VirtueOnline Viewpoints - August 26, 2011

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Fri Aug 26 09:34:54 EDT 2011


Love and law. Love is not the finish of the law (in the sense that it dispenses with it); love is the fulfillment of the law (in the sense that it obeys it). What the New Testament says about the law and love is not 'if you love you can break the law', but 'if you love you will keep it'. --- From "Christ the Controversialist" by John R.W. Stott

"I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England. And though the main of it was compiled considerably more than two hundred years ago, yet is the language of it not only pure, but strong and elegant, in the highest degree." --- John Wesley (1784)	

"I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England. And though the main of it was compiled considerably more than two hundred years ago, yet is the language of it not only pure, but strong and elegant, in the highest degree." --- John Wesley (1784)

A sign of authenticity. Love is as much a sign of Christian authenticity as is righteousness. --- From "The Letters of John" by John R. W. Stott

Pray For Humility. Let a prayer for humility and the spirit of a little child, form our daily supplications. Of all creatures none has so little right to be proud as man, and of all men none ought to be so humble as the Christian. Is it really true that we confess ourselves to be miserable sinners, and daily debtors to mercy and grace? Are we the followers of Jesus, who was meek and lowly of heart, and made Himself of no reputation for our sakes? Then let that same mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus. Let us lay aside all high thoughts and self-conceit. In lowliness of mind, let us esteem others better than ourselves. Let us be ready, on all occasions, to take the lowest place. And let the words of our Savior ring in our ears continually, "He that is least among you all the same shall be great." --- Bishop J.C. Ryle

Fruit by the Spirit. The Christian should resemble a fruit-tree, not a Christmas tree. For the gaudy decorations of a Christmas tree are only *tied* on, whereas fruit *grows* on a fruit-tree. In other words, Christian holiness is not an artificial human accretion, but a natural process of fruit-bearing by the power of the Holy Spirit. ---From "Christ the Controversialist"

Coming to Christ in Simple Faith. They that thirst and want to come to Christ must remember that simple faith is the one thing required. By all means let them come with a humble, broken, and contrite heart; but let them not dream of resting on that for acceptance. Faith is the only hand that can carry the living water to our lips. Faith is the hinge on which all turns in the matter of our justification. It is written again and again that "whosoever believes shall not perish, but have eternal life". (John 3:16). "To him that does not work, but believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5). Happy are they that can lay hold on the principle laid down in that matchless hymn:

Just I am. without one plea, 
Save that Thy blood was shed for me, 
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, 
O Lamb of God, I come. --- Bishop J.C. Ryle

Dear Brothers and Sisters 
www.virtueonline.org 
August 26, 2011

Numbers never lie. They may be interpreted differently to suit different audiences, but when the direct light of reality hits, one can only stand in awe at what we learn. The Episcopal Church is a case in point.

VOL has been examining the statistics on The Episcopal Church's decline. They are bad, very bad. TEC has gone below the benchmark 700,000 in average Sunday attendance (ASA) and below 7000 parishes in 109 dioceses. The average age is now about 65. There is virtually no growth forecast in the immediate or foreseeable future. Already two dioceses are planning on merger (Eau Claire and Fond du Lac), but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be more "junctures", as they are officially called, in the coming months as dioceses watch their numbers decline and parishes fail. Every diocese, without exception, is down in attendance, some more than others. Conservative dioceses, too, are feeling the backlash of the Robinson consecration, the biggest single factor in TEC's decline since 2003. Blame it on the "gay" revolution in The Episcopal Church. The truth is Bishop V. Gene Robinson has brought nothing but shame, anger, despair and flight from TEC. The powers that be have no way of stopping or reversing it.

The study, undertaken by VOL staff, reveals that of 6825 parishes some 2219 (nearly a third) have an ASA of 40 or less. These congregations are old and aging fast. We predict that within 3 to 5 years they will be forced to close, merge and/or sell off their properties, REGARDLESS of how much money they have left in endowments. Without a congregation, the money is useless and will be turned over to a diocese that will spend it on ministries that will likely have a short-term life and then die.

Here are the statistics of all 6825 parishes and their Average Sunday Attendance (ASA). Records were taken from the Episcopal Church's own 2009 ASA Graph Charts and the total number of churches in TEC Dioceses. 

Churches with an ASA of 20 or less totaled 903. Churches with an ASA of 20 - 30 totaled 612. Churches with an ASA of 31 - 40 ASA totaled 704 Churches with an ASA of 41 - 50 ASA totaled 552 Churches with an ASA of 51 - 100 ASA totaled 1,826 Churches with an ASA of 101- 200 ASA totaled 1,454 Churches with an ASA of 201 - 500 ASA totaled 677

In September, a new set of numbers will be released and we will examine them for you. You can read a full report on these statistics in today's digest.

*****

But it is not just TEC that is in trouble. The Anglican Church of Canada is beginning to crumble at the edges.

With diminishing numbers of people and thinning resources, the Anglican Church of Canada's most western province is gearing up for what is being called by its critics a "survival mode" strategy.

A Provincial Task Force was assembled to look into the possible restructuring of the Ecclesiastical Province of BC and Yukon. It consists of The Most Reverend John Privett, Bishop of Kootenay and Metropolitan of the "Province," The Right Reverend James Cowan, Bishop of British Columbia, the Venerable John Bailey, Archdeacon of the Diocese of New Westminster's Westminster Archdeaconry and Canon Dr. Randall Fairey, Executive Officer of the Diocese of Kootenay.

Diocesan Councils around the "Province" will be asked to participate at their fall meetings in a discussion about shared ministry in several areas identified by the Task Force: educational programs, congregational development, clergy conferences, youth ministry, administrative functions, and human resources to name a few.

Bishop Michael Ingham (New Westminster) has been one of the most defiant bishops in the Anglican Communion, pushing rites for same sex blessings that angered and frustrated the Archbishop of Canterbury and pushed already fragile relationships with the Global South right over the edge. He is paying for it with closures and losses he cannot reverse.

You can read the full story in today's digest.

*****

The earthquake that shook the East coast this week hit two nationally recognized institutions hard. After closing down a nuclear power plant in Virginia, the earthquake forced the closure of the Washington Monument "indefinitely" and did considerable damage to the central tower of the National Cathedral, the highest point in Washington. Three of the pinnacles broke off the central tower. Experts are working to assess the building damage-both structurally and aesthetically. 

Both the Washington Post and the Episcopal News Service have reported that earthquake repairs to the National Cathedral would be in the millions of dollars. What was not noted is that the recent cathedral staff layoffs included someone who was supposed to monitor and protect the edifice.

A number of parishes in the Diocese of Virginia got hit badly according to Bishop Shannon Johnston, most did not have earthquake insurance. However CANA Bishop-elect Julian Dobbs said no damage had been reported from any of CANA'S 96 congregations and 287 clergy scattered across 39 states plus the District of Columbia.

*****

Following the precedent set in the BC litigation between the Diocese of New Westminster and four ANiC parishes, the Ontario Superior Court ruled against St Aidan's Windsor on 15 August 2011. Mr. Justice T. D. Little ruled that the property and assets of St Aidan's are held in trust for a St Aidan's "parish" within the Diocese of Huron of the Anglican Church of Canada and that the terms "parish" and "congregation" were interchangeable and referred to "a "distinct separate unit, rather than a compilation of its congregants at any one time".  

Within hours of the decision being released, the Diocese of Huron changed the locks on the building and asked the ANiC clergy and parish leaders to come and remove all personal belongings.  The rector of St Aidan's, the Rev Tom Carman, as well as their legal counsel, were away on holidays when the decision was handed down. 

"We were astounded by this unnecessarily hasty and harsh action," said the Rev Carman, who also serves as ANiC's registrar, "especially since they have little need for the building for their small congregation. Nevertheless, we have been blessed by the outpouring of love from the Christian community here in Windsor. We have had generous offers of assistance - including facilities for our congregation of 165 people." 

*****

A federal judge has allowed a former student at Sewanee: The University of the South to conceal his identity at a trial on his damage lawsuit that contends the university unfairly punished him after a female student accused him of raping her.

U.S. District Judge Sandy Mattice told the seven women and two men seated on the jury that the unusual secrecy is "irrelevant" as the plaintiff seeks breach of contract and negligence damages from the private, Episcopal-affiliated university in southeastern Tennessee.

The former student, identified in court as "John Doe," was never criminally charged and contends the female student consented to having sex with him in his dorm room in 2008. His suit contends the university harmed his reputation and career prospects by violating its own rules in response to a sexual assault allegation in the fall 2008 semester.

The plaintiff was seated in the Chattanooga courtroom with his attorneys.

*****

In the Anglican Diocese of Quebec, two churches, St. James in South Durham and Church of the Good Shepherd in Bishopton will hold their last service this Sunday. Neither parish has enough parishioners to keep their institutions opened. For St. James parishioner Muriel Duffy and her family, it is the end of an era. "I feel particularly badly for my mother-in-law," said Duffy. "She was raised in this church and married in it and I know her heart would be broken to know it was closing." As the last few members of St. James, the Duffy's have been doing their best to keep things going, but at their annual meeting earlier this year, they decided keeping the church open just for their family, was too strenuous.

*****

Latest law suit figures reveal that the Episcopal Church has most recently decided to intervene -- as a plaintiff again in the nine pending additional lawsuits against the incorporated parishes of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, according to San Joaquin attorney Alan Haley. This will bring the total number of TEC - involved lawsuits to just shy of SEVENTY, he noted. 

***** 

Beatings and evictions of Anglican priests in Zimbabwe have caused the church there to appeal a legal decision that has granted custody of its property to excommunicated bishop Nolbert Kunonga. The church's decision to instruct its lawyer to file a constitutional appeal against the Aug. 4 ruling by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku comes after a string of successful and attempted evictions left one priest homeless and another hospitalized with a head wound. Archbishop Rowan Williams is going to Zimbabwe in October to try and meet with President Robert Mugabe to sort out the mess.

*****

The fallout from the recent riots in England continues to reverberate around the Church of England. Church of England bishops now blame a lack of virtue as the fault for the London riots Jeff Walton of IRD wrote that several top Church of England bishops condemned the violence and spotlighted moral failures that fueled the spiraling disorder. Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Wales controversially deflected the blame onto Britain's "elite."

Speaking before the British House of Lords on August 11, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reflected on a loss of confidence in society, saying nothing was done to condone in the misbehavior in the streets, declaring, "this is indeed criminality." 

"Over the last two decades, many would agree that our educational philosophy at every level has been more and more dominated by an instrumentalist model; less and less concerned with a building of virtue, character and citizenship - 'civic excellence' as we might say," Williams noted. 

"And a good educational system in a healthy society is one that builds character, that builds virtue." The head of the Anglican Communion proposed that the moment "where there is sufficient anger at the breakdown of civic solidarity" was one that needed to be seized upon by the governing institutions of the country "to engage creatively with the possibilities that this moment gives us." 

London Bishop Richard Chartres specifically singled out "highly mobile groups of looters" who he said went on the rampage while law enforcement was occupied with the disturbances and instances of arson. 

"What has occurred should be condemned unequivocally and as the first of those arrested appear before magistrates and as stolen property is already being recovered, it is right to pay tribute to the bravery of the police who have regained control of our streets." The Bishop of London said that he was appalled by "the utter disregard for life and livelihoods" shown by those who went on the rampage. 

"They seem to lack the restraint and the moral compass which comes from clear teaching about right and wrong communicated through nourishing relationships," Chartres concluded. "The background to the riots is family breakdown and the absence of strong and positive role models." 

The sharp words against the looters by Chartres and Williams contrasted with Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, who quickly turned his criticism away from the looters and blamed the riots on others, including Britain's "elite." Morgan faulted the wealthy and powerful. 

"We've got bankers who've been helping themselves to excessively large and unjustified bonuses, MPs exploiting the expenses system and effectively stealing from the public purse, and senior police officers resigning over newspaper phone-hacking scandals," Morgan said. "So any plan to tackle the 'moral collapse' is likely to fall on deaf ears without a clean sweep of the boardrooms as well as the streets." 

Archbishop of York John Sentamu of struck a different note, expressing concern about police inability to perform duties because they were under-resourced. "If the police cannot do it, vigilante groups will," Sentamu warned, saying that for the sake of responsible civil order, the police must be equipped and enabled to keep the peace, which he identified as the first responsibility of government. 

Seemingly, the senior prelates did not comment directly on their own Church of England's declining influence and the resulting moral vacuum in Britain. 

***** 

PRAYER BOOK SOCIETY news. A life-long Anglican has been appointed by a national charity to promote traditional church services that are under threat. John Service is the Prayer Book Society's first Churches and Clergy Coordinator. The new position has been created to boost the use and understanding of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in parish churches up and down the country. 

"We are delighted to have been able to appoint John", said Prudence Dailey, the Prayer Book Society's chairman. "He is well-known to many of our members, being a long-time member and supporter of the Society, a one-time trustee and, for several years, the Society's voluntary chief executive. 

In this new role he has taken on a very different remit as we work to promote the Book of Common Prayer in Church life today." "I shall also be establishing a network of clergy, at all levels, who are sympathetic to the 1662 Prayer Book," John explained. Another key facet of the job is to increase the number of churches who are corporate members of the Prayer Book Society. "I shall be travelling the length and breadth of the country to visit those places of worship with a particular commitment to the BCP", he adds. 

This is in line with the Church of England's vision as outlined in its recent review of worship patterns. "The Liturgical Commission's 2007 report 'Transforming Worship' advocates the creation of 'centers of excellence' for the Book of Common Prayer, and John's role will very much focus on this", stated Prudence Dailey. PBS website: www.pbs.org.uk 

***** 

FRENCH politicians have rejected a bill presented by the opposition Socialist Party seeking to legalize same-sex marriage despite growing public support for gay rights. The vote reflected opposition to gay marriage among President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing conservatives and the strain of traditional values that runs through many parts of France - away from the gay-friendly bars and neighborhoods of Paris. 

The National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, turned down the measure by 293 votes to 222. Opposition was led by Mr. Sarkozy's UMP, while Socialists and other leftists supported the bill, which said, "Marriage can be contracted by two people of different sexes or of the same sex". 

Supporters say France has fallen behind the curve on gay rights, as nearby countries like Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands have legalized gay marriage. 

***** 

In the UK, the Court of Appeal has torn up powers which previously allowed judges to ban convicted pedophiles from unfettered access to their families. 

They ruled that the "right to a family life" must be taken into account before the "sexual offences prevention orders", known as SOPOs, are issued. The ruling, issued after a legal challenge by a group of men convicted of using the internet to view child pornography, significantly weakens the ability of the criminal courts to place restrictions on pedophiles. 

It means judges cannot impose blanket bans on men and women convicted of child sex offenses from spending time with their own children because they breach the right to a "family life". The development comes amid a review by ministers of the Human Rights Act that has had a "chilling effect" on British law.

*****

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres is encouraging churches to celebrate the season of Creationtime (1 September - 4 October) by focusing on the role of food in God's creation and everyday lives, a subject reflected in the latest Church of England podcast.

Resources - including prayers, sermon topics and discussion ideas - issued by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), are aimed at church groups, congregations and individuals and can be used over the five weeks or on an occasional basis. They cover a range of themes around sustainable living including: diet, trade-justice, animal welfare, sharing and agriculture. Further creation resources, especially for harvest festivals, can be found in The Church of England's Common Worship: Times and Seasons

The Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, chair of Shrinking the Footprint, the Church of England's national environment campaign, said: "Human beings, according to the Book of Genesis, are to 'till and keep' the earth. This balance between preserving and developing the creation is reflected in the thanksgiving of the Church for our daily bread as 'fruit of the earth and work of human hands'. The prayer of thanksgiving transforms the fruits of creation into gifts of divine love and Creationtime is a season for contemplating this wonderful mystery." 

In the latest Church of England podcast, Helen Stawski, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Deputy Secretary for International Development, challenges churches and individuals this Creationtime to support food programs in the developing world and to take a fresh look at everyday food consumption.

*****

The Alliance Defense Fund has issued a press release urging a group of veteran service members–primarily chaplains–who, on behalf of their faith groups, represent thousands of currently-serving military chaplains and several million Americans asking key officials to protect military religious liberty from the dangers created by the government's decision to force open homosexual behavior on the U.S. armed forces through the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" next month.

They have sent a letter to all politicians noting that "our nation has a robust history of protecting military religious liberty," and that, in fact, "the whole reason that the chaplaincy corps exists is to fulfill the constitutional imperative of protecting service members' rights to freedom of religion." They say even Obama administration officials admit that current religious liberty protections create "boundaries that are not always clearly defined," and this lack of definition in the post-DADT military will lead to confusion and censorship. That is intolerable, the letter concludes, because "no Americans, and especially not those in our armed forces, should be forced to abandon their religious beliefs."...

Nearly two-dozen veteran service member signatories request in the letter that Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ensure that there is "a clear, unmistakable perimeter around religious liberty." The signatories represent more than 2,000 currently serving military chaplains and millions of faith-group constituents.

"Chaplains and service members have told us they are very concerned they will be marginalized and even punished for being faithful to their religious beliefs in the wake of the repeal.

*****

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has received reports that Abdolreza 'Matthias' Haghnejad, a pastor in the evangelical Church of Iran denomination from the city of Bandar Anzal, was re-arrested on the morning of 17 August by Iranian authorities in Rasht whilst making a pastoral visit. 

Pastor Haghnejad's family has no idea of his current whereabouts, his condition or the charges against him, and it is believed he is being held without access to an attorney. Earlier this year, the pastor was detained, charged, and acquitted, along with ten other members of his denomination, of activities against the order. He was also arrested in 2006. 

Pastor Haghnejad's re-arrest has occurred amidst reports of another escalation in governmental pressure on Christians. In late July, a Christian woman named Leila Mohammadi was arrested in Tehran after police raided her house, according to Iranian news agency Mohabat News. Reports indicate she may have been transferred to Evin prison. A man was also reportedly detained temporarily in connection with this case.

In August, a consignment of 6,500 Bibles was confiscated as it was being transported between the cities of Zanjan and Ahbar in the northwestern province of Zanjan. In a comment on the seizure, Dr Majid Abhari, advisor to the social issues committee of the Iranian parliament, declared that Christian missionaries were attempting to deceive people, especially the youth, with an expensive propaganda campaign. He also indicated his belief that all religions are strengthening their power to confront Islam.

*****

IRANIAN AUTHOR: "WHY I RENOUNCE ISLAM AND CHOOSE CHRIST" A former Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officer, posted an article on his blog telling the world that he renounced Shia Islam and become a follower of Jesus Christ. 

An excerpt: "Jesus came to me when I needed guidance. He came to me at a time when my faith in man and religion was totally shaken. His words and His love became the guiding light to set me free from sin and hopelessness. I found myself knowing there is goodness and kindness and that it comes from within us - that it is only through His love that we will find peace and eternal life....After a long journey, I have finally found my God. I feel at home now. 

And as I continue my fight against the evil in Iran, I know in my heart that the Lord will guide me in that fight because He loves the people of Iran even more than I do. The Iranian people are desperate for their freedom, and Jesus says, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:31-32)."

Publicly professing one's faith in Jesus Christ is a big step for anyone from Shia or Sunni Islam. This is no less true for Reza today. Please pray for him to be strong. Please pray for him to walk with Jesus every day. Please pray that the Lord would protect him and his family spiritually, emotionally and physically as Reza takes this important step in the life of all Christ followers. 

Pray, too, that many will be moved to read the New Testament and consider the claims of Jesus of Nazareth and come to realize that Jesus truly is the Messiah. Feel free to share Reza's article with family, friends and colleagues who would be encouraged by his story, and with those who may be searching for Jesus as well. 

*****

Dr. Pamela Chinnis, 30th President of the House of Deputies, died this week. Dr. Chinnis, a layperson, was the first woman to serve as President of the HOD. She is remembered for her many achievements, writings and service to the Episcopal Church she loved so much. 

*****

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All blessings,


David




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