VIEWPOINTS: December 25, 2014

David Virtue david at virtueonline.org
Wed Dec 24 16:24:05 EST 2014


No wonder Herod the Great sought to kill Jesus at his advent. To say
"Jesus is Lord" is a direct challenge to saying "Caesar is lord," it is
the nature of the Gospel, and a message needed today more than ever. ---
John C. Rankin

A new "fast facts" summary sheet reveals that over 45 percent of
Episcopal parishes have either no priest (12.3 percent) or only a part
time or unpaid priest (33.2 percent). Just over a third of Episcopal
parishes have one full-time priest (34.9 percent) while less than 20
percent have multiple priests (19.7 percent). Median Average Sunday
Worship Attendance has dropped from 64 persons in 2012 to 61 persons in
2013. Forty percent of parishes have reported membership declines of 10
percent or greater during the past 10 years, while 52 percent report a
decline of 10 percent or greater in attendance over the same period. ---
Jeff Walton IRD

Both the Catholic and the Liberal traditions have tended to exalt human
intelligence and goodness and therefore to expect human beings to
contribute something towards their enlightenment and their salvation.
Evangelicals, on the other hand, while strongly affirming the divine
image which our humanity bears, have tended to emphasize our human
finitude and fallenness and therefore to insist that without revelation
we cannot know God and without redemption we cannot reach him. That is
why evangelical essentials focus on the Bible and the cross, and on
their indispensability, since it is through these that God's word to us
has been spoken and God's work for us has been done. Indeed, his grace
bears a trinitarian shape. First, in both spheres the Father took the
initiative, teaching us what we could not otherwise know, and giving us
what we could not otherwise have. Secondly, in both the Son has played a
unique role as the one mediator through whom the Father's initiative was
taken. He is the Word made flesh, through whom the Father's glory was
manifested. He is the sinless one made sin for us that the Father might
reconcile us to himself. Moreover, the word God spoke through Christ and
the work God did through Christ were both "Japan", completed once and
for all. Nothing can be added to either without derogating from the
perfection of God's word and work through Christ. Then thirdly, in both
revelation and redemption the ministry of the Holy Spirit is essential.
It is he who illumines our minds to understand what God has revealed in
Christ, and he who moves our hearts to receive what God has achieved
through Christ. Thus in both spheres the Father has acted through the
Son and acts through the Spirit. --- John R. W. Stott

Christianity is the most widely persecuted faith worldwide and 4/5ths of
this persecution is at the hands of Muslim jihadists. Islam in its final,
prophetic, 15th century is taking a more confrontational and supremacist
attitude to other faiths. --- Chris Sugden

"May God give us such a full, clear vision of Christ, first that we may
grow into maturity ourselves, and secondly that, by our faithful
proclamation of Christ in his fullness to others, we may present others
mature as well." --- John R.W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
December 25, 2014

A new Pew survey shows overwhelming majorities of Americans believe in
the historical veracity of the Christmas story, including the Virgin
Birth, the angels appearing to shepherds, and the Wise Men following the
star to Bethlehem. These majorities include young and old, Catholic and
Protestant, black and white, male and female, even large numbers of the
religiously unaffiliated.

Some have sardonically noted that the "war on Christmas" has been
decisively lost. Meanwhile, manger scenes continue to appear on public
spaces (now sometimes accompanied by Satanic displays in a perverse bid
for diversity), and shopping malls are filled with piped in Christmas
hymns, writes Mark Tooley president of the Institute on Religion and
Democracy.

The Christmas Pew poll might surprise many secularists and religious
alike, both of whom too often subscribe to the myth, peddled by popular
and high culture, that America is more and more secular as part of an
arc of historical inevitability. The truth is more complicated. Church
attendance has remained roughly the same for 80 years, according to
Gallup. Americans were never as wholly pious in the past as often
imagined, nor are they forsaking religion whole-scale now.

Chronic attempts to secularize/neutralize Christmas keep failing. The
Christmas message is irrepressible, and Christmas is almost certainly
celebrated now by more billions globally than at any other time in
history. Many celebrants, of course, don't realize fully Whose birthday
they're celebrating, but they are unconsciously, providentially
perpetuating the remembrance and themes of good will rooted in divine
incarnation.

Christmas is the eternal, undefeated counter narrative to tyranny,
hatred, poverty, prejudice, chicanery, peevishness, and pessimism. When
FDR and Churchill worshipped on Christmas Day 1941 in Washington at
Foundry Methodist Church in the gloom of WWII, they robustly sang "O
Little Town of Bethlehem," with the affirmation and promise that "Yet in
thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of
all the years are met in thee tonight."

In his radio address to America the night before, Churchill foreshadowed
this hymn by urging that on Christmas Eve "each home throughout the
English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness
and peace," in anticipation of "a free and decent world."

The Christmas story is the promise of ongoing and ultimate redemption
for the whole world from all tragedy and evil. That promise is winsomely
irresistible and will be celebrated forever, long after the skeptics,
scoffers and scolds are long forgotten.

*****

If you ever wonder if the tide will turn for orthodoxy against the
cultured despisers and religious revisionists who have twisted the
gospel into a sexual pretzel, take heart. We are nearing the bottom of
the moral cesspool in western culture along with the churches that have
participated in it.

Without orthodox churches for liberal and revisionists to turn to, they
would have nothing. Nothing. They needed our churches because they could
not build and grow their own. Now they are running out of steam. The
orthodox parishes have departed and joined the ACNA. Many of the 120,000
former Episcopalians have fled in a number of different ecclesiastical
directions seeking spiritual safety. Liberals and their revisionist camp
followers can't plant new churches because they don't have a message.
Gay and transgendered sex does not make churches grow, it empties them.
Gene Robinson is proof of that.

So the good news this week is what VOL learned in Vancouver, BC. The
Anglican Church of Canada's largest and fastest growing church, St.
John's Shaughnessy, got beaten up by the former Bishop of New
Westminster Michael Ingham and were forced to leave their $20 million
property because the gospel is too much to compromise with changing
views on human sexuality.

VOL spoke with Rev. David Short about what has happened since he and his
congregation left their property and moved down the road to a
Seventh-day Adventist church. They have planted three new parishes and
started a new work, St. Michael's Fireside in downtown Vancouver with
some 200 mostly young people. God is blessing them even as the diocese
slowly withers and dies. In short, what the bishop meant for evil, God
meant for good.

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

*****

The top 10 news stories by members of the Religion Newswriters
Association featured as their No. 9 story the Church of England's vote
to allow women bishops. For the first time, women lead three of
America's major mainline Protestant churches (TIE) India elects Hindu
nationalist Narendra Modi as prime minister, creating tensions with the
land's religious minorities. (TIE) Movie critics proclaim 2014 as "The
Year of the Bible" after the latest wave of films centering on religious
themes.

*****

An inter-Anglican commission on faith, order and unity has advised the
Anglican Church in Canada not to change their canons to allow for same
sex marriage.

The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order
(IASCUFO) has urged the Anglican Church of Canada not to amend its
marriage canon (church law) to allow the marriage of same-sex couples,
saying such a move would "cause great distress for the Communion as a
whole, and for its ecumenical relationships."

The 2013 General Synod enacted Resolution C003, asking the Council of
General Synod (CoGS)--the governing body between General Synods
(equivalent to our Executive Council)--to prepare and present couples in
the same way as opposite-sex couples." This motion would also include "a
conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation
or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such
marriages against the dictates of their conscience." The marriage
commission has been inviting comment on the proposal during this time.

According to the Anglican Journal, "If the 2016 General Synod decides to
approve a motion to change the marriage canon, the Anglican Church of
Canada will become the first province in the Anglican Communion to allow
same-sex marriage. The Episcopal Church, which in 2012 authorized 'for
trial use' a liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships, has no
provision for same-sex marriage."

*****

A source in England told VOL that he has it on good authority that the
newly appointed Rev. Libby Lane, the first woman to be made a bishop in
the Church of England and who will be the next Suffragan Bishop of
Stockport, is pro-gay. Lane said words to the effect of "a door has been
opened for other previously excluded people, not just women".

*****

The Archbishop of Canterbury this week recalled a "grim" childhood
Christmas when he was shunned by his alcoholic father and forced to
"scrounge" around in the fridge for food.

In a candid and emotional interview on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs
with presenter Kirsty Young, Justin Welby revealed how he was forced to
wander the streets alone while his father was in bed.

"I think I went out once or twice but, you know, everything was closed.
I didn't know really what to do with myself. I suspect I watched telly a
bit and sort of scrounged around the fridge for something to eat. A
sandwich? I can't remember. But it was a grim day."

During the interview, the Archbishop contrasted the happy summers he
spent with his mother and her family in Norfolk with the "rather more
complicated times" with his businessman father who had custody of him in
London.

"As I grew up, he was always unpredictable. Sometimes very full of rage
and anger and expressing that very loudly. It [childhood] felt very
painful at times. But I didn't know anything else. So it felt that
that's what happens in life. It's one of the bad bits."

Almost at a loss for words, the Archbishop recalled the death of his
seven-month-old daughter Johanna in a car crash in France in 1983,
revealing he and his wife Caroline always celebrate key moments,
including the anniversary of her death, her birthday and Christmas.

He observed, "Whether there is a faith or not is irrelevant. I think the
most helpful thing is to celebrate the person to remember them with
love, to remember what they gave, what you gave them. Attack the day so
it doesn't attack you."

Examining his Christian beliefs took root during his second year at
Cambridge University, the Archbishop said: "I prayed and something
changed. There was a presence and Christ came into my life."

Welby revealed he sometimes wondered if he was up to the job of
Archbishop of Canterbury and admitted he often worried about the future
of the Anglican Communion. He stated, "I still do [have doubts] most of
the time. Imposter syndrome is a constant companion."

Read more here:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2882177/Archbishop-Welby-s-amazing-revelations-Desert-Island-Discs-childhood-Christmas-nightmare-alcoholic-father-lay-bed-

*****

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams will be
installed as prebend at St. Endellion parish church. He will join four
other prebends at the parish. A prebend is a senior member of the church
clergy. The post will see Dr. Williams help with church activities such
as the Endelienta arts festival. In 2012 Williams nominated the church
in north Cornwall as his favorite church in the UK.
He was invited to take up the role by the Bishop of Truro, the Right
Reverend Tim Thornton. David Cameron's daughter born in 2010 was named
Florence Rose Endellion after the village, which is a favorite of the
prime minister.

*****

Watch Bishop Michael Nazir Ali delivering his lecture to the Humanum
congress on the Family in Rome recently.

Here is Bishop Nazir-Ali's presentation to that Congress.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sT09QI0KkoQ&feature=youtu.be

Nazir-Ali quote: "The news is mixed, more people are getting married,
more marriages are breaking up and more and more people are simply not
getting married..." watch, listen and learn. Dr. Nazir-Ali is the former
Bishop of Rochester, England and one of the brightest and most educated
bishops in all the Anglican Communion.

*****

Anglican Church of Canada reacts to U.S Cuba diplomatic ties. Upon
hearing the news that the U.S. and Cuba would re-establish diplomatic
ties, Bishop Michael Bird of the diocese of Niagara said in a statement
that the diocese "rejoices at the transformational opportunities that
this announcement holds for the Cuban people and the ministry of the
Episcopal Diocese of Cuba." The diocese of Niagara and the Episcopal
diocese of Cuba maintain a companion relationship.

When asked how changes in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba
might affect the position of the ECC, Archdeacon Michael Thompson,
general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, stressed that there
is still much that is unknown.

Writes Samizdat, an orthodox Canadian Anglican blogger, "Does anyone
believe that the thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba will
result in transformational opportunities? Will the transformation
include Cuba ceasing to be a totalitarian state where political dissent
is brutally suppressed, or relief for the grinding poverty in which most
Cubans live, including those working at luxury resorts that cater to
vacationing Canadians and soon Americans?

"Cuba is insisting that the U.S. 'respect Cuba's communist rule', a
demand that will not perturb Western Anglican bishops in the least:

"Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday demanded that the United States
respect Cuba's communist rule as the two countries work toward
normalizing diplomatic ties.

"The main transformation may be that Obama will be able to obtain Cuban
cigars legally."

*****

BOYCOTT UNICEF. Recently, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
released an official Position Paper "Eliminating discrimination against
children and parents based on sexual orientation and/or gender
identity." Instead of promoting real rights and interests of children,
UNICEF clearly overstepped its international mandate by:

Promoting disputable concepts like "sexual orientation" that are not
agreed language in binding global international treaties; officially
supporting legal recognition of same-sex couples (also as parents)
without any grounds for this in binding international norms; demanding
that nations change "social norms" related to morally sensitive areas of
sexual behavior.

According to universally recognized human rights norms, children have a
right to a family, created through the marriage of a man and a women
that is "the natural and fundamental group unit of society" (Art 16.3 of
UDHR). This provides children with the best possible environment for
their personal development.

*****

Pope Francis issued a blistering critique Monday of the Vatican
bureaucracy that serves him, denouncing how some people lust for power
at all costs, live hypocritical double lives and suffer from "spiritual
Alzheimer's" that has made them forget they're supposed to be joyful men
of God.

Francis' Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who
run the Holy See was no joyful exchange of holiday good wishes. Rather,
it was a sobering catalog of 15 sins of the Curia that Francis said he
hoped would be atoned for and cured in the New Year.

He had some zingers: How the "terrorism of gossip" can "kill the
reputation of our colleagues and brothers in cold blood." How cliques
can "enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the
harmony of the body" and eventually kill it by "friendly fire." About
how those living hypocritical double lives are "typical of mediocre and
progressive spiritual emptiness that no academic degree can fill."

"The Curia is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion,
holiness and knowledge to fulfill its mission," Francis said. "But even
it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions,
illnesses."

Perhaps the next Presiding Bishop of TEC will do the same house cleaning
and get some bureaucrats in who actually believe the gospel of changed
lives. Don't bet on it. Power has been entrenched for too long at 815
2nd Ave, NY, NY in TEC and the new TREC document just released gives
even more power to the Presiding Bishop. The dysfunction continues. I
have written a satirical essay on should say to the House of Bishops

*****

Bible Gateway finds patterns in how the world searched and read the
Bible this past year. 150 Million Bible Readers Were Searching for Love
Most in 2014. John 3:16 was not among the Bible verses most widely
shared or remembered in 2014, based on worldwide YouVersion users. But
it still tops the list of verses the world seeks out, according to a
report released by Bible Gateway based on 1.5 billion pageviews by 150
million unique visitors.

Here are the top 10 most popular Bible verses searched on Bible Gateway,
the "world's most visited Christian website," in 2014:
John 3:16
Jeremiah 29:11
Philippians 4:13
Romans 8:28
Psalm 23:4
Philippians 4:6
1 Corinthians 13:4
Proverbs 3:5
1 Corinthians 13:7
Romans 12:2

Of these verses, only Philippians 4:6, Jeremiah 29:11, and Proverbs 3:5
also appeared on YouVersion's list, suggesting a discrepancy in what
Bible readers seek for themselves versus what they think others should
read.

Bible Gateway's Year in Review report, which also covers top searches in
Spanish and in four countries, confirms the New Testament is "read much
more than" the Old Testament, even though the older testament is three
times longer. It also concludes that "people really do read the Bible
throughout the year," and "major world events do affect what people look
for in the Bible."

"Our biggest takeaway is the dominance of people who read through the
Bible in a year," said Rachel Barach, Bible Gateway's general manager.
"Even though we know it's common for people to commit to reading through
the Bible starting on January 1 but stop reading it by February, clearly
enough people continue through the year to impact our statistics."

The report also shows that readers searched for love more than any other
term. The word never fell out of the top 10 searches, and was the top
searched word more than 200 days of the year.

*****

Soon after his elevation to the Chair of St. Peter, Pope Francis warned
that the world was entering a time when Satan would increasingly show
his power, especially in lands in which believers were being crushed.

Looking towards a rising storm in the Middle East, he warned that the
persecution of religious minorities is a sign of the end times.

"It will be like the triumph of the prince of this world: the defeat of
God. It seems that in that final moment of calamity, he will take
possession of this world, that he will be the master of this world,"
cautioned Pope Francis. "Religion cannot be spoken of, it is something
private, no?"

A year later, the Pope was even more specific in a letter to churches in
the ancient lands of the Bible.

"I write to you just before Christmas, knowing that for many of you the
music of your Christmas hymns will also be accompanied by tears and
sighs. Nonetheless, the birth of the Son of God in our human flesh is an
indescribable mystery of consolation," wrote Pope Francis.

"Sadly, afflictions and tribulations have not been lacking, even more
recently, in the Middle East. They have been aggravated in the past
months because of the continuing hostilities in the region, but
especially because of the work of a newer and disturbing terrorist
organization, of previously unimaginable dimensions, which has
perpetrated all kinds of abuses and inhuman acts. It has particularly
affected a number of you, who have been brutally driven out of your
native lands, where Christians have been present since apostolic times."

Not surprisingly, the Religion Newswriters Association once again
selected Pope Francis as Religion Newsmaker of the Year.

*****

While things look hopeless as we look at the world at large, it probably
looked bad for Mary and Joseph as their Son was being born in the heart
of a great civilization that was on the threshold of dying. Jesus was
born amidst violence and moral decay. He did not waver in doing His
Father's will. We at VOL will fight on for another year. We will not
waver. The mainline Protestant denominations are in decline and within a
generation of disappearing completely led by The Episcopal Church. So be
it. God is doing a new thing and green shoots of renewal and reformation
are all around for those who have eyes to see. We will stand for truth
against Pelagianism, homosexualism, Gnosticism, Arianism, liberalism and
revisionism. We will stand for the gospel as the only means to transform
a lost world and we will promote those Prayer Books and Creeds that
speak to the heart and soul of our faith.

VIRTUEONLINE wishes all its readers in 170 countries around the world a
very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

David




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