Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Articles of Religion, Churchmanship, and the American Church


The ongoing debate over the Ornaments Rubric of 1559, which is going on in several internet forums is moot in the American Church. It is purely academic and has no practical significance. In the nineteenth century the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church USA, which at the time represented the Anglican Church in the United States, rejected a proposed canon that would have regulated clergy and church ornaments in the American Church.

Whatever judicial rulings that were made in the United Kingdom in regard to clergy and church ornaments in the Church of England during that century have no bearing on the American Church. The Protestant Episcopal Church USA was established as an independent jurisdiction. While the new church would maintain ties with the Church of England, it was no longer subject to judicial rulings that affected its mother church.

Since that time the American Church has expanded to include the Continuing Anglican Churches and the second Anglican Church in North America. All these churches are independent jurisdictions with their own standards of doctrine and practice. 

This debate is a rehash of the debate that occurred in the nineteenth century and at its heart is a debate over churchmanship. It is overshadowing a far more important issue—the place of the Articles of Religion of 1571 in the American Church.

Among the functions of the Articles are to safeguard the reformed Anglican understanding of the gospel and to set the bounds of comprehensiveness in the reformed Anglican church. For the preservation of authentic historic Anglicanism adherence to the principles of doctrine and practice in the Articles is far more important than loyalty to any one particular school of churchmanship. One should not be confused with the other.

As the late James Packer pointed to our attention, the Articles of Religion establish a relatively broad comprehensiveness on secondary matters. The broadness of this comprehensiveness has benefited the Anglican Church, enabling it to adapt to a variety of different circumstances. In seeking to replace this comprehensiveness with a much narrower standard that would move the Anglican Church in a more High Church or Low Church direction, those championing a more constrictive standard would be inhibiting the growth of the Anglican Church. They would be taking away its adaptability at a time in church history when the Anglican Church, while holding the line on primary matters, needs to be flexible on secondary ones. They would also be elevating to the level of primary matters things that are secondary—not essential to our salvation. The result would be the kind of legalism against which Jesus himself warned. Legalism is a very real danger that has historically beset churches in the Reformed tradition.

One of the attractions of the Anglican Church for Reformed clergy is that, while the Anglican Church stands in the Protestant and Reformed tradition, it is not rigid on secondary matters. It permits more latitude and freedom of thought in these matters than do some Presbyterian and Reformed denominations.

The Articles of Religion of 1571 are the shortest of the Reformed confessions of faith. While their brevity has drawn fire from critics, they address those matters that the English Reformers believed were the most important while leaving other matters to the conscience of the individual. They provide guard rails for Anglicans, identifying areas that constitute serious error from a biblical perspective and which consequently are off-limits to clergy and congregations. At the same time, they do not dictate how Anglicans should think on matters on which they can have a diversity of opinions. They represent a moderate form of Reformed belief and practice, one which shows the influence of the early Reformed theologians.

If our aim is to give the Articles of Religion a central place in the American Church as the standard of doctrine and practice, second only to the Bible, we should not tie adherence to the Articles to allegiance to a particular school of churchmanship or permit adherence to the Articles to become associated with allegiance to such a school in the minds of Anglicans. This would substitute the beliefs and practices of this school for the principles of the Articles. It would deprive clergy and congregations of the leeway in secondary matters that the Articles afford. It would elevate preferences of one group as a standard while disallowing choices of other groups, which are within the bounds of the Articles. It would defeat the purpose of the Articles to provide the maximum of liberty on secondary matters. It would also discourage clergy and congregations that do not subscribe to the beliefs and practices of that particular school of churchmanship from embracing the Articles as the American Church’s standard of doctrine and practice.

The Articles themselves make allowance for diversity of practice in the Anglican Church provided that nothing is “ordained against God’s Word” or is “repugnant to God’s Word” and provided further that “all things be done to edifying.”
XXXIV. Of the Traditions of the Church.
It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.

Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.
The Articles do not demand an Ultramontane uniformity in the Anglican Church, one that does not permit differences in practice. It does, however, require that practices should be compatible with Scripture and should instruct and improve Anglicans morally and spiritually.

For example, the Scriptures teach that the gathered church is the temple of the Holy Spirit, in other words, God’s temple; that the Holy Spirit, God himself, indwells believers, and that when two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, he is in their midst. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he was facing the disciples. He did not have his back turned to them. Whatever we do in our gatherings should build up the faith of those present. Our prayers should be understandable to even an outsider who wanders into one of our gatherings off the street. The New Testament recognizes only three sacrifices that believers may offer to God—the offering of our praise and thanksgiving for what God has done for us; the offering of ourselves, our bodies, and our souls in response to his mighty deeds; and the offering of our good works that arise from our faith in God. 

For the foregoing reasons, “God’s board” should be placed in the body of the church where the congregation not only has an unobstructed view of what the minister is doing at the table but also can hear what he is saying. The minister should stand behind the table, facing the congregation and not with his back turned to the congregation. The only things on the table should be a bread plate with a loaf of bread, a chalice of wine, a flagon for additional wine, a liturgical book, and a pillow to support the book. The table should be spread with a fair linen tablecloth. It may have a cover of best fabric. The color of this cover may be changed with the liturgical seasons, but it is not necessary. A cover of best fabric might be used during church festivals and the seasons of Christmas and Easter; second best on ordinary Sundays, and burlap or sackcloth during Lent and Passiontide. If candles are desired, they should be on floor stands, flanking the table. 

Nothing should be on the table that draws attention away from the signs—the bread and the wine. Clunky brass or wooden bookstands should not be used as they give too much prominence to the liturgical book. The manual acts—the taking and breaking bread and the taking of the chalice and the laying of the hand on the wine flagon—were meant to be seen, not hidden behind someone’s back or by a bookstand. 

The eucharistic prayer should be said in an audible voice, not mumbled or whispered. The people should understand to what they are adding their “Amen” and ratifying as the prayer of the assembly. The minister, in saying the eucharistic prayer, is acting as the “tongue” of the assembly and should be heard. 

Ideally the eucharistic prayer should have other parts beside the Sursum Corda, the Sanctus-Benedictus, and the Great Amen in which the people can join such as a memorial acclamation like “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The minister may wear a loose fitting white Old English surplice with wide sleeves over a white monastic alb, a loose-fitting white cassock alb with wide sleeves, a loose-fitting white concelebration alb with wide sleeves, a loose- fitting white Genevan gown with wide sleeves, or even a loose-fitting white monastic chasuble with wide sleeves. All these vestments fit the description of the white robes of the Revelation to John. The congregation may also don white robes.

Everything that I have just described falls within the bounds of the Articles. This includes the vestments that I listed. The Elizabethan Church adopted the surplice and the cope for church services because they were choir vestments and had no association with the Eucharist and the sacrifice of the Mass. Today’s choir vestments are barely distinguishable from eucharistic vestments and some are even more elaborate. While the principle behind the adoption of the surplice and cope made sense at that time and to some extent makes sense today, a decisive overriding factor in the twenty-first century is what will serve the best as an aid to the spread of the gospel in a particular segment of the population of a particular community and what will act the most as a hindrance. We do live and minister in a different time.

As the late William Palmer Ladd wrote, “The student of Church history must try to discover both the beacon lights and the warnings, and should seek to interpret both for the benefit of his own time.” The vestments we wear can convey the wrong message. They are not entirely neutral. At the same time, we can put too much emphasis on externals. We should not dismiss a fellow pastor who genuinely subscribes to the principles of the Articles but does not wear a surplice for church services. Our adherence to the Articles is not tied to our devotion to a particular school of churchmanship. That school of churchmanship may itself violate the spirit of the Articles.

Vaccines Alone Will Not Stop Covid Spreading - Here's Why UPDATED


Many of us are hoping vaccines against coronavirus will be our route out of lockdown, enabling us to reclaim our old lives. But scientists say jabs alone will not currently be enough and other measures are still needed Learn More

Also See:
Poll: Youth sports good at communicating COVID-19 safety protocols, bad at enforcing virus precautions New

More Young Adults Are Being Hospitalized with COVID as Faster-Spreading Strains Dominate
WHO says Covid pandemic is growing ‘exponentially’ at more than 4.4 million new cases a week
CDC director calls on Michigan to 'close things down' amid surge in cases
The BBC visual article explains the concept of "layers of intervention," a concept that we all need to grasp and cooperate in implementing to reduce the spread of the COVID coronavirus and its new, more contagious and possibly more deadly variants. Pastors who attack face masks, social distancing, and other precautionary measures from the pulpit or on social media are contributing to the spread of the virus and are endangering the health, safety, and welfare of their congregations and their communities. 

5 Ways Your Congregation Can Meaningfully Connect With the Global Church


Through a pandemic, hindered travel has caused churches to wonder how to connect with the global church. But with COVID-19 or not, the answers remain the same.

Create deep, not wide, partnerships.

Most missions programs in churches understand the role of partnerships with people and organizations around the world. In partnering with others, we acknowledge that we, ourselves, are not the savior. We acknowledge that working together with those native to the country we’re trying to help makes us co-laborers for the kingdom.

We acknowledge that we don’t know more than those from other countries. We’re able to serve in a spirit of humility, humbling ourselves not only to God, but also to the people we want to serve and share the gospel with.

But sometimes we enjoy breadth—not depth—in our partnerships. So, we try to partner with many organizations without being able to be deeply involved in all of them. We must know and understand our own church resources, where we’re able to not just dip into many plates but rather be involved partners, knowing the triumphs and struggles of the people we minister to and alongside.

It’s OK to not have a wide assortment of people or organizations to partner with; it’s not a competition of what church has the most partners. If we’re able to get deep, where our members know how the partnership works and how they can get involved, we’re able to encourage and empower these partners better with material support, laborers, and prayers.

When we work in a partnering relationship in this way, we understand better what partnership is and can invest well in what God’s doing in the global church. Of course, there’s no magic number. Know your church, know your resources, and dig deeper—instead of wider—for the sake of healthy partnerships. Read More

Best Auto Tracking Cameras For Church And Other Venues


Today, as the demand for video streaming exponentially grows, tracking cameras are definitely changing the game. Here we have compiled the best auto-tracking cameras available. We have chosen these cameras on the following merits. They offer great value for money, are inexpensive when compared to other solutions, and incorporate the best technology when it comes to intelligent tracking. All in all, these are the best auto-tracking cameras. Read More
The video camera shown in the photo is not an auto tracking camera. 

Five Ways to Make an Aging Congregation Younger


It is one of the top three requests for help we get at Church Answers: “Our church membership continues to get older. What do we do?”

The members and leadership see the handwriting on the wall. One church leader with whom I spoke just two days ago summarized their challenge. Ten years ago the church’s median age of church members was 42. Today it is 74. One-half of the church members are 74 years old and older.

Many of the younger members left for a variety of reasons. They have not been replaced with similar age members. The congregation is getting older rapidly. The leader with whom I spoke said his church would not be able to sustain itself financially within three or four years.

Is there a solution to this challenge? Based upon some great insights from church leaders, I do indeed see how God is working to move the aging church forward. Here are the five most common responses we have gotten at Church Answers.... Read More

Pastors, Programs, or People: Who Makes Disciples in Your Church?


Jesus commissioned the Church to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), and every church must answer the question, “How will we make disciples?”

A 2019 Lifeway Research survey of pastors revealed a positive outlook on disciple-making efforts in American churches. Around 2 in 3 pastors (65%) feel satisfied with the state of discipleship compared with 47% in 2011, which is likely more than increased optimism. More pastors evaluated their discipleship progress in 2019 than in 2011, indicating that the focus might be shifting from quantity to quality of disciples.

Yet I suspect that fewer churches try to answer, “Who will make disciples?” The 2019 Discipleship Pathway assessment found that while 78% of church members had meaningful relationships in their church, less than half indicated they intentionally dedicate time to help others grow in their faith.

Nearly 60 commands in the New Testament direct Christians to carry out Christlike actions to “one another.” These commands demonstrate the crucial role that believers play in the discipleship of other believers. So who makes disciples in your church, and how do they do it?

The survey of pastors revealed various approaches to make disciples. On average, pastors indicated using six different approaches to make disciples, and the results highlight three dimensions of the answer to who makes disciples. Read More

Monday, April 12, 2021

Evangelism: Tackling the Roots of Episcopalians' Reluctance


Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?” Episcopalians are asked this question at every baptism celebrated according to the liturgies of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. “Word and example” — the phrase refers obviously to speech and action, and it echoes the common pairing of “word and deed.”

Episcopalians rhetorically affirm a connection between word and example, speech and deed. When it comes to practice, though, we typically say yes to example, yes to deed, but no to word, or, at best, maybe to word. Reticence about verbalizing the good news of God in Christ in actual speech is what underlies Episcopalians’ reluctance to engage in evangelism, still less to embrace it as a mandate for ourselves or for the Church as a whole.

Evangelism labors under weighty negative impressions of it: intrusive fundamentalists knocking on your door and telling you that only their version of the gospel and their church are acceptable to God. Televangelists who seem more concerned with raising money for themselves than with the welfare of their flock. Telling rather than listenin
g. Arrogance and imposition rather than humility and affirmation. Read More

Also See:
The Church Needs an Ancient Faith if It Is to Survive
Titus Presler offers some good observation about Episcopalians' reluctance to be evangelistic, observations that also apply to clergy and members of the Continuing Anglican Churches and the Anglican Church in North America. Regrettably he falls back on two old bugaboos of being evangelistic in the Episcopal Church, bugaboos that can be traced to the 1950s and which Episcopalians have used to justify their lack of evangelistic zeal. Nowadays the only folks knocking on people's doors and plugging their particular view of the gospel are Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. Door to door visitation has fallen out of favor in most so-called fundamentalist churches. Pastors and prayer teams may occasionally make home visits, introduce themselves, offer to pray for the members of a household, and leave literature about their church. But they have found that people for the most part do not respond well to unannounced visits. Pentecostal and prosperity gospel preachers now dominate televangelism. Evangelical churches have opted for more low key, less in-your-face approaches to evangelism.

The chief reason that I left the Episcopal Church in 2002 was the apathetic attitude of my own pastor and the clergy of the local deanery toward evangelism and church planting. The county in which I was living was growing exponentially and other denominations were planting new churches right and left  When the bishop launched a diocesan-wide church planting initiative, the leaders of the parish church at the east end of the county begged him to not  to permit the planting of any new churches at their end of the county out of fear the new church would take members from their church. They were sitting on their hands when it came to reaching out to their area's unchurched. The bishop listened to their appeal and held off permitting the planting of any new churches in the deanery until 2002. In 2002 he gave permission for a new church plant at the other end of the county. This church plant and a new church plant in East Baton Rouge were growing until the events of 2003, which killed the two church plants and set back other churches in the diocese.

Presler has his task cut of for him if he hopes to inspire a zeal for evangelism in Episcopalians. Episcopalians not only have a longstanding distaste for evangelism but they have also carried that distaste with them into the Continuing Churches and the ACNA. In my experience most of the people who take an interest in evangelism and church planting in the Episcopal Church are not cradle Episcopalians. They come from other denominational backgrounds.

How to Lead When You Lack Clear Vision and Direction


If you are not clear about vision or direction, don’t panic, God is still with you.

This experience of being temporarily “in the wilderness” and you can’t see what’s next is more common than you might imagine.

The important thing is not to allow yourself or your team to settle in and accept it as “the way things are.”

The first thing to do is figure out the reason why. Read More

Listen, Y’ALL: The Plural ‘You’ Is Biblical

Eastern Kentucky
If you want to know where in the United States people call home, just wait long enough to hear them speak informally to a group of people. If you hear “y’all,” they may hail from the Deep South, like me. If you hear “yous guys,” New Jersey would be a smarter guess. In some parts of Appalachia, or Pittsburgh, you might even hear “you’uns.”

These regional differences—as Josh Katz explains in Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide—aren’t just fascinating. They’re real-life solutions to a particular ambiguity in the English language, an ambiguity that can hinder our reading of Scripture in English.

The English pronoun “you” functions as both the second-person singular and plural. A husband says “I love you” to his wife, and a rock star shouts “Are you ready?” to a stadium full of fans. We used to have the exclusively singular “thou,” but in modern English, “you” does everything. Read More

David Garrison on Why We Must Pray for Muslims Around the World


I urge Christians to pray for Muslims, for their salvation, for their blessing in Jesus Christ

I recently had the privilege of delivering the sermon at my local church. I took the opportunity to share from Acts 17:26-27,
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”
As the author of a recent global survey revealing unprecedented turnings of thousands of Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ, I used the opportunity to point out that it is God who determines the times and boundaries of the world’s peoples. I shared with the congregation that it is no accident that God has allowed more than 3 million Muslims to find their new homes here in the United States.

The reason for this relocation, I said, was so that “perhaps Muslim immigrants in America might reach out for him and find him.” For this divine appointment to be realized, though, requires us to acknowledge that God has also placed us here in proximity to more than 3 million Muslims, so that we would share with them the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

During the invitation, I invited the congregation to pray for Muslims, and for themselves, that God would use us to bring them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Read More

Supreme Court Rules California Must Allow In-Home Religious Gatherings


The Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 margin late Friday that California's coronavirus-related restrictions on gathering in private homes violated constitutional rights on the free exercise of religion, the latest ruling from the high court that prohibits authorities from enforcing limits on religious services. Read More

Also See:
Why The Supreme Court Struck Down California’s Limits On Private Worship (And Why It Is A Big Deal)
High Court Halts CA Coronavirus Rules Limiting Home Worship
In my state and region small gatherings in which two or more households mix has been identified as high risk for COVID-19 transmission. Why? People spend longer times together than they may in a grocery store or other public place. Since they know each other, they are apt to relax their vigilance and to not wear face masks, to not social distance, and to not take other precautionary measures. There will be peer pressure to ignore such precautions. They are also likely to share food.  The latest research points to the transmission of COVID-19, not only through airborne particles but also saliva. In addition, they are likely to meet in poorly ventilated spaces. Why some churches and religious organizations may be celebrating this ruling as a victory for religious freedom as they see it, it actually may be a victory for COVID-19. Whether the First Amendment guarantees churches and religious organizations the freedom to do whatever they please without regard to the consequences to their own members or to the public at large is a matter of debate. Under the provisions of the US Constitution the state at the federal, state, and local level has a duty, obligation, and responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens and others resident in the country. As the dissenting minority in this ruling pointed out, the decision of the majority may be not be well-informed and may endanger the health, safety, and welfare of religious organizations and the general public. 

Coronavirus: What Are the Rules for Places of Worship?


Easter, Passover, Ramadan and Vaisakhi all fall within the month of April, so it's an important month across different faiths.

And with lockdown being relaxed across the UK, more places of worship are now open - but there are still changes to worshippers' usual practices. Read More
I am posting a link to this article not only for UK readers but also for readers in Australia, Canada, and the United States. One of the issues confronting us today is under what circumstances, if any, does public health concerns override the freedom of religious organizations and groups to gather and what restrictions, if any, the state can impose on religious gatherings.

The Warning Signs of a Longer Pandemic


All the things that could prolong the COVID-19 pandemic — that could make this virus a part of our lives longer than anyone wants — are playing out right in front of our eyes.

The big picture: Right now, the U.S. is still making fantastic progress on vaccinations. But as variants of the virus cause new outbreaks and infect more children, the U.S. is also getting a preview of what the future could hold if our vaccination push loses steam — as experts fear it soon might.

Driving the news: The British variant is driving another surge in cases in Michigan, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has resisted reimposing any of the lockdown measures she embraced earlier in the pandemic. Read More

Also See:
As vaccinations keep rising, so do Covid-19 hospitalizations among those who aren't vaccinated
Covid-19: Debunking the latest wave of medical misinformation
Wearing masks could save at least 14,000 people from COVID-19 deaths by August, model predicts

Sunday, April 11, 2021

All Hallows Evening Prayer for Sunday Evening (April 11, 2021) Is Now Online

 

All Hallows Evening Prayer is a service of worship in the evening for all pilgrims on the journey to the heavenly city.

To a small boy on a bicycle, who had spent a sun-drenched summer day traversing the hedged lanes of the English countryside, a signpost whose wooden finger pointed to the way home was a welcome sight. While he may not have realized it at the time, that signpost was put there by God’s grace, God’s grace that had sent him down unfamiliar roads in search of the church of a long-gone village, in search of God himself.

The Scripture reading for this Sunday evening is John 20:19-23 Jesus Appears to the Disciples.

The homily is titled, “Jesus’ Fingerposts”

The link to this Sunday evening’s service is—

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/2021/04/all-hallows-evening-prayer-for-sunday.html

Please feel free to share the link to the service with anyone whom you believe might benefit from the service.

If an ad plays when you open a link to a video in a new tab, click the refresh icon of your browser until the song appears. An ad may follow a song so as soon as the song is finished, close the tab.

Previous services are online at

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/

May this service be a blessing to you.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

5 Future Trends Leaders Need to Prepare For


The realities that will shape the next decade of ministry

As you know, the last five years have been tough on leaders. Really tough.

Pandemic or no pandemic, every leader has realized we’re not in Kansas anymore. In fact, we’re not quite sure where we are.

Which is the point of this article.

Where exactly are we as a culture, as a society? As leaders? And what can we expect in the next decade?

Most of us like to know the future because it gives us some semblance of control. If you can predict human behavior or world events, you can prepare.

Add to that the responsibility those of us in leadership today have for the next generation, and it adds to the urgency that we make some wise moves now.

As the post-pandemic world takes shape, there’s a lot of uncertainty. But that doesn’t mean we’re without clues.

As uncertain as things are (and they are), here are five things every leader should be watching and preparing for in the decade ahead. Read More

The FAQs: Food Insecurity Persists for U.S. Elderly and Children


What just happened?

A news report by the Associated Press finds that even as the economic results of the pandemic are subsiding, food insecurity remains persistent, especially for children and the elderly.

For instance, data from Feeding America, a national network of most U.S. food banks, shows its members distributed about 42 percent more food in the last three months of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. The quantity of food allotted in those three months was only 1 percent lower than in the months of July, August, and September of 2020.

“A lot of families who were living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic were already experiencing food insecurity,” says Katie Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Feeding America. “Now, the level of insecurity for some has grown more extreme, when you see real hunger—mom skipping meals to feed the family.” Read More

How to Speak to Someone Who's Hesitant to Get Vaccinated

As a pediatrician, Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez spends many of her days with nervous moms and dads listening to reasons why they're worried about their kids receiving vaccinations.
"It often manifests as just complete disagreements on how to raise kids," said Bracho-Sanchez.

To navigate the complexity, she tells her families that she would never judge parents or accuse them of not loving their kids any less if they're afraid of vaccinations. She just asks that they talk about it.

For some childhood vaccines it can take years, but skeptical parents often come around.

She is now applying those hard won experiences, in a more accelerated way, nudging families toward getting shots for their kids in how she talks with her own family members hesitant to get their Covid-19 shot.

"These are new vaccines and that comes with a reaction and a fear that is very real," she said. "I think we also have to remember there is massive misinformation out there."

Her skills, and those of pediatricians like her, can help you as you talk with your own loved ones about getting protected against Covid-19. Read More

Why Visions Fail


In my interactions with pastors and churches over the past few months, discussions of re-creating or reviving vision within their ministry has been a frequent topic. Most understand that we are entering a new season of ministry as we emerge from the global pandemic. Some are discovering that they will have to ignite a fire and re-energize the motivations of some congregants for the church’s mission. Our discussions center on why visions fail as leaders craft and attempt to cast a compelling vision to propel the church forward. Here are four take-ways from those discussions.... Read More

Anglican Convert and Pacific Island Deity: 5 Faith Facts about Prince Philip

Canterbury Cathedral

Married for 73 years to the head of the Church of England, the prince consort built a religious profile that was more complicated than his official role might suggest.

Prince Philip, who died Friday (April 9) at age 99, was married for 73 years to the head of the Church of England, and it’s no surprise he identified for most of his life as an Anglican. But his religious profile was somewhat more complicated. Here are five faith facts to know about Britain’s longest-serving consort.

He was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church


Before Philip and Elizabeth’s 1947 wedding, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, discreetly suggesting Philip be formally received into the Church of England. Though related to Queen Victoria, Philip was the scion of the royal house of Greece, where he was born, baptized and lived for the first 18 months of his life.

By the time of his engagement to Elizabeth, Philip considered himself an Anglican and had attended Church of England services during his tenure as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. However, he was still formally a Greek Orthodox.

“In the Church of England we are always ready to minister to members of the Orthodox Church and to admit to the Sacrament,” wrote then-Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher. “At the same time, unless he is officially received into the Church of England, he remains a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which, though on the closest and most friendly terms with us, is not able to enter full communion with us.” Read More

Opinion: Behind Gallup’s Portrait of Church Decline


America’s religious life will be shaped not by secularization alone.

As Holy Week began this year, a Gallup Poll found that church membership in the United States had declined to less than half of the population for the first time. The headline grabbed attention, but it’s mostly unsurprising: In a country where 90% of the 350,000 congregations in the U.S. have a profile older than the general population, time brings an inevitable decline.

Christians have also suffered self-inflicted damage: Surveys show that the identification of many white evangelicals with former President Donald Trump drove many millennials away, as did the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church over the previous decades. “Nones” — those claiming no religious affiliation — are growing, now roughly equaling the number of evangelicals or of Catholics in the U.S.

That all makes for nice sound bites, but it’s not the whole story, and there are realities behind Gallup’s numbers that deserve exploration. Read More

Also See:
The Hollowing Out of American Religion

The Power of Repentance



The blessing of turning from sin

Is God asking you to repent in any way in your life?

Our response to that last question reveals to us the condition of our hearts with God.

Do you know why God wants you to repent?

Israel had forgotten why in Jeremiah’s day.

So Jeremiah had to remind them in Jeremiah 4:1–2:

“If you return, O Israel, if you remove your detestable things and swear to righteousness, then the nations shall bless themselves in God and in God shall they glory.”

God is saying, “Israel, if you will repent, then you and others will be blessed, and God will receive the glory!” Read More

Take Your Stand [Video; Transcript]


Our culture is confused about what it means to be a man. Even notions of masculinity have, in many corners, become toxic. Kingdom Men Rising Bible study speaks truth into a poorly defined and disoriented culture about the purpose and future of masculinity from a biblical perspective. In this Bible study, men will wrestle honestly with the unique questions and circumstances they face today. It invites men deep into their own stories to reveal the true expression of masculinity—God’s intent.

In this video excerpt of the study, Dr. Tony Evans talks about the importance of rising up and taking a stand for God, even when our world is shaky. Watch Now

Also See:
David Platt on 5 Exhortations in Evangelism [Podcast]

image credit: tonyevans.org

Friday, April 09, 2021

All Hallows Evening Prayer for Saturday Evening (April 10, 2021) Is Now Online


All Hallows Evening Prayer is a service of worship in the evening for all pilgrims on the journey to the heavenly city.

When we gather in his name, Jesus is present in the midst of his people, in the proclamation of the Word, and the sharing of bread and the fruit of the vine. While we may not see him as did Cleopas and his companion did on the way to Emmaus, he is present to our souls and nourishes us in our innermost being.

The Scripture reading for this Saturday evening is Luke 24: 13-35 On the Way to Emmaus

The homily is titled “In the Breaking of the Bread.”

The dismissal song for this Saturday evening is Marty Haugen’s “On the Journey to Emmaus,” scored for choir, assembly, keyboard and guitar, with optional woodwind in C and available from GIA Publications.

The link to this Saturday evening’s service is—

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/2021/04/all-hallows-evening-prayer-for-saturday.html

Please feel free to share the link to the service with anyone whom you believe might benefit from the service.

If an ad plays when you open a link to a video in a new tab, click the refresh icon of your browser until the song appears. An ad may follow a song so as soon as the song is finished, close the tab.

Previous services are online at

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/

May this service be a blessing to you.

It’s Been a Year: Why Isn’t Livestream Worship Better?


Pastors, communication, and media leaders: It’s been over a year since the mandated church lockdowns. Obviously, back then many churches were caught by surprise and needed to do some catching up to make their livestream worship services work for an online congregation. In that process, I know communication and media teams worked overtime getting their production schedules, equipment, and volunteers up to speed, and that incredible effort should be appreciated.

But after a year, I’m distressed to say that I haven’t seen much innovation, and now that we’re moving back into the building, I’m concerned about the future of live-streaming.

I’m not trying to be overly negative, but on this one-year anniversary, I would have liked to see more innovations. We’ve had a year to explore new ideas, adapt more effectively to an online audience, and be more creative in our presentation. But most live-streamed services I’m seeing are not very different from those early first months of the lockdown. What happened? Read More

image credit: philcooke.com

What is Missiology?


Defining and discerning what missiology is—and how it can help you.

The gospel message never changes.

It’s the once-for-all hope for humanity.

Cultures, however, are ever-changing. Communicating the gospel in a timely way in a given cultural context matters even more in a time of rapid change like today. Therefore, an ever-present reality for the church––from pastors and staff, to leadership in denominations, networks, and movements, and including all believers––is becoming more effective in communicating the gospel in culture. This is why the work of missiologists and the field of missiology matter so much. But what do we mean by missiology?

And what is the work of a missiologist? Read More

Hope & Heartache: Gleaning From COVID-19’s Impact on the Black Church


Churches around the country have suffered this past year because of the pandemic—the Black church more than others. Mark Croston, national director of Black church ministries at Lifeway Christian Resources, talked more in depth with Lifeway Research about the impact of COVID-19 on the Black church in the U.S.

Why do you think Black Americans have suffered more during COVID-19 than white Americans?

Croston: When it comes to COVID-19 the USA is truly a world leader. As of March 5, 2021, according to an article in Medical Press, the United States had reported 28,780,950 cases and 519,064 deaths from COVID-19, leading the world in these two areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the world, but especially in the United States. We have roughly one-fourth the population of India, but roughly three times the numbers of cases and deaths.

We have the best scientists, physicians, hospitals, technology, communication, finances, system of government, you name it, and yet we find ourselves at the top of this hill which puts us at the bottom of the barrel.

So, you might be asking, what all this has to do with answering the question. It has everything to do with it. It suggests to me that there’s something additional going on here: That is, we’ve lacked the will, as a nation, to lower these numbers and squash the pandemic. Social distancing, quarantine and mask wearing are being seen through the optics of politics rather than the public good. So, when the public good gets pushed off the table, who always gets hurt most? The poor and minority populations. Read More

Beth Moore Apologizes for Her Role in Elevating ‘Complementarian’ Theology That Limits Women Leaders


In an email to Religion News Service, Moore didn’t go quite so far as to say she has entirely abandoned complementarianism. But she no longer sees it as essential.

First she shook the evangelical world by leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. Now Beth Moore, arguably the evangelical world’s most famous Bible teacher, has begged forgiveness for supporting the theology of male headship rooted in many evangelical cultures.

In a Twitter thread Wednesday (April 7), Moore took aim at complementarianism, the 20th century theological framework that argues men and women were created for different roles and that effectively champions male headship and female submission.

For some evangelicals, complementarianism is a line in the sand. Those who question it are seen as undermining belief in the Bible. Moore said that was wrong.

Let me be blunt,” Moore tweeted. “When you functionally treat complementarianism—a doctrine of MAN—as if it belongs among the matters of 1st importance, yea, as a litmus test for where one stands on inerrancy & authority of Scripture, you are the ones who have misused Scripture. You went too far.”

She also apologized for her past view on the matter.

I beg your forgiveness where I was complicit,” she said on social media. “I could not see it for what it was until 2016. I plead your forgiveness for how I just submitted to it and supported it and taught it.” Read More

Image Credit: Adelle M. Banks/Religion News Service

6 Effective Ways to Follow Up With First-Time Guests


There are a few things first-time guests expect when they visit your church. They expect to be greeted warmly; they expect to fill out a card with their contact information; and they expect someone from your church will follow up with them. Fail to meet any of these expectations, and they aren’t likely to return for a second visit.

The guest follow-up is a huge opportunity to build a memorable connection, but it requires attention. It is crucial to develop a process and execute the process each week.

First-time guests follow-up is a significant role in the guest experience. Maximize the follow-up with creativity and authenticity. Read More
A face to face meeting or a home visit may not be the best idea in the midst of a pandemic. Even in better times some first time guests prefer that you not make unannounced visits to their homes or even visit them at home at all due to their particular circumstances. Their preferences should be respected.

The Best Advice on Engaging Muslims, from Arab Evangelical Scholars


Diverse anthology of current Christian research on Islam, the Quran, and Muhammad suggests biblically-faithful paths for better engagement beyond polemics or dialogue.

American evangelicals often find themselves frustrated in their approach to Islam.

Two options are consistently placed before them: a polemical argument few are educated enough to engage in, or an awkward dialogue urging friendship but emptied of theological significance.

Help, therefore, may come from abroad—where evangelicals interact with Muslims everyday. Read More

Thursday, April 08, 2021

When Did God Become a Sparkling Beverage?


An article from The Living Church, to which I recently posted a link on Anglicans Ablaze, is titled, “'Filling People with God': Fresh Expressions Connects with the Unchurched.”  The title of the article is taken from a statement made by Jon Davis, an Episcopal priest, mission strategist, and trainer with Fresh Expressions US. He stated, “Fresh Expressions is the medicine that’s needed to make the church healthy and strong again in its mission. We thought the mission was to fill the pews with people, but that’s not the mission. The mission of the church is to fill people with God.”

Fresh Expressions was launched as a joint initiative of the Church of England and the Methodist Church in September 2005. Fresh Expressions UK  and Fresh Expressions US are independent organizations and have their own websites. Fresh Expressions has its critics and its supporters

I found Jon Davis’ statement remarkable because, while filling pews with people is not the mission of the church, “filling people with God” is also not the church’s mission. God is not a sparkling beverage which can be poured into people like wine into a glass. We cannot fill people with God. God can fill people with himself, but we cannot fill them with God. I had to wonder where the Rev. Davis had gotten such a view of the church’s mission. It was certainly not from the Bible.

From the New Testament we learn the mission of the church is to make disciples from all people groups, to baptize them in the name of the Holy Trinity, and to instruct them in Jesus’ teaching; to proclaim eternal salvation; to go into the world and to spread the good news to all creation; to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to the entire world; and to make Jesus know so that all may believe in him and have eternal life. The four gospels offer us different accounts of what is called the “Great Commission.” They sketch out different aspects of the same mission.

We can point people to Jesus. We can help pave the way for them to meet Jesus. If they turn to Jesus and believe in him, we can disciple and mentor them. We can help form and shape them as Jesus followers. We can encourage them. But we cannot fill them with God. Only God alone can fill them with himself. The things that we can do, we do because God, through his grace, enables us to do them. God gives us the desire to do them and the power to do them.

The gift of God’s presence and power in us, the gift of the Holy Spirit, is God’s doing. We have nothing to do with it. God is sovereign in that matter as he is in all matters.

What’s the Earliest Evidence for Christianity? (The Answer May Surprise You)


What is the earliest historical evidence for Christianity?

Virtually all scholars today, teaching in the relevant fields of ancient history, classics, and biblical studies—from all different religious backgrounds—agree on certain bedrock facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth. To name a few: Jesus began his public ministry after being baptized by John the Baptist, he was known as a miracle worker and an exorcist, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and after Jesus’s death, beginning in Jerusalem, a number of his followers (including a former enemy, Paul) proclaimed that he appeared to them alive, raised from the dead.

This is unalterable historical bedrock.

How do we know these (or any) historical facts about Jesus and early Christianity? Primarily from the New Testament documents originally written in the first century AD. But how close can we get to Jesus of Nazareth through these sources? In other words, what is the earliest historical evidence for Christianity? The answer may surprise you. Read More

The Church Has Always Been Multiethnic


Jesus’s public ministry was mostly focused on his fellow Jews. But time and again, he commends the faith of those outside the Jewish fold. He praises the faith of a Roman centurion (Matt. 8:5–13) and a Syrophoenician woman (Matt. 15:21–28). When he heals 10 lepers, the only one who turns back to thank him is a Samaritan, whose faith Jesus commends (Luke 17:11–19). And after his resurrection, Jesus declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” and tells his followers, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18–19).

Jesus was the one through whom all things were made (John 1:3). He created every ethnicity, and he calls people from every tribe and tongue and nation to himself. Centuries of colonialism have left many people thinking that the first black Christians emerged when European missionaries traveled to Africa. But if we read the Bible, we find the first black people coming to Christ on Day One of the church. Read More

The Post-Pandemic Small Group Boom


A year ago everything stopped. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. Almost no one had experienced a pandemic of this degree except a few centenarians who were babies in 1918 during the Spanish Influenza. The whole world came to an abrupt halt. Originally, a few weeks of quarantine were given in exchange for normalcy resuming quickly. Then, it stretched to Easter and beyond.

COVID separated the church. The church did not “close,” because the church is a body of believers — not a building, not a service, not an institution. The church couldn’t gather for in-person meetings: worship, small groups, or anything else, but the church never closed.

Many small groups went to Zoom or other online platforms — synchronous or asynchronous. While many groups tolerated meeting online, some have discovered the opportunity of online groups to connect to others who are far from them and far from God. But, Zoom fatigue set in quickly. Online groups are just not the same as in-person groups. And, we found our way around that issue too by making online groups completely different and calling them by another name.

But, right now you are in an unprecedented moment – Small Groups are about to boom!

People have been separated and in their houses for a long time. Of course, restrictions and attitudes vary across North America. While some churches still haven’t regathered for groups or worship, I know of one church that never stopped their in-person services. I’m not judging right or wrong. I’m just saying “different” restrictions and attitudes. While this is also my first global pandemic, this is where I see things going in 2021 with small groups. Read More
Churches certainly should be preparing to launch more small groups in the fall. Whether these groups should be in-person, online, or hybrid, synchronous or asynchronous, will be determined by what happens over the summer and in the fall. I see a definite disconnect between articles like this one in which the authors are talking post-pandemic recovery and what the health experts are talking--new surge. 

I read and evaluate a steady stream of information on the COVID-19 pandemic from reliable sources. What I am reading is that if Americans do not lower their guard and if they get vaccinated, we might dodge a new surge. Working against this outcome is that COVID-19 fatigue is spreading and people are relaxing their vigilance,  the more infectious British variant of COVID-19 has become the dominant variant in the United States, this variant is spreading among the younger, healthier segment of the population, a number of states have relaxed their restrictions prematurely, and a segment of the population is refusing to take the vaccine. 42% of the vaccine doses in my state went unused last week. Allen White may be overly-optimistic in his article. According to health experts, if Europe experiences a surge, the United States will experience a surge about four weeks later. This is a reoccurring pattern. Right now Europe is in the midst of a new surge.

In my state and region small gatherings involving two or more households, gatherings like extended family get-togethers, barbecues, birthday parties, and the like have been identified as one of the primary ways that COVID-19 is transmitted.  Nationally sports events and day care centers are playing a significant role in the spread of the new variants. Among the high risk activities that have been identified are working out at the gym, indoor dining, and drinking in a bar. 

Churches need to be monitoring the changing situation and to be prepared for a variety of scenarios. They should be planning for the worst case scenario as well as the best case scenario. If anything the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is the importance of being flexible and adaptable. Churches must  be nimble on their feet and able to change course at the drop of a hat. This is easier for some churches than others.

Three Traits of a Disciple-making Disciple


There is no such thing as a Christ-follower who isn’t actively engaged in God’s mission on earth to make his name known among every nation.

After Jesus spoke to the crowds from a fishing boat in Luke 5, Jesus told Peter to go into deeper water and let down the nets to catch some fish. But that’s what Peter had been doing all night: casting and picking up, casting and picking up—with no fish to show for it. Peter is a professional, and he knows when the fish aren’t biting, and Jesus telling him to give it just one more toss is a little insulting. (Plus, Jesus is a carpenter, not a fisherman, and Peter must have thought, “Listen, if I’ve got a wobbly chair, I’ll call you, but don’t be giving me advice about fishing.”)

I’m sure he replied respectfully but with a little irritation, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing.”

Long pause.

“But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”

This is the pause with eternal significance—when Peter’s heart is filled with doubt, but he decides to obey anyway. Peter’s life is transformed because of that pause! Then, they catch a boatload of fish, so much that they needed reinforcements to bring it all into the boats.

“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, ‘Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!’ …

“‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jesus told Simon. ‘From now on you will be catching people.’ Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him” (Luke 5:8–11 CSB).

Peter and the disciples show us the three characteristics necessary to become a disciple-making disciple and be part of the unstoppable movement of the gospel around the world. Read More

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

"We Don't Need Online Services...."


Studies have shown that most millennials want to view 6 live streams of your church services before deciding to visit your church. “Whoa!! Did I read that right?! Let us take a moment to consider the implications.

Churches that do not livestream their services will be overlooked by millennials and the younger generations. These churches will not even register on their radar screens. Older congregations may wonder what happened to the young people. Maybe they need to ask the pastor and the vestry members who nixed the idea of taking the church’s services online. Bad move! Real bad move!!

Maybe they did take the church’s services online, but the services were too long. The pastor had been reading books and articles about the younger generations wanting longer and more “traditional” services and fell for the wishful thinking of their authors. Reality check!!

The pastor’s sermons were real snoozers—really dull and really boring!! While the congregation may have learned to sleep with their eyes open and an attentive look on their face, the few online visitors who made it through the first part of the service shook their heads in disbelief and moved on to something more interesting and edifying. The word got around, “Don’t bother checking out St. Swithin’s online services. They suck!!”

The only return visitors to the online services were insomniacs who found the services a powerful soporific. “I hadn’t slept for days until I heard about St. Swithin’s online services and checked them out. I fell asleep just like that!!” Your church doesn’t need that kind of reputation!!

It is the real world out there, folks, not cloud cuckoo land. The real world!! Our Lord whose resurrection we celebrated this past Sunday gave his Church the mission of making disciples in the real world, not in the world of our imagination. If we are going to be faithful in our generation to that mission, we need to be studying the neighborhoods and communities where God has placed us and the best ways to point their people to Jesus.

The Top Video Cameras for Broadcasting Church Services


In today’s world, broadcasting church services has become as important as having a church website was 10 years ago.

Studies have shown that most millennials want to view 6 live streams of your church services before deciding to visit your church. That is a huge difference between the way we did church when I first started out in ministry compared to now. I bet it is for you as well!

5 years ago I decided to respond to this need within the church. I decided to learn about broadcasting church services online. Over the years I have learned what works and what doesn’t work so well.

In this article, I have compiled a list of video cameras to broadcast church services. Hopefully this list, and many of the other articles on cameras, camcorders, live streaming, software, etc. will make your journey into the world of broadcasting easier than mine was. Read More

Image Credit: Church Leaders

Americans’ Views of Life’s Meaning and Purpose Are Changing


As Americans attempt to move past the life-altering effects of 2020, their perspective is shifting on some of the most significant questions facing humanity.

A study from Nashville-based Lifeway Research finds, compared to a decade ago, U.S. adults today are more likely to regularly wonder about meaning and purpose in this life but less likely to strongly believe finding a higher meaning and purpose is important.

Americans are also more likely to contemplate whether they will go to heaven when they die but less likely to strongly believe there is more to life than this physical world.

“In the midst of such a discouraging season, fewer Americans are convinced there is something more to this life than their daily activities,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “A large majority still lean toward there being an ultimate purpose for a person’s life, but instead of escaping the pandemic with thoughts of something greater, far fewer strongly hold such a view. A growing number of Americans have become open to the idea that this might be as good as it gets.” Read More

How Churches Can Welcome Both Vaxed and Unvaxed [Podcast]


The new complications of bringing the congregation together.

This week, the number of Americans who have received their first dose of the vaccine will rise to one third of the population. As numbers continue to climb in the US and around the world, some churches will have to contend with yet another set of pandemic-spurred challenges.

At what point will churches that have been meeting virtually go back to in-person meetings? At what point will in-person churches drop mask mandates or other COVID-19 protocol? As the vaccine opens up to all US adults, will they start requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before entry? And will white evangelical resistance to the vaccine subside? In February, 45 percent of this population said they would not be taking the vaccine, according to Pew Research Center.

But beyond figuring out the logistics of in-person worship, churches will also have to contend with figuring out the role of their online ministries. Will they attempt to balance both? Or will one cannibalize the other? This week on Quick to Listen, we’ll be talking about the challenges pastors and church leaders face at this point in the pandemic, with Jay Kim, lead pastor of teaching at WestGate Church in California’s Silicon Valley and teacher-in-residence at Vintage Faith. He’s also the author of Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age. Listen Now

Also See:
Parents, You Are Blessing Your Kids When You Get the COVID-19 Vaccination