Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola and Israel? A new low, even for John Hagee

It's hardly surprising that fear-monger John Hagee would weave the Ebola crisis into his apocalyptic narrative, but the manner in which he has done so is shameless even by his low standards.
Ebola may be part of God's judgment for President Barack Obama's alleged attempts to "divide Jerusalem," said John Hagee, a San Antonio-based pastor and founder of Christians United For Israel.

Citing the Book of Joel, the televangelist took to Tuesday's broadcast of the "Hagee Hotline" to tell listeners that "our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching and he will bring America into judgment," according to the left-leaning Right Wing Watch.

"There are grounds to say that judgment has already begun, because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now," Hagee said in a YouTube video posted by Right Wing Watch.

"We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola," he said.

Hagee, who heads Cornerstone Church, added that threats from Islamic radicals and ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri are all part of God's judgment on the United States in response to Obama's policies.
David Fischler at Stand Firm observes:
To say that people like Hagee bring disrepute upon the Christian faith when they make pronouncements like this is being generous. People who claim to know exactly what God’s specific actions are in response to specific human events are at least borderline blasphemous, and definitely Gnostic, by claiming that they know the mind of God in a way that the rest of us can’t. For them, the Scripture is just window-dressing for their politics, and God is simply their political consultant as they pursue their agendas. It’s as bad when done by conservatives as it is when its done by liberals, if not worse, since conservatives should know better.
Of course, calling Hagee a "conservative" is also being generous.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ben Witherington talks eschatology

Two "Seven Minute Seminary" videos featuring Ben Witherington III, debunking the popular but unbiblical "rapture" theology of dispensationalism.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dying Episcopal Church continues to claim South Carolina

The Episcopal Church (TEC), Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), or whatever its name happens to be this week is a dying mainline denomination. That, of course, is not news. Lately, however, its steady decline has become a freefall, as Jeffrey Walton observes.

Statistical manipulation to hide the true depths of its decline has become something of an art form for TEC, but its latest bit of ecclesiastical gerrymandering is also a tacit admission of a very inconvenient reality.

The new numbers do not factor in the departure of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, of which the church continues to report over 28,000 members and over 12,000 attendees, despite the majority of South Carolina congregations severing their relationship with the Episcopal Church at the end of 2012. If South Carolina departures were factored in, the membership loss would be closer to 50,000 persons.

In the wake of South Carolina's departure, the TEC brass hastily cobbled together a rump entity known as "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina" consisting of the handful of low country parishes which chose to remain affiliated with the national denomination and a hodge podge of "worshiping communities" made up of disgruntled members of parishes which stayed with the Diocese. The tenuous nature of this enterprise is evident in the continued inclusion of membership numbers from the actual Diocese of South Carolina. If the numbers for the rump diocese were in any way comparable, they would be included instead. But, as the numbers from the faux Diocese of Forth Worth illustrate, "rebuilding" efforts are failing nationwide.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Justin Welby, eat your heart out! [UPDATED]

Photo Credit: Kevin Kallsen
George Conger, reporting for Anglican Ink from tonight's investiture service for Archbishop Foley Beach:
[Atlanta, GA] Pope Francis has communicated his personal greetings and blessings for the ministry of the Most Rev. Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America [ACNA].

Speaking to the congregation of over 1500 gathered at the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta on 9 Oct 2014 for the installation of Archbishop Beach as leader of the ACNA, the Anglican Bishop of Argentina, the Rt. Rev. Gregory Venables stated that he had received a telephone call last week from "Fr Jorge", the former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Bergoloio -- now Pope Francis. Bishop Venables noted that he had long had a warm personal relationship with Pope Francis from his days as leader of the Argentine Catholic Church, and added Anglicans should rejoice in the current occupant of the chair of St Peter as he was a "Bible-believing, born again Christian."

Pope Francis had telephoned Bishop Venables and asked him to convey his "personal greetings and congratulations as he leads his church in the very important job of revival ..." to Archbishop Beach.

Before the service, the Most Rev. Wilton Gregory, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta presented Archbishop Beach with a crozier as a mark of his esteem for the new Anglican archbishop.

The personal accolades of Pope Francis were greeted warmly by the congregation, and harkened to the words of support read out at the 2003 Plano Conference for conservative American Anglicans from the then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI.
It should be noted that Archbishop Beach also acknowledged personal greetings from the Archbishop of Canterbury but such a courtesy hardly covers for the damage done by Justin Welby's statements from last week.

UPDATE: More from George Conger on last night's service and a significant statement made by the Primates participating in the investiture.
The Anglican Church in North America is Anglican and its primate is an archbishop of the Anglican Communion, declared seven archbishops last night.

At the close of the prayer of investitute of the Most Rev. Foley Beach at the Church of the Apostles on 9 Oct 2014, the primates of Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Myanmar, Jerusalem and the Middle East and South America, and bishops representing the primates of the Congo, Sudan and South East Asia laid hands on Archbishop Beach. Giving him their primatial blessing, they also acknowledged him by word and through laying on of hands to be a fellow primate of the Anglican Communion.

The archbishops' act comes one week after the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the Church of Ireland Gazette the ACNA was an ecumenical partner of the Anglican Communion and was not Anglican.

In their formal statements of greeting delivered to the 1500 people attending the service at the Anglican megachurch led by Dr. Michael Youseff in suburban Atlanta, the primates offered greetings and congratulations to the new archbishop and expressed the fellowship of their churches with the ACNA, but declined to press home their statement that Archbishop Foley was a primate of the Anglican Communion.

After the service, those primates approached by Anglican Ink declined to be drawn on this issue. A leader of the ACNA familiar with the deliberations of the primates said the manner in which their endorsement of Archbishop Beach was given had been formulated to express their views on his status, while avoiding a direct confrontation with Archbishop Welby at this time.

Since 2008 the GAFCON primates have affirmed their fellowship with the ACNA. Last night saw primates of the Global South Coalition -- conservative church leaders outside the Gafcon movement and seen as closer to Canterbury -- join their African colleagues in validating publically the ACNA's Anglican credentials.

The signficance of the statement, said one highly placed source who asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak for his peers, was that the 10 churches had made their positions quite clear to Archbishop Welby. If, as he told the BBC last Sunday, he would be guided by the mind of the primates in deciding issues of Anglican ecclesiology (such as the time of the primates meeting and structure and timing of the Lambeth Conferences), then he must now know that archbishops representing the majority of Anglicans worshipping today were in solidarity with the ACNA -- and citing Daniel 6:15 said there was no turning back. (“Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sydney Anglicans: Who or what defines the Anglican Communion?

The Rev. Dr. Mark Thompson of Moore Theological College and St. Andrews Cathedral, Sydney begs to differ with the presumptuous opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In an interview with the editor of the Church Of Ireland Gazette (Canon Ian Ellis), the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, has given his opinion on what defines a church as part of the Anglican Communion, and therefore, by implication, what is critical for Anglican identity.

In the interview he remarked that on his tour around the provinces of the Anglican Communion he has discovered that virtually everywhere the definition of being part of the Anglican Communion has been ‘being in communion with Canterbury’. He was, apparently, surprised to hear this, but it is equally clear he was glad to hear it. This is obvious when, a little further into the interview he insists that the Anglican Church of North of America (ACNA), is not a part of the Anglican Communion but a separate church. ACNA could be, and perhaps already is, an ecumenical partner with the Anglican Communion but it cannot be considered a member of the Anglican Communion because (and this last bit is the implication of what he said rather than his own words) it is not in communion with Canterbury, it has not been recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

This is a gigantic slap in the face to the Primates who represent the vast bulk of practicing Anglicans around the world and who, meeting in London in April 2009, recognised the Anglican Church in North America ‘as genuinely Anglican’ and called on all Anglican Provinces to ‘affirm full communion with the ACNA’. The churches which make up this new province are very largely refugees from the Episcopal Church (TEC) and its liberal and extraordinarily litigious Presiding Bishop (Ms Katherine Jefferts Schori). Many have suffered the loss of their property and the vilification and deposition of their leaders but were prepared to endure this rather than surrender to the revisionist theology and practice of TEC.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s insistence on communion with his office as a—if not the—defining characteristic of Anglicanism ought to come as no surprise. It is an institutional and process-driven answer to the question of Anglican identity from one who has shown himself to be more comfortable thinking in those categories than in theological ones. It makes the matter a simple one, one which can avoid divisive questions about whether a particular group has remained faithful to the confessional formularies (the 39 Articles and the books of Homilies, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal) or obedient to the Scriptures in matters of theology and Christian discipleship. Of course, it is not hard to see why avoiding those questions is desirable, especially to someone committed to maintaining some semblance of unity in a global institution which has been tearing itself apart for the past thirty years or more. Archbishop Welby has an impressive record in dispute resolution and he knows that institutional inclusiveness is a more achievable goal than theological agreement and a common commitment to biblical patterns of discipleship.

We must deny categorically and in the strongest possible terms that communion with the see of Canterbury is the determining factor when it comes to Anglican identity. It is not and never can be. A church, diocese or national body does not have to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury in order to be a legitimate member of the Anglican Communion, especially if a majority of other Anglicans around the world recognise it as part of our fellowship. Anglican identity is fundamentally a matter of certain theological commitments, anchored ultimately in the authority of Scripture as God’s word written (Article 20), together with an agreement to operate with a common pattern of church government (the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons). The Anglican Church has always been confessional in nature, as witnessed by the history of subscription to the Articles, which began in the time of Cranmer and continues around the world today. Ordination for Sydney Anglicans, for instance, still includes wholehearted assent to the 39 Articles of Religion.

This does not mean that every genuinely Anglican province must express itself in both form and content in an identical way to every other province. There is room for cultural diversity and appropriate modification of the way we do things in order to communicate the gospel more effectively in our own particular context. The 39 Articles themselves envisage this: ‘It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly alike; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s word’ (Article 34). But it does mean that any genuine unity we have is a unity of confession and the practice of discipleship first and foremost, not an institutional unity. It cannot and must not be confused with appropriate respect given to an ancient office in the Church of England.

In 2009 the Primates who represent by far the majority of Anglicans worldwide accepted ACNA as genuinely Anglican. They did not all necessarily agree with everything ACNA was doing and there has been increasing occasion for comment in the years since. However, along with that other long-excluded but genuinely Anglican province, the Church of England in South Africa (or REACH South Africa, as it is now known), its acceptance is based most of all on a common confession and a common determination to live faithfully according to the Scriptures as disciples of Christ taking his message of life and hope to a lost world.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Baghdad: Baptisms continue despite terrorist threat

By ACNS staff

Christians in Baghdad are still being baptised despite the threat of execution by the radical Islamist group Islamic State* (IS) which is currently fighting to get to the Iraqi capital.

The Anglican priest who has served the beleaguered city for more than a decade, Canon Andrew White, today told ACNS he thought the threat posed by IS was actually one reason the believers wanted to be undergo baptism.

“People really wanted to demonstrate their faith and that’s good,” he said. Publicly identifying oneself as a Christian is a particularly courageous move in a country where IS has been intentionally targeting religious minorities.

In towns they have captured IS fighters daub the Arabic letter ‘N’ (for Nazarene) on the homes of Christians. The occupants are offered the choice of leaving, paying a massive tax, converting to Islam or being murdered.

The mother and four young children who were baptised today had been brought up Christian, but from a mixed Christian/Muslim background. Canon White did not want to say more about them for fear of reprisals from IS supporters; that afternoon he had travelled to centre of Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein’s statue had once stood: “I was quite horrified to see that flying from that plinth was an ISIS flag.”

Despite this, the man nicknamed the Vicar of Baghdad rejoiced in the chance to carry on his priestly ministry in Iraq: “It was lovely baptising them and the children were so excited. One little boy came up to me and said, ‘I feel like a new person now’ and I told him, ‘You are’.

“In the midst of such a desperate situation it was wonderful to have something which was so nice.”

Canon White explained that his church, St George’s, once had a congregation of around 1,000. “On Sunday we only had 160. That’s because so many of our people have gone up north.**”

Despite the dwindling numbers and the possibility that IS could arrive in Baghdad at any time, Canon White is determined to continue his ministry for Christians in the capital and in Erbil where he and staff are delivering much needed-relief supplies.

“Thousands upon thousands of people remain Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) on the Kurdish boarders in the North,” he said. “Limited food, living in simple plastic tents and having none of the much-needed provisions. We are trying to provide as much of what is needed as possible.

“One of the things we’re looking at is establishing a separate Christian village comprising separate trailers with four bedrooms [for refugees] which would be better than these awful plastic tents.”

At $11,000 each, the trailers are not cheap. Much of his financial support comes from Anglican churches in England, US and Canada, but he said that, thanks to social media, he also has supporters in Anglican churches as far away as Australia and New Zealand. IS are, he said, not the only ones to make good use of the Internet.

IS are currently estimated to be 20 miles away from centre of Baghdad. However, for Canon White things are business as usual. “I certainly plan to stay, though I do have other meetings coming up. I’m in Israel next week and I have to go to California, so I will continue to do things I have to do, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Seven Minute Seminary: No rapture in the Bible

Very important teaching in light of the upcoming Left Behind movie.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2018 Lambeth Conference cancelled

George Conger, via Anglican Ink:
The 2018 Lambeth Conference has been cancelled. The precarious state of the Anglican Communion has led the Archbishop of Canterbury to postpone indefinitely the every ten year meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion.

A spokesman for Archbishop Justin Welby told Anglican Ink that as the archbishop had not yet met with each of the primates of the communion, he would not be commenting on the news. Since his installation last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury has travelled extensively and plans on visiting the 37 other provinces of the Anglican Communion within the first 18 months of his term of office.

News of the cancellation was made public by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori on 23 Sept 2014. In response to a question from the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Prince Singh, who asked if money was being set aside to fund the Episcopal Church’s participation in the 2018 meeting, the Presiding Bishop told the Fall Meeting of the House of Bishops gathered in Taipei, Taiwan, that she had been told by Archbishop Welby the meeting had been cancelled.

According to a report of the exchange printed by the Episcopal News Service, the Presiding Bishop said Archbishop Welby had “been very clear that he is not going to call a Lambeth until he is reasonably certain that the vast majority of bishops would attend. It needs to be preceded by a primates meeting at which a vast majority of primates are present.”

She further stated that “as he continues his visits around the communion to those primates it’s unlikely that he will call such a meeting at all until at least a year from now or probably 18 months from now. Therefore I think we are looking at 2019, more likely 2020, before a Lambeth Conference.”

And, if and when it is held, the format of the gathering will likely be different from that of the controversial 2008 gathering. The next Lambeth will “have a rather different format” and the spouses’ conference will be eliminated “simply because of scale issues and regional contextual issues. Bishops’ spouses fill very different roles in different parts of the communion and the feedback from the last one was that it did not serve the spouses particularly well,” the Presiding Bishop said.

First held in 1867 in London at Lambeth Palace, the Lambeth Conferences have gathered the bishops of the Anglican Communion every ten years to discuss the common issues facing the wider church. The conferences have been postponed only twice. The 1918 gathering was postponed to 1920 due to the First World War, and the 1940 conference was postponed to 1948 because of the Second World War.

The decision to postpone the 2018 gathering due to internal dissention is unprecedented. From the first gathering in 1868 which dealt in part with the contentious issue of episcopal autonomy and Biblical interpretation and the heterodox bishop of Natal the Rt. Rev. John W. Colenso (as he was considered by most of his peers) the Lambeth Conferences have consistently discussed controversial issues. Though the resolutions and debates have no juridical value as each province is governed by its own canon law, the pronouncements have always held great moral authority. The 1930 Conference’s endorsement of contraception, for example, provided the foundation for the Episcopal Church to change its formal view of the morality of birth control in 1948. While in 1998 the Conference restated the church’s formal view that homosexual activity was immoral.

In organizing the 2008 Conference, Dr. Rowan Williams – who had endorsed a minority statement on homosexuality at the conference – changed the parameters and purpose of the meeting. A format of indaba, a South African word that the conference organizers interpreted as meaning a form of guided conversation, was adopted. The new format did not permit formal or conclusive statements and was designed to prevent action through what critics saw was conversation without end.

The gathering was also hampered by the largest boycott in the conference’s history. The bishops of the province of York boycotted the 1868 gathering in protest to what they saw as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s presumption at calling a gathering of all the bishops, and J.C. Ryle and a handful of other evangelical bishops boycotted the 1888 gathering out of concerns the conference was institutionalizing what they believed to be an un-biblical prelacy. The question of women bishops attending Lambeth 1998 led a handful of traditionalists to boycott the conference. Two English missionary bishops in Madagascar declined to attend the gathering due to the presence of women bishops,

However the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to invite the American, Canadian and Central American bishops who consecrated the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson to Lambeth led to 206 diocesan and 8 suffragan bishops to reject Archbishop Rown Williams’ invitation.

In 2008 the Anglican Communion consisted of 729 dioceses, missionary districts, and ecclesial entities divided into 38 provinces and six extra-provincial jurisdictions. Approximately 260 dioceses and jurisdictions within the Communion were not represented by their diocesan bishops at Lambeth. In addition to those boycotting the meeting in protest, the Archbishop of Polynesia, remained at home to lead the coronation services of the King of Tonga, while the Bishop of Salisbury was felled by a stroke. Pending legal proceedings prevented the Bishop of Pennsylvania from attending while bishops from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of North India have never attended the Lambeth Conference.

Zimbabwe’s uncertain political situation prevented the Bishop of Manicaland from coming while a handful of bishops were also blocked from attending Lambeth due to local circumstances.

Of those identified as absent: 214 bishops from 10 provinces made an affirmative decision not to accept Dr. Williams’ invitation due to reasons of conscience: Australia 7; Southern Cone 1; Episcopal Church 1; Church of England 3; Uganda 30; Nigeria 137; Kenya 25; Rwanda 8; South East Asia 1; and Jerusalem and the Middle East 1. From Africa’s 324 dioceses, 200 diocesan bishops (61 percent) were identified as having refused Dr. Williams’ invitation.

Archbishop Welby’s flying visits across the Communion have sought to ameliorate this situation.

Monday, September 29, 2014

David Ould on the Anglican Communion: The conservatives are not going anywhere

A very encouraging article from David Ould about the ultimate staying power of conservatives in the Anglican Commuion:
The reality is that as the Anglican Communion effectively splits the conflict is being played out most of all in the Anglo national churches. Allan [Haley] has helpfully outlined the key events in the global background to all of this but it’s interesting to consider how it’s working it’s way out in the “Western” Provinces. The history of the North American church now already consists of whole chapters that have been written, with more yet to come but there is much yet to be written in the Church of England and Anglican Church of Australia.

The CofE’s position is a precarious one. Evangelicals have for a long time felt disenfranchised and marginalised. For them it is also, to some limited extent, a question of taxation and representation. Evangelical parishes (of which the large and growing parishes are mainly drawn) pay regular quotas of their offertory to diocesan coffers and on to the national funds. These monies are used to fund what is often perceived as irrelevant or even anti-gospel activities. To compound the situation there is not one single evangelical bishop in the House. At this stage some will protest with indignation that there are indeed evangelicals there, just not of the “conservative” label, to which I say this. The reality is that since the retirement of Bishop Wallace Benn we have not had one genuinely evangelical man representing us at the highest level. We have been marginalised, had the label “conservative evangelical” placed upon us to marginalise us even further, and had a promise of a “conservative evangelical” bishop made but ignored. They tax our tea (which in the Church of England is second in gravity only to taxing cake – or doubling the excise on a good Gin and Tonic) but the Crown gives us no representation.

So while the House of Bishops appears to be holding a fairly conservative position on human sexuality (although there are some glaring inconsistencies in their guidance) there is open opposition from not only clergy and laity but also actual bishops who are once again making outrageous claims (but, of course, don’t have the courage to back up their charge – they do, however, like the salary they get). What will be done in response to Bishop Alan’s open and brazen criticism of his episcopal colleagues? About the same that was done the last time; diddly squat. But the bigger issue is that the Church of England is an institution that is regularly elevating men who hold such views while not placing in leadership those who actually hold to consistent Biblical positions on the controversies of the day. It’s no good claiming to be standing in the right position on a controversy if open and wilful opposition is left unchecked.

All of this is the backdrop to the recent GAFCON Chairman’s pastoral letter which includes these paragraphs:
In the twenty first century, it is becoming clear that we must see the once missionary nations of the West as now themselves mission fields. The fact that the United Kingdom came close to breaking up last week is a symptom of the disintegration that follows when a once common Christian faith has been lost and I want to appreciate the work of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) who are sharing with other mission minded Anglicans in England as they meet for the ‘ReNew’ Conference this week.

AMiE is authorised by the GAFCON Primates to work within and, where necessary, outside the structures of the Church of England as a missionary society. In my message of greeting to the conference I said ‘We understand the challenges that faithful Anglicans face in England. At GAFCON 2013 here in Nairobi we recognised that the focus of the struggle for biblical faithfulness has shifted from North America to England. The temptation to dilute the message of Jesus Christ and compromise with the surrounding culture is strong, so it is vital for the gospel in England, and also for the world, that you continue as a beacon to the revealed truth of the Scriptures. The salvation of people from hell is at stake. So nothing could be more important.’
The Anglican Mission in England has been around for a while but is getting on with it’s work slowly. It is, however, a “Tea Party moment”. It signals to the leadership of the Church of England that the fight is not going away. Evangelicals will continue to hold their own, and do so in solidarity with the majority of the Anglican Communion represented by a GAFCON/FCA movement that encourages their work. Just as the Tea Party signalled an irreversible moment in the conflict, so the collaboration of parties such as Church Society and Reform signals an intent which cannot be ignored, even if the pace is not to everyone’s liking.

The irony here is that quasi-evangelicals, such as the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, find themselves in a curious position. They hold a conservative position on human sexuality, but are undermined in their support of women’s consecration. Further, they give the impression they will constantly seek to appease the liberalising tendencies within the church. Tragically this moves them away from their more natural theological partners in parties like the AMiE and into the hands of those who they are, ironically, in far less agreement with on the more substantial issues.

Here in Australia a similar movement is underway, albeit in a different context. The Australia church, not least by virtue of it’s constitutional arrangements, has not officially moved to the extremes although there are some clear pockets of revisionism. The smaller House of Bishops has a variety of perspectives in it but has a good number of genuine conservatives. The new Primate, Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier, is seen as a safer pair of hands and a man with some experience of handling the inherent tensions having overseen the smorgasbord of Melbourne where solid evangelical parishes lie next to blatantly liberal ones. He has recently imposed new rules on the conduct of ministers including asking clear questions about their living arrangements and behaviour prior to ordination and licensing. Nevertheless Melbourne remains home to many who would espouse a gospel that evangelicals simply cannot recognise. My own sense speaking to others here about the matter is that some opposition to conservatives has softened, at least publicly. Privately I have seen correspondence and been involved in conversations where the animosity is a clear as it ever was.

All of this has led to the Australian chapter of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans announcing plans for a first local conference in March 2015. Further details are yet to come but this will prove, I suspect, to be another “Tea Party moment”. It signals to the hierarchy of the Anglican Church of Australia that the conservatives are not going anywhere. This is particularly important given what may happen in the next few years. It is no secret that liberals in Perth are very unhappy with Archbishop Herft’s decision to veto their motion on human sexuality. We should expect the next Archbishop there to be elected on the understanding that he (or she) will allow similar motions to pass. This or similar events will leave conservatives needing to decide how to respond. But the theological revisionists should also be clear on the consequences of their actions. Throwing a few tea chests in the harbour now gives a very clear indication of what might be yet to come.

The reality of the Anglican Communion is that conservatives are not going anywhere. In many senses liberals are fighting a rearguard action trying to hold onto local ground while they see the wider global battle being lost. The wholesale rejection of the Anglican Covenant idea by those same liberals is only further evidence of their increasing parochialism, they want the prestige of being part of the Anglican Communion but not the mutual responsibility. They are, globally, a lone voice crying “God save our picture of Christianity” while the rest of the Communion moves on and battles for their Biblical understanding of what Anglicanism always was and should continue to be.

Just as the British Crown lost control over the colonies and the once Great Britain is now reduced to one small nation amongst others, so also the revisionists in the Communion are looking at a similar shrinking of their influence and standing in the face of conservatives’ standing firm. Expect to see more Tea Parties, if only to let the institutions know that we’re not going away and this is all only going in one direction.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

September pastoral letter from GAFCON chairman

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

23rd September 2014

‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who if of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the heart of the contrite.’ Isaiah 57:15

My dear brothers and sisters,

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

Here in Nairobi, we have just concluded our Divine Conference. We have enjoyed four wonderful days of fellowship, worship and teaching as hundreds of people have been drawn daily to hear God’s Word at All Saints Cathedral. We have come to the Lord in repentance and we have experienced the truth of the great promise we have in Isaiah 57:15, that the God who dwells in the splendour of holiness also dwells with the contrite and lowly. God has indeed drawn near. He has saved the lost, brought back the wanderers, lifted our burdens and given us a new joy in Jesus the Son of God, in whom all His promises are fulfilled.

Many of us were also present last October for GAFCON 2013 and I have encouraged people to think of the Divine Conference as ‘Continuing GAFCON’. In the Nairobi Commitment and Communiqué, we stated our intention to become much more than a big conference every five years. As long as the Great Commission is at risk through the promotion and toleration of false teaching and immorality in the Anglican Communion, we must have ‘Continuing GAFCON’.

Our Divine Conference reflected the partnership we have with other Confessing Anglicans as we welcomed international guests and speakers from other nations, including Uganda, the UK and the Anglican Church of North America. My brother Archbishop Stanley Ntagali reminded us that true unity comes when Christ is at the centre of the Church and urged us to see that ‘GAFCON is a revival movement to revive the Anglican Communion’.

We were also delighted to receive greetings from Archbishop Foley Beach through his special representative, Canon Alan Hawkins, and a mission team of church planters from the Anglican Church of North America’s Greenhouse Movement came alongside parishes in Nairobi and joined us for the conference. All Saints Cathedral and Greenhouse have now committed to reciprocal mission visits and I rejoice to see the GAFCON vision for faithful global mission being put into practice in this very practical way between the great cities of Nairobi and Chicago. I hope this will be the first of many similar initiatives.

In the twenty first century, it is becoming clear that we must see the once missionary nations of the West as now themselves mission fields. The fact that the United Kingdom came close to breaking up last week is a symptom of the disintegration that follows when a once common Christian faith has been lost and I want to appreciate the work of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) who are sharing with other mission minded Anglicans in England as they meet for the ‘ReNew’ Conference this week.

AMiE is authorised by the GAFCON Primates to work within and, where necessary, outside the structures of the Church of England as a missionary society. In my message of greeting to the conference I said ‘We understand the challenges that faithful Anglicans face in England. At GAFCON 2013 here in Nairobi we recognised that the focus of the struggle for biblical faithfulness has shifted from North America to England. The temptation to dilute the message of Jesus Christ and compromise with the surrounding culture is strong, so it is vital for the gospel in England, and also for the world, that you continue as a beacon to the revealed truth of the Scriptures. The salvation of people from hell is at stake. So nothing could be more important.’

As Chairman of GAFCON I give thanks to God as I see brothers an sisters in Christ round the world standing firm and partnering together to make known the good news of our Lord Jesus in season and out of season.

Finally, let us not forget those who are suffering. The terrible barbarities of ISIL have focussed our minds on the evil that has befallen many believers in the Middle East and those facing similar threats in other parts of the world. Let us be steadfast in prayer for them and trust God that the ancient Churches of their lands will, by God’s grace and power, rise from the ashes. And may their suffering strengthen our resolve to be faithful soldiers and servants of Jesus Christ wherever we are, knowing that nothing can separate is from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Left Behind" should be . . . left behind, and here's why

Many thanks to Randall Hardman of Ministry Matters for saving me the trouble of writing (yet again!) a lengthy refutation of the relentlessly popular, but biblically dubious, "rapture" theology and its latest Hollywood adaptation. You will want to read the entire piece, but here is a choice excerpt.
To the surprise of many, rapture-based theology has only been around for the past couple hundred years and predominantly in America. Indeed, the world's leading biblical scholar, N.T. Wright, refers to it as an “American obsession” and notes that few Christians in the U.K. hold any sort of belief in it. I would say the same for biblical scholars (in fact, I can't think of a single trained biblical scholar of Revelation that endorses rapture based theology minus a couple at Dallas Seminary.) The origins of rapture theology lie in 1830 Scotland where a fifteen year old girl name Margaret MacDonald claimed to see a vision of a “two-stage return of Jesus.” Enter John Nelson Darby, a British evangelist and the founder of the Plymouth Brethren. Darby took MacDonald's vision and created an entire system based off of it in which Jesus returns not once (as Christians have always believed) but twice! Darby and others who were sympathetic to his views went back to the Bible to search for clues, signs, and verses which would justify thinking of worldly history in terms of “dispensations” which included a seven-year tribulation and a preceding evacuation of the church from it.

Through various “mission trips” to the U.S. in the late 19th century, the notion of a “rapture” found itself appealing to American Christians who were going through the atrocities of the Civil War which, by all measure, must have looked like Armageddon: nation rising up against nation, brother against brother, son against father, etc. With more than half a million dead, who wouldn't find a “let's get out of here” theology attractive? This mindset, of course, was exasperated with World War I and the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible which was handed out to soldiers in the trenches. Two other events corresponded to the promotion of the “rapture” in America: the conversion of Dwight L. Moody to the eschatological system (he later founded Moody Bible Institute and a major radio program which would become important in the promotion of rapture theology) and the establishment of a dispensationalist training center, Dallas Theological Seminary (get why their scholars are the exception?)

Now Christians have always affirmed the second coming of Christ, but only in the system which Darby, Scofield, and later dispensationalists developed were there three comings. This was a brand new take on the end, and while Christians throughout the centuries have always wondered whether their day was the last day (including Paul), with some interpreting contemporary events in such a way, the establishment of a system and a timetable was entirely new, as was the presupposition that Jesus would exorcise his Church from the last days.

When Paul refers to some being “caught up” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) he's not referring to a rapture which will precede a time of tribulation in the modern world: He is giving his audience hope in the midst of persecution and death and reminding them of the hope that all Christians share, that Christ will come again (just not again and then again!) When Jesus speaks of “one being taken” (Matthew 24:40) he is not referencing how Christians all across the world will escape from a period of trial; rather, he is referencing the Genesis flood story (vv 37-40) and, as the context makes clear, being “taken away” is actually unfortunate, as it is the one who is “taken away” that faces judgment.

I could go on with a verse by verse analysis of all the “rapture verses” but there exists an underlying problem with rapture theology, one which has the ability to affect so many aspects of how Christians interact with the problems of this world: It embraces escapism as a solution. Rapture-based theology teaches us to think and hope for an escape from this world, not endurance to persevere in it. In this view, Jesus loves his Bride too much to let it go through the intense suffering and judgment the world will face (very similar to the popular notion that suffering doesn't happen to godly people). But that is not the message of Scripture, nor is it the message of Revelation in particular. Sometimes terrible things do happen to good people and Scripture doesn't promise us an “out.” It promises us a “how.”

Janna Darnelle explains the dark side of redefining marriage

Behind the media-generated facade of "marriage equality" is a cesspool of evil, spawning broken families, ruined lives, and a culture of selfishness which exploits and demeans women and children. Janna Darnelle bravely comes forward to point this out.
There is not one gay family that exists in this world that was created naturally.

Every same-sex family can only exist by manipulating nature. Behind the happy façade of many families headed by same-sex couples, we see relationships that are built from brokenness. They represent covenants broken, love abandoned, and responsibilities crushed. They are built on betrayal, lies, and deep wounds.

This is also true of same-sex couples who use assisted reproductive technologies such as surrogacy or sperm donation to have children. Such processes exploit men and women for their reproductive potential, treat children as products to be bought and sold, and purposely deny children a relationship with one or both of their biological parents. Wholeness and balance cannot be found in such families, because something is always missing. I am missing. But I am real, and I represent hundreds upon thousands of spouses who have been betrayed and rejected.

If my husband had chosen to stay, I know that things wouldn’t have been easy. But that is what marriage is about: making a vow and choosing to live it out, day after day. In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, spouses must choose to put the other person first, loving them even when it’s hard.

A good marriage doesn’t only depend on sexual desire, which can come and go and is often out of our control. It depends on choosing to love, honor, and be faithful to one person, forsaking all others. It is common for spouses to be attracted to other people—usually of the opposite sex, but sometimes of the same sex. Spouses who value their marriage do not act on those impulses. For those who find themselves attracted to people of the same sex, staying faithful to their opposite-sex spouse isn’t a betrayal of their true identity. Rather, it’s a decision not to let themselves be ruled by their passions. It shows depth and strength of character when such people remain true to their vows, consciously striving to remember, honor, and revive the love they had for their spouses when they first married.
Please read the whole article.

Friday, September 19, 2014

File under: They think we still care

The Noth American Clown Quartet speaks. They actually think somebody is listening.
We are united as Christian leaders in our concern for the well-being of our neighbors and of God’s good creation that provides life and livelihood for all God’s creatures. Daily we see and hear the evidence of a rapidly changing climate. Glaciers are disappearing, the polar ice cap is melting, and sea levels are rising. Incidents of pollution- created dead zones in seas and the ocean and toxic algae growth in water supplies are occurring with greater frequency. Most disturbingly, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising at an unprecedented rate. At the same time we also witness in too many instances how the earth’s natural beauty, a sign of God’s wonderful creativity, has been defiled by pollutants and waste.

Many have reacted to these changes with grief and anger. In their outrage some have understandably focused on the neglect and carelessness, both in private industry and in government regulation, that have contributed to these changes. However, an honest accounting requires a recognition that we all participate both as consumers and investors in economies that make intensive and insistent demands for energy. In addition, as citizens we have chosen to support or acquiesce in policies that shift the burdens of climate change to communities that are most vulnerable to its effects. People who are already challenged by poverty and by dislocation resulting from civil war or famine have limited resources for adapting to climate change’s effects.

While an accounting of climate change that has credibility and integrity must include our own repentance, we find our hope in the promise of God’s own faithfulness to the creation and humankind and in the liberation that comes from God’s promise.

God, who made the creation and made it good, has not abandoned it. Daily the Spirit continues to renew the face of the earth. All who care for the earth and work for the restoration of its vitality can be confident that they are not pursuing a lost cause. We serve in concert with God’s own creative and renewing power.

Moreover, we need not surrender to political ideologies and other modern mythologies that would divide us into partisan factions — deserving and undeserving, powerless victims and godless oppressors. In Christ we have the promise of a life where God has reconciled the human community. In Christ God sets us free from the captivity of blaming and shaming. God liberates us for shared endeavors where we find each other at our best.

While the challenge may seem daunting, the Spirit’s abundant gifts for service empower us to find common cause with people who exercise countless insights and skills, embodied in hundreds of occupations and trades. We have good reason to hope in all the ways God’s grace is at work among us. We can commend ourselves to the work before us with confidence in God’s mercy.

Opportunities to act imaginatively and courageously abound in all our individual callings. The Holy Spirit’s work in us leads us as faithful consumers and investors in a global economy to make responsible choices to reduce energy use, carbon emissions, and the wasteful consumption of water and other natural resources. As citizens, we have voices to use in educating children about the climate and in shaping public and corporate policies that affect the environment. The Spirit has also given us our voices to contribute our witness to public discussion of just and responsible use of natural resources.

We also have the resources and responsibility to act together for the common good, especially for those most vulnerable to the effect of climate change in the spirit of the seventh Millennium Development Goal, “to ensure environmental stability”. World leaders will meet this month in New York for a Climate Summit, and in December in Lima, Peru, to discuss global cooperation on climate change. Working under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), participants in the UNFCCC’s negotiations hope for an agreement in 2015 that will move toward reduction of carbon emissions, development of low carbon technologies, and assistance to populations most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate.

We encourage you to take the initiative to engage decision-makers in this godly work in all arenas of public life — in government and business, in schools and civic organizations, in social media and also in our church life.
We are not powerless to act and we are not alone. “We have the power of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling Spirit of Christ to give us hope and courage.”

The present moment is a critical one, filled with both challenge and opportunity to act as faithful individuals and churches in solidarity with God’s good creation.

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Anglican Church of Canada

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Bishop Susan Johnson
National Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No comment department

Politically, I lean very much to the right, but I have always thought there is something a little creepy about Ted Cruz. His deplorable behavior at the recent In Defense of Christians gathering provided a moment of clarity, confronting evangelical Christians with the choice of remaining true to the faith they confess or following the carnival barkers of "movement conservatism" off the ideological cliff. Now, to the surprise of no one who knows the background story behind this whole sorry episode, Cruz has poured salt into the wounds he inflicted on persecuted Middle East Christians by emblazoning this banner across his website.

It is hardly necessary to dignify such naked political opportunism with any further comment, especially since Rod Dreher has already done an excellent job of filling in all the details.

Meriam Ibraheem gives first television interview

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lift High the Cross

This Sunday was a diocesan wide day of prayer for persecuted Christians in Iraq, Syria, and throughout the Middle East. For the recessional at Church of the Holy Trinity, we sang "Lift High the Cross" (also appropriate, being the Feast of the Holy Cross) and tweaked the usual protocol so as to offer a symbolic expression of solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters. The little ones of the parish added an additional, unplanned, element.