VirtueOnline Viewpoints - January 27, 2009
david at virtueonline.org
david at virtueonline.org
Tue Jan 27 17:01:27 EST 2009
Obedience is the indispensable condition, not the meritorious cause, of answered prayer. --- From "The Letters of John" by John R. W. Stott
God allows you to fall into temptation so that you may persistently knock on the door of His mercy and so that, from fear of afflictions, the memory of God may be implanted in your mind, and you may approach Him through prayers, in which case your heart will be sanctified by ceaseless recollection of the name of God. When you supplicate Him with faith, He will hear you, and you will learn that it is God who rescued you. Then you will understand that your Creator strengthens you and guards you. ---- St. Isaac the Syrian, 7th century
Men and women are at their noblest and best when they are on their knees before God in prayer. To pray is not only to be truly godly; it is also to be truly human. For here are human beings, made by God like God and for God, spending time in fellowship with God. So prayer is an authentic activity in itself, irrespective of any benefits it may bring us. Yet it is also one of the most effective of all means of grace. I doubt if anybody has ever become at all Christ like who has not been diligent in prayer. --- From "Your Confirmation"
The latest numbers from TEC show the dismal story: From 1997 to 2007, the Average Sunday Attendance declined from 841,000 to 727,000 (not counting the fudge factor from off-shore "dioceses."). So much for the oft-repeated 2.4 million.
Dear Brothers and Sisters
FEAR. It is what VOL reporter Mary Ann Mueller encountered when she began dealing head on with parishioners at All Saints Episcopal Church in Ft. Worth this week as the curtain rose on yet another chapter in the ongoing ecclesiastical battle in the Diocese of Ft. Worth. "They, almost to the last one, are afraid of Fr. Christopher Jambor and his henchmen. They are afraid of retaliation. They are afraid of legal action against them. They are afraid for their children and grandchildren who attend the parish school and the implications which could affect their daily lives. They are genuinely afraid," she wrote. "This is not the Gospel. Christ does not put earthly fear in one's heart. It is all about intimidation, coercion and fear. Fr. Jambor radiates that fear. He held a closed (read locked) door Annual Church Meeting. He had a bomb sweep. He had security guards at the door. That is action born out of fear. The truth is he is afraid of losing the church if the true pulse of the church is taken. His fear comes from loss. His parishioners fear comes from threats of intimidation and personal safety."
Bullying and fear have become twin sisters in how revisionist bishops and priests deal with their theologically orthodox remnant.
The carrot of inclusivity and diversity comes with the stick of conformity. With each passing property lawsuit, the noose grows more tightly around the necks of those who desire only to uphold the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Across the country parishes are losing in their ecclesiastical battles with revisionist bishops - bishops who believe that God has changed His mind about how we should behave sexually and what we should believe about the very nature of the gospel.
In short, it is a no win situation for believing Episcopalians. Furthermore, there is no let up in sight. GC2009 will be a victorious ecclesiastical orgy of pansexual acceptance led by TEC's queen bishop (his own words to comedian Jon Stewart), V. Gene Robinson whose triumphant faux prayer at President Obama's inauguration in Washington will see him hailed as the emperor of sexual pluriformity. There is no hell for revisionists, just more "liberated" sexualities freed from biblical prohibition to be brokered into the church in the name of the renamed "androcentric" inclusive Triune God who allows everything in the name of "love."
The battle of the DIOCESE OF FT. WORTH grows in greater intensity with each passing day. The priest of All Saints parish is locked in mortal combat with Bishop Jack Iker who insists that Canon 32 be heeded by the rector to find out what the parish really wants. It is also a battle between The Rev. Christopher Jambor and the parish itself. He is not willing to let the parish choose whether to go with the bishop and the Diocese of the Southern Cone or stay with The Episcopal Church. You can read three stories about all this in today's digest including a legal threat made against Bishop Iker. Bishop Iker only wants the parish to have the right to vote. There is plenty of provision for those who wish to stay. Jambor's ungodly fear-driven approach is only dividing the parish. Things got so bad on Sunday that over 100 parishioners walked out of a meeting held by Jambor behind locked parish doors.
One anguished parishioner, H. Fielding Chandler wrote VOL saying he and his wife walked out the front door in disgust. "A friend of mine, told me that he was denied the right to vote at the parish meeting, because his 'confirmed' status could not be verified, although he was married at All Saints'. I have always known all of them to be members of All Saints'. I was told numerous other people were denied the right to vote as well, even though they protested their life-long membership and affiliation with the church, which were dismissed."
In the DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH, a story that the Financial services firm Morgan Stanley had frozen the accounts of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh because it is unsure who should be allowed to access them is not true. An attorney for the diocese told VOL that there is no court order freezing assets. In fact, the judge in the Calvary case said that he did not want the accounts frozen. Despite that, attorneys for the new diocese created by Mrs. Jefferts Schori informed Morgan Stanley that the diocesan accounts belonged to the new diocese rather than to the diocese that had created the accounts-the diocese that withdrew from the Episcopal Church. As a result, Morgan Stanley has said that it will not release funds without a court order. Bishop Duncan's attorneys have filed a motion to set aside the freeze. In the interim all parishes have been hurt by this including parishes that support the new diocese.
The Episcopal DIOCESE OF VIRGINIA saw a new shift in that diocese's reputation as a moderate (or even slightly conservative) diocese. The diocese inched closer to blessing same-sex unions Saturday when delegates approved a resolution affirming "the inherent integrity and blessedness of committed Christian relationships between two adult persons." The resolution, which passed by an uncounted show of hands from the 700 or so Episcopalians in attendance at the Reston Hyatt, first recommended the diocese respond "to the pastoral needs of our faithful gay and lesbian members." A second paragraph defined the "relationships" as "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God."
In other diocesan news, Bishop Peter James Lee announced he was retiring early from his episcopacy. Julia Duin of the "Washington Times" broke the news that Lee is retiring three months early, on Oct. 1, in a bid to save money for his financially -strapped diocese. "I believe it is an appropriate and necessary response to the realities we face." His early resignation will save the diocese $63,000, one-quarter of his salary package that includes housing, travel and other benefits, according to diocesan treasurer Mike Kerr.
The loss of 11 conservative Northern Virginia churches in 2006 over issues of biblical authority and homosexuality, the ensuing lawsuit over church property that the diocese is appealing to the Virginia Supreme Court and an economic crisis that has dried up church contributions nationwide have soured Bishop Lee's recent tenure.
Now you know why 17 congregations have departed the diocese and TEC. They knew long ago which way the proverbial wind was blowing. As one orthodox Virginian wrote, "I'm saddened, even heart-broken. How are the mighty fallen. But I'm not shocked. The handwriting has been on the wall for a couple of years now, at least. The Titanic was fatally crippled, but it's still sad to see the great luxury liner slipping beneath the waves, taking lots of innocent lives down with it."
The remaining conservative dioceses, including South Carolina, Albany, Western La, Western Kansas and Central Florida, might want to see this as a wake-up call. The inside strategy is apparently futile. GC2009 will be a defining moment. If same sex blessings and rites are voted in, then sooner or later, like women's ordination, it will become mandatory. What will their consciences do then?
In another Report on the Diocese of Virginia Annual Council from Baby Blue Cafe come this:
Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales told the council that he doesn't want them to think that The Episcopal Church and Canada are pariahs - but that all are in the firing line. He feels that The Episcopal Church has behaved "graciously" unlike other members of the Communion.
Regarding the Covenant, he says the Church in Wales has problems with the Covenant and hasn't adopted it. He says he is concerned that the current draft still has "punitive" clauses that encourages spying on one another.
He said that he would resist the founding of another province with every fiber of his body. He got a standing ovation. He says it's "total nonsense." He says that if it's possible for that to happen to The Episcopal Church, it's possible for any of us, he says. He says he's a minority in the primates. And he commended Bishop Lee's work. http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/
The split in The Episcopal Church is tragically real, thanks to two opposing messages. Suzanne Schwank, chairwoman of the Department of Faith Formation in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, says it is not simply four bishops, but four dioceses that have left following arduous discernment processes spanning two annual conventions. While only a small percentage of individual parishes have left, it's a "figure's lie and liar's figure" argument. The denomination's membership has been dropping by double digits annually for the last decade. By 2007, the average Sunday attendance had fallen to 103, the median attendance to only 69 people, she writes.
"The cause of their anguish is the Episcopal Church's 60-year inexorable march away from the authority of scripture and the apostolic Christian faith, climaxing in the 2003 and 2006 conventions. Delegates rejected a resolution affirming John 14:6 (in which Jesus states, '"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me'") and elected Jefferts-Schori, who denies that Christ is the only way to salvation."
Only God knows the future, but let us acknowledge the fire ignited because two groups preach opposing messages, one of which must be a cruel lie, she wrote. You can read her full statement in today's digest.
The California Supreme Court has accepted a petition for review filed by the rector and vestry of ST. JOHN'S ANGLICAN CHURCH in Fallbrook. The decision to review the case sets aside an appellate court decision in October 2008 which found that the vestry had ceased to be eligible to serve as directors of the corporation when they considered disaffiliating from the Diocese of San Diego and the Episcopal Church in July 2006. In November of that year, a lower court judge issued a final ruling in which she refused to recognize a board appointed by San Diego Bishop James Mathes as the legitimate trustees of the congregation, thus leaving the departing members in possession of the property. This is the second case the California Supreme Court has agreed to consider within the past 14 months. The decision by the state Supreme Court also means the diocese cannot obtain a judgment evicting the Anglican congregation until after a decision is handed down.
Things are by no means clear in the case of the DIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES vs. St. James, Newport Beach. The parish is asking California justices to clarify a recent ruling that ruled the property belonged to the diocese. The parish filed a petition with the high court on Friday asking for a rehearing of its Jan. 5 decision that blocked the church from keeping its physical location since breaking with the denomination. Eric Sohlgren, an attorney for St. James Church, said the organization owns the deed to the building "free and clear. The Episcopal Church hasn't contributed a dime to St. James in 50 years," said the attorney. St. James Church said the state court should rehear the issue because, in all previous court rulings, both sides have not been given the chance to fully present the merits of its case.
The Right Rev. Larry R. Benfield, 51, was consecrated recently as the 13th Episcopal BISHOP OF ARKANSAS, the first priest in the state to ascend to the position. He will also continue as a part time parish priest of Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Little Rock to keep his hand in parish life.
Most new congregations take months to organize. Not so in Homer City, PA, where HARVEST ANGLICAN FELLOWSHIP went from its first meeting to its first service in a little over three weeks. "It came together pretty quickly," acknowledged Harvest's deacon-pastor Harold Hicks. Harvest's fast start and mission focus didn't happen in a vacuum. Instead, the new fellowship was birthed out of difficult choices its founding members had to make after their former congregations in Blairsville and Indiana voted to join the new Episcopal Church diocese in southwestern Pennsylvania, instead of remaining with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. After the leaders of Harvest Anglican Fellowship decided that Homer City would be an ideal place for them to meet, Deacon Hicks and congregation member Jeff Smead simply began walking Church Street and talking to local ministers about their situation. Ultimately, three of the four churches they talked with offered Harvest Anglican Fellowship use of their buildings. HAF meets at 5 pm on Saturday at the United Methodist Church building located at 2 South Main St.
Future Home Box Office rebroadcasts of the star-studded "We Are One" concert that kicked off four days of inaugural events in and around Washington, D.C. will include Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop Gene ROBINSON'S INVOCATION. HBO, a premium cable channel, has been criticized for not including Robinson's prayer during the live broadcast from the Lincoln Memorial on January 18 or in subsequent repeats. HBO's online on-demand version also did not include the invocation. "The New York Times" reported on January 19 that the 2009 Presidential Inauguration Committee took responsibility for the omission.
On January 23, the DIOCESE OF NORTHERN MICHIGAN announced the results of a year -long discernment process: its slate for a new "Episcopal Ministry Support Team" and a single candidate for bishop. The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester has been named candidate for bishop/ministry developer. He currently serves as ministry developer and rector at St. Paul's Church, Marquette, and St. John's Church, Negaunee, as well as ministry development coordinator for the diocese. If elected at a special convention to be held February 21 at St. Stephen's Church, Escanaba, Thew Forrester will succeed the late Bishop James Kelsey, who was killed in an automobile accident on June 3, 2007.
Another interesting piece of news is that Forrester was also a practicing Buddhist, according to the former Bishop of Northern Michigan, the late Rt. Rev. James Kelsey.
In his Oct 15, 2004 address to the dioceses annual convention, Bishop Kelsey said Fr. Forrester "received Buddhist 'lay ordination'," and was "walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together."
Calls for a return to basic banking and an ECONOMY propelled by values other than greed were made in London, one of the world's financial capitals, at a conference of Christian thinkers examining the current economic crisis. "We face today a choice between a political economy based on greed and consumption and a way of life which is based on a sustainable and just relationship with our neighbor," declared The Rev. Bob Fyffe, general secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
The session was held January 20 at Methodist Church House and was organized by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, an ecumenical umbrella organization grouping all the major churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland together. "It is fairly safe to assert that HSBC has been the most robust during the recent economic troubles. It is also safe to assert that the chairman of HSBC is an Anglican priest. Is that a coincidence?" he asked.
Fr. Dominic Cosslett, 36, and his father, Father Ron Cosslett, 70, were both ordained Catholic priests by Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Fr. Dominic was formerly an Anglican priest at the Church of Christ the King at Lourdes in Coventry. His father, Fr. Ron Cosslett, aged 70, also a former Anglican priest, was ordained by Nichols on 3 July 2005. He is now priest-in-charge at St Joseph's, Darlaston in the West Midlands. Fr. Dominic, who is not married, has from a young age felt called to a celibate lifestyle. "Although as an Anglican, marriage was open to me the way I live my life is naturally a celibate one," he told me yesterday. His mother converted five years ago at the same time as his father. His sister and their children followed about a year ago. Father and son concelebrated, celebrating the Eucharist at the older Father's parish, for the first time at Christmas.
DENOMINATIONAL LOYALTY is on the decline, says Julia Duin, "Washington Times" religion writer. You can watch this video with Julia Duin: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/527324.aspx She recently authored a book Quitting Church: Why the Faithful Are Fleeing and What to Do About It. Baker, $17.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8010-6823-2
The DIOCESE OF NORTH CAROLINA has called for an end to the Death Penalty. The diocese representing central North Carolina approved a resolution Saturday calling on the governor and General Assembly to abolish the state's use of the death penalty. "Imposing the death penalty precludes people coming to reconciliation seeking forgiveness," Hal T. Hayek, chairman of the convention's faith and morals committee, said after the vote. A resolution that called for commuting all death-row sentences to life in prison without parole was defeated, Hayek said.
A little known prayer service was held inside the US Capitol that included anointing the doorway President-Elect Barack Obama passed through on his way to the platform to be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on January 20th.
To see this brief but powerful prayer and anointing service, please click here. http://www.faithandaction.org/2009/01/07/obama-anointing-prayer-for-walkway-to-inaugural-stage/
Anointing with oil is a rich tradition both in the Bible and in the history of the US Capitol. Oil symbolizes consecration, or setting something apart for God's use. George Washington used oil during the dedication of the US Capitol. We used the oil to set apart the walkway and doors that will be the literal right-of-passage for Barack Obama as he ascends to the highest office in our land. Bear in mind this is one of the most cordoned off and highly secured sites in America. It is virtually inaccessible.
Rep. Broun delivered a short sermon-like talk on the need to obey God and His will, and for the future president to do what is right.
IN ENGLAND married couples are in the minority as more choose to live out of wedlock, writes Martin Beckford in "The Telegraph". Official records show there were just 236,980 weddings in England and Wales in 2006, the lowest number since 1895. Currently, just half of adults are now married, down almost 10 per cent in less than a decade. That proportion is set to fall still further, particularly as the recession puts weddings out of reach for financially stretched couples. At the same time, the proportion of unmarried women cohabiting with a boyfriend has tripled to reach one in three couples, with many having lived with a previous lover as well.
SEX AND THE CITY is the topic of a conference being held in London April 24-25. 'Sex and the City: Redeeming sex today', is sponsored by CARE and Anglican-Mainstream. Leaders say they are very worried about the continued progress of the gay --- and in fact, the LGBT --- agenda across the board in the UK. Social, cultural, political and religious sectors are all being targeted. Most of them are capitulating. The ramifications for gay living are not confined to even these realms, however. As various gay commentators observe, gays have been the pioneers for new models of doing relationships and sex for the rest of us, especially among the young.
The result is silence by those who have been entrusted with God's wisdom on these matters. This is exactly what the proponents of the gay revolution want. One reason many say nothing is that they do not realize there is a real possibility of change and a way out. People who feel saddled with Same Sex Attraction (SSA) do not have to capitulate to these seemingly intractable desires, nor embrace a gay identity and a lifestyle from which it can be very difficult to escape
The April conference will draw Dr. Jeff Satinover, author of "Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth" (Baker) and Arthur Goldberg, JD, author of the recently -released "Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change" (Red Heifer), among others. The cost for the conference is £30/per day, £50* for both days, and includes a drinks reception and panel discussion Friday evening.
Write Dr. Lisa Nolland: ls.n at talktalk.net or Canon Dr. Chris Sugden" csugden at anglican-mainstream.net
You can phone Canon Dr. Chris Sugden here: 0117 9684 053 01865 883388 VOL will be there to cover this conference for its worldwide readers.
The ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF AUSTRALIA, Phillip Aspinall has launched a crusade to change child sex abuse laws. Brisbane's Anglican leader and Archbishop dismisses the laws, which normally require a victim to launch legal action by the time they turn 21, as "unfair, harsh and inequitable". Archbishop Aspinall began lobbying the Queensland government to change the laws in 2005 in response to requests from people who had been sexually abused as children. "The Anglican Church has compassion for all victims of child sexual abuse and is focused on ensuring those victims receive the care and support they need," he said in a statement to AAP. The Archbishop says he has the support of the heads of other churches. He also said the processes and systems should operate fairly with respect to people accused of perpetrating abuse.
The House of Bishops of the ANGLICAN PROVINCE OF NIGERIA has issued a call for an invigoration of the Sunday school movement to combat atheism and secularism. Meeting at the Ibru Centre in Agbarha-Otor in the southern Delta State from Jan 5-10, the church's 140 bishops and 13 newly elected bishops, focused their attentions on church revival. The bishops noted "the alarming growth of secularism, new age movements and militant atheism in Western Society," and lamented its pernicious effect on young people. The antidote is Sunday school.
"The Sunday school movement has lost its place in many Western Churches with the result that the youth are defenseless against the false gospels propagated by the media. We believe that there is an urgent need to equip Sunday school teachers and youth workers with creative, well designed programs if we are to avoid a similar fate with our own young people who will be 'sheep without a shepherd' if we fail to respond," the bishops said.
Sunday school must also be coupled with "Bible-centred discipleship." In other news, the bishops reaffirmed their support of their primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Gafcon movement within the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Akinola shared with the bishops the results of his December meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr, Rowan Williams. The bishops responded that while they support his efforts to "build bridges", there could be "no compromise on the need for genuine repentance" by the US Episcopal Church.
The FELLOWSHIP OF CONFESSING ANGLICANS has a new website. It can be accessed at http://fca.net/about.html A statement at their website says, "We are participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), are a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission. We are a fellowship of people united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit and committed to work and pray together in the common mission of Christ. It is a confessing fellowship in that its members confess the faith of Christ crucified, stand firm for the gospel in the global and Anglican context, and affirm a contemporary rule, the Jerusalem Declaration, to guide the movement for the future. We are a fellowship of Anglicans, including provinces, dioceses, churches, missionary jurisdictions, para-church organizations and individual Anglican Christians whose goal is to reform, heal and revitalize the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world. The fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Building on the above doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity, we hereby publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship." Download PDF
>From the sublime to the ridiculous. The Rev. Sarah E. Gordy has taken over the building vacated by the evangelically driven Rev. Art Ward and his congregation in Tonawanda, NY. On Sunday, Gordy, an Episcopal priest, will celebrate her first liturgy as vicar of Holy Apostle Episcopal Church in the Town of Tonawanda. The mission parish was created by the Episcopal DIOCESE OF WESTERN NEW YORK following last month's departure of most members of the former St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, a large, conservative congregation that has been at odds for years with the direction of the national church. The church split from the diocese, which owns the church property, and relocated into a former synagogue less than a mile away, calling itself St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church. Now Gordy has the job of trying to pick up the pieces for the Episcopal Diocese. She begins with a parish of FOUR people and a determination to get past the past. "God bless them. We wish them well," Ward said. "But, realistically, I don't know how they're going to keep it open for more than a few months." This is proof that sound theology will empty a church faster than an economic recession.
VIRGINIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY will hire its second lesbian faculty member. The Board of Trustees has elected Dr. Elizabeth M. Kimball to join the Seminary's faculty as Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching (CMT) and Professor of Christian Formation and Educational Leadership. Dr. Kimball currently serves as a Research Scientist for Search Institute's Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence and as a faculty member in the College of Education at the University of Minnesota. According to Seminary Dean and President Ian Markham, Dr. Kimball will move to campus over the summer with her partner, Cathy Bouggy, and assume her duties as Director of the CMT on August 1, 2009. This is the seminary's second partnered same-sex professor. The first is a homiletics professor who was hired several years ago.
VOL welcomes new readers from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco this week. We hope and pray that the stories, news analysis, commentary and devotionals will find a place in your life and ministry.
JOKE OF THE WEEK: I laughed out loud when I read the reference to the "Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists." Now that would be sort of like the Episcopal Church's rehab program for former liberal revisionists. Bishop Gene Robinson of Alcoholics Anonymous fame could drag out the "higher power" he now says he believes in.
By the time you read this digest I will be heading out the door to cover the annual Anglican Mission in Americas (AMiA) conference in Greensboro, NC. From there I will fly in the company of Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini to Alexandria, Egypt, in order to cover the Primates meeting. I would ask for your prayers for our safety and for wisdom for the primates who will be meeting in conclave to consider our future as one communion. I will be posting stories directly from Egypt to the website and I will have special digests for both the AMiA and Primates conference. In due course, both will have special links at VOL's website: www.virtueonline.org
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PS. A SPECIAL MESSAGE TO ALL 70 VOL READERS IN EGYPT. It would be an honor and a privilege to meet with as many of you as possible while I am in your country. I will be there from Feb. 1-7. If you would like to contact me, send an e-mail to david at virtueonline.org. I will respond immediately.
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