VIEWPOINTS: December 12, 2014

David Virtue david at virtueonline.org
Fri Dec 12 13:26:07 EST 2014


"Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men." --- Episcopal
Bishop, Phillips Brooks

A heterogeneous church. It is of course a fact that people like to
worship with their own kith and kin, and with their own kind, as experts
in church growth remind us; and it may be necessary to acquiesce in
different congregations according to language, which is the most
formidable barrier of all. But heterogeneity is of the essence of the
church, since it is the one and only community in the world in which
Christ has broken down all dividing walls. The vision we have been given
of the church triumphant is of a company drawn from 'every nation,
tribe, people and language', who are all singing God's praises in unison
(Rev. 7:19ff). So we must declare that a homogeneous church is a
defective church, which must work penitently and perseveringly towards
heterogeneity. --- John R.W. Stott

Holy worldliness. All down history the church has tended to go to
extremes ... Sometimes, in its proper determination to be holy, it has
withdrawn from the world and lost contact with it. At other times, in
its equally proper determination not to lose contact, it has conformed
to the world and become virtually indistinguishable from it. But
Christ's vision for the church's holiness is neither withdrawal nor
conformity. --- John R.W. Stott

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline .org
December 12, 2014

A shiver is running through the Episcopal Church, looking for a Biblical
spine to run up. Would all those bishops who still believe the Bible is
clear about sexual behavior -- that is, a man and a woman in wedlock --
please raise their little pinkies? What! No takers! Of course not. This
is the Episcopal Church, a Church of endless innovation, compromise,
diversity, and inclusion. Under no circumstances must that be allowed to
change or inhibit whatever it is the Church decides to do or pass at
General Convention, including Rites for same sex marriage to an aging
and dying constituency. At the last General Convention, someone was
handing out free condoms (I was given one regular and one large). At the
next General Convention, will they be handing out free Viagra or Cialis!
Sort of fitting I suppose when you bear in mind that the age of the
average Episcopalian is now in the mid-60s.

"Jesus is among us like a flitting moth", said PB Jefferts Schori in her
Christmas message this week. Which begs the question, so is He the
light, or is he only drawn to the light (ours), like some sort of
benevolent bug? As VOL's researcher Mary Ann Mueller noted, it is the
butterfly which is the symbol of the Resurrection. We're not sure Mrs.
Jefferts Schori really believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as
it doesn't fit any scientific category. Asked once about the literal
story of Easter and the Resurrection, she replied, "I think Easter is
most profoundly about meaning, not mechanism."

*****

VOL learned this week that David Booth Beers, whose law firm has run up
millions of dollars of TEC money suing dioceses and parishes around the
country for their properties, has found himself a new job. It was
announced that he has "accepted the mantle of institutional Advancement
leadership and is poised to help it develop an even stronger donor base,
maneuver through a new strategic plan, and renew the planned giving
society" for Virginia Theological Seminary. According to a blurb from
the seminary, "David's 24 years' experience as a member of the Board of
Trustees equips him for the job." Perhaps he can make an initial
personal donation of half a million just to get the ball rolling.

*****

The Diocese of Ft. Worth under Bishop Jack Iker and the TEC parties both
filed new motions for partial summary judgment over properties this
week.

A press release from Bishop Iker said that both the plaintiff TEC
parties and the Diocese and defendant congregations filed Motions for
Summary Judgment in the 141st District Court. The original Motions were
filed in December 2010; the Texas Supreme Court reversed the court's
January 2011 ruling in August 2013; and the trial court was instructed
to re-hear the case and render a ruling based on neutral principles of
law. A hearing is now set for Feb. 20, 2015, before the Hon. John Chupp.
Two more rounds of filings will be submitted to the court in the
intervening weeks.

In his introduction to their filing, diocesan attorney Scott Brister
wrote, "From the outset of this litigation, the Plaintiffs' lawsuit has
been based not on equity but on wishful thinking and unfounded claims.
The Plaintiffs filed suit claiming that a diocese cannot disaffiliate
from TEC -- even though not a single provision in TEC's charters says
so. The Plaintiffs insisted they represented the Corporation and the
Diocese -- but the Second Court of Appeals held that they did not. The
Plaintiffs insisted that Texas courts follow the deference approach --
but the Texas Supreme court held they do not. The Plaintiffs insisted
that the Dennis Canon was irrevocable -- but the Texas Supreme Court
held it was not. Despite these repeated judicial rebukes, the Plaintiffs
still assert every one of these claims to this day."

*****

Not to be outdone, Bishop Charles vonRosenberg of the Episcopal Diocese
of South Carolina (TECSC) has sued his own church for money to keep
suing Bishop Mark Lawrence, the other Episcopal Bishop of South
Carolina.

The Episcopal News Service reported that The Episcopal Church in South
Carolina has reached a settlement with The Church Insurance Company of
Vermont over its insurance coverage lawsuit. The settlement brings to an
end a dispute in U.S. District Court between TECSC and the insurance
company, which is a captive insurance company affiliated with The
Episcopal Church. Under the terms of the agreement, details of the
settlement are confidential. Of course not, why tell us how much loot
they got to keep suing a godly orthodox bishop who only wants to
proclaim the gospel of Christ to South Carolinians!

This was too good to pass up and I wrote a satirical essay on a TEC
bishop suing his own church for money to continue a lawsuit against
another bishop...all in the name of reconciliation, inclusion and
diversity. You can read it here:
http://www.virtueonline.org/tec-bishop-sues-his-own-church

*****

[Mouneer Anis] President Bishop Mouneer Anis has been re-named
Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East,
according to a report from The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the
Middle East. Following its October 23, 2014, meeting they informed the
Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council that they
have changed the titles of its senior bishops. The primate of the
province's title will change from president bishop to archbishop. The
title of the bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem was also changed from
"Bishop in Jerusalem" to "Archbishop in Jerusalem". The styling of the
Jerusalem bishop as Archbishop, however, confers no metropolitan
authority on the office holder, the synod statement read.

*****

The changing face of religion in Canada moves ahead at a fast pace.
While the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada are
in free fall, it was learned this week that London, Ontario, has seven
mosques indicating, as one source told VOL, there's a new religious
"game" with a new player in town. Recently, the Metropolitan United
Church made $17, 000 on its fall bazaar; the London Muslim Mosque on
Oxford St. made $16, 000.

In other news, half of the Diocese of Quebec parishes are set to close.
Secularism combined with rural flight may lead to the extinction of the
Anglican Church of Canada's Diocese of Quebec with 64 per cent of its
congregations closing or amalgamating with other parishes in the next
five years.

In a reflection recently published on the diocese's website, Nancy Clark
writes the demographic sustainability of the province's English-speaking
communities is in doubt, and with it, the future of the diocese. "Like
the exodus of English-speaking youth from rural villages, youth are
moving away from religion, feeding their needs and emotions with the
dream of material things, things only cities and stuff can give you.
These are looming facts, and we can't deny them."

Statistics published in a report released earlier this year by the Task
Force on Mission Ministry and Management reports the diocese has 3000
members in 52 parishes with 87 congregations. The report stated "42% of
congregations have fewer than 10 regular services a year and 76% have
fewer than 25 participants at services. In 31% of the congregations the
age range begins at 50 and in 13% at 70." The report further noted that
a "staggering 83%" have minimal or no activity outside of worship. The
collapse of institutional Anglicanism in Quebec may be inevitable, Ms.
Clark wrote, but it also represents an opportunity. "Let's imagine
starting with a clean slate. ... This is our chance to let go, stop
struggling, and focus on what is important: living in a way that
Christians are meant to and sharing that with the next generations," she
said.

*****

Hong Kong churches including the Anglican Church are reaping big profits
from land redevelopments.

Bloomberg news reports that in Hong Kong, where the four richest
billionaires are in real estate, the Union Church is getting in on the
act and so apparently is the Anglican Church.

A recent wave of church developments, similar to what has happened in
New York, has at least three of them rebuilding sites, sparking debate
about urban planning and heritage preservation, as well as whether
religious institutions are exploiting land intended for non-profit use.

"Churches in Hong Kong do not have subsidies from the government and are
often lacking in funding," said Peter Pun, a former director of the
planning department.

"The best way for them is to make use of their nice, prime locations by
building new high-rises and leasing the units."

The Anglican Church plans to build two towers of 18 floors and 11 floors
as part of a redevelopment near Lan Kwai Fong. The land currently has
historic buildings, including the 166-year-old bishop's house and a
church that was used as a training school by Japanese soldiers during
the Second World War.

In the deal reached and approved by the government in 2011, the Anglican
Church will preserve the heritage buildings at its own cost. The two new
towers will be used for facilities including a church, kindergarten and
a medical center, according to a June 2011 government document.

A representative of the church was unavailable for comment on the
development.

The Anglican Diocese's St John's Cathedral, built in 1849, sits on the
only freehold plot of land in the city in the shadow of Central's
soaring office towers. Other land in Hong Kong is owned by the
government and sold for long-term leases.

Previously, the church partnered with Li Ka-shing's Cheung Kong
(Holdings) in 1993 to build a residential complex on a site it was using
as an orphanage, which was set to be relocated, in a suburban district.
The church and its foundation earned about HK$1.1 billion from selling
homes and parking spaces at the project, a legal document shows.

"By cooperating with churches, developers may not make as much money as
they would by developing a whole office building in Central" because
they needed to split the earnings, noted Pun, who is now an honorary
professor of urban planning at the University of Hong Kong. "But still,
there's money to be made."

*****

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams waded into the EU
withdrawal debate this week opining that leaving the EU would make
Britain "dangerously dependent" on bankers.

He believes leaving the EU would be a "deeply regressive" step and
claims Britain would have almost nothing else "distinctive" to offer
outside it. Going it alone could turn the country into an "offshore
financial facility", he added.

The former Archbishop also said it is also becoming impossible to have a
"reasonable conversation" about immigration in the UK at present.

He suggested that hostility towards the EU is being fuelled by an
increasingly assertive sense of English identity, partly as a response
to Scottish nationalism.

*****

Pop Francis: Why Everyone Loves the Pope, ran the headline. From secular
journalists to charismatic Christians, millions are taken with the
Jesuit from Argentina.

If you want to measure the global acclaim of the current pope, ask 100
random people about the Roman Catholic Church. While you will see a few
thumbs up, most will express ambivalence bordering on dislike or
distrust. Some will be hostile. Ask them about Pope Francis I, however,
and the responses will be overwhelmingly positive. The Jesuit from
Buenos Aires pleases many and brings smiles to their faces.

He even made Luca Baratto smile. Baratto, a pastor in the Federation of
Evangelical Churches in Italy, heard Pope Francis apologize for the
Catholic Church's complicity in the Italian government's persecution of
Pentecostals and evangelicals during the 1920s and '30s. Baratto was
also surprised: Francis's apology was unscripted and unannounced
beforehand. That is his style: both unpredictable and committed to
breaking down the often-bitter rivalry between evangelicals and
Catholics.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio's 2013 election was unexpected as well. The first
pope from the Southern Hemisphere, he is also the first Jesuit pope,
even though the Society of Jesus discourages its members from holding
high office.

Pope Francis has established an eight-cardinal advisory council that
operates independently of the existing bureaucracy. This important work
of reform will not make headline news, but it bids fair to reshape
Catholicism's institutional identity, making Rome more international and
responsive to the challenges facing global Christianity.

Evangelical Protestants, who today find themselves aligned with
Catholics on many cultural issues--especially issues of life, marriage,
and human sexuality--welcome these reform efforts. In fact, they need a
healthy Catholic Church as an ally. As we see a secular vision of
morality and civic life grow aggressive and hostile, we are going to
need each other. He is a vicar without guile.

*****

The APA/ACA DOW reported at a recent synod that the two Anglican
provinces are committed to working together for an eventual merger even
though some canonical hurdles remain.

*****

The Anglican Catholic Church reports in the latest issue of The
Trinitarian that they have added 5,000 laity in South Africa. The Rt.
Rev. Alan Kenyon-Hoare, bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Southern
Africa, received one bishop, 17 clergy and between 4,500 and 5,000 laity
into the ACC.

Bishop Kenyon-Hoare traveled to a village near the city of Butterworth
in the Transkei region of Eastern Cape Province to receive the Rt. Rev.
Domonic Mdunyelwa and his flock of Anglicans who separated from the
theologically liberal Anglican Church in Southern Africa several years
ago to form their own Diocese of the Kei.

*****

A Baptist missionary who spent more than 25 years among Muslims says
there is a revival in the Muslim world. Dr. David Garrison says he
believes between 2 and 7 million former Muslims have converted to
Christianity in the past two decades; he has impressive research to back
up his claim.

He says despite horrific actions of radical Islamists, God is at work in
the Muslim world in ways we have never seen before. There is more
turning of Muslims to Christ than at any time in history. There are
movements of at least 1,000 within a community who have been baptized or
100 churches planted over the last two decades. "We're seeing, currently
69 of these movements that have just been formed in the last two
decades...from one end of the Muslim world to the other, from West
Africa to Indonesia and everywhere in between."

He said the most striking example is what's happening in Iran today.
"We're seeing that the Ayatollah Khomeini is proving to be the greatest
evangelists in the history of Iran because so many people are voting
with their feet and they're turning away from Islam and they're walking
toward all sorts of things...It's not exclusively to Christianity, but
certainly tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iranians
in the last few decades have come to faith in Jesus Christ and followed
him in baptism." [Reachout, the magazine of New Wineskins Missionary
Network**

The fictional world of Bishop James Tengatenga continues. He told an ENS
reporter during his visit to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina's
224th annual convention, where he was the preacher for the convention's
opening Eucharist that he believes the Anglican Communion is in a
healthier place than it was a decade ago!

"We are in the middle of painful struggles, like I said, but it has made
us think about who we are, what we are about, and not only think about
it but actually talk about it and engage with it. So, one hopes then
that we are more intelligent about our faith and our being."

Ah, no, Bishop, not true. GAFCON I and II and the Global South Primates
no longer care what the ACO thinks even if you are the chair of the
Anglican Consultative Council. You can spin it any way you like, but
things have gotten worse with no shows by your fellow African bishops.
They won't be seen in the same room with PB Jefferts Schori. Have a talk
with Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh who regularly visits the US and
doesn't waste his time meeting with Jefferts Schori or even the
revisionist bishop of Washington, Marianne Budde. Why should he? There
is nothing in it for him. Talk about reconciliation and he will laugh in
your face.

TENGATENGA: Currently, I would want to say "yes" and I don't think it
can be anything else from what it is now, in the sense of ... we have a
model. Now that we have that model, how do we perfect it and make it do
what we intend for it to do in order to organize ourselves?

VOL: What model are you talking about? The old structural model to which
you are still allied with is done, finished, over. The new "model" is
relational not structural and you have no part in it.

*****

CANADA: The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) is calling for
change in Anglican Church structure.

On Nov. 17, representatives of the Anglican Council of Indigenous
Peoples (ACIP) presented a statement to the Council of General Synod
(CoGS) calling for the church to allow space for structures of
governance that are more in line with indigenous ways of thinking about
leadership and power, and to support the movement of indigenous
Anglicans toward self-determination.

The statement suggests beginning a process of consultation to develop a
plan for indigenous ministry in the whole church, not just in particular
regions like Mishamikoweesh, and to develop "an effective, just, and
sustainable" plan to share resources, stating that "it is now time for
Indigenous People to be given the primary leadership over the planning,
use, and accounting of their own resources."

The statement, titled "Where We Are Today: Twenty Years after the
Covenant, an Indigenous Call to Church Leadership," expresses gratitude
for the "great progress towards Indigenous self-determination in the
past few years" while noting the extent to which indigenous people are
"still hindered by the effects and structures of colonialism." The
statement outlines some of the principles undergirding indigenous
self-determination and the steps that should be taken toward
implementing them.

It was presented jointly by ACIP co-chair Archdeacon Sidney Black;
Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh Bishop Lydia Mamakwa;
indigenous ministries coordinator; the Rev. Canon Ginny Doctor; and
National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald.

In the 20 years since indigenous Anglicans extended "a hand of
partnership" to the non-indigenous members of the church through the
Covenant of 1994, some progress has been made, according to the
statement. The creation of ACIP, the creation of the position of
National Indigenous Bishop and most recently the creation of the
Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh have all been steps
toward building, as the Covenant says, "a truly Anglican Indigenous
Church in Canada."

In other news from Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the
Anglican Church of Canada, said he is encouraged by the commitment
expressed by the bishops at their recent meeting. "We are not going to
agree on everything but we can do that in a way that doesn't fracture
the body."

The House of Bishops met at the Mount Carmel Retreat Center in Niagara
Falls, Ontario, from Nov. 17 to 21. The agenda included discussion of
some big issues--the controversial proposed amendment to the marriage
canon to allow for same-sex marriage, end-of-life issues, and the role
of the house itself in the church. They also discussed a call from the
Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) for the church to allow
room for new governance structures that would align better with
aboriginal approaches to decision-making.

In an interview with the Anglican Journal after the meeting, Archbishop
Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, acknowledged that
"within this meeting and this house and this church, there's a huge
amount of anxiety" about the proposed amendment to the marriage canon.
But at the end of their meeting, Hiltz said that he felt encouraged by
the tenor of the bishops' discussions.

One hates to tell the Archbishop the ACoC has already "fractured". The
Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) and a smaller Anglican entity called
the Anglican Mission in Canada are now well established.

*****

Prince of Peace? How Prince Charles is becoming an increasingly vocal
defender of Christianity.

Over the last couple of years, the Prince of Wales has repeatedly spoken
up for the plight of Christians facing persecution in the Middle East;
more recently his efforts have stepped up a gear. In the last couple of
months, he has spoken about the issue in the House of Lords, filmed a
video address for Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, and
donated to their work. In November, he visited an Armenian church in
London, and today a Chaldean community.

His concern seems genuine. As he spoke to Iraqi Christians at the
Chaldean church in London, he seemed distressed that his visit was the
only tangible thing he was able to do.

The language he has used in these public appearances is more emotional
than we are used to hearing from the heir to the throne. Prince Charles
said today that he felt "extremely inadequate" to respond to the
suffering of people in Iraq. He later added, "I cannot tell you how much
I feel for you". When speaking to those whose families have been
targeted by Islamist militants, he told them that he was praying for
them.

Ok, so that's what we say when we feel there's nothing else we can do.
But if he has any conscience at all, we have to believe that he is
actually doing it.

It is usually the Queen who wins a cheer from evangelicals on Christmas
Day, if she happens to speak openly about Christianity, while
historically there has been more skepticism about Charles' faith,
perhaps understandably. (Remember the lexical gymnastics in which he
proposed moving from defender of the one faith to defender of all?)

But after hearing the Chaldean choir sing in Syriac -- a form of Aramaic
-- and the Lord's Prayer spoken in the same language, he said it was
"enormously special ... because somehow it connects us even more closely
with our Lord [who lived] 2,000 years ago".

His current defense of Christians is in many ways in keeping with his
past commitment to highlighting the plight of those from other religious
minorities facing persecution. He has also emphasized the importance of
religious communities working together for peace.

*****

The Rev. Jack Estes has written an Anglican Manifesto as a Christian
response to Oneworld Religion.

"We are living through an extraordinary time of transition. As
Christians today, we find ourselves living in the midst of a rapidly
changing world. The very foundational beliefs of our faith are
constantly being challenged. Various religions and spiritualties vie for
entrance into our hearts and churches. The values of the spirit of the
age press upon us to accept all paths to God as one," he writes.

"Those of us who are part of the Anglican Church have grappled with the
conflicts which have come upon us in this new era, but we are not alone.
Every Christian church and denomination must now face questions
concerning the certainty of their faith. Pressure is mounting to
conform, to compromise, or at the very least to keep quiet. This of
course is not possible for any genuine follower of Jesus Christ.

"If we can see the context through which we are living, then we can act
with confidence in all that God calls us to do and to be. The book
examines the underlying precepts of the spirit of the age and strikes a
vital contrast with authentic Christian belief. "

Anglican Manifesto is now available for purchase. Click here:
http://www.anglicanmanifesto.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

**

Obama's speechwriters might want to consult a Bible scholar, or, at the
very least, a person skilled in quoting (not misquoting) Scripture to
support one cause or another. In his recent immigration speech he quoted
a nonexistent Bible verse.

While there are plenty of Bible verses to mention while discussing
immigration, President Obama on Tuesday quoted one that isn't so great,
mainly because it's not real. "The good book says don't throw stones at
glass houses, or make sure we're looking at the log in our eye before we
are pointing out the mote in other folks eyes," Obama said during a
speech in Nashville. One problem, though: The Bible never mentions glass
houses.

In addition to his biblical misquote, Obama also tied his immigration
policy to the Christmas story, saying, "If we're serious about the
Christmas season, now is the time to reflect on those who are strangers
in our midst and remember what it was like to be a stranger." This
analogy drew conservative ire as opponents of the president's
immigration reform noted that Mary and Joseph were actually visiting
Joseph's ancestral home.

*****

We are almost at years' end and we urgently need funds to go into the
New Year. This past year we brought you 52 weeks of digests totaling
some 1,200 original stories...more than three a day, every day of the
year. We wrote original stories, provided commentary, scoured the
Anglican world looking for those stories we believe you our readers need
to read. It was no small task -- aided and abetted by VOL's small but
energetic staff. We "discovered" new columnists and commentators who
were willing to step up to the plate and take on the deep issues of our
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In Christ,

David




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