Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Archbishop of York calls on British government to show leadership as Iraq crisis worsens

The upper echelon of leadership in the Church of England seems to have found a little bit of backbone in calling out its government's inaction over the genocide of Christians in Iraq. Today, the Archbishop of York issued a statement.
The Archbishop of York has issued the following statement today following United Nations reports that 670 people were executed by ISIL in the city of Mosul, the worst recorded massacre committed by the Salafi-Jihadist group.

“It is essential that Her Majesty’s Government now take a lead both internationally and domestically to respond to the daily unfolding horrors in Iraq.

“Internationally the Government must take a lead in its role on the UN Security Council to support calls from the United Nation’s own committees for the creation of a “safe zone” in Iraq, enforced by UN peacekeepers, to protect the country’s minorities. As a member of the Security Council the Government has voice and a chance to act. It is essential that they not only take the opportunity to do so but show leadership by encouraging others nation states to do the same.

“They should follow the example of Sir John Major who created Safe havens for the Marsh Arabs when Saddam Hussein used chemical and biological weapons against the Kurds.

“Domestically the time has come for the Government to show leadership in offering asylum to those at risk of persecution. Other countries have acted already. France, Germany and Australia have already acted. The Government must show that it has the courage to offer sanctuary to the suffering and to demonstrate that right policies triumph over political calculations.

“Three weeks ago, on August 6th, I wrote privately to the Prime Minister thanking him for the commitment of humanitarian aid committed by the Government to the situation in Iraq. In that letter I also raised the issue of asylum recognising that the granting of asylum will not bring an end to the crisis but is a humanitarian act aimed at relieving suffering. I await a substantive reply. I raise this not to embarrass the Prime Minister, for whom I pray, but to urge him and his colleagues to act justly and swiftly in the face of suffering. He has already spearheaded the response to those suffering on Mount Sinjar and approved fighters to accompany aid drops. But more still needs to be done.

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that ISIL are “systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation.” For me this is not ethnic cleansing but human slaughter.

“Holy Writ urges us to overcome evil with good and in circumstances such as those we are witnessing in Iraq, this means actively resisting evil both in terms of protecting the innocent and putting an end to the brutality of the perpetrators.

It has been reported that ISIL are receiving funding and backing from certain nation states. The UK Government must be resolute in naming such backers and publishing whatever intelligence it can to support those claims. Those who fund slaughter are as responsible for the killing as who brandish the sword.

The events in Iraq demonstrate a fundamental truth about humanity and its unbridled capacity for brutality. I have witnessed first-hand the horrors of brutality and its dehumanising impact upon perpetrators in addition to the untold suffering of victims. Unbridled violence brings untold suffering to victims but also dehumanises perpetrators to such an extent that murder becomes an act of the ordinary instead of a sin against the sanctity of human life. To adapt the words of King Lear: as flies are to wanton boys, so are the innocent to the dehumanised soul; killing them for their sport.

The time for hard hitting speeches and condemnation has passed. What is required now is action to protect those at risk from slaughter.

I will continue my vigil for peace at York Minster throughout the week. I invite all people to continue to pray for peace and our world leaders to become instruments of peace.”

No comment department

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Global South welcomes Diocese of South Carolina

August 21, 2014

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

As you will recall the 223rd Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina meeting at Christ Church in Mt. Pleasant on March 14-15, 2014 unanimously accepted the offer of the Global South Primates Steering Committee for Provisional Primatial Oversight.

Now this morning we receive with gratitude this letter from the Global South Primatial Steering Committee. It is their acceptance of our request for this gracious relationship. I trust you will be heartened as I have been by their welcome of us “… as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found.” It is my joy to share it with you.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina

21 August 2014

Announcement regarding the Diocese of South Carolina

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

The Global South of the Anglican Communion welcomes the unanimous request of The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, XIV Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, and the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina to “accept the offer of the newly created Global South Primatial Oversight Council for pastoral oversight of our ministry as a diocese during the temporary period of our discernment of our final provincial affiliation.”

The decision of the Diocese of South Carolina was made in response to the meeting of the Global South Primates Steering Committee in Cairo, Egypt from 14-15 February 2014. A recommendation from that meeting stated that, “we decided to establish a Primatial Oversight Council, in following-through the recommendations taken at Dar es Salam in 2007, to provide pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion.”

Recognizing the faithfulness of Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina, and in
appreciation for their contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, the Global South
welcomes them as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion,
until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found.

Yours in Christ,

+Mouneer Egypt

The Most Revd Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Primate of Jerusalem & the Middle East
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Chairman, Global South Primates Steering Committee

+Ian Mauritius

The Most Revd Ian Ernest
Primate of the Indian Ocean
Bishop of Mauritius
Hon. General Secretary, Global South Primates Steering Committee

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cheesy Christian cinema: Nostalgia for a bygone era

Andrew Barber takes a dim view of the phenomenon of "Christian film." The recent glut of evangelical cinematic efforts is not helpful to Christianity's public image.
I know it can seem petty to pick on Christian films, but they have become a noteworthy representation of Christianity. Every conversation I have with a non-Christian requires dealing with their perceptions of me as a Christian, which more often than not means dealing with the Republican Party, televangelists, and Christian media. The issue of representation aside, the problems in Christian films must be addressed, because they are not just issues of technique or stylistic preferences. They are issues of integrity.

There are currently two primary problems with Christian films: (1) they are either inherently dishonest and/or (2) they are primarily concerned with what C. S. Lewis called “egoistic castle-building.” Note: discussing both issues will require me to generalize about Christian films at large, so there will be (I hope) some exceptions. But I believe the trends discussed here are self-evidently true for a great majority of the Christian film genre.
Barber is pretty much on target with his critique. With rare exceptions, Christian movies have always been cheap, cheesy, and contrived. But what I find most interesting about Barber's article is that it could easily have been written 20 years ago, or even 40 years ago.

The perception of evangelical Christianity as being dominated by "the Republican party, televangelists, and Christian media" has not changed in over a generation, despite the fact that the landscape of evangelicalism has changed drastically, for better or worse, since the heyday of the Religious Right in the 1980's. The fact that Christian films continue to perpetuate the image of an evangelicalism joined at the hip to Republican politics and the idealistic crusades of televangelists is a particularly stinging indictment against a Christian media paralyzed by a nostalgia for a bygone era.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bishop of Leeds blasts British government's "incoherent" Middle East policy which ignores plight of Iraqi Christians

The Church of England has not been known in recent years for speaking truth to power. Under the leadership of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion has more often seemed content to bend to the wishes of secular politicians.

It comes, then, as a most pleasant surprise that Archbishop Welby and his subordinates have taken a leading role in speaking out on behalf of persecuted Christians in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. Welby was one of the first international religious leaders to use the word "evil" to describe the Islamic-led genocide of Iraqi Christians and reiterated his revulsion at the tactics of the ISIS extremists in a joint statement with the Archbishop of Melbourne.

Now, the Right Reverend Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds, has written a blistering letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, taking the government to task for an "incoherent" policy in the Middle East which has largely ignored the plight of Iraqi Christians. The letter has the full support of Archbishop Welby.
Dear Prime Minister

Iraq and Islamic State

I am conscious of the speed at which events are moving in Iraq and Syria, and write recognising the complexity and interconnectedness of the challenges faced by the international community in responding to the crises in Syria and Iraq.

However, in common with many bishops and other correspondents here in the UK, I remain very concerned about the government's response to several issues. I write with the support of the archbishop of Canterbury to put these questions to you.

1. It appears that, in common with the United States and other partners, the UK is responding to events in a reactive way, and it is difficult to discern the strategic intentions behind this approach.

Please can you tell me what is the overall strategy that holds together the UK government's response to both the humanitarian situation and what Islamic State is actually doing in Syria and Iraq? Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe. Islamic State, Boko Haram and other groups represent particular manifestations of a global phenomenon, and it is not clear what our broader global strategy is – particularly insofar as the military, political, economic and humanitarian demands interconnect.

The Church internationally must be a primary partner in addressing this complexity.

2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yazidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?

3. As yet, there appears to have been no response to pleas for asylum provision to be made for those Christians (and other minorities) needing sanctuary from Iraq in the UK. I recognise that we do not wish to encourage Christians or other displaced and suffering people to leave their homeland – the consequences for those cultures and nations would be extremely detrimental at every level – but for some of them this will be the only recourse. The French and German governments have already made provision, but there has so far been only silence from the UK government. Therefore, I ask for a response to the question of whether there is any intention to offer asylum to Iraqi migrants (as part of a holistic strategy to addressing the challenges of Iraq)?

4. Following on from this, I note that the bishop of Coventry tabled a series of questions to HM government in the House of Lords on Monday 28 July. All but two were answered on Monday 11 August. The outstanding questions included the following: "The lord bishop of Coventry to ask Her Majesty's government what consideration they have given to resettling here in the UK a fair proportion of those displaced from Isis controlled areas of northern Iraq." I would be grateful to know why this question has not so far been answered – something that causes me and colleagues some concern.

5. Underlying these concerns is the need for reassurance that a commitment to religious freedom will remain a priority for the government, given the departure of ministers who championed this. Will the foreign secretary's human rights advisory panel continue under the new foreign secretary? Is this not the time to appoint an ambassador at large for international religious freedom – which would demonstrate the government's serious commitment to developing an overarching strategy (backed by expertise) against Islamist extremism and violence?

I look forward to your considered response to these pressing questions.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Rev Nicholas Baines

The bishop of Leeds

Friday, August 15, 2014

One Daughter's Perspective: Response to Ronald Caldwell

Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, Charleston
The first in a series of articles rebutting the misleading timeline of Ronald Caldwell, who claims to be an expert on the "schism" in South Carolina:
Recently, Ronald Caldwell, retired history professor has decided that the truth of why the schism in the Diocese of South Carolina happened would be the focus of his blog The Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina. That is fine but he really needs to restrain himself to actual facts and not partake in a bit of revisionist screed.

He has written a couple of posts dealing with the split in the diocese. I will start with his post about the timeline of how the Diocese of South Carolina split into two separate entities, one that remains the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the other which is a group of parishes that have decided to remain loyal to The Episcopal Church. This other group has taken the name, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Just an FYI. Mr. Caldwell has a very different position of the timeline as he is not a South Carolinian and did not live in the diocese during the timeline of any of these events. As far as I know, Mr. Caldwell still does not live in SC. Ok with that bit of background let's get to the actual post and my response to it.
Read the entire post here.

As Caldwell and other cheerleaders for The Empty Church in South Carolina (TECSC) have invoked the word "schism," it is important to remember the distinction between the popular (and incorrect) understanding of this term and the biblical (correct) understanding. As a former Methodist, I continue to defer to lifelong Anglican John Wesley on this matter, that schism is separation within a church, not separation from a church. That being the case, the schismatic body in this episode is the national church, which has embraced divisive doctrines contrary to the faith once for all entrusted to the saints, and not the Diocese of South Carolina, which continues to pursue relationships which promote unity with the wider Anglican Communion.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: The West must face the evil that has revealed itself in the Iraq genocide

A very important article by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali for The Telegraph. Please note the section in bold print, especially if your name is John McCain.
A beautiful mosaic of ancient religions, cultures and languages in the Middle East is being systematically destroyed. Until now, the world has watched mutely. When Muslims were threatened with genocide in Bosnia, the international community acted in concert to prevent the campaign against them developing into a full-scale pogrom. I went there myself, as part of an effort to bring relief supplies to all those who were affected. I was also present when millions of Afghan refugees poured into Pakistan after the Soviet invasion of that country. Once again, Western countries, Christian, Islamic and secular organisations were at the forefront of bringing relief to these people.

For years now the Christian, Mandaean, Yazidi and other ancient communities of Iraq, have been harried, bombed, exiled and massacred without anyone batting so much as an eyelid. Churches have been bombed, clergy kidnapped and murdered, shops and homes attacked and destroyed. This persecution has now been elevated to genocide by the advent of Isis. People are being beheaded, crucified, shot in cold blood and exiled to a waterless desert simply because of their religious beliefs.

What began in Iraq, continued in Syria. Here the West’s ill-advised backing of an Islamist uprising (largely funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar) against the Assad regime has turned into a nightmare which has given birth to ultra-extremist organisations like Isis. Once again, religious and ethnic minorities, whether Christian, Alawite or Druze, have been the victims, alongside ordinary people of all kinds. Isis, now armed to the teeth with weaponry originally intended by the suppliers for "moderate" Islamist groups, has arrived in Iraq with a vengeance beyond anything that unfortunate country has so far experienced.

Next door in Iran, the Baha’i have been reduced to being a non-people: their marriages are not recognised, their children cannot be educated, their leaders have been executed or are in prison and even their graveyards have been desecrated. Christians, similarly, are not allowed to worship in Farsi, or to hold meetings in their homes. Churches have either been closed or can open only under tightly-controlled conditions. Any violation of these orders brings arrest, interrogation and imprisonment.

Zoroastrians, belonging to the indigenous religion of Iran, are now so reduced in numbers that there are more of them outside Iran than remain in the country. Jews, likewise, are in daily danger of being associated with Zionism and having their property confiscated as "enemy property", even if they have never set foot in Israel.

In Pakistan, Christians are being cowed by the draconian blasphemy laws, systematic discrimination and terrorist attacks on churches, schools and social organisations. The Ahmadiyya (a heterodox group), also, suffer legal discrimination, restrictions on the practice of their religion and recurrent mob violence. Only in Egypt can we say that the large Coptic minority has a breathing space as they await the emergence, perhaps, of a new order.

So will the world just stand by and watch this unprecedented onslaught on freedom or will we do something beyond airdropping food and medicines and protecting our own personnel who may be caught up in the conflict?

Along with many others, I have been saying for sometime now that Iraqi minorities need internationally protected "safe havens". Until recently, the obvious place for Christian safe havens were the plains of Nineveh. For years, the West operated no-fly zones over Saddam’s Iraq to protect Kurds in the North and the Marsh Arabs in the South. What can be done to protect those under threat now?

I recognise that American or British "boots on the ground" is asking for the moon, but a UN-authorised international force, drawn from a variety of countries, is desperately needed to prevent multiple genocide. This can go hand in hand with whatever air action is deemed practical in consultation with the Kurds and with Baghdad. If the UN cannot prevent this genocide, hard questions will have to be asked about its utility at all.

In Syria, the international community must encourage a negotiated end to the Civil War (without preconditions, such as the departure of Bashar Al-Assad). Everything must be done to prevent the acquisition of weaponry by extremists, whether directly or indirectly. As with Iraq, once relative security returns to the land, there will have to be a massive programme of rebuilding historic cities like Aleppo, returning refugees and internationally-displaced persons to their homes and the rehabilitation of the injured. It is clear that Syria will not be able to achieve this on its own. A very significant international effort will be needed. I am sure the large Syrian diaspora will assist in such an effort.

The paradox is, of course, that the West supported the uprising in Syria partly to check Iran’s influence over the Assad regime. Now that same Iran is needed to check the advance of Isis in Iraq. But can Iran be trusted in this matter or, indeed, on what is of much greater concern to the West, the nuclear issue? How can we trust a regime to keep its word internationally when it oppresses its own people, denying them basic freedoms of movement, belief and worship? Surely, any re-engagement with Iran must be will have to be all-round? It must take into account not only what is perceived as a threat to the West or Israel but also the future of Iran’s role in the region, as well as its treatment of women, religious and ethnic minorities.

On a wider front, bilateral relations, particularly aid, will have to be agreed with the human rights situation fully in view. Article 18 of the UN Declaration on Universal Human Rights can be a template for such discussions. Is educational aid, for instance, simply fuelling the teaching of hatred in school text books or is it being used to remove such teaching? Is aid reaching marginalised minorities, women and the very poor? There has been a welcome concern in the United Kingdom to help in the development of the rule of law and of legal systems. Such an approach can be used, on a case-by-case basis, to encourage ‘a Bill of Rights’ in Egypt, for example, or a review of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. At another level, assistance with legal discourse on punishment which moves away from an Islamist insistence on deterrence to more consideration of reform and rehabilitation, will lead to the development of more humane legal systems and greater respect for fundamental freedoms.

We cannot go on as before. The evil, with which we have been living for so long, has once again revealed its full face in Iraq. It is not a pretty sight and the international community must ensure that it has no place in the coming world order.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bishop Mouneer Anis: The Middle East is groaning

My dear friends,

The Middle East is groaning. You hear about what is happening in Iraq and the many Christians who are being forced to leave their homes and also those who were killed by ISIS (Daash). Over 1,500 have been killed in Gaza and 8,000 were injured in the recent days because of the fighting between Israel and Hamas. Syria is suffering greatly, and we are receiving many Syrian refugees here in Egypt. Libya is struggling with tribal wars and conflicts, and Christ the King Anglican Church in Tripoli is in the midst of this. South Sudan is torn again by fighting and hundreds of thousands are fleeing to neighboring countries, including Ethiopia. Here in Egypt, every other day we hear about a violent and terrorist attack, especially in the Sinai where military and police officers are targeted. What a region, full of flames and blood.

In the midst of all this, many people are saying “Where are you, God? Why are you allowing this to happen to your people?” It reminds me with the cries of King David in Psalm 77 when he said, “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” We find the answer to all these questions in the same Psalm, “I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.”

Indeed, we need to think of how God was faithful to his church in this region in the last 2,000 years. Just as the blood of the martyrs became the seeds of many churches throughout this region, we trust that this current turmoil will turn into something good. We don’t understand now, but one day we or the next generation will.

We don’t have any way to heal the situation, except by prayer. One of the good outcomes of this very difficult time for Christians in the Middle East is that last week all churches in Egypt gathered together in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral to pray. This was a very special time and we felt united in Christ through prayer. We prayed for our fellow Christians and Muslims throughout the region, and we remembered what King Jehoshaphat said in 2 Chronicles 20: “For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” We also remembered the words of St. Peter “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4).

Do pray for peace in our region and grace for us.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

GAFCON chairman's August letter

To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends
from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya
and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council

4th August 2014

‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’ John 1:5

Greetings in the precious name of our Risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

As Chairman of GAFCON, I want to join with other Christian leaders who have called for an immediate end to the fighting between Hamas and Israel, in which there has been so much unacceptable civilian suffering. I also strongly support the call of my brother Primate Mouneer Anis, Presiding Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, for urgent action by the international community to stop terrorist attacks by ISIS aimed at the destruction of the ancient Christian communities of Iraq.

Confronted with these tragedies, and with the destruction of a civilian airliner over the Ukraine still fresh in our minds along with many other examples of the human capacity for folly, hatred and evil, there comes the temptation to doubt the goodness of God’s providence in the world.

However, this is not a new problem. As August begins, we mark the centenary of the outbreak of the first global war, the First World War. This catastrophe arose out of rivalry between supposedly Christian powers and many subsequently abandoned a form of Christianity which had tied itself too closely to late nineteenth century optimism about human progress and civilisation. Perhaps the empty churches in much of Europe are a continuing legacy of that deep spiritual wound.

The lesson of history is that our hope must be built on something more solid than the morality of our day with an added religious flavour. As confessing Anglicans we cannot see Christianity as just the servant of a society’s moral programme. The gospel message is much richer than that. It is very tough, yet wonderfully tender. It draws us back to the cross of Jesus where we see so clearly the stark reality of human sin and the amazing grace of God’s love. Human wickedness is not denied, but is overcome as Jesus, the sinless Son of God, bears the weight of our sin that we might be forgiven and become sons and daughters of God.

Here, the Anglican Church is very active in Kenyan society to promote justice and economic empowerment, to break down tribal prejudices and to establish a culture of integrity in public life, but the greatest service we can do is to proclaim the gospel of God’s saving love in Jesus Christ which is our motivation in all these areas. Next month, 18-21 September, All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi will be holding a ‘Divine Conference’ in the tradition of the East African Revival conventions and we will build on the encouragement we received as hosts of GAFCON 2013 to ‘make disciples of all nations’. We are expecting up to 2,000 people to attend and speakers will include GAFCON partners from the Church of Uganda and the Anglican Church of North America. Please pray for us.

So as we work and pray continually for peace, let us not stumble when confronted with the appalling consequences of human sin, but recommit ourselves to the proclamation of the biblical gospel in the societies where God has set us. This alone has the power to conquer sin and by the resurrection of Jesus assures that the light of God’s love will never be quenched.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Vicar of Baghdad: Hell has broken out here and nobody seems to care

Via Anglican Communion News Service:
The Vicar of Baghdad, the Revd Canon Andrew White, has issued an impassioned plea for prayer and support as the ISIS onslaught against the minority Christian community in the country continues.

ISIS, now known simply as the Islamic State (IS), claimed that “we can do anything now the world is just looking at Gaza,” and Canon White said that “in reality that is true.”

He said that “every day, we think that the crisis here cannot get worse and every day it does. Yesterday over 1500 people were killed.

“Iraq seems like old news, yet things just get worse and worse here. It is as if hell has broken out here and nobody cares, that is apart from your our supporters who never leave us and keep supporting us in every way and to you I simply say thank you.”

He continued: “So many of our people have left or are planning to leave. Even here in Baghdad people are terrified of what is happening around us. The IS has established their hidden cells within Baghdad and people are seriously under threat even though they are not in the areas controlled by the IS. The number of kidnappings here has soared and people simply do not know what is going to happen next.

“We are still involved in providing a lot of support for the Christians who have fled Mosul and Nineveh to the North but we are staying here as our archdeacon is coming and we are really looking forward to this. We cannot really believe he is willing to come into this but he is. The support we have raised is going to the various established churches and they are sharing what is most needed with their people.

<“Please continue to pray for us and support us in our crisis.” “I am gravely concerned about the physical safety of several minority groups in Iraq, including Christians, Shia, Shabaks, Turkmen, Yazidis and others who are being persecuted on the grounds of their religion and ethnicity”, said the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izs├ík. "Reliable information indicates that religious minorities are being targeted and their members subjected to abductions, killings or the confiscation of their property by extremist groups,” she said. The UN say that IS and its associated armed groups have taken control of several cities and regions in northern Iraq in recent weeks, and have committed "gross human rights violations, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including targeting and killing civilians." Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby changed his Twitter and Facebook profile picture to the Arabic letter N as a sign of solidarity with Iraqi Christians. The symbol – meaning Nazarene, or Christian – is being painted on Christian homes by IS supporters to mark them out for attack; and is now being adopting by Christians around the world as an act of support./blockquote>

Bracing for another round of "rapture" mania, noted Christian apologist warns believers not to fall for false doctrine

The "rapture" is a false doctrine which has caused untold damage to the church, particularly in the English-speaking world. Once again, it will be in the spotlight with the upcoming release of another attempt to resuscitate the Left Behind franchise. It is encouraging, however, to see this article, posted at Charisma News, featuring the caveats of noted Christian apologist William Lane Craig.
Many in the evangelical church, including many pastors, have accepted the notion of the so-called rapture. But it is simply not true.

So says William Lane Craig, one of Christianity's most notable modern-day philosophers. Craig's comments are surfacing as the church prepares for what is bound to be a blockbuster hit in the remake of Left Behind starring Nicolas Cage.

"The rapture was made up by someone in the 1800s, and the story caught on among some groups who still believe it today," says Craig. "The simple truth is that it is not biblical, nor was it ever the historic position of the Christian church."

According to Craig, the rapture is enormously popular today thanks to several best-selling novels, a recently launched HBO program and upcoming movie, as well as the evangelical church.

"Many people have never known any other view than the rapture," Craig says. "In fact, many who have been raised in Christian homes or Christian churches have so absorbed this viewpoint that they never thought to examine or question its biblical credentials."

Here are four points of Craig's argument:

1. Jesus never discussed the rapture, so where did the idea come from? From Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. The interpretation is Paul is describing a so-called rapture in which the elect will be snatched out of the world, taken up into the clouds to be with Christ, and so will be with him forever. But, Paul is describing something entirely different. There is nothing in Paul's writing to suggest that he is describing a distinct event from the Second Coming of Christ.

2. The relatively recent origin of the concept of the rapture dates to a man named John Darby in 1827. It's sometimes called Darbyism after the originator of this interpretation.

3. This has been exceedingly influential in the evangelical church because of its endorsement by the famous Scofield Reference Bible. The use of the Scofield Reference Bible in evangelical churches helped to promote this view of the rapture.

4. Moreover, Dallas Theological Seminary, which is one of the flagship evangelical seminaries, is committed to this interpretation. Through the many pastors whom DTS has trained and placed in American evangelical churches, this view has become very widespread.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Archbishop Beach issues call to action for persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria

Received via e-mail:
Greetings in the Name our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! May God grant you the abundance of His Grace as you follow Him day by day!

If you have been paying attention to what is happening in the Middle East in recent months, you will note that those who are Christians are being brutally murdered, women and girls raped and forced into marriage, experiencing all kinds of torture, and hundreds of thousands have been forced out of their homes and countries. We are seeing communities who date to the 1st Century with their Christian presence being totally annihilated and killed. Historic churches, holy sites, and tombs are being completely destroyed - all in the name of Allah.

In Syria many of our brothers and sisters are engulfed by an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Areas of Aleppo that are home to around 400,000 Christians have been besieged and surrounded by the rebels for months. Many Christians have become malnourished owing to shortages and skyrocketing prices of food and other essentials. Access to water, electricity and communications is very limited. Hundreds of thousands of other Syrians have fled to Jordan where they are living in poverty and confined in tent cities and cardboard homes.

In Iraq hundreds of thousands of believers have fled their homes, reducing the Christian population to a quarter of the size it was in 1990. Many took refuge in Syria or Lebanon, while others are internally displaced in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, which once provided relative peace and stability. But Iraqi Christian refugees are no longer safe in Syria, as anti-Christian violence threatens all Christians in the country, while Iraqi Kurdistan is now also seeing escalating tensions; Christians also struggle to find work to support themselves there. Recent events in Mosul have seen the city's Christian population totally exterminated by murder or the evacuation of Christians. Pictures of heads of Christians hanging from telephone wires, crucifixions, and other acts of brutality are heart-wrenching.

This brutality is being led by a group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Their goal is to reinstate the Islamic caliphate and rule the whole of the Middle East and eventually the world by Sharia Law. Their tactics are pure evil, and they will stop at nothing to accomplish their purposes.

I am writing asking you to do several things. As Christians in the West, it is appalling how most of our government leaders and the secular press have been silent. It is a genocide and humanitarian crisis of the likes we have not seen since WWII. We must not be silent!

1) Would you join me in prayer for our sisters and brothers? Would you in your personal prayers and in the Prayers of the People pray for those being persecuted, those doing the persecuting, and for a solution? Would you pour out your heart in prayer and fasting before God on their behalf? See attached prayers.

2) Would you call or write your government representatives and ask them to do something to help the situation? They will not attempt to help if they don't think you care. Right now, they don't think you care.

3) The following ministries are engaged in helping refugees. Please offer them your prayers and support.

Barnabas Fund -- "The mission of the Barnabas Fund is to support Christians where they are in a minority and suffer discrimination, oppression and persecution as a consequence of their faith."

Voice of Ishmael (via Commission to Every Nation) -- Bringing hope that changes communities in the Middle East and North Africa.

Christ Church Jerusalem - Ministering to Refuges of the Crisis. Please write "Iraqi refugees" in the memo line.

Please join me in interceding on behalf of our Christian sisters and brothers.

Your brother at the Foot of the Cross,

Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America

Sample Prayers

Heavenly Father, we bring before you today the people of Syria and Iraq, asking you to be their defender and help in their time of need. Walk with them in their suffering and loss, and give them strength to face the days ahead. We pray for release of the captives and freedom for those held hostage. We pray for your intervention against the violence and evil against your people. We pray for your provision for the hungry, the homeless, and the bereaved. We pray for you to help your people who are called by your Name, Jesus' Name, and it is in His Name we ask these things. Amen.

From the Book of Common Prayer:

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Edited from the Book of Common Prayer:
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you, especially in Syria and Iraq; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Quincy vice-chancellor: The mouse that roared

Via Anglican Ink, Richard C. Baker, vice-chancellor of the Diocese of Quincy, reflects on his diocese's successful legal battle against The Empty Church (TEC).
On July 24, 2014 the Diocese of Quincy (Quincy) won a major victory against The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago after nearly 6 years of litigation and a two week trial involving over 15,000 pages of exhibits including the Nicene Creed. The case involved the issue of whether a diocese retains ownership of its assets upon secession from a denomination. In reflecting on this litigation, retired Bishop Keith Ackerman, has referred to Quincy which was the smallest of the Episcopal dioceses, as ‘the mouse that roared.’

The controversy began in November 2008, when the Diocese of Quincy along with 23 of its 28 churches voted to secede from the national church over fundamental theological differences. In an all too familiar pattern, TEC responded by convincing PNC Bank to freeze all of Quincy’s assets, leaving the Diocese strapped for cash. In the lawsuit that followed TEC sued the Diocese. In order to raise the stakes, TEC added Quincy’s officers and trustees to the action to put them personally on the hook. TEC claimed that because it was a hierarchical church, it called all the shots and the court must defer to its determination that Quincy could not secede from TEC. Following this logic, TEC claimed to be the true diocese and the rightful owner of all diocesan property which the seceding Quincy now held in trust for it since it left.

The trial court in Quincy first handed a shock to TEC when it denied TEC’s summary judgment motion and ordering TEC to prove at trial that it was hierarchical. After a string of over 50 wins, TEC was not prepared for this ruling coming out of the Adams County courthouse. Then, in a well-reasoned opinion after the trial, the trial court again disagreed with TEC, holding that: “There is no provision in TEC's Constitution or Canons which require prior approval (by TEC) of a diocesan constitution or its canons. There is no express prohibition against withdrawal of a diocese.”

In a unanimous opinion, the Appellate Court also rejected TEC’s claims and held that TEC failed to prove that it was hierarchical. More importantly, it ruled that even if TEC were hierarchical, this was irrelevant because deference by the court to the determination of the hierarchy was not necessary since the property dispute could be decided using neutral principals of law. As stated by the Appellate Court:

This approach (neutral principals of law) may be applied in resolving property disputes, even within a hierarchical church organization, so long as the court need not decide a religious matter involving church doctrine, polity or practice.

Applying the neutral principals of law approach, the Appellate Court found that the trial court properly reviewed all of the relevant deeds, governing church documents and agreements with the bank holding diocesan funds. Finding nothing in the documents to support TEC’s express or implied trust claims, the property remained with the Diocese of Quincy after it amended its governing documents and legally seceded from TEC. In so ruling, it further affirmed the trial court’s determination that TEC’s attempt to remove the diocesan trustees or officers and replace them with its own people was of no effect.

As Tad Brenner, the Chancellor for the Diocese of Quincy who defended the Diocese put it: "This is a huge victory…This is the first time there has been an appellate court decision in this country that can be cited as a precedent in other jurisdictions.” Mr. Brenner clearly had in mind the courts of Texas, California and South Carolina where TEC is embroiled in similar litigation claiming ownership of all property belonging to seceding dioceses in those states. No doubt, he was also thinking of other Episcopal dioceses that are unhappy with the course that TEC has chartered and are considering realignment with the Anglican Church of North America. He also must have been thinking of several other lawsuits TEC has brought against individual Quincy parishes in Illinois.

Quincy’s Vice-Chancellor Richard Baker, an attorney with Mauck & Baker, LLC, summarized the importance of this case stating that: “beyond the realignment taking place in the Anglican sphere, this ruling has broad implications for other denominations. Hierarchy will no longer be assumed by the courts and even “hierarchical” denominations must now take note that the courts may use neutral principals of law to decide property disputes”

Of course, TEC may still appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court so the battle may not be over and there are two cases pending in Illinois in which TEC has sued individual Quincy pastors. So please keep praying.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Meriam Ibrahim and family arrive in U.S.

Update (August 1):

After months of uncertainty and trial, the Sudanese women who once faced a death sentence for apostasy and adultery arrived in the U.S. with her family Thursday night.

Meriam Ibrahim arrived at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport with her husband and two children, greeted by a large crowd of supporters, reports CNN.

Daniel Wani, Ibrahim's husband and a U.S. citizen, thanked the throng of people cheering and singing songs. "I am so relieved," he told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

New Hampshire senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte welcomed Ibrahim and her family, calling Ibrahim's "unwavering faith and determination" an inspiration.

"We appreciate the collaborative international effort led by our State Department, our Embassy in (the Sudanese capital) Khartoum, and our international partners, including the Italians, that reunited the family," the Senators said in a press release. "We'll continue to assist the family as needed."

The U.S. government has given Ibrahim asylum, and the family plans to settle and "relax" in New Hampshire, where Gabriel Wani, Ibrahim's brother-in-law, lives.

Haley analyzes the South Carolina trial

A.S. Haley offers an insightful post-mortem on the South Carolina trial, including this observation about the contrast between the two camps, similar to what I had noted shortly after the trial ended last week.
First, the trial was a clash of diametrically opposed camps. Bishop Lawrence, his parishes and his Diocese were focused on going forward with their evangelical mission; the lawsuit was a drag on their ability to do so. Bishop vonRosenberg and his Episcopal Church (USA) were obsessed with looking back – to what they viewed as a hierarchical structure from the outset; to the prerogatives of national power that are concomitant to such a structure; and especially to the power wielded collectively by the House of Bishops, and by the Presiding Bishop in their absence.
Read the whole analysis here.

Read the official press summary from the Diocese of South Carolina here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Archbishop of Sydney issues statement on persecution of Iraqi Christians

Anglican Church

Diocese of Sydney

Public Statement

July 30, 2014

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has joined calls for prayer and international assistance for Iraqi Christians facing severe persecution, even death, for their faith.

"It is an outrage that a community established in the early centuries of the Christian era should face expulsion from their own land, simply for their faith." Dr Davies said.

In Mosul, near the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh, the militant Islamic group ISIS gave Christians an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a "protection tax" or face death.

Churches have been looted, burned or occupied. Christian homes have been marked with the Arabic letter "N" (for the word 'Nasrani' which translates to 'Nazarene', a follower of Jesus).

Thousands of Christian families have been driven from the city.

"In the same area where God sent the prophet Jonah to turn back the people of Nineveh from their evil ways, we pray for a turning back of the evil which has come upon the Christians of Mosul, stripped of their livelihood, property and possessions."

"The Australian government, the international community and the UN must not stand by while such persecution continues unabated." Dr Davies said.

The Archbishop called on churches to pray for peace and justice in Iraq and also for Palestinian Christians caught in the conflict on the West Bank and the Gaza.

"We have entered a period of significant suffering for Christians around the world: from Iraq to Syria and from Egypt to Sudan." the Archbishop said. "While the Cross is the symbol of suffering for all who are followers of Jesus of Nazareth, we have a responsibility to stand with our brothers and sisters in the face of such unmitigated persecution."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Leadership transition in the early church

The martyrdom of James and the imprisonment of Peter (Acts 12:1-17) mark a pivotal moment in the life of the early church. Up until that time, the Twelve had remained in Jerusalem while Philip and other evangelists scattered about the region preaching the gospel. Now, however, even the Twelve will begin to disperse.

Peter, following his miraculous escape from prison, was obviously a wanted man. He would not be able to remain in Jerusalem, thus creating a leadership vacuum. But Peter already had someone in mind to fill the void. After explaining how an angel of the Lord delivered him from prison, he directed those gathered at the home of Mary, the mother of Mark, to "Tell these things to James and to the other brothers."

This would not be the same James who had just been put to death by Herod, often referred to as James the Greater. This is the half brother of Jesus himself, often referred to as James the Less or James the Just. The significance of Peter naming him is that it marks the first time he is referred to as a leader in the early church. From this point on, as Peter and the remainder of the Twelve begin to disperse, James will become the most influential leader in the Jerusalem church. When Paul, Peter, and others return to Jerusalem for the first church council (Acts 15), it is James who presides.

The transition that took place as Peter handed off leadership to James preserved a unique place for the Jerusalem church. While the mission of the church became focused more on the Gentile world, the church in Jerusalem would remain largely a Jewish congregation, even maintaining many of the Jewish distinctions, right down to the time of Jerusalem's demise in A.D. 70. It stood as a reminder to the increasingly evangelized Gentile world that salvation was a gift of God given first through the people of Israel.

Is the ACNA "the best church for American Christianity in exile?"

Alex Wilgus makes the case for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as "the best church for American Christianity in exile."
Earlier today, Christian blogger Rod Dreher asked a question: What is the best church for American Christianity in exile? In light of Christianity being consistently sidelined and devalued here in America over issues of opposition to gay marriage among other controversies, he specifically asked for readers to contribute an argument for why they believe their own chosen church is the best “ark” in which to ride out the storm. And so, under these parameters, here is my argument for the ACNA as Christianity’s best hope in the new century, which (I fully agree with Rod) certainly appears to be a long, secular winter. This argument is long but I want it to be thorough enough to be convincing. I welcome dissent or correction in the comments as usual, but here it is:

The Anglican Church of North America is American Christianity’s best hope in a state of modern exile. This is because it best understands that the challenges of modern exile do not proscribe the Church’s missionary vocation, instead it encourages it. The ACNA has three things going for it that I’ll explain at length: its missional nature inherited from the Global South, its intellectual seriousness, and a strong, battle-tested respect for biblical and ecclesiastical authority in the face of doctrinal controversy.

1. Missional: The ACNA embraces grassroots expansion within the bounds of authority. The strength of American Christianity down the ages has been its “do-it-yourself” quality. From the very beginning, American religion relied on ordinary laymen and laywomen as the primary footsoldiers of advancing the Kingdom. This is why American Protestantism can trace her foundational heritage heritage to a series of revivals rather than conquests or political coups. For some scholarly work on this thesis, see Mark Noll’s The New Shape of Global Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith. This is a great strength, and it’s the reason why doomsaying about Christianity’s complete cultural marginalization, though not wrong, may be overstated in terms of actual converts. However long our exile may be, the ACNA has the materials to, not just hold out but expand in the face of it.

For instance, within the ACNA, the Greenhouse Regional Church Movement (in which I am a minister) has successfully multiplied churches in the Chicagoland area among Latinos, white urban professionals, residents of nursing homes, and apartment blocks of immigrants, while still maintaining strong ecclesiastical connections between congregations. They are currently in the process of expanding this mission to Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and even Mexico. Greenhouse takes its marching orders from the writings of Roland Allen, an Anglican missionary to China and later Africa in the early 20th Century. Allen’s book “Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?” challenged the modern notion of imperialist-informed mission work and instead advocated grassroots, local, and native-driven missionary work. His ideas, if not directly influential, proved prescient in the case of Africa which has seen the most dramatic spread of Christianity probably ever, mostly as a result of local congregations multiplying, and clergy empowering lay-ministers to go out and minister. Confounding modern Western sociological predictions that Africa would become largely Muslim as European colonies pulled out of the continent, the reverse has come to pass and Africa can almost be rightly named the first “Christian Continent.” The ACNA has not only taken notice of this massive Christian revival but has taken courage from it, sought out real relationships with the remarkable men and women of the faith involved in it, and it is gone out in their same spirit, taking African evangelists, not only as inspiring stories, but as real spiritual mentors. It is now very common for African Anglican evangelists to travel to America for the purpose of encouraging our churches here and share their wisdom. Their approach emphasizes priests raising up gifted lay-people as “catechists” (or lay-pastors) to go out and found new congregations, preach, pastor and evangelize. They encourage catechists and even some priests to be bi-vocational and versatile, founding congregations anywhere there are a harvest of converts. Through Greenhouse, we have established healthy churches in apartment blocks, nursing homes, storefronts and even, believe it or not, actual church buildings. As America secularizes, Africa is starting to evangelize it through the ACNA. Ultimately, though the ACNA is clear-eyed about the negativity toward orthodox Christianity, we do not believe that cultural marginalization will cripple our ability to evangelize and successfully convert. In fact, the shoe may be on quite the other foot. The reasons for this are addressed in the next section.

2. Intellectually solid. While the Anglican Church intentionally does not have a catechism or a magisterium, nor has it rejected hierarchy for totally decentralized autonomous congregations, instead it believes itself to be constantly contending for the true faith and building unity around it. Anglicans believe that the Church is always fighting heresy, that it is a constant conflict, and so every generation is called on to contend for the true faith. This means that Anglicans do not shy away from learning in the way that fundamentalists in certain Anabaptist traditions did. It certainly breeds a lot of discussion and debate, but it is debate of the healthy sort. In these perilous times, it is easy for the faithful to consider discussion and disagreement as fault lines and cracks of inevitable liberalization and compromise with the culture. But I believe that it is a healthy exercise of practical reason informed by faith in Christ. Oliver O’Donovan is a good guide in these matters, and he is worth reading. To my mind he occupies an intellectual place for thoughtful Anglicans quite similar to Alasdair MacIntyre does for traditional Catholics, but he sets an opposite program: full engagement with the world. Instead of retreat into “virtuous communities” and a Benedictine Option, he advocates for a frontal assault on intellectual matters instead of either closing down debates over doctrine with unerring statements ex cathedra or giving up on reasoned engagement with the broader culture in favor of separatism. Ultimately, Anglicans still believe in the ability of faith-informed reason to persuade, and you know what? I believe him. Here’s why:

Catholics and Orthodox continually point to the Episcopal Church as the reason why the Anglican Church has failed, but I actually see them as the strongest evidence of our success. Don’t mistake me, in the case of the Episcopal Church and even, lately, the Church of England, it is clear that the heretics have seized the reins of power, (i.e. money, property, and formal communion.) But the critics overlook us, the schismatics, and the brave bishops of the Global South who have sponsored us (incidentally, this is why the ACNA can rightfully say we enjoy communion with Canterbury, even if tangentially.) We have had our our tussles with modernizing heretics, and there were casualties: we lost buildings and money, but one look at the other guy will show that the Episcopalians came out the worse in terms of the one thing that makes a church a church–actual membership, which has lately plummeted to unsustainable levels. The Church of England is currently experiencing the same internal hemorrhage as it liberalizes. Though the heretics appear triumphant from the point of view of mammon and their formal connections to Canterbury, they have lost their doctrinal coherence and so have lost their parishioners, and it will be their undoing. I do not know why this fact continues to go unreported and why nobody ascribes any meaning to it. The numbers prove that, even if the culture is not on the side of the faithful church, reason is–since if one accepts what the Episcopal Church teaches, one also tacitly accepts that one has no need to go to church, except to feel the somatic tinge of nostalgia, and there are other ways to get that than communion on Sunday. I relate this recent history because I actually believe it shows the not insignificant fact that even if Christianity is losing the culture, the culture is losing the Church. And this is no small loss, because with it means that the faithful will once again be in control of the church, because it will be the only church left.

Part of the legacy of our break in communion with the Episcopal Church is that the break has refined matters of doctrine in the fires of controversy. Establishing a set doctrine or a catechism is tempting, but we can see from a cursory examination of American Catholicism (for instance) that doing so does nothing to actually confront heresy, draw it out into the open, deal with it, and move on. Though there will continue to be doctrinal controversies and debates, in the ACNA, they will not be the same as the ones in the past over gay marriage and theological liberalism. We will get to turn our practical reason to new matters, and so the fires of schism have further refined our doctrinal stances. We are as disturbed as anyone by the apparent victory of liberal sexual and theological attitudes in the culture at large, but instead of cowering away in virtuous communities, weathering the storm, we are actually sighting out Mars Hills on which to dialogue, debate, and evangelize the secular culture around us. My diocese: The Diocese of the Upper Midwest only just formed last year. We are strong, healthy and expanding. It certainly isn’t a wave as intense as that of the East African Revival, but we are not counting that out for the future. We labor in a spirit of hope, confident in our reason, and unfailing in our faith.

3. Authoritative and hierarchical: The ACNA boasts a healthy hierarchy and authority alongside its openness to reasoned debate. Just this month, we have elected our new (second) Archbishop with a very surprising and unprecedented show of unity. Stories abound from every diocese of unity and coalescence rather than splintering or fracturing. Indeed, this is how the ACNA formed (and it continues to congeal) in the first place, by gathering up the splintered pieces of the many schismatic groups from the Episcopal Church and forming them into a strong and unified Province of the Anglican Church. This has not gone uncontested, but the structures of authority and respect for the canons of the Anglican Church have won the day. The province faced its first real institutional challenge in 2011 when Anglican Mission in the Americas, another group of Anglican schismatics officially recognized by ACNA though not a part of it, broke with its Episcopal overseers in Rwanda over matters of finance. Though they were well-known friends of ACNA clergy and members, the ACNA refused to recognize them unless they proved themselves willing to submit to the authority of their Rwandan bishops. This episode could have irreparably fractured American Anglicans, but it did not. Instead, the ACNA showed itself to be committed to episcopal oversight and authority. AMiA exists today as a schismatic group officially unrecognized by ACNA or its parent bishops in Africa.

To bring this overlong argument to a close, I think that discussions over which church is the best “ark” on which to weather the storm tend to turn on which church has the strongest, most ancient, most “countercultural” sorts of rituals that will preserve the faith from the assaults of heresy. We are reflexively looking for how to build walls around our respective camps and preserve our traditions until the fields are more fruitful and our society more accepting. But this is not how the early church responded to heresy. They came out and met it. They evangelized in the face of it. When the Arians tried to seize their buildings, they locked themselves in and sang through the night. In short, they did battle. If orthodox Christianity’s cultural capital is being significantly reduced (and I believe that it is) then I think the lives of the Church Fathers would bid us become an insurgency rather than a cloister. In fact, considering the precipitous decline in membership of the liberal churches whose ideology has been blessed by the ascendant cultural forces, I think the Benedictine Option is rather the only hope for the Protestant Mainline, not the faithful. The ACNA is a church that has taken hold of its faith and its reason and gone out on a confident and hopeful mission. Part of its strength comes from its patronage by African bishops who know a thing or two about grassroots mission, and the spiritual strength of the poor (and who I can personally report are so full of the Spirit as to knock the socks off of any healthy skeptic.) It is using its priests to empower parishioners to go out and start new churches and win converts–instead of waiting for full-time priests to get the itch and take the potentially career endangering plunge into church planting. In short, it is liturgical, historically aware, intellectually serious Christianity on mission, and this has always been the hope of the faithful. May Christ the King come to reign in men’s hearts in this new century, and Satan tremble!

A few observations from a priest formerly affiliated with an ACNA sub-jurisdiction (PEARUSA) and now canonically resident in the Diocese of South Carolina, a body currently navigating through its own season of "exile" and looking at the ACNA as a possible future provincial home:

The missional ethos of ACNA is, undoubtedly, its greatest strength and its hierarchical structure under the leadership of godly men is a refreshing change from the corruption rampant in so many mainline Protestant denominations. I would contend, however, that ACNA's theological and intellectual underpinnings are still a work in progress. It will take perhaps as long as a generation for its clergy and lay members to be weaned off the vacuous theology of the old mainline tradition out of which most of them came.

That caveat aside, I am optimistic that, under newly elected Archbishop Foley Beach, the ACNA will begin to look more like a province than a mere polyglot of various Anglican traditions. Former Archbishop Robert Duncan did a noteworthy job of holding the various factions together during the formative years. It falls to his successor to lead those factions to the next level of ecclesiastical unity and, perhaps, to draw in other parties from the far flung Anglican Diaspora so as to make the ACNA a truly transformative presence in the midst of a culture so tragically saturated by godless secularization.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Message from Bishop Lawrence at the close of the trial

Dear Friends in Christ,

“… suffering produces endurance and endurance produces hope and hope does not disappoint us for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit….” Romans 5:3-4

Having spent much of the last three weeks at the Dorchester Courthouse in St. George, South Carolina it is rather serendipitous to be sending this from a Starbucks in St. George, Utah (a gateway to Zion National Park). Allison and I will be traveling during the next few weeks in Utah, Nevada and California on vacation. She’ll have some much needed time for relaxation and fun and I’ll be climbing the mountains and hiking the trails. Nevertheless, I want to send you this report on the last three weeks.

Firstly, I’m glad to say our legal team led by Mr. Alan Runyan and Ms. Henrietta Golding, supported by a stellar cast of attorneys from the various congregations across the diocese, presented a strong case and did so in a professional, forthright, and convincing manner. The teamwork was marvelous to observe and was only exceeded by what seemed to be the outstretched arm and the mighty hand of God moving again and again in a most timely manner. I was proud to have them representing us from the Diocese of South Carolina. Frankly, having sat through all fourteen days I have to say it was a trial of tediously presented evidence by TEC fortunately punctuated during cross-examination by our attorneys with moments of sheer drama and stunning admissions.

Secondly, the diocesan team of Canon Jim Lewis, Nancy Armstrong, Beth Snyder, Joy Hunter and Jan Pringle worked tirelessly and with a remarkable esprit de corps. It so often put me in mind of Psalm 133—“How good and pleasant it is when the brethren live together in unity.”

Then there was the strong cast of witnesses on behalf of the Diocese. Chancellor, Wade Logan, painted for the court a most helpful background of what a diocese is and how it functions both corporately and ecclesially. Canon Lewis reported on the various Diocesan Conventions and canonical changes which brought us to the place of dissociation from TEC. Mr. Robert Kunes testified on behalf of the Trustees of the Diocese. These three witnesses presented the foundation of our diocesan case. They were followed by a representative witness from every congregation participating in the law suit. I could hardly be more proud of them. Some endured quite vigorous cross-examination. It was moving (and at times for me a heavy burden) to hear parish witnesses again and again testify that they “…wanted to stay in communion with the Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence.” I wished their fellow parishioners could have seen the courage and clarity with which they represented them.

We also had witnesses in rebuttal to the case made by TEC attorneys. Our diocesan administrator, Nancy Armstrong, combed through centuries of diocesan records to contrast monies that have come into the diocese from TEC and its various related agencies with monies sent by the diocese to TEC. This was in rebuttal to the one-sided presentations given by witnesses from the National Church (including UTO grants which any woman from our DCW can tell you are from contributions from the pews in congregations around the country and not from some National Church budget). In summary the court learned that for every 81 cents given by The Episcopal Church and its various entities to us in South Carolina and our congregations for ministry; the diocese sent $100 to TEC ($100 to 81 cent ratio), therein undermining the defendants’ one-sided presentation of the “facts”. In fifteen minutes of testimony she undermined hours of tedium and an endless parade of documents from so-called experts for the National Church. When Mr. Runyan called to the stand the renowned professor and historian, Dr. Allen Guelzo, author of some 16 books and a foremost historian of the Civil War era and 18th and 19th centuries of American intellectual history we were treated to a breath-taking tour de force disputing the alleged hierarchical assumptions of the national Episcopal Church. Others in this rebuttal stage of the trial were Fr. Robert Lawrence from Camp St. Christopher, the Rev. Greg Kronz, who chaired the Bishop’s search committee and Chancellor Wade Logan who once again punctuated our case. On the last day, I was called finally to the stand.

But I need to say, and can hardly say it enough, undergirding it all—felt at times in palpable ways—the prayers and intercessions from tens of thousands of the saints within the diocese and around the world upholding us in prayer. Some of these intercessors came to the courtroom to pray while testimonies and cross-examinations were taking place. Others of you prayed from home, perhaps on a lunch break, or while driving to and from your work place. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

After the final written submissions by the attorneys this case will lie in the careful judgment of the Honorable Diane Goodstein, who from my novice perspective was astonishingly competent, cheery and at times appropriately stern. This was not an easy case to try—yet she did it with aplomb. It may be several months before her judicial order is made. So please pray for her as she and her clerks sort through the testimonies and lengthy documents presented to the court and as she subsequently renders her ruling.

I have learned much about the diocese during this process—its structure and history—as well as the rich heritage of our parishes and missions. All is more firmly rooted in my mind and has awakened in my heart a deeper gratitude to God for calling me to serve among you. I am eager to put this knowledge to good use. My prayer is that our Lord will use this season to prepare us for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we seek to reach our communities for Jesus Christ— Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age here in South Carolina and around the world.

Gratefully yours in Christ,

The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina