Friday, July 19, 2019

Why North America Needs CANA Missionary Bishop Felix Orji’s New Diocese Initiative

By Robin G. Jordan

I find very little difference between the views of Anglicanism and the Anglican Church, which hold sway in the Anglican Church in North America today, and those that were prevalent in the Episcopal Church in the 1980s and 1990s. The biggest difference is that the “three streams-one river” view of the Anglican Church was in an early stage in the late 1990s. It did not begin to grip imaginations until the beginning of the new millennium. It, however, has not quite displaced the myth of Anglicanism as a via media between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, which is still perpetuated in the Anglican Studies Programs of a number of seminaries to which the ACNA sends its candidates for ordination for training even though it has been repeatedly debunked since the nineteenth century. The influence of the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement looms fairly large in the ACNA as it did (and still does) in the Episcopal Church.

If any form of Protestantism is influencing thinking in the Anglican Church in North America, it is Arminianism and to a lesser extent Lutheranism, chiefly in the areas of “the sacrament of the Altar” and “Holy Absolution.” The Arminian influence can be traced to a number of sources—clergy who came from evangelical, non-denominational, or charismatic/Pentecostal churches, which are Arminian in their theological outlook; seminaries like Ashbury Theological Seminary, which the ACNA uses to train candidates for ordained ministry and which are also Arminian in their theological outlook; and the writings of the Caroline High Churchmen and the sermons of John Wesley. What is in short supply is the Reformed Protestantism of the historic Anglican formularies and the central Anglican theological tradition.

Theologically the Anglican Church in North America may be described as a hodge-podge—a confused mixture of doctrinal views that share one thing in common: They all diverge to varying degrees from historical Anglicanism. Within such confusion any hope of a renewal of historic Anglicanism in North America is extremely slim. It is not an environment that is particularly favorable to the growth and development of confessional Anglicanism.

For this reason I believe that an Anglican entity that is fully committed to Biblical Christianity and historic Anglicanism is needed in North America. Pastors who are faithful to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and to the principles of the historic Anglican formularies and the central Anglican theological tradition should not have to work in an ecclesiastical environment in which other pastors are working at cross-purposes to them. They face enough obstacles in their ministry. Without such an entity there is very little likelihood of a renewal of historic Anglicanism occurring in North America.

CANA Missionary Bishop Felix Orji’s new diocese initiative aims to create such an entity, an ecclesiastical environment in which confessional Anglicans and confessional Anglicanism will be able to flourish and which will build up and strengthen the confessional Anglican presence and witness in North America. It will meet a longstanding need. I therefore urge Anglicans Ablaze readers to support this initiative with their prayers, their generous donations, and in other ways. For more information about the initiative and how they can support it, readers can contact the Rev. Richard LePage at or (207) 894-0177 or the Rev Jonathan Smith at or (321) 356-9472.

Friday's Catch: Pray for New England's Awakening and More

New England Cities Named Most ‘Post-Christian’

Barna’s rankings spur pastors in secularizing spots—in the Northeast and across the country—to continue working and praying for revival. Read More
Here in the Jackson Purchase, in westernmost Kentucky, the region in which the city of Paducah is located, nominal Christianity may be a greater challenge than post-Christianity.
How to Bust Down the Walls of Your Church and Join God to Reach Your City

There’s more happening in your city than meets the eye. It can be easy to think God’s activity is confined to what we see in our single church congregation or non-profit organization. But do you know how to view God at work at work to reach your city? Our team—City Gospel Movements at Palau—champions leaders who are not content running programs in the four walls of their church. These leaders are restless to see local churches unite and work together for the peace and prosperity of their city. Read More

Inside a Church Growing from Less than 100 to Almost 2,000 in 5 Years with Mark Zweifel [Podcast]

In this Unseminary podcast Pastor Mark Zweifel of True North Church in Fairbanks, Alaska talk about the journey that led him to apply for pastoring at True North and what were some of the early steps Mark took serving at the church. True North is an 80 year old church and when Mark first came to the church, he was the fourth pastor in four years and there were fewer than 100 people attending. Almost five years later the attendance grew to over 1600 on Sundays. Listen Now

Five Things that Keep Churches from Changing

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Why the Pendulum on Church Metrics May Be Swinging Too Far [Podcast]

There is a pendulum swing in church leadership circles as it relates to the viewpoint of church metrics. Numbers and tracking numbers aren’t inherently bad, but they can be abused. In this podcast Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss this swing and the negative sentiments often associated with it. Listen Now

When Metrics Become Your Master

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Jesus, Did You Know?

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Did Jesus Preach the Gospel to People in Hell during the Two Days He Was Dead?

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5 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Church Website

To help you assess whether your church website is serving a purpose and not collecting dust, here are five things your site should accomplish—today. Read More

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Thursday's Catch: To Reboot or to Revitalize? and More

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Rebooting or revitalizing an existing church is a huge undertaking. But when it’s done well, it’s extremely rewarding. Read More

It's Time For A Church Transition: Should The Pastor Leave? Hand Off? Or Reboot?

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Six Common Reasons Revitalization or a Replant Never Get Started

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Why Latinos Are the Church of Tomorrow

The Latino demographic is experiencing explosive growth, and the church must take notice. Read More

9 Things You Should Know About the Bethel Church Movement

TGC Australia recently published an article examining the theology and practice of the Bethel movement. The Awakening Australia event—and its main speaker, Bill Johnson—are increasing the awareness of the controversial church throughout the continent. Here are nine things you should know about the Johnsons and the Bethel movement. Read More

11 Deadly Mistakes That Take The Preaching Focus Away From Jesus

Help your people focus on God and think on God when they leave your service--here are 11 traps to avoid. Read More

How to Make Sermon Illustrations Memorable

Most pastors and Bible teachers immediately recognize the power of a well-told illustration. It engages the heart of those listening and allows the mind’s eye to see truth through the application of something familiar. Ignoring the use of skillfully chosen illustrations in your sermons will lessen their effectiveness and cause people to think your preaching is boring or uninteresting. Read More

7 Vital Ingredients In Any Preaching Calendar

Investing a few more hours three months in advance, or a few weeks in advance will increase the quality of your preaching moment. Read More

Paul Went to the Third Heaven. What in the World Is He Talking About?

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Singing the Gospel: Three Questions for Worship Song Selection

Whether you are a professional musician or a youth pastor simply trying to organize your student worship times, as a song selector you have the weighty privilege of choosing words to put into the mouths of your students. It is imperative that those words are true, clear, understandable, and gospel-rich, meaning they reflect the way God has saved sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The songs we sing have the capacity to communicate love and truth—or ambiguity and confusion. So where do we begin as we filter through the oceans (pun intended) of readily available worship music? Read More
The principles of worship song selection discussed in this article are also applicable to your church's worship gatherings on Sundays and at other times.
5 Questions to Discern God's Will

To know and do God’s will, lead your people to ask the following five questions, which I’ve adapted from Bruce Waltke’s book, Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? Read More

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Modern-Day Prayer Book Fallacy

What I learned from the poppies and cornflowers in an English cornfield.

By Robin G. Jordan

Because two prayer books share language and texts does not mean that they share doctrine. This is a fallacious argument into which I keep running in discussions of the connection between The Book of Common Prayer 2019 and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. As I noted in yesterday’s article, Ben Jefferies uses this argument in his description of the ACNA’s Prayer Book 2019.

A number of historical prayer books share language and texts but their doctrine is quite different. Three examples come to mind.

The first example is Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s two Prayer Books, the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books. Among the factors that contributed to Cranmer’s revision of the 1549 Prayer Book was Bishop Stephen Gardiner’s critique of Cranmer’s magnum opus, A Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. In An Explication and Assertion of the true catholic Faith touching the most blessed Sacrament of the Altar Gardiner argued that the 1549 Communion Service, in particular the 1549 Canon, taught the medieval Catholic doctrines of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass.

Cranmer would conclude that the 1549 Prayer Book was insufficiently reformed and drafted the 1552 Prayer Book. It is the 1552 Prayer Book that represents Cranmer’s mature thinking as a Reformed theologian.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is essentially the 1552 Prayer Book with a number of minor alterations and additions. Nineteenth century Tractarian writers would claim that these changes brought about a change in the eucharistic doctrine of the Prayer Book. This claim, as Neil and Willoughby point out in The Tutorial Prayer Book for the Teacher, the Student, and the General Reader, like so many Tractarian claims, is fallacious.

A second example is the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. These two books not only share language and texts but they also share services. An alternative Order of Administration of Holy Communion, an alternative Order for the Ministration of Publick Baptism of Infants, an alternative Order of Confirmation, an alternative Order for the Communion of the Sick, and other alterations and additions to the proposed book, however, completed changed the doctrine of the English Prayer Book.

For example, the Prayer of Consecration of the alternative Order of Administration of Holy Communion was modeled on that of the 1549 Communion Service and incorporated an invocation of the Holy Spirit in the consecration. Archbishop Cranmer did not include such an invocation in the 1552 Prayer of Consecration on the grounds that it was contrary to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures as well as suggested that the bread and wine underwent a change in substance upon their consecration. The Holy Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit indwells people and sanctifies them. The Holy Spirit does not sanctify inanimate objects. The alternative Order for the Communion of the Sick permitted the administration of communion to the sick from the reserved sacrament.

A third example is the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book and the 1662 Prayer Book. The two books share language and texts but their doctrine is not the same. This is evident from a comparison of the Prayer of Consecration in the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, the Prayer over the Water in the Font in the Ministration of Holy Baptism, and the Ministry to the Sick in the two books. The 1962 Canadian Prayer of Consecration is open to interpretation as teaching that, when the priest consecrates the bread and wine, he represents or re-offers Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The 1962 Canadian Prayer over the Water in the Font emphasizes the role of the priest in the sanctification of water for the purpose of baptism.

In the 1662 Order of the Ministration of Baptism the petition for the sanctification of the water is redundant since the Ark Prayer teaches that God has already sanctified all water for “the mystical washing away of sin” through the baptism of his Son in the river Jordan. The 1962 Canadian Order for the Ministration of Baptism omits the Ark Prayer. The 1962 Canadian Prayer Book adds forms for the laying on of hands on the sick and their anointing with oil to the Ministry to the Sick.

When one does a rite by rite, service by service comparison of The Book of Common Prayer 2019 and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, it is quite evident that not only is the doctrine of the two books different from each other but so are their practices, which are an embodiment of a prayer book’s doctrine even when they are optional. The two books represent two different theological traditions. The ACNA’s Prayer Book 2019 represents the Catholic Revivalist tradition, which is essentially a rejection of historic Anglicanism, and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer represents the Protestant, Reformed tradition in which historic Anglicanism stands. The Restoration bishops, while they made a number of minor alterations and additions to the 1604 Book of Common Prayer,  retained the essential Protestant, Reformed prayer book of Archbishop Cranmer.

Further Reading:
ʻFor the More Explanationʼ and ʻFor the More Perfectionʼ: Cranmerʼs Second Prayer Book
The Reformed Worship of 1552
Cranmer and the Lord’s Supper
Small Steps, Big Leaps
1552 and All That
Cranmer—Psychologist as well as Theologian
Thomas Cranmer’s ‘True and Catholick Doctrine of the Sacrament’
Pulling up the Roots of Error: The Importance of the Eucharist in the Theology of Thomas Cranmer

"There Can Be Only One"

Recently I came across another concerning post on Anglican Pastor entitled “4 Reasons Why I Now Celebrate Communion Facing the Altar, Not the People.”

In this piece the author, Rev’d Ben Jefferies give four reasons why he has adopted the practice. However after reading his piece I remain unconvinced by his article for numerous reasons and found his article concerning on several fronts. No doubt there are others who can articulate those concerns better than I can, but here are two reasons that stood out to me. Read More

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Why You Need the Lord’s Supper Frequently

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Should You Baptize Apart from the Church?

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Three Rules for Engaging in Theological Polemics

William Perkins (1558–1602) grew up in the aftermath of the Council of Trent, becoming a puritan and Cambridge theologian. Due to these roles, he had both a convictional and public ministry. One example of his public ministry appears in his polemical treatise called A Reformed Catholic which he published in 1597. In this literary treasure, he outlined how Reformed Catholics and the Roman Catholics differed in faith.

And in his preface, Perkins lays out his reasons for why he wrote the treatise. And although he wrote over 400 years ago, he offers us wisdom in an era that sustains polemics, controversy, and discernment blogging. By listening to this great divine, we can discern three contemporary rules for engaging in theological polemics. Read More

How Evangelism Works in a Post-Christian Culture

In this video, Joshua Ryan Butler says that as we share the good news in today’s secular culture, we should not neglect hospitality, prayer, and the evangelistic potential of new converts. Watch Now

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

WHOA!! The Book of Common Prayer 2019 Embodies the Theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer?!

Fake Plastic Food

By Robin G. Jordan

In an era of fake news and false narratives it is not surprising to run into inaccurate descriptions of The Book of Common Prayer 2019 by members of the ACNA’s Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force promoting the book. Ben Jefferies’ open letter to Drew Keane is an example.

Jefferies has been very busy lately creating his own false narrative about the ACNA’s Prayer Book 2019, arguing that it embodies the theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. I analyzed Jefferies’ letter and drew two conclusions from the analysis.

What Jefferies is attempting to do is use the ACNA’s Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force’s cannibalization of texts from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and his own reinterpretation of the theology of the 1662 Prayer Book to justify his assertion that The Book of Common Prayer 2019 embodies the theology of the 1662 Prayer Book. In doing so he resorts to old-fashioned sophistry.

For readers who may be unfamiliar with the term, Merriam Webster offers this explanation of sophistry.
Sophistry is reasoning that seems plausible on a superficial level but is actually unsound, or reasoning that is used to deceive.
Jefferies may believe what he claims. But whether or not he does, he is misleading his readers and listeners with his assertion. If one does a straightforward analysis of the doctrine and practices of the two books, it is clear that they embody quite different theologies. Any similarity between the two books is superficial.

For readers who may be interested in learning more about the theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, I recommend  The Tutorial Prayer Book for the Teacher, the Student, and the General Reader, edited by Charles Neil and J. M. Willoughby, Harrison Trust, 1913. In their section on The Interpretative Principles of the Tractarian Movement (pp. 269-280) Neil and Willoughby address Jefferies’ claim that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer teaches a form of eucharistic sacrifice. In their section on Prayers for the Dead (pp. 481-483), they address his claim that the 1662 Prayer Book contains prayers for the dead.

Tuesday's Catch: The Need to Talk about Church Size and More

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Monday's Catch: Church Planting Gathering Principles and More

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These gathering principles are important to keep in mind for bringing people together in a church plant. Read More

Seven Reasons Why We Need to Move Beyond the Church Size Debate

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If Your Local Church Disappeared, Would You Notice?

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5 Steps for Finding the Best Property for Your Church

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As in a retail outlet location can be critical. A church needs to be accessible--easy to reach--and visible--easy to find. In the 1950s a number of churches where built in the midst of a subdivision or in close proximity to one. The thinking was that the residents of the subdivision would attend the nearest church. It didn't happen. A Roman Catholic church with which I am acquainted was built at the entry to a subdivision in the late 1970s - early 1980s. The residents of the subdivision drive past the church on their way to church. The entry to the subdivision is at the end of a long drive that links it to the nearest highway. If the church had not erected a large sign on the highway, no one would know that it was there.
7 Lessons I Never Stop Learning

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How Millennials Replaced Religion with Astrology and Crystals

Today, young people still seek the things that traditional organized religion may have provided for their parents or grandparents: religious beliefs, yes, but also a sense of community, guidance, purpose and meaning. But it can be hard for young people to find those things in their parents’ religions. So they're looking elsewhere. Read More
Sounds like the Baby Boomers in the 1960s and 1970s--astrology, tarot cards, I-Ching, Transcendental Meditation, reiki, and other forms of New Age (and not so-New Age) Spirituality. Create your own spirituality is not really new. It has its antecedents in theosophy and spiritualism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Eastward Position: Tempest in a Tea Pot or Something Far More Serious?

By Robin G. Jordan

In his reply to my comments in response to his article, “ 4 Reasons Why I Now Celebrate Communion Facing The Altar, Not the People,” Ben Jefferies contends that the views of Anglican history and norms which I presented in my comments are “hotly contested.” But Mr. Jefferies does not identify by whom they are contested. Anglo-Catholic and liberal writers have taken issue with these views, defending their own false narratives, but to my knowledge no representatives of the central Anglican theological tradition.

Every liturgical gesture, posture, and action accumulates layer after layer of doctrinal associations. The eastward position that Mr. Jefferies is advocating is heavily caked with these associations. The practice cannot be separated from them.

When a practice acquires as much theological freight as the eastward position, it is best to avoid the practice for the sake of the weaker consciences of the brethren, as the apostle Paul wrote:
Be careful, however, that your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you who are well informed eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged to eat food sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge…. (1 Corinthians 8:9-11)
In his reply to someone else’s comment Mr. Jefferies acknowledges that the primary source of the writings on the eastward position, which has influenced his thinking comes from the Roman Catholic Church. He identifies Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy as one of these writings as well as a number of articles on the eastward position on the New Liturgical Movement website. Among these writings he also identifies Uwe Michael Lang’s Turning toward the Lord. While Mr. Jefferies adamantly denies that he has embraced Roman Catholic theology, it must be noted that the views expressed in these writings are strongly influenced by a conservative form of Roman Catholic theology. Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI introduced a series of so-called reforms of the Roman Rite, which represent a retrograde movement in the Roman Catholic Church—a retreat from the reforms of Vatican II. Ratzinger, the writers on the New Liturgical Movement website, and Lang are a part of a movement in the Roman Catholic Church, which seeks to undo the reforms of Vatican II and to revive the Latin Mass and other pre-Vatican II practices. It blames the reforms of Vatican II for the decline in attendance at Mass in the West. Like the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement in the Anglican Church it presents itself as a movement for the renewal of the church.

I was involved in a church plant that had lapsed Roman Catholics as one of ministry target groups. Our work with this ministry target group did not support the contentions of this movement. Among the reasons that the lapsed Roman Catholics with whom we worked gave for having stopped attending Mass was that they had undergone a divorce. They had been physically abused by the Roman Catholic nuns in parochial school as a child. They were concerned about the growing reports of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests, the failure of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to protect these children, and the safety of their own children. The Roman Catholic Church had not met their pastoral and spiritual needs. They had been baptized, catechized, and confirmed, but had never heard the gospel or had been invited to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. How the Mass was celebrated was a non-issue.

It is also noteworthy that in the region of the United States in which I lived at that time traditional Roman Catholic parishes were the ones that were declining while the charismatic parishes were holding their own or enjoying growth. Homosexuality was a widespread presence among the clergy and in the seminaries. It was an open secret.

The Roman Catholic Church is not attracting new converts with Pope Benedict’s so-called reforms of the Roman Rite. The number of converts to the Roman Catholic Church from evangelicalism, while it is highly publicized, is a trickle in comparison to the number of Roman Catholics who are leaving the Roman Catholic Church for evangelical churches here in the United States.

In his defense of the eastward position, Mr. Jefferies relies heavily on  the arguments not only of conservative Roman Catholic writers but also of the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement. For, example, he cites John Bacchus Dykes’  A Letter to the Right Reverend The Lord Bishop of Durham. Dykes was a nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic controversialist who became embroiled in a dispute with his bishop over the eastward position and other practices that Anglo-Catholic ritualists were introducing into the worship of their parishes often in contravention of canons of the Church of England and the laws of the land.

Mr. Jefferies' reliance upon these arguments and his willingness to question the veracity of those who challenged the Anglo-Catholic false narrative in the nineteenth century speaks volumes. The eastward position is not a theologically-neutral position. It carries a lot of theological baggage. Those who are influencing his thinking are not theologically-neutral. They have a theological agenda. While he claims to reject such doctrines as transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass, he is being strongly influenced by individuals who subscribe to these doctrines.

Among the arguments that Mr. Jefferies makes for a priest assuming the eastward position when consecrating the eucharistic elements is that the priest is facing in the same direction as the people. This is a very weak argument. It is based upon the assumption that the focus of the building in which the congregation is worshiping is an altar on which is an altar cross, which has a cross on the reredos behind the altar, or which has a cross suspended from the ceiling above the altar.

The buildings in which Anglicans worship have changed over the past 470 years since the Elizabethan phase of the English Reformation. So have church ornaments. The English Reformers dismantled the high altars that they had inherited from the medieval Catholic Church. They also tore down the rood screens and removed crucifixes, reliquaries, and holy water stoops. They replaced altars with portable wooden tables which were placed in the body of the church or at the entrance of the chancel. The people gathered around the table for communion as they gathered around the pulpit for the sermon. If a parishioner wished to sit for reasons of infirmity or age, the parishioner brought a stool from home.

While the Caroline High Churchmen placed the table against the east wall of the church, called the table an altar, and fenced it with communion rails, these changes were not introduced into all English parish churches. They were introduced only in those churches in which the Caroline High Churchmen were able to impose their so-called reforms. They were not popular, were associated in the public mind with papalism, and met with strong resistance. Archbishop William Laud’s heavy handiness toward those who resisted these changes was not forgotten and eventually cost him his head.

The pulpit and the reading desk were the focus of the eighteenth century auditory church. Its interior was the most suited to Prayer Book worship. Box pews were introduced in the auditory church and faced toward the pulpit and the reading desk from two or more directions. Auditory churches also had galleries that were faced toward the pulpit and the reading desk.

The nineteenth century Catholic Revival and the accompanying Neo-Gothic Revival would make the altar the focus of church buildings as in the medieval Catholic Church. The interior of the Neo-Gothic Revival church with choir stalls separating the chancel from the nave is the least suited for Prayer Book worship. The worship renewal movement of the twentieth century shifted the focus away from the altar onto all three principal liturgical centers—table, pulpit-lectern, and font. Congregational seating would be arranged in a semi-circle around these liturgical centers or on two or three sides of them. Like the interior of the eighteenth century auditory church, this particular arrangement is also well suited for Prayer Book worship.

The argument itself is very revealing into the thinking of the person who is making it. It suggests a regression to the altar-focused thinking of the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement rather than the more balanced view of the twentieth century worship renewal movement. But it also points to the influence of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism which was also a strong influence upon nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement and is influencing the regressive movement in the Roman Catholic Church, which is represented by the New Liturgical Movement.

The orientation of graves, churches, church interiors, and clergy to the east falls more into the realm of superstition than it does that of Scriptural truth or principle. It elevates the traditions of men above the Word of God and gives more weight to the rule of antiquity than to the rule of Scripture.

What the Holy Scriptures teach is most important is that our hearts are oriented to God. Whether we stand, sit, genuflect, kneel, or prostrate ourselves is far less important than the posture of our heart. In John 4: 23 our Lord describes the kind of worshipers that God is seeking:
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
The kind of worship that honors God is the worship of the heart.

It is the considered opinion of this writer that Mr. Jefferies is encouraging his fellow pastors in the Anglican Church in North America to take a direction in worship, which is not a good one. The practice that he is championing is not only a vehicle for theology that it is incompatible with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the doctrinal and worship principles embodied in the historic Anglican formularies and the central Anglican theological tradition but it also has not proven to be a gospel asset on the twentieth and twenty-first century North American mission field. The state of the Continuing Anglican Churches in which the eastward position is a common practice is strong testimony against the use of the practice. The Continuum is not known for its thriving churches or its evangelistic zeal. While this cannot be attributed to a single ritualistic practice, it can be attributed to the thinking behind the use of such practices. If any lesson can be learned from the decline of the Continuing Anglican Churches, it is not to put ecclesial praxis before missional engagement. Reaching and engaging the unchurched population of North America should be our number one priority, not a particular style of worship or a particular set of liturgical practices.

I have spent a good part of my life pioneering new churches on the North American mission field. One thing that I have learned is the importance of exegeting the community—its culture, its subcultures, its tastes and preferences in music and worship, and other factors that will impact a new church. One of the reasons that a number of Continuing Anglican startups have failed is that they did not do this critical preparatory work. They adopted a prayer book and a style of worship that proved to be a gospel liability in their community, and not an asset. The prayer book and style of worship did not resonate with the churchgoers looking for a new church home, much less with the unchurched population of the community. In fact, the prayer book and the style of worship, which they adopted raised significant barriers between the community’s unchurched population and the gospel.

On the other hand, new churches that did exegete the community and tailor their worship to the community flourished. This included a number of Episcopal churches. What would harm these churches was not how they worshiped but their respective communities’ reaction to developments in the national church and the negative impact these developments would have upon the public image of the Episcopal Church. They were not able to overcome the negative public image.

The ceremonialism and sacramentalism and the underlying sacerdotalism, which dominates thinking in the Anglican Church in North America as evidenced by its proposed catechism, The Book of Common Prayer 2019, and the content of the articles posted on a number of blogs with close ties to the ACNA are strong indicators that the ACNA is putting ecclesial praxis first as did the Continuing Anglican Churches. This is not a healthy development. One of the reasons that the GAFCON primates called for the formation of a new province in North America was that the existing provinces, having drifting away from the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, were neglecting the Great Commission. This prioritization of ecclesial praxis will have the same effect upon the ACNA.

The good news is that CANA West and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), recognizing the need to bring together into a missionary diocese North American Anglicans who are faithful to Biblical Christianity and confessional Anglicanism and who wish to focus upon Great Commission free from the distractions of such an ecclesiastical environment have launched a new diocese-in-formation for these North American Anglicans. This diocese-in-formation will not only seek to maintain the Protestant, Reformed, and Evangelical character of the Anglican Church, which is based upon the Holy Scriptures and expressed in the historic Anglican formularies, but also will have as its number one priority reaching and engaging the North America’s growing unchurched population.

Friday's Catch: The Election to Grace and More

Should Christians say, “God Predestines People to Hell”?

God has foreordained and controls all things whatsoever by his mysterious foreknowledge and providence. By definition, the eternal destinies of the elect and non-elect must fall under God’s foreordination and control. Yet Scripture does not directly state that God predestines people to hell. Instead, it continually emphasizes that God elects to eternal salvation.

In light of this emphasis in Scripture, we should attempt to match our thinking to this biblical pattern. This will lead us to emphasize the election of grace and the passing over of some. It will not lead us to emphasize that God predestines people to hell. Read More

God's Immeasurable Love (Part One of an Exploration of John 3:16)

John 3:16 may well be the most famous verse in the entire Bible. Even if it isn’t, its truth warrants continual celebration and gratitude. What I propose to do over the next couple of weeks is to explore this passage by looking at seven inescapable and eternally significant realities that together comprise this justifiably famous text. Read More

Seven Thoughts on Pastoral Attire in Worship Services

Pastoral attire has changed dramatically over the past few decades. In this podcast Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe examine why that has happened and how to adapt to this change. Listen Now
Anglican pastors don't have to worry about this issue, right? They wear vestments. Wrong, Anglican pastors do have to worry about attire. Before they opt to wear clericals in a community or a particular kind of vestment in church services, they need to learn more about their community and how the different segments of its population, particularly the unchurched segments of the population, can be expected to react to what they are wearing. They can expect first-time guests to walk through the door of their church, take one look at what they are wearing, and decide on the basis of their attire that the church is not their kind of church and not to return for a second visit.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Anglicans Ablaze Shares Its Take on the New CANA Diocese Initiative

By Robin G. Jordan

I welcome the Rt. Rev. Felix Orji’s new diocese initiative establishing a diocese-in-formation that will uphold the Biblical, Protestant, and Reformed principles of the Anglican Church and will offer a home for North American Anglicans who are faithful to these principles. I have recognized the need for such an ecclesial body in North America since the Common Cause Partnership days of the Anglican Church in North America when it became evident that the province-in-formation, like the two provinces to which it was supposed to provide an alternative would espouse a form of doctrine and practice that departed from authentic historic Anglicanism on key issues, leaving North America bereft of a genuine Anglican presence and witness.

While some networks of churches and individual pastors and congregations in the new province remained faithful to the Holy Scriptures and the historic Anglican formularies, those charting the future course of the new province had something entirely different in mind—a “new settlement” as the ACNA’s first Archbishop Robert Duncan described it—a settlement which was essentially a repudiation of the Elizabethan Settlement, the classical Anglican formularies, authentic historic Anglicanism, and ultimately Biblical Christianity. While the leaders of the new province might be using the same words as the leaders of GAFCON, they were speaking a different language.

The character of this “new settlement” became increasingly clear with the publication of the ACNA’s draft ordinal, its proposed catechism, its trial services, and more recently The Book of Common Prayer 2019. It would be a synthesis of doctrine and practices taken from the late medieval Catholic Church and borrowed from modern-day Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Intermixed with these conservative theological streams would be a stream of liberal or progressive Catholicism in the form of the ordination of women to the diaconate and the presbyterate. The result would be a form of affirming Catholicism which did not go as far as affirming the normalization of homosexuality in the church and society. In other words, the Anglican Church in North America would embody the theological confusion that has beset the Anglican Church since the 1958 Lambeth Conference and earlier.

While the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference sought to call the Anglican Church back to the Bible, the classical Anglican formularies, and authentic historic Anglicanism with the issuance of the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement and the subsequent publication of the GAFCON Theological Resource Group’s Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, the leaders of the new province were not listening. Indeed they had their fingers in their ears.

The new CANA diocese-in-formation will face a number of challenges. Among these challenges I have identified six that I believe that it is essential for the new CANA archdeaconry to meet.

1. The first challenge is that while one segment of the Anglican Church in North America will welcome the establishment of the new CANA archdeaconry, another segment will view the new network of churches as invading its turf. This segment of the ACNA, however, has no leg to stand on. Both the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church view the ACNA as invading their turf. Furthermore the Holy Scriptures do not recognize the idea that a particular church has exclusive rights to a particular territory. Rather the Holy Scriptures teach that the whole vineyard is the Lord’s. He may dispatch workers into the vineyard wherever and whenever he pleases.
The whole vineyard is the Lord’s. He may dispatch workers into the vineyard wherever and whenever he pleases.
2. The second challenge will be planting new churches and strengthen existing ones. The fields are ripe for harvest and the new diocese-in-formation is a part of God’s answer to our prayers asking him to send more workers into the harvest. The first five years of the new archdeaconry will be a critical time for planting new churches. The first five years of these new churches will also be a critical time for them to plant new churches. If a church network or a church does not plant one or more new churches within its first five years, it is not likely to plant any new churches later on.

3. The third challenge will be establishing a workable leadership pipeline for recruiting, training, credentialing, and deploying pastors and other leaders. Church networks and churches need a steady supply of leaders to grow. They cannot wait for ministerial candidates to complete a one-year internship and a three-year seminary training program. To be effective in meeting the new archdeaconry’s need for more leaders, its leadership pipeline will need to include options for training leaders at the local church level while they are engaged in ministry and mission. It will also need to include ongoing opportunities for leadership development and formation.

4. The fourth challenge will be balancing what would be ideal with what is realistic. This is a major challenge to any new organization—ecclesiastical or otherwise. The implementation of some ideas which may be very good ideas will need to be postponed until the new archdeaconry has become a diocese. They are not practicable during the early stages of a diocese-in-formation. The initial phase will need to focus on planting new churches and strengthen existing ones and producing leaders who can go immediately to work in the Lord’s vineyard.

5. The fifth challenge will be countering the public perception of Anglicanism in North America, which has been shaped by the Catholic Revivalist false narrative. North America has proven fertile ground for revisionist reinterpretations of Anglicanism for the past 186 years. Catholic Revivalism is one of the oldest of these revisionist reinterpretations of Anglicanism and it has left its mark on what ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan describes as “American Anglicanism.” The new CANA archdeaconry can expect the modern-day proponents of Catholic Revivalism and those who are sympathetic to their views to question the authenticity of its Anglican theological credentials and to promote themselves as the only true representatives of Anglicanism as their nineteenth century predecessors did. It will need to be prepared to respond with reasoned arguments and writings.

6. The sixth challenge will be to balance the different interpretations of what it means to be Reformed and Anglican. I have generally tried to avoid the term “Reformed Anglican” in my own articles since it implies the existence of other legitimate forms of Anglicanism. In my view authentic historic Anglicanism is the only legitimate form of Anglicanism and it is Biblical, Protestant, and Reformed. While I can see the need for the new diocese-in-formation to distinguish its doctrine and practices from those of the various revisionist reinterpretations of Anglicanism, in identifying itself as “Reformed Anglican,” it has inadvertently strengthened the view that Anglicanism exists in more than one form. In identifying itself as “Reformed Anglican,” the new archdeaconry creates an unnecessary dichotomization between “Reformed” and “Anglican.” Genuine Anglicanism is Reformed. It is not only reformed in the sense of having its doctrine and practices reformed in accordance with the Holy Scriptures but it is also Reformed in the sense of sharing a common theology with the sixteenth century magisterial Reformed Churches of Switzerland and southern Germany, particularly the Church of Zurich and the Church of Heidelberg.

One group that recognizes the Biblical, Protestant and Reformed character of authentic historic Anglicanism is satisfied with what J. I. Packer describes as the “evangelical comprehensiveness” of the Thirty-Nine Articles and the broad latitude it permits on secondary matters. Another group that recognizes the Biblical, Protestant, and Reformed character of authentic historic Anglicanism wants to supplement or replace the Thirty-Nine Articles with the Westminster Confession and impose greater uniformity in secondary matters. If the new archdeaconry is to experience significant growth, it will require the cooperation of both groups. Disputes over the Westminster Confession and the secondary matters could effectively scuttle the new diocese-in-formation.

Among the attractions that historic Anglicanism holds for pastors of conservative Presbyterian and Reformed churches is the freedom it permits on secondary matters. It is a major part of its appeal. If the new archdeacon is to flourish, it must be faithful to the tradition that it represents.

Despite these challenges I believe that the new CANA diocese-in-formation has a bright future ahead of it. I am excited that the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) recognized the need for such an ecclesial body in North America and responded to that need.

For readers who wish to learn more about the new archdeaconry, please contact the Rev. Richard LePage at or (207) 894-0177 or the Rev Jonathan Smith at or (321) 356-9472.

Four Reasons Why I Believe that a Pastor Should Face the People When Officiating at the Lord’s Supper

By Robin G. Jordan

1.  It reminds the people that the pastor is Christ’s humble steward whom he has appointed to give them, his fellow servants, their food at the proper time (Matt. 24:45).

2. It reminds the people that there are many parts but one body (1 Cor. 12:20).

3.  It enables the people to see the pastor take the bread, break it, lay his hand on it, take the cup, and lay his hand on every vessel in which there is wine to be consecrated during the words of institution.

4. It reminds the people that the Church of Jesus Christ has only one priesthood. It is the priesthood of all believers, of all whom God has called out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9)

Thursday's Catch: An Exciting Future for Church Planting and More

An Exciting Future for Church Planting

The three phases of churches planting churches. Read More

Engaging an Ever-Changing Culture With a Never-Changing Gospel

People have a tendency to get willfully locked into their way of doing ministry. In so doing, we end up loving the particular way that we do church more than the particular people our church has been called to reach. Read More

10 Characteristics of Movemental Christianity

In the West, if and when we see movements of churches planting 1,000 churches in their lifetime, then we believe the following ten characteristics will be present. Based on our observations, movemental Christianity will have some of these characteristics. Read More

Revitalizing a Church from Your Leadership Strength

Leadership skills and knowing who you are as a leader are important as you lead a revitalization. In this podcast Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss the 12 types of leaders in a revitalization. Read More

5 Ways You Can Start Hearing From God

God speaks in as many different ways as there are people to hear him. Here are some of his most common forms of communication and how you can start hearing from God. Read More

Why Reaching the LGBTQ Community Starts With Relationships

Sharing Christ starts with getting to know LGBTQ people. Read More

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Wednesday's Catch: Take This Summer to Help Your Church Grow and More

5 Actions to Take This Summer to Help Your Church Grow

Fewer knocks on your door mean that summertime can be the perfect time for church leaders to engage in new activities to help their churches grow. With that in mind, here are five actions you can take in the coming weeks to help your church grow during this season and in seasons to come. Read More

7 Reasons Your Church Should Partner with A Christian Camp

I firmly believe that Christian camps are ministries that churches should work with closely—and here’s why.... Read More

Congregational Care: A Guide to Building a Caring and Effective Ministry

It’s impossible for one person to provide all of the congregational care. The Bible doesn’t support this belief, and it’s practically impossible for any single human being to provide care to a large group of people. Think about it. Read More

Five Reasons for Failure When Leading Change [Video]

In this Rainer Report Thom Rainer examines five reasons why our efforts to lead change may fail. Watch Now

What to Look for in Church Technology

While each church’s workflow and order of service is different, and every tech solution may not fit every congregation, there are some non-negotiable features you should look for in every potential technology buy.... Read More

Sold: The Business of Sex Trafficking

Sold by traffickers, trapped for years and raped many times a day … this is the life of tens of thousands of underage girls in Bangladesh. We hear their stories.... Read More

Christians Should Desire the Salvation of All People Because God Does

Every Christian should desire that all people repent and come to a knowledge of the truth. And we should do so because God desires the same. Read More

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Tuesday's Catch: The Church Next Door and More

The Church Next Door

The cell church/house church movement today is a desire to return to the New Testament when the church met where the people lived. Rather than a “come and see” strategy, cell ministry is a yearning to take the church next door. Lawrence Khong writes in The Apostolic Cell Church, “The devil wants to trap us within the four walls of the church. Criminals don’t care if the policeman is pushing papers-as long as he’s not out on the street” (p. 38). Read More

What Calvin Might Say to Church Planters Today

Have you ever wondered what it would’ve been like to plant a church in 16th-century Geneva? Imagine starting a new church at the center of what’s come to be known as the Protestant Reformation. At the very least, it would’ve been nice to talk with John Calvin (and others) about life and pastoral ministry. Read More

5 Types of Pastors Who Bungle Abuse in the Church

Jennifer Michelle Greenberg describes five pastor types who bungle abuse and explains why. Read More
Significantly more physical, emotional, and sexual abuse goes on that gets reported. Abusers can be highly respected members of the church and the community. Pastors need to learn more about abuse, become advocates for the abused, and not become an accomplice in the abuse.
The Growing Danger Of Assigning Guilt By Association

How can we effect change if we can’t find common ground with people who see things differently? Read More

The Westminster Statement on Biblical Sexuality

Given some of these recent arguments against the PCA's decision to declare the Nashville Statement to be biblically faithful, I thought it would be helpful to look at the clarity of the Westminster Standards, specifically as to what our standards have to say about sexual ethics and the ordering of sexual desires. Read More

3 Ways Young Pastors Can Survive Ageism

Young pastors sometimes encounter a strange form of ageism. People gaze at them with a curious mix of suspicion and hesitancy, intrigue and hopeful excitement. Read More
Older men also encounter ageism particularly in churches which are seeking to project a young image and to attract the younger generations.
3 Things Pastors Must Learn from Teachers

When I think about the influential teachers in my life, there are at least three lessons I must apply to being a pastor. Read More

9 Reasons We Preachers Need to Say "Thank You" Today

It’s easy for we preachers to sometimes get focused on only the negatives of ministry. Church members can be headaches, and trying to reach people seems like an uphill battle. On the other hand, we have plenty of reasons to be thankful to be preachers today. Here are some of them.... Read More

Preaching, Theology, and Writing with Thomas Schreiner [Video]

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Dr Herschel York sits down with SBTS's Dr. Thomas Schreiner to discuss preaching, theology, and writing. Watch Now

The Ridiculous Emphasis Christians Place on Bible Study

Brian Jones argues that Christians spend too much time studying the Bible and not enough time living out its teachings. Read More
J. I. Packer addresses this issue in his book, Hot Tub Religion: Christian Living in a Materialistic World, in which he compares what he calls "sit and soak Christians" to sponges. They absorb more and more of God's Word until they are swollen with the Word but very little if any of the Word leaks out into their lives. Indeed they may have come to believe that studying the Scriptures is a good work which is pleasing to God and earns them merit with God. The Scriptures, on the other hand, teach that obedience to God, being doers of the Word, not hearers only, is what is pleasing to God.
8 Basic Ways to Love Your Neighbor

If you walk outside your front door, could you name every person who lives within sight? Is it fair to say that if we are going to love our neighbors we need to know them first? Here are a few ways Janet and I try to live out the second Great Commandment in our Nashville neighborhood.... Read More

A Disappearing Missionary Impulse

We should empower all of God’s people to dream as missionaries again. Read More

Christian Family Details Crackdown on Church in China

The Sunday service this week at an unassuming church in Taiwan was especially moving for one man. It was the first time Liao Qiang had worshipped publicly since authorities shut down his church in China seven months ago. Read More

Monday, July 08, 2019

Monday's Catch: The Small Church Comeback and More

Why Smaller Churches Are Making a Comeback

Two-thirds of churches have an attendance under 125. The smaller church is the norm, not the exception. And though the news has not been that promising for smaller churches in recent years, I do see some very promising signs for the years ahead. Why do I make such an apparently contrarian statement? Here are five reasons.... Read More

10 Things That Can Happen When Churches Don't Admit and Adjust to Decline

I didn’t want to write this post, as my goal in this site is to offer ideas and encouragement for healthy church growth. Nevertheless, I’ve seen far too many churches that were once considerably larger and then went into decline, but without making any necessary adjustments to their change in size. Here are some of the things that often happen when churches don’t admit or adjust to decline.... Read More

8 Preaching Convictions: What Do You Firmly Believe?

Our preaching convictions will come through when we preach, when we prepare, and when we prioritize our week. Read More

How One Thai Church Bridges the Gap between Thai Culture and Christianity

If “to be Thai is to be Buddhist,” as the common catchphrase in Thailand goes, how does the church help a Thai Christian reconcile their cultural and spiritual identities? For pastor Chukiat Chaiboonsiri, pastor of Creation Church in Thailand, the answer is to “bridge the gap” between Thai culture and Christianity by showing Thais how they can hold on to their heritage and still follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Read More

The Posture of Prayer: A Look at How Hindus Pray

Priya* was a Hindu before putting her faith in Christ as her Savior. Most of her family is still Hindu, so she continues to see regular Hindu prayer and worship in their homes. Priya also remembers well the postures and rituals from her twenty years as a Hindu. I asked her to describe Hindu prayer, and she graciously agreed. Read More

The Apostles Never ‘Shared’ the Gospel, and Neither Should We

Why it’s time to retire our favorite evangelistic phrase. Read More

Americans Vastly Overestimate the LGBT Population

According to the estimates of U.S. adults, nearly 1 in 4 Americans are gay or lesbian. In reality, the number is much closer to 1 in 20. Read More

CANA Missionary Bishop, The Rt. Rev'd. Dr. Felix Orji Announces New CANA Diocese Initiative

The Rt. Rev’d Felix Orji speaking at Synod Banquet
The Diocese-in-Formation will be distinctively Reformed and Evangelical

The Rt. Rev’d. Dr. Felix Orji announced Friday that one of his goals as the new Missionary Bishop of CANA is to launch a new diocese that is distinctively Confessional, Reformed, and Evangelical.

The first of its kind in more than one hundred years in North America, the diocese-in-formation will be dedicated to the riches of the theological and liturgical principles of the 16th century English Reformation.

Commenting on his plans, Bishop Felix said, “This is the kind of Anglicanism that shaped the Church of Nigeria that I remember as a child.”

The new diocese will first be a dedicated missionary archdeaconry in the Diocese of the West (CANA). “The archdeaconry envisaged will be non-geographical and led by a Provisional Council under my episcopal authority and guidance. I sense the Lord’s grace in this and I look forward to his sovereign providence as this plan unfolds,” said Bishop Felix. Learn More