attend Mass and send their children to parochial schools is growing. Elsewhere in North America the Roman Catholic Church is consolidating and closing parishes and parochial schools.

The ACNA catechism that is a linchpin of the ACNA mission strategy is the longest of the revised Anglican catechism that I have examined. (I am being generous in describing the catechism as “Anglican.” A more apt description would be “independent Catholic.”) The ACNA plans to establish a process in that denomination similar to the Roman Catholic Church’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). In the Roman Catholic Church RCIA is used to gradually introduce interested adults and older children to the Roman Catholic faith and way of life. RCIA has not proven entirely effective in indoctrinating participants in the process in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Likewise it has not proven effective in helping the Roman Catholic Church keep its members. The Roman Catholic Church has been haemorrhaging members, losing a substantial number to evangelical churches.

In 2006 and 2007 I was involved in a Southern Baptist church plant that was attracting lapsed Roman Catholics. A major reason they gave for attending an evangelical church was the lack of clear Bible teaching in the Roman Catholic Church. (This church was also attracting Episcopalians who had left the Episcopal Church over developments in that denomination. The lack of clear Bible teaching in the Episcopal Church was also a major reason they gave for attending an evangelical church.)

The unreformed Catholic doctrine of the ACNA formularies and the canonical requirement that all clergy must conform in their teaching to that doctrine is off-putting to evangelical pastors who are attracted to traditional or liturgical worship. This is also true of a number of practices associated with this doctrine. These factors are going to significantly reduce the ability of the ACNA to attract these pastors particular those who are committed to evangelism and church planting. What the ACNA is doing is making the same mistake that the Episcopal Church made in nineteenth century when it failed to heed the Muhlenberg Memorial.

One of the results of the debate over the place of Reformed theology in the Southern Baptist Convention is the recognition that Arminian and Reformed pastors and churches in the SBC are in agreement on The Baptist Faith and Message, a faith statement adopted by the SBC. The Baptist Faith and Message is so worded that Anglicans who are Reformed or otherwise conservative Protestant in their theological orientation would not disagree with most of what it upholds. The exception would be the statement on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The ACNA needs such a faith statement—one on which conservative Protestant Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics can genuinely agree. The doctrine of the rites and services of its Prayer Book, including its Ordinal, needs to be based on this statement and where necessary, separate rites need to be developed for the use of conservative Protestant Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics. I do not believe that the ACNA has a bright future unless a genuine attempt is made to make the denomination more inclusive of the whole range of conservative opinion.

In his address Archbishop Duncan also made this claim: “Our DNA all across this Church has been coded for church-planting.” But has it? Duncan does not identify what churches are doing the church planting and where they are planting new churches. While Duncan would have those he is addressing believe that church-planting is denomination-wide, only some ACNA churches are replicating themselves. Others are not. He should not have made this claim unless all ACNA churches are involved in church planting networks and are planting new churches. This includes new plants themselves. If some churches are carrying the burden of launching new congregations, then the situation in the ACNA is not much different than it was in the Episcopal Church in the last century, up to and during the Decade of Evangelism.

In the Anglican Diocese of the South, Archbishop-Elect Foley Beach’s diocese, no new churches have been planted in the Kentucky deanery since the diocese was formed and Beach elected its bishop. The Kentucky deanery has exactly three churches, all of them formed from breakaway groups that left the Episcopal Church over the election of a practicing homosexual as an Episcopal bishop. Beach’s diocese covers ten states and consists of fifty churches. Beach’s mission strategy to date is to entrust the planting of new churches to the deaneries in the diocese. This was the mission strategy of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. It is not an effective strategy. It would produce only one new church. The election of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 would kill this church, then a mission of the diocese. Attendance of its church services plummeted and the mission was eventually closed.

The ACNA, if it is to spread the gospel and fulfill the Great Commission, needs more flexible and innovative approaches to evangelism and church-planting than the traditional geographic-based diocese and deanery. It needs to hang onto its existing affinity networks and form new ones. Affinity networks have proven highly effective in these two areas.

Planting new churches in the shadow of existing ones is an accepted church planting strategy. It can motivate existing churches to become more outward-looking and evangelistic. It also makes the spread of the gospel and the fulfillment of the Great Commission the number one priority, which is what they should be.

The entire vineyard, we are apt to forget, belongs to the Lord and no part of the vineyard is the turf, or property, of a particular denomination, judicatory, or congregation. The Lord sends workers into whatever part of the vineyard He wills. Those working in that part of the vineyard have no right to complain if fresh workers are sent to that part of the vineyard.
For those who may be curious as to what percentage of the combined populations of the United States and Canada is the number of new people that Archbishop Duncan described as being brought into ACNA congregations through evangelism and outreach, my calculations show it to be .0016993337054471032888801205938103 percent. It is a minute fraction of their combined populations.

The Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church, and the Continuing Anglican Churches historically have not enjoyed large population bases. This figure indicates that the ACNA, like these churches, is not only a small denomination but also has a small population base.

The Episcopal Church primarily has a small population base, not because it is a liberal, gay-friendly denomination (albeit its liberalism and normalization of homosexuality in the denomination have not helped it) but because it focused its ministry of a particular segment of the population—Americans who were affluent and educated, who were professionals—doctors, college professors, lawyers, school teachers, etc., who lived in the commercial centers of the nation, and who were drawn to the ambience of its worship. While Baptist, Congregationalist, Methodist, and Presbyterian missionaries went west with the pioneers, traveling on horseback, in oxen-drawn wagons, or on foot, Episcopal missionaries waited for the advent of the steamboat and the railroad.

The Episcopal Church developed elitist proclivities at an early stage and has passed on these proclivities to its offspring, the Continuing Anglican Churches and the ACNA, (By "elitist: I mean that Episcopal Church is for the most part a church for elites.) The same proclivities are a factor in why the population base of these churches is small.

If the ACNA is to become a truly missionary denomination, reaching a wide segment of the North America population, its leaders need to examine how their decisions are limiting the ACNA’s population base and to take appropriate corrective action.

Jesus Never Told Us To Fill Church Buildings


Going to church has never been the point.

Jesus didn’t tell us to “work really hard to gather people into large crowds to fill up your church buildings. Then I’ll know that you love me.” But when you look at how most pastors (including me) spend much of our time and energy, sometimes it feels like we think that.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of Facebook posts and blogs longing for the “good old days” when churches were full on Sunday mornings, evenings and during the week. This expression is especially prevalent on sites where Small Church pastors tend to congregate.

I understand that longing. After all, I’ve experienced many a Sunday with depressingly small church attendance. But I have three big problems with the “good old days” mindset. Keep reading

See also
How Churches Became Cruise Ships - Part 1
How Churches Became Cruise Ships- Part 2

Sweet Hour of Prayer


While ministering as a missionary in Argentina, I had the privilege of facilitating prayer vigils in the province of Buenos Aires.

These prayer vigils would sometimes last all night. But it's not necessary to pray all night to have a powerful prayer vigil. You can start with a one- or two-hour vigil in your Bible study, church or even better, in union with another local church.

Like no other book in the Bible, Acts provides a dynamic picture of what God can accomplish through His praying church. Keep reading

Confessing Our Sins Together


In a chapter on confession and communion in Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that “he who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. . . . But it is the grace of the gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner you are, to the God who loves you.”

I’m sure that most of us agree with Bonhoeffer that the confession of sin, grounded in the gospel, is a vital component of our personal spirituality. But we get a little uncomfortable when it comes to corporate dimensions of confession. It’s not too threatening to engage in silent confession when the liturgy calls us to do so in the weekend service, but when it comes to times of confession in small-group settings, we often settle for less-indicting statements like “I’m struggling with . . .” Even then, we have the gnawing sense that our vague, toothless non-confessions aren’t fulfilling the exhortation of James 5:16, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” Keep reading

Pastoral Succession – Rainer on Leadership #061 [Podcast]


Pastoral succession happens in every church. But most churches either have no plan for pastoral succession or a pretty one one if they do. However, one church that I know of has done a great job. That church is Southeast Christian Church in Louisville. Recently, Kyle Idleman was on campus at LifeWay so Jonathan and I sat down with him to discuss pastoral succession, his books, and pastoral ministry. Keep reading

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 26:11 — 24.0MB)

Sustainable Preaching


It was 2 p.m., Thursday afternoon, and Michael, a young church planter, was procrastinating. Michael thought his church would survive but suspected that he might not. He was tired. He had stayed up late Wednesday answering emails and risen early to disciple a group of men. After a cup of coffee with a repeat visitor, he spent the rest of his morning preparing for a lunch focusing on the church's finances. It had gone long and left him drained and tardy with the bulletin data. He had a text and a (dull) title but no outline, no quotations, no points to ponder. He sighed; his worship planner had long abandoned the hope of coordinating his messages with music, prayers, and testimonies. How did he come to this, week after week? His calendar had a block for "sermon planning" every Monday, 8 to 11 a.m. But he slept in a bit on Mondays, then scanned the news, sports, and social media, until he had about an hour to read from the latest "important book." He recalled a moment from his final semester in seminary. He had asked for an extension on a paper, but his prof had declined: "You think you deserve this because you have several deadlines, but in the ministry Sunday mornings arrive with alarming regularity, and your people will not offer an extension, no matter what happened the previous week."

Worst of all, Michael felt dry. Like most seminary grads, he had once been eager to preach. The preachers he followed in college had driven him to seminary. And he had passions—his burden to reach the city, his zeal to engage the culture, and much more. But within two years, he had covered his passions, used his best stories, and re-purposed most of his exegetical notes from seminary. He wondered, Am I delaying sermon preparation because I have nothing much to say?

Most preaching pastors feel dry from time to time. But if the desert stretches on and on, if Michael truly thinks he has run out of things to say, he has a choice. First, he can move to a ministry that doesn't require weekly preaching. Second, he may become a borrower, depending on the studies of others, however he finds them. Third, he can start repeating himself. Week after week, from text after text, his people will hear that they must be holy, faithful, and committed to engage people, study the Bible, support the church, and love their neighbors. If Michael avoids the ultimate crime of propagating falsehood, he commits the penultimate crime of making Christianity seem boring. Or Michael could chart a new path, to sustainable preaching. Keep reading

Dare to Be a Daniel?


“Dare to be a Daniel.” “Slay the Goliath in your life.” “Conquer your own Canaanites.”

As a Christian, have you heard a phrase like this before?

Christians with a basic knowledge of the Bible know it is full of stories of people who have done great things in the service of God. They’ve heard of these men and women of renown in sermons, in Sunday school, in vacation Bible schools. But perhaps you have wondered: is there nothing more to the Bible than these tales of bravery and heroism? Isn’t there more to the Bible than mighty heroes carrying out mighty works for God? What about God saving sinners? Is there hope for the very un-heroic among us? Keep reading

The Importance of Multi-Generational Worship, Part 1


“One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” – Psalm 145:4

The Congregation

It was the LORD who first identified his covenant people, Israel as “קָהַל,” “qahal,” or “the assembled.” Learning from covenant statements throughout the first five books of the Bible, we see the importance of communication between generations in the family and in the community (Deut. 6:4-6). This “assembled” group of elect people was to serve as the nation from which God would manifest his presence in the world. The pinnacle of this manifestation was in the coming of God in “Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1).

As we continue into what we might call the “Church Age,” we see this theme continued. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), the Greek word, “ἐκκλησία,” “ecclesia,” was given as the Greek rendering of the Hebrew “קָהַל,” or “assembly.” Does that word sound familiar? It should, as “ἐκκλησία” is also the Greek word that most English versions have translated as, “the church.” It means the same thing, an “assembly,” a “gathering,” or a “congregation” of people. We therefore see a continuation of the one people of God in the Old Testament, the Hebrews, fulfilled in the one people of God in the New Testament, the Church (Eph. 2:18-22). But what does this have to do with our worship? Keep reading

3 Disciplines Every Youth Leader Needs to Succeed


Over the last 25 years of full time ministry (as a church planter, youth guy and para-church director) I have seen all sorts of youth leaders. Some are like falling stars, a bright streak of light who are brilliant but short lived. Others are like sun rises, slow at first but brilliant with time.

The youth leaders with longevity and impact are not always the flashiest but most have at least 3 common disciplines they consistently exemplify.... Keep reading

See also
3 Challenges Every Youth Leader Must Take

Seven Factors Hindering Evangelism in Churches


There is no shortage of pundits who are providing to us the gloomy and dismal state of American congregations, and, indeed, of many churches around the world. For sure, I am among the guilty. While personal evangelism is ultimately a heart issue between Christians and God, we do see ways this disobedience to the Great Commission is manifesting itself.

Despite all the negative information you have heard from me, I remain an obnoxious optimist about local congregations. One of the reasons I am so optimistic is that many of us are no longer ignoring the problems. One of the early steps to church revitalization is a willingness to “look in the mirror.”

With that in mind, in this article I try to help church leaders look in the mirror if their churches are not evangelistic. And here are seven factors that leaders may see when they get that honest perspective. Keep reading

MUST READ: Frank Lyons appointed vicar-general of Western Anglicans


The Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons has been appointed vicar-general of the Diocese of Western Anglicans. At the close of the College of Bishops conclave held 21-23 June 2014 at Saint Vincent College the Most Rev. Robert Duncan appointed Bishop Lyons to temporarily oversee the diocese.

The election of a successor to the Rt. Rev. William Thompson, the first bishop of the diocese, was to have taken place at the conclave. However, the time and discussions devoted to the election of a new primate prevented Western Anglicans from being taken up on the agenda. Bishop Lyons, who will continue to serve as Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh, stated he believed it was a wise decision to defer consideration as the bishops were exhausted at the close of their conclave. “We were all fried,” he noted. Keep reading
This is a significant development in the Anglican Church in North America and points to major weakness of what the canons commend to established dioceses as the preferred method of selecting a bishop and which the canons establish as the norm for selecting a bishop for a new diocese. We have yet to hear if the proposed revision of the canons requiring the approval of the College of Bishops for a diocese to elect a bishop was ratified. If it was ratified, the College of Bishops can put on indefinite hold a diocese's election of a bishop and appoint a vicar-general for the diocese, forcing the diocese to accept this particular method of selecting a bishop and the bishop that College of Bishops selects for the diocese. It represents a serious erosion of diocesan autonomy in the ACNA and lays the groundwork for those promoting a rigid uniformity in the denomination in doctrine and worship as well as governance to further their agenda.

Freier elected next Primate


The Archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, has been elected the next Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia.

The primatial electors met at St Peter's Cathedral in Adelaide on Saturday 28th of June, a day before the start of the General Synod.

The post of primate is a ceremonial role, without significant constitutional authority. Keep reading

See also
Boy from bush takes Anglican reins

Not a Baby Boomer Phenomenon – Megachurches Draw Twice as Many People Under 45


"As the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964) passes on, megachurches are also dying off." I see statements like that often in the public media, but all the evidence says they're just plain wrong, based on a major research project I did with Scott Thumma. Keep reading

Survey: Domestic violence rarely addressed


A new survey from LifeWay Research found most Protestant senior pastors say they know victims of domestic violence and believe stopping abuse is a pro-life issue. But, according to the study, those pastors seldom address domestic violence from the pulpit -- and less than half have been trained in how to help victims.

Those are among the findings of a new telephone survey of 1,000 senior pastors of Protestant churches from LifeWay Research. The survey was co-sponsored by two Christian nonprofits: Washington, D.C.-based Sojourners and Maryland-based IMA World Health. Keep reading

See also
The Church and its Response to Domestic and Sexual Violence
The Devastating Issue Pastors Aren't Discussing

No Mass said in Mosul for first time in 1,600 years, says Archbishop


The Chaldean Catholic Church's Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in Kurdish-governed northern Iraq, is reported as saying that for the first time in 1,600 years there was no Mass said in Mosul on Sunday June 15. This is the city taken over days before by ISIS forces.

Reports say the estimated 3,000 or so Christians still there - from about 35,000 in 2003 - all fled ahead of the militias' takeover of control, although some families were reported to have returned. They cited lack of job prospects and shelter once they'd become internally displaced, or refugees in Kurdish Iraq. Keep reading

Friday, June 27, 2014

Nathan A. Finn: History Could Happen Again


Jonathan Edwards wrote a number of books that became famous, even during his own lifetime. One of his lesser-known works was a 1746 book titled An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer, For the Revival and Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth. Edwards wrote the book after learning about a group of Scottish ministers who circulated a “memorial” in 1744 calling for seven years of prayer in anticipation of God’s coming kingdom on earth.

In An Humble Attempt, Edwards argued for all believers to engage in monthly “concerts of prayer” for worldwide revival and the conversion of the unreached peoples of the earth. As a postmillennialist, Edwards believed the salvation of the nations was one of the final signs that the millennium would soon begin. His prayer was that the transatlantic revivals that had occurred off and on for a generation would “go viral” and cover the entire earth.

Though its topic was inspiring, An Humble Attempt was not very influential during Edwards’s lifetime. It did not sell as many copies as The Diary of David Brainerd, did not influence theologians like Freedom of the Will, and did not define authentic spiritual experience like Religious Affections. Nevertheless, some scholars argue that Edwards could be considered the “grandfather” of the modern missions movement among English-speaking evangelicals because of how the Lord used An Humble Attempt in the generation following Edwards’s death. Keep reading

See also
Roger S. Oldham: Pray for one another
While Roger Oldham in the second articles urges Southern Baptist church wholeheartedly and intentionally to pray for other Baptist churches in their own communities, I would also urge all Christian churches to do the same for other Christian churches in their region and throughout the world as well as those in their particular locality. We often become so wrapped up in our private lives and various church activities that we really do not take the time individually, as a small group, and as a church to simply pray. Despite our busyness we really have more time to pray than we realize. Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century French Discalced Carmelite lay brother whose spiritual wisdom became the basis of the book The Practice of the Presence of God, popular among Protestants and Catholics alike,  prayed while he performed his daily chores. He carried on a conversation with God throughout his waking hours, ceasing from prayer only when he was asleep.

A Christian’s Prayer During Ramadan


Many of us have Muslim friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers we hope to see trust in Jesus. We know they consider Jesus a prophet, but we long to see them believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. As Ramadan approaches, we are provided with a fresh opportunity to pray for them and hopefully engage with them in spiritual conversation. Keep reading

Photo: Murfreesboro Gazette/John A. Gillis

Thom Rainer: Prayer and Healthy Churches


On December 27, 2010, one of my favorite people in the world went to be with the Lord. Mrs. Nell Bruce had anticipated this homecoming almost all of her 90 years. Her relationship with her Lord was close and vibrant because she had conversations with him on an ongoing basis.

Nell Bruce was an incredible woman of prayer.

I am honored and humbled that she chose to intercede in prayer on my behalf for the last sixteen years of her life. I know that my life and ministry were incredibly blessed and protected because she spoke to the Father on my behalf.

“It’s Really That Simple”

Mrs. Nell followed my writings and interest in the health of American churches. One day she pulled me aside and spoke in her usual blunt but loving way. “Brother Thom, I know you have a keen interest how churches can be healthy. Let me tell you straightforward what the answer is. God’s people have to pray more. If we pray, God hears and answers. If we pray, he opens the door for people to hear about Jesus. If we pray, we don’t have the time or the desire to fight and feud.”

She paused for a moment and then spoke again with that twinkle in her eye: “You know it’s really that simple.” Keep reading

Terry Dorsett: How should we treat immigrants?


One of the joys of living in a more urban area is the cultural diversity. Connecticut, where I serve as a church planting catalyst for the North American Mission Board, is particularly diverse. In the state, 12.9 percent of the population is foreign born -- and an additional 2.4 percent was born in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

Connecticut's foreign-born population has grown by 61 percent since 1990, one of the nation's highest growth rates. Though people have moved to Connecticut from all over the world, the three most common nations of origin are Poland, India and Jamaica. What an interesting mix of cultures this gives our state!

How should Christians deal with all these people from other places moving into homes down the street or apartments next door? Leviticus 19:33-34 reminds us that, "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God." That seems pretty clear. Christians are to treat people from other nations as if they are natives to our own land. But are Christians following this Biblical principle? Keep reading

See also
Reach Out to Migrant Workers

Check out Introducing God 2.0


The new and updated version of Introducing God was launched in March.

The first version was widely used around Australia.

In this video, Tony Payne speaks with Introducing God 2.0 author Dominic Steele about what’s different and why this version might be just the thing for use in large groups, small groups, and one-to-one settings. Check it out.

And here are ten ways you could use the course.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website.

Free Ebook – The Master Plan of Evangelism, Revisited


Dr. Robert Coleman set the standard for discipleship and evangelism in the 20th century when he wrote the watershed book The Master Plan of Evangelism over 50 years ago. Since then, Coleman’s work has sold more than 3.5 million copies and has been translated into 100-plus languages. In this new eBook, Bobby Harrington, director of Discipleship.org, joins Coleman to revisit the timeless material of the book.

The two friends and co-authors believe that Jesus’ method incorporated all the divine wisdom, knowledge and insight included in Jesus’ identity. And in this resource, they point out the ways in which Jesus’ method is the perfect method. Throughout Harrington’s interview with Coleman, we get a front-row seat to listen in on the conversation as Harrington talks with him to review and update the eight (now nine) principles of Jesus’ method. What emerges are the wisdom and insights of a man who has spent his life pursuing Jesus and His method and teaching others to do the same. Their exchange will feed readers’ souls. Some 50 years after Coleman wrote the book, he says he believes these timeless and transcultural principles of Jesus’ discipleship method more strongly today, having seen how they have been lived out in the lives of countless disciple makers, churches and his own family. Keep reading

DOWNLOAD VIA EXPONENTIAL

UPDATED: ISIS militants rape Christian mother and daughter who couldn't pay poll tax


The nightmare continues for Christians living in ISIS-controlled areas as militants exact brutal punishment for those who fall short of their strict and violent interpretation of Islam.

The AINA news agency is reporting that an Assyrian mother and daughter were raped by militants in Mosul after saying they did not have the money to pay the jizya poll tax for non-Muslims.

The rapes were carried out in front of the father who was so traumatised that he committed suicide, reports Dr Sallama Al Khafaji, a member of the Iraq High Commission for Human Rights.

ISIS has demanded that all non-Muslims pay the jizya tax and abide by strict Sharia regulations.

"The Christians have told me that they cannot pay this tax and they say 'what am I to do, shall I kill myself?'" Dr Al Khafaji told AINA Keep reading

See also
NEW: Iraq crisis: 'Strong evidence' ISIS committing mass executions, war crimes, Human Rights Watch says
ISIS targets Christians in Mosul
ISIS murders continue, 40 killed last week: 'It was a savage massacre'
Iraq and Isis: What you need to know

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Assembly 2014: Inking the Rubber Stamp


By Robin G. Jordan

Assembly 2014’s Provincial Assembly Delegates Meeting is scheduled for late on Friday afternoon.  The meeting is scheduled to last an hour and a half, from 3:45 PM to 5:15 PM, which the top ACNA leaders deem sufficient time for the meeting to conduct its business—rubber stamping the proposed changes to the ACNA constitution and canons that will be presented to the meeting.

By this time the delegates will be caught up in the excitement of the four-day long Assembly. They also be tired and hungry after a long day and to some degree in a state of mental and physical exhaustion—the kind of exhaustion that usually hits participants two or three days into a long conference or convention. They are not going to be interested in lengthy explanations of the proposals or drawn-out debates of their strengths and weaknesses. Indeed their minds at this stage are not likely to be on the proposals but elsewhere.

The top ACNA leaders who schedule the meeting for this time know this. It is the reason, I suspect, that they scheduled the meeting for this particular spot in the Assembly program. Conditions will be optimal for the ratification of these changes with little or no discussion.

Under these conditions the changes might even be ratified by general consent with the chair asking if there is any objection to the ratification of a particular change, and if there is none, announcing the ratification of that change.

Three days into the Assembly the delegates are likely to be in the frame of mind to go along with this manner of conducting business. Delegates who are opposed to the changes are also less likely to raise objections. They are going to face pressure from their fellow delegates to keep quiet, particularly from those who are ready to take a nap or have a snack before preparing for the banquet later that evening.

If the Provincial Assembly was a real legislative body, its sole focus would be to adopt and amend the constitution, to make canons and regulations, and to perform other functions as provided in the constitution. These functions might include the election of a new Archbishop. It, however, is a “rubber stamp.” The constitutional and canonical changes that the Assembly is meant to ratify are formalities they are expected to legitimate and are done to create the superficial appearance of clergy and lay participation in the governance of the Anglican Church in North America at the denominational level [1].

The Provincial Assembly has no actual power. Its meetings are tied to the meetings of the more powerful denominational organs—the College of Bishops, Archbishop’s Cabinet, Executive Committee, and Provincial Council. It cannot form committees and task forces of its own or conduct inquiries and investigations and consequently cannot make meaningful recommendations to the other denominational organs or to the several dioceses and networks. It is a toy synod. It is the plaything of those who actually run the Anglican Church in North America.

In this regard, the ACNA is like a company with shareholders but whose directors are not accountable to the shareholders’ meeting. The shareholders’ meeting is cosmetic—done for the sake of appearance. The directors need the shareholders’ money to operate the business but they do not want to give the shareholders a say in how they run the company. Disgruntled shareholders are told that they can always sell their shares. In the case of the ACNA, stakeholders are told they can always leave the denomination.

The Scriptures teach that Christians are not only accountable to God but also they are accountable to each other. A denomination, judicatory, or congregation in which leaders have no real accountability is not an organization built upon biblical principles. Bishops without functioning synods of godly clergy and laity to share in the governance of the Church and to serve as a check and a balance to the episcopate are likely to abuse their office as can be seen from the history of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. This is a lesson that the Anglican Church in North America has yet to learn and may learn it to detriment of the entire denomination.

[1] Rubber stamp (politics)

See also
Parsing Archbishop Duncan's Last State of the Church Address
The Anglican Church in North America Unveils Proposed New Rites and Governing Document Changes

Photo: CNS/Bob Roller

Why 17th-Century Poet George Herbert Is Making a Comeback


"I blame George Herbert for me be­coming a Christian," Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, an Anglican priest, wrote recently for The Guardian. Reading Herbert left Threlfall-Holmes
with the sense that I was standing on a cliff, staring out to sea, hearing marvelous tales of lands beyond the horizon and wondering if they were, after all, just fairy tales or whether the intensity with which the tales were told was evidence that the teller had indeed seen a barely imagined kingdom.
I know exactly what she means. I can't claim such a dramatic encounter, but I do blame the great 17th-century English priest and poet for deepening my journey in Christ and leading me into a liturgical church. Keep reading
Among my favorite works of 17th-century Anglican priest and poet George Herbert is A Priest to the Temple, or The Country Parson, published in 1652. It is full of practicable wisdom as useful today as it was in the 17th-century. A more readable version of this work for those unaccustomed to 17th-century spelling can be found here. Herbert also collected proverbial sayings. Two of my favorites are "every path has a puddle" and "I gave a mouse a hole and she became my heir." For the entire collection of proverbs, see English Poems of George Herbert Together with His Collection of Proverbs Entitled Jaculum Prudentium. A number of Herbert's poems have been set to music and used as hymns. Herbert himself played the viola.

Lessons I've Learned from False Teachers


A few months ago I began a short series called “The False Teachers.” I wanted to look back through church history to meet some of the people who have undermined the church at various points. We looked at historical figures like Joseph Smith who founded Mormonism and Ellen G. White who led the Seventh Day Adventists into prominence, and we looked at contemporary figures like Benny Hinn, the prominent faith healer, and T.D. Jakes, who has tampered with the doctrine of the Trinity.

I will soon be starting a new series looking at The Defenders, Christians known for defending the church against a certain theological challenge or a specific false teaching. I will be focusing on modern times and modern issues such as inerrancy and Open Theism. But before I do that, I wanted to reflect on some of what I’ve learned as I’ve spent time considering false teachers and false teaching. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from false teachers. Keep reading

A Different Kind of Millenial Problem


I serve as a pastor at a 7 year-old church plant in downtown Columbia, where we have a different kind of millennial problem – we have too many of them. We are a church that averages 800 on Sundays with over 925 people plugged into LifeGroups.

But the most shocking part? 90% of our church is under 30 years old. We have the exact opposite problem of most churches. When someone who looks older walks through our door, we pray they are solid and that they’ll stick around to pour into the mass of youth we have.

Because we have such a different perspective on the millennial problem in Christianity, I thought it would be helpful to comment on some of the reasons I believe millennials have been drawn to our church.

This is not a “We are awesome and other churches can’t get off the struggle bus” post. We have our weaknesses just like any other church, and any of our pastors will tell you that we are stumbling forward by nothing but the bountiful grace of God.

But in light of that, here are a few things God has shaped our church into that I believe have been instrumental in so many young people finding a home in our church.... Keep reading

See also
Reaching Millennials: 3 Ways to Reach Unbelieving Millennials
You’ll never believe what’s drawing Millennials to church...

Check Your Leadership Language


Talk is cheap, according to some people. For them, how we live out our faith matters more than what we say. While it’s true that we should show Christ’s love in all we do, let’s not diminish the importance of our words in creating a culture of outreach. Keep reading

See also
When Elmer Refuses to Change

How to Receive Criticism: 3 Kinds of Critics You Can Ignore


Part of leadership is handling criticism, so I've tried to share some things to help you along those lines.
To start, I shared a five part series on how to give criticism with integrity:
Now, I am looking at how to receive criticism. The first step is to not take it personally. You can embrace and learn from criticism from both unfriendly and friendly critics.

As strange as it may sound, we actually need criticism. We need criticism, lest we think we are always right. We need criticism, lest we believe we are without fault. We need criticism, lest we separate ourselves from those we serve or who serve us with an honest critique.

But, we don't need criticism from everyone. Simply put, you have to consider the source of the criticism. I do not take all criticism equally and neither should you. I am pretty active in the realm of the "Christian blogosphere," so a number of my examples are from my experience there, but generally speaking, these principles can apply to your office, church, or otherwise. Keep reading

A panoramic summer challenge


Walk just outside your front door, and look slowly in every direction. You're viewing a mission field. God chose it for you when you moved in. It's easy to wave at neighbors as you drive by or say "hi" when you walk the dog, but will you make a plan to shine for Jesus with your actions and words this summer?

See each neighbor with the eyes of God -- as people He loves, who need to know His love -- even the neighbor who doesn't mow his grass. Loving our neighbor is the second part of what we call the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31; Romans 13:9-10). Try this two-step panoramic summer challenge. Keep reading

See also
Home Guru: Planning the Best BBQ in the Neighborhood, the Must Haves

Photo: guildmortage.com

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Assembly 2014 Special Edition: June 25, 2014


In this Assembly 2014 special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Parsing Archbishop Duncan’s Last State of the Church Address


By Robin G. Jordan

Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed.And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene,Tekel, and Parsin.This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end. Tekel,you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”  (Daniel 5:24-27, ESV)

It is not surprising that the tone of ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan's 2014 Address on the State of the Church is positive and upbeat and the address itself focuses upon what Archbishop Duncan believes were major accomplishments during his tenure in office. This is the kind of address that Archbishop Duncan has consistently given during the past five years in his role as head cheerleader of the Anglican Church in North America. It is also the kind of address that is expected from an outgoing Archbishop shortly before he passes on the baton, in this case, pastoral staff to his successor, Archbishop-Elect Foley Beach. In the excitement of the occasion we should not neglect to take a look at what he actually said and did not say in the address.

The address does leave several questions unanswered. What exactly is saying in this statement?
"Overlapping jurisdictions are the heritage of this history, so “geographical density” is an ongoing challenge. But here is the thing. Any Province can have several forms of “ecclesiastical density:” among them relational, missional, and geographical density. Five years down the road, we score higher than most Provinces on two out of three."
Archbishop Duncan is a member of the Governance Task Force and the Executive Committee. As can be seen from the reports on Constitutions and Canons and Governance in the Provincial Meetings Journal the Governance Task Force has produced and the Executive Committee approved a number of proposals that would make significant changes in the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America.

These changes include the elimination of “clusters” as a form of judicatory in the ACNA, leaving only dioceses and networks.  They would tighten the requirements for the recognition of new ACNA judicatories and would require the recommendation of the Executive Committee for the exemption of would-be judicatories from these requirements.

They would empower the Executive Committee to review the annual reports of ACNA judicatories and to “open conversations” with struggling judicatories. This proposal leaves the criteria by which the Executive Committee is to determine the “sustainability” of a judicatory to the Executive Committee, effectively giving the Executive Committee free hand to “open conversations” with judicatories that do not meet its standards—for example, level of financial support to the denomination. One can anticipate that this provision, if it is ratified, will be used to force the merger of judicatories as well as to dissolve judicatories that do not meet Executive Committee standards and reassign their congregations to judicatories that do meet these standards. It can also be used as leverage against judicatories withholding financial support from the denomination over a disagreement with the denomination.

The proposed changes to the canons would add a canon that delineates the process by which mission districts may be created. The proposed new canon would require the recommendation of the Executive Committee and the College of Bishops for the creation of the mission district. It would also require that care should be taken “not to intrude or conflict with the ministries of existing dioceses, congregations or other missions.”

As I have written elsewhere, this last provision would restrict the further creation of non-geographic affinity networks for the purpose of planting new congregations or maintaining particular theological stances (e.g. Reformed) or forms of church governance (e.g. synodical) and could be used to prevent their creation altogether. It also reflects outmoded views of how to extend the mission of congregations and to make their ministries more effective, particularly in the area of planting new congregations.

The proposed changes to the canons would also add a new section to the guidelines for recognition as an ACNA judicatory. This section basically discourages the formation of new judicatories in geographic areas where an ACNA judicatory or judicatory-in-formation already exists. It is designed to encourage groups of churches to join an existing judicatory or judicatory-in-formation rather than form their own diocese or network. It raises a substantial barrier to the continued formation of non-geographic affinity networks within the denomination and, like the other proposals, represents a major step toward the consolidation of ACNA churches into geographic contiguous dioceses and the abolition of non-geographic affinity networks.

Having not been given sufficient time to examine these proposed changes and to consider their ramifications, the delegates to the Provincial Assembly can be expected to ratify them without much debate. Archbishop Duncan will be presiding over the Provincial Assembly and he has shown himself adept at hurrying it through the ratification process, interrupting the Assembly’s deliberations when he is not in the chair and urging its swift action on the proposals before it.

Consolidation of ACNA churches into geographic contiguous dioceses and the dissolution of non-geographic affinity networks will not help the Anglican Church in North America make headway in the area of geographic density. More importantly, it will not help the ACNA to bring the gospel to the unreached, unengaged segments of the population of North America.

A given area may have a high ratio of churches of a particular denomination in proportion to the unchurched population segments of that area and yet be making very little or no impact upon the area’s unchurched. This is observable here in western Kentucky, in the Mid-Western Bible Belt, where a number of denominations (i.e. Baptist, Church of Christ, Methodist) enjoy high geographic density. Most communities have a church affiliated with these denominations. At the same time western Kentucky has a sizable unchurched population. In my particular community it is well over half of the population. Geographic density is no guarantee that the churches of a particular denomination will be effective in reaching and engaging the unchurched population of particular locality.

If the Anglican Church in North America is serious about carrying out the Great Commission, the ACNA needs to give up traditional ideas on how congregations should be aligned within a denomination. What is going to be most effective in spreading the gospel to every people group in North America is networks of congregations that share a common vision and goals. Only outward-looking churches are going to reach and engage the lost and only the fellowship of like-minded churches is going help these congregations to remain outward-looking.

Archbishop Duncan did not need to mention the Anglican Mission in his address. His remarks about the Anglican Mission were a veiled jab at the Anglican Mission and were uncalled for. Two lessons can be learned from what happened to the Anglican Mission. The first is not to place too much authority in the hands of one person and not to adopt a model of ecclesiastic governance which does not recognize that the governance of the Church is the responsibility of the whole Body of Christ, clergy and laity together. The second is not to listen to the ideas of Anglo-Catholics who have an agenda of their own—the “Catholicization” of the doctrine, order, and practice of the Church. The ACNA has yet to learn these two important lessons.

Duncan offers no clues to how large the start-ups that he mentions in his address are in size, which can be used as a measure of viability and can be used to project how effective a new congregation will be in impacting its ministry target group, presuming that it is targeted at a particular group and has not adopted a shot-gun approach. Nor does he report whether these start-ups are they themselves planting new congregations. What he could be describing is small fellowships that meet in homes and other venues and his audience would not be the wiser. (I am not discounting the value of such fellowships but drawing attention to the need for more detail in reporting.)

Duncan also offers no clues as to in which areas of North America and with what segments of the North American population the ACNA is experiencing the most success in its start-ups. He highlighted the formation of a number of Hispanic congregations but he also highlighted these congregations in his last address on the state of the ACNA. Where the ACNA is experiencing its most success in its start-ups and with whom the ACNA is experiencing this success give a better picture of how the ACNA is really doing in planting new congregations. It also gives a better picture of ACNA mission strategies and their effectiveness. This information, coupled with information concerning the size of ACNA start-ups,  would provide ACNA stakeholders with a more accurate picture of how the denomination in which they have invested is doing and where it needs to improve its performance.

Among the unanswered questions in Duncan’s address on the state of the ACNA is what percentage of ACNA congregations is reporting conversions, what type of congregation is reporting conversions (e.g. congregations that previously existed in some form in the Episcopal Church; entirely new congregations), in what areas of North America these congregations are located, and what population groups they are targeting. This information is also information that should be shared with ACNA stakeholders. Either the ACNA has not gathered this crucial information or Duncan is withholding it from the ACNA membership.

Duncan drew attention to Texts for Common Prayer and To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism as major accomplishments during his tenure as Archbishop. However, I question whether they should be seen in that light.

The ordinal in Texts for Common Prayer suffers from a number of defects. It changes the Preface of the classical Anglican Ordinal, restricting the interpretation of the Preface to an Anglo-Catholic interpretation and precluding the English Reformers’ intended meaning of the Preface. This meaning is how conservative evangelicals and other Anglicans understand the Preface to this day. It changes the ceremonies associated with the ordination of presbyters and the consecration of bishops and in doing so changes the doctrine of these rites. It also permits unreformed Catholic practices that the English Reformers discarded in the sixteenth century due to their long association with unreformed Catholic doctrines.

The daily offices in Texts for Common Prayer are modeled on those in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which are largely designed for private devotional use and are ill-suited for use as public services of worship. The Suffrages are also awkward and lack the elegance of the versicles and responses in the classic Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The Prayer for the Clergy and People has been altered into a Prayer for Mission and no longer forms a part of the daily prayers.

The two services of Holy Communion in Texts for Common Prayer are lengthy. They require the use of liturgical elements that other Anglican service books have made optional for the sake of brevity and flexibility. They clearly designed to accommodate Anglo-Catholic and even Roman Catholic views of the Lord’s Supper. They include texts and ceremonies that infer views of the Lord’s Supper not consistent with the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies. While a number of these texts and ceremonies are optional, their inclusion in the service affects the theology of the rite so that the rite not only gives expression to unreformed Catholic views of the Lord’s Supper but also may be used to teach these views. Texts for Common Worship, unlike a number of contemporary Anglican service books, does not contain any alternative services of Holy Communion that are free from these elements and which Anglicans who do not subscribe to unreformed Catholic views of the Lord’s Supper would be comfortable in using.  As in the case of the daily offices in Texts for Common Prayer, the realities of the North American mission field do not appear to have been a consideration in the design of the services of Holy Communion. They are not outward-looking but reflect the preferences of special interest groups in the ACNA—a characteristic of the worship of dying churches.

Texts for Common Prayer contains no alternative forms of morning and evening worship for congregations that find that the daily offices and services of Holy Communion do not meet their needs.

Duncan also makes passing reference to the proposed rites for Admission of Catechumens, Baptism, and Confirmation. The proposed rite for the Admission of Catechumens teaches that the sacrament of Baptism saves, not a vital faith in Jesus Christ. It also teaches the unscriptural view that the Holy Spirit is given solely at baptism. It excludes the orthodox Anglican and Reformed view that regeneration and the gift of the Holy Spirit precede faith. The proposed rite of Baptism is thoroughly Anglo-Catholic in its view of baptism, tying regeneration to baptism. In this regard it conflicts with To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism, which ties regeneration to faith. It also excludes the orthodox Anglican and Reformed view of the relationship of regeneration, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and faith. The rite of Confirmation takes the Anglo-Catholic position that Confirmation is a part of scriptural initiation and a biblical ordinance. It adopts a view of Confirmation over which Anglicans have been historically divided. J. I. Packer in a number of his works is highly critical of this view, dismissing it as “a medieval mistake.”
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In claiming that the ACNA rites are evolutionary, Duncan sounds like liberal promoting the idea of the evolutionary nature of Anglicanism. The ACNA rites are not evolutionary except perhaps in the sense of Tractarian John Henry Newman’s notion of doctrinal development, which he used to justify certain elements in Roman Catholic teaching against the criticism of orthodox Anglicans and other Protestants that they were corruptions or innovations. In asserting that these rites “bear the Anglican Patrimony into the 21st century” Duncan was not just grossly exaggerating the truth, he was telling a bald-faced lie! This should prompt us to wonder how much else in his address was fabricated.

Duncan also touts To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism as a major accomplishment during his archepiscopate.  The ACNA catechism is a curious blend of Arminian and unreformed Catholic doctrine. While permitting the teaching of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrine in the Anglican Church in North America, the catechism does not extend the same license to the teaching of orthodox Anglican and Reformed doctrine in the ACNA. As I noted in my previous article, I have posted a 14-article series examining the contents of the ACNA catechism and its doctrinal positions on Heritage Anglicans.

At the same time Duncan’s remarks are not particularly surprising. He has in the past criticized the Elizabethan Settlement and by implication the English Reformation and the classic Anglican formularies and called for a new settlement. He has advocated what he calls “regression,” turning back the clock in the Anglican Church to a time before the English Reformation, to the era of the medieval “lordly prelate.” This is the vision of the Church that appears to have guided his actions during his tenure as Archbishop.

From a different perspective Texts for Common Prayer, the proposed rites for Admission of Catechumens, Baptism, and Catechism, and To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism represent serious attempts to replace authentic historic Anglicanism with unreformed Catholicism. Those championing these documents are not content with the Protestant nature of Anglicanism and are intent on reconstructing Anglicanism along the lines of the Church in the early period of the High Middle Ages.

I am frankly amazed at the number of GAFCON dignitaries that are attending Assembly 2014. Their attendance casts doubt upon the genuineness of their affirmation of the Jerusalem Declaration and their call for Anglicans to return to the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies.  The Anglican Church in North America in its official theological statements does not stand for what they themselves claim to stand.

These GAFCON dignitaries need to take note of three particular developments in the ACNA. The first is that the ACNA is not inclusive of Anglicans who are Reformed or otherwise Protestant in their beliefs.

Even the ACNA’s tolerance of Arminianism goes only so far. Arminians who fully accept the Bible as a working rule of faith and life, uphold the New Testament and Reformation doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, recognize only two sacraments—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and are otherwise Protestant in their convictions are not welcome either.

The second is that the ACNA is promoting the use of To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism outside of North America.

The third is that the proposed new canon establishing the procedure for creating missionary districts of the Anglican Church in North America permits the creation of these districts outside of the United States and Canada. It states, “Missionary Districts are intended to advance the ministry of the Province in extending the Kingdom of God into new areas of the Province or beyond.”

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans better watch out! The ACNA is coming!!

See also
A Look at Archbishop-Elect Foley Beach
A Bitter Pill to Swallow: Looking Beyond Conclave 2014
The Anglican Church in North America Unveils Proposed New Rites and Governing Document Changes
Issues Dividing the Anglican Church in North America
Assembly 2014: What's to Celebrate?