Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sojourn in a nation under judgment: Anne Kennedy's epic takedown of Rachel Held Evans

Any article critiquing Rachel Held Evans ought to be required reading. This morning, Anne Kennedy scored an epic takedown of the sniveling, neo-Pharisaical, proto-millennial blogger, who never seems to tire of pointing an accusing finger at Christians who actually believe Jesus is who he said he is and the Bible is what the church has always said it was.
First off, I wish she would desist calling me, and others who love the Bible and the Jesus revealed in the bible her “fellow Christians”. We are not fellows together. We believe contradictory opposite gospels. She is not curious enough about the gospel I embrace to know what it says, to understand that love is at the center of this issue, that Christians like me are horrified to find that the culture, and self identified “Christians” like her, have created a new definition of love that lets a person sexually tie himself or herself to a person of the same gender, regardless of God’s clear, explicit hatred of such an act. Love demands, love implores, love does everything it can to warn of the peril right ahead. So yes to fear, this is a perilous place we inhabit, now. But from whence cometh the entitlement? Christians have rightly perceived the rejection of their world view and are retreating in sorrow and grief. As for the charge that we are obscuring the gospel, I think the church has already been complicit in that confusion, and I think now Jesus himself is making the gospel more than abundantly clear. One of the ways (only one way, there are so many) gay “marriage” is so hateful to God is because it obscures the central relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage isn’t about individuals. Each and every marriage paints a picture of Jesus’ sacrificial love for his bride, who is not the same as him. Gay “marriage” paints a lying idolatrous picture of this reality and is one reason why, I think, the winners are so angry. Because living in a horrible lie is actually not that comfortable and pleasant. Look in the defiant, tragic gaze of a child who is lying and who doesn’t know how to get out, and you have an expression of the anger we are seeing everywhere. Why, pray tell, in this moment of great joy, Rachel Held Evans, do you pause to take a wack at bible loving Christians? I’ll tell you why, because the lie is ugly and hurtful, and so there must be lots of shouting and anger to cover up the great wound that leads to death. But moving on.
Kennedy's concluding observations are most insightful.
God’s judgement is pouring out. His burning anger is already here. If you feel angry, I long for you to look in his face, and not flinch when you see his abiding, perfect wrath. Really, my Christian identity has never been clearer than at this precise moment.
Hardly a day goes by now that I don't see some Facebook post or meme issuing the dire warning that "God is going to judge America" for all of the abominations it is now condoning. But, as Kennedy implies, the judgment is already happening. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul speaks about "men behaving indecently with men," etc. precisely in terms of judgment. The prevalence of such abominable acts is not a sign that God's wrath is about to be poured out but, indeed, that it is already being poured out. It's not the popular caricature of lightning striking, but the more subtle judgment of God giving a rebellious people over to their "dishonorable passions." God may not judge a nation because it celebrates sexual deviancy. Rather, the celebration of deviancy may very well be evidence that God's judgment has already come.

If that is the case, it presents us with a very crucial question. What is the church's responsibility as it sojourns in the midst of a nation under judgment? Most assuredly, it has a more significant role to play than the complacent compromising suggested by the likes of Rachel Held Evans. In his commentary on Revelation (unfortunately, long out of print), M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. offers this sacramentally saturated observation on the church's mission in the midst of a rebellious order.
For the church in John's day, as well as today, the vision reveals the profoundly deep reality of what it means to be a citizen of New Jerusalem. To be part of the eucharistic community of God's people is to become part of God's response to the rebellion. To partake of the Eucharist is to be drawn into the very being and nature of God so as to be shaped in the image and likeness of God. To partake of the Eucharist is to be thrust out into the midst of Fallen Babylon to participate in God's costly, redemptive response to the rebellion. The vision images this in the bowls [Revelation 15:6-16:21], which, on the one hand, are the prayers of the saints that open them to the shaping presence of God and that, on the other hand, being filled with the presence of God, are then poured out into the life of the world.
The outpouring of God's wrath is never an arbitrary act. Its purpose, like all the purposes of God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is ultimately redemptive. The church, as an active participant in God's response to the fallen order's rebellion, is called to be an agent of what Mulholland calls redemptive wrath.

Friday, June 26, 2015

ACNA statement on Supreme Court same sex "marriage" ruling

“From the Beginning”: God’s Design for Marriage

A Statement from the Anglican Church in North America

The Archbishop and Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America have received the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States of America and are deeply grieved by the stark departure from God’s revealed order. We are concerned for the inevitable results from this action to change the legal understanding of marriage and family life.

While this decision grieves us, God’s truth and the goodness of the order established in creation have not been changed. The kingdom of God cannot be shaken. We pray with confidence that God will reveal his glory, love, goodness, and hope to the world through his Church as we seek to follow him in faith and obedience.

Jesus Christ teaches that God is the author of marriage from the beginning of time (Matthew 19:4-6). God’s design for marriage has always involved a man and a woman: “a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). These truths have ordered civilization for thousands of years. Where God’s designs are followed in any society, including his designs for marriage and families, the result is the greatest possible blessing and abundance of life.

The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is often summarized as, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Because of his love, we love and care for all those who experience same-sex attraction. The Anglican Church in North America continues to welcome everyone to experience the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Marriage is established by God for the procreation and raising of children and for the good of society. For this reason, governments have an interest in marriage and have delegated authority from God to protect and regulate it. But no court, no legislature and no local magistrate has the authority to redefine marriage and to impose this definition on their citizens.

The United States of America, so its founders believed and taught, is a nation under God whose citizens’ fundamental rights are derived from the Creator. There is no right to a relationship which is contrary to the Creator’s express design. We cannot accept the Supreme Court’s decision purporting to find a fundamental right to same-sex “marriage” any more than we can accept its claim to have found a right to destroy human life in the womb. We will work with others to overturn this decision, and we pray that others will join with us in this effort.

Diocese of South Carolina statement on holy matrimony following SCOTUS same sex "marriage" decision


“We stand firm under the authority of Holy Scripture”

CHARLESTON, SC, JUNE 24, 2015 – On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that "all states must license marriage between two people of the same sex" and "recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state." Despite this change, the Diocese of South Carolina continues to affirm the historic position of the Christian Church: that God has ordained two states of life for His people, singleness or Holy Matrimony – the joining together of one man and one woman into a holy union. By affirming this position, we stand firmly under the authority of Holy Scripture, in continuity with the two thousand year history of the church, and in accord with the vast majority of Christians around the world. Therefore, it is clear that while the Supreme Court may be changing the civil definition of marriage, it has no authority over Holy Matrimony and the Church’s blessing of the union between husband and wife.

The Bible envisions Holy Matrimony as the life long, exclusive union of one man and one woman. While Christians, like others, experience failure in realizing this vision, it is nevertheless the standard we profess and toward which we strive. We believe that marriage, like all areas of life, can be redeemed, and that by God’s grace all married people can be enabled to live into its unique calling.

The full consequences of the Supreme Court’s cultural and legal innovation have yet to be seen, and will be tested over time. It is our strong belief that this same Constitution, to which they have appealed, must protect the rights of all people to the free exercise of religion. In the light of this conviction, the Diocese of South Carolina will faithfully conduct its ministry in accordance with our beliefs, trusting that this freedom will be upheld.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

GAFCON chairman's June pastoral 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

June 2015

‘For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus sake.’
2 Corinthians 4:5

My dear brothers and sisters,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our only Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

It is a strange thing that in the Church we can see both extraordinary strength and extraordinary weakness at the same time.

The strength of Christian faith has been revealed in a most profound way by members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston following the shooting of nine of its members during a bible study by a gunman obsessed with white supremacist ideas. The true Christlikeness of this historic church, which has been no stranger to persecution in its past, was summed up by a victim's relative who faced the gunman in court and said, “I forgive you and my family forgives you. Repent and give your life to Christ”.

In a different way, but also in the face of adversity, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has noted the strength of Christians who have gone through terrible suffering at the hands of the Islamic State. During his recent fact finding visit to Iraqi refugee camps at the invitation of the Chaldean Catholic Church he found surprisingly high morale and that, despite great poverty, the church run camps have worship, medical and educational provision and these are open to all.

Let us not neglect to pray for these communities and all our brothers and sisters who are seeking to follow Christ faithfully despite deep trauma.

In contrast, there are too many examples in the Church of weakness in the face of the subtle challenges of cultural and financial pressure. In Africa we are still too dependent in our thinking on outside agencies. This makes us vulnerable to relationships designed to buy influence and damages the integrity of our witness, while in the more economically developed world there is too often a fear of being out of step with secular culture. In this context I cannot avoid mentioning a very disturbing event in England. On Saturday 20th June, a Canon of York Minster blessed a ‘Gay Pride’ march of homosexual activists from the Minster steps, causing a senior clergyman in the Diocese of York to say “York Minster’s leading the way in the Gay Pride march is symbolic of what the Church of England’s leadership is doing generally on this issue – leading people away from the clear teaching of the Bible and the Gospel.”

In the face of such challenges, GAFCON exists to encourage work that will strengthen the Anglican Communion to be true to its biblical calling. One very promising initiative to help restore biblical truth in the life of the Church is the Anglican Church in North America’s recently announced Symposium on the ‘Domestic Church: Family Catechesis in Contemporary Society (October 15-17 2015 at Christ Church, Plano). I am sure they are right in their conviction that the renewal of the Church in the twenty-first century will not be deep and lasting unless the spiritual significance of the family unit is recognized and it is given its proper place as a means of discipleship, teaching and growth in the Christian life.

Also in North America, next month our GAFCON Ambassador Bishop Bill Atwood will be speaking at the International Congress of Catholic Anglicans. The GAFCON leadership is pleased to support this gathering recognizing we all need each other. Our Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters enrich our fellowship and strengthen our stand.

We too in Kenya are seeking to equip our Christians with another Divine Conference hosted by All Saints Cathedral Nairobi 28th-30th August 2015 taking the theme ‘A Call to Holy Living’ (1 Thessalonians 4:7) and international visitors will be most welcome. One of our main speakers will be fellow GAFCON Primate Archbishop Foley Beach from North America.

GAFCON is also seeking to strengthen the life of its growing number of branches and last week our General Secretary, Archbishop Peter Jensen, was the main speaker at a well attended meeting in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the invitation of Irish members of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK and Ireland. Many present became GAFCON members.

Archbishop Jensen took the theme ‘What GAFCON means to me’. He reminded the meeting of the way that GAFCON had stepped in to stand with orthodox Anglicans as the Communion began to break apart and recognized the sacrifices made by many of those who now form the Anglican Church in North America.

He also praised the Church of Ireland House of Bishops for their courage in reaffirming the biblical teaching that marriage is by definition between a man and a woman, following the referendum result in the Irish Republic in favour of so called ‘gay marriage’. He contrasted their decision with that of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod earlier this month to remove the biblical definition of marriage from the canons of their Church and added that the cost of trying to hold both views together is to obscure the teaching of the Bible when it is in fact very clear, just at a time when a new spiritual darkness is falling on the Western world.

The partnership and encouragement that GAFCON offers as a global fellowship is therefore going to be needed more than ever as we commit to the re-evangelization of the West and develop new wineskins for the task. So let me give the last words of this letter to an extract from Archbishop Jensen’s address:

“…liberal Christianity has little appeal to non-believers. The ancient world did not heed Christian idol worshippers: it was won over by those who preached and lived the biblical gospel with passion. It was the difference which made a difference; the difference with real content. It was the message that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he rules through the Scriptures, the word of God. The ancient Christians out-lived, out-thought and out-loved their contemporaries. They did not do this by doubting the faith or changing it to suit the times. They did it by confessing the truth, even to death.”

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Call to prayer from the Bishops in South Carolina

Wife of Anglican priest among those killed in Charleston shooting.

To the Faithful across the Carolinas:

Greetings to you in the matchless Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

As the eyes of the nation turn toward Charleston we commend her to your prayers. Our hearts are crushed by this violent act. Our minds reel as we consider the pain of our brothers and sisters who have lost loved ones—mothers and fathers, children and grandchildren, family and friends—as well as for those who have lost faith and hope from such a senseless act of hatred and insanity. Among those killed was one from our own Anglican family, Myra Thompson, the wife of The Rev’d Anthony Thompson, a priest in the Reformed Episcopal Church.

It is right that you feel sickened and angry. It is right that you struggle to know what to do. We all do. Scripture tells us that in the diminishment or suffering of one the whole church suffers. We are enjoined to weep with those who weep and to mourn with those who mourn. Today, we mourn and we weep with our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel Church and all of Charleston.

Together we shall seek God’s face on how he will have us respond as dioceses, as congregations, and as individual members of the Body of Christ—ambassadors of reconciliation—in this broken and fallen world for which His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ, has died that He might redeem.

Please join us in prayer as we remember:

The families of those killed
The members of Mother Emmanuel AME
The members of our law enforcement and first responders community
The members of the Charleston community

And pray that:

That there would be no further acts of violence
There would be peace in our city
That unity may overcome estrangement
That joy might conquer despair

Lastly, we commend the following prayer to our congregations across the Carolinas:

“O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples and races of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and those who are near: Grant to those who have lost loved ones your hope, comfort and peace; grant to those members of Emmanuel AME Church a sense of your presence; look with compassion on the whole human family here in Charleston and across our nation; show us how to respond to one another’s hurt and suffering; shed abroad your Spirit on those who have lost faith, hope and trust in You and one another; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that in your good time all peoples and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Your faithful servants,

The Rt. Rev’d Al Gadsden, Bishop of the Diocese of the Southeast (REC)
The Rt. Rev’d Mark Lawrence, Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev’d Steve Wood, Bishop of the Diocese of the Carolinas

Statement on Charleston church shooting from Bishop Mark Lawrence

Charleston, South Carolina

Dear Friends in Christ,

I have spoken to the Rev. Jimmy Gallant, one of our black clergyman and a leader in the Charleston community, earlier this morning in the wake of the horrific shooting at Emmanuel AME Church last evening. Unconfirmed reports have nine dead from the shootings including the pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. The African American community in Charleston is crushed. The larger community staggers wondering how to respond. Many priests and lay persons in the diocese and elsewhere have contacted me this morning desiring some way to meaningfully respond.

Frankly, our hearts are crushed by this violent act. Our minds reeling as we consider the pain of our brothers and sisters who have lost loved ones—mothers and fathers, children and grandchildren, family and friends—as well as for those who have lost faith and hope from such a senseless act of hatred and insanity. My heart and thoughts also reach out to all our brothers and sisters in Christ in this diocese, especially those of African American descent, as we grieve in the aftermath of this horrific event and from whatever root causes lie beneath it.

I know some of the priests and lay persons from the diocese are planning to attend the prayer service at Morris Brown AME Church today at noon. I too am planning to attend. I humbly request all the clergy and laity in the area attending the prayer service to join me at the Cathedral afterwards at 2 p.m. We shall seek God’s face on how he will have us respond as a diocese, as congregations, and as individual members of the Body of Christ—ambassadors of reconciliation—in this broken and fallen world for which His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ, has died that He might redeem.

Prayer for all involved would seem the primary thing we can offer at this point:

For Emmanuel AME
Their members
The injured
The families and friends of those killed
The community, as it responds to this tragedy
Law enforcement, for a speedy apprehension of the person responsible
Protection from those who would attempt to exploit this crisis
Restraint of further violence in response
For the Church... to be a witness in the midst of this tragedy... to redeem it

O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples and races of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and those who are near: Grant to those who have lost loved ones your hope, comfort and peace; grant to those members of Emmanuel AME Church a sense of your presence; look with compassion on the whole human family here in Charleston and across our nation; show us how to respond to one another’s hurt and suffering; shed abroad your Spirit on those who have lost faith, hope and trust in You and one another; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that in your good time all peoples and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Diocese of South Caroina files response to TEC appeal

CHARLESTON, SC, JUNE 16, 2015 – After the Episcopal Church publicly announced an illegitimate settlement offer to parishes of the Diocese of South Carolina, the Diocese filed its brief responding to the denomination’s appeal documents.

The Diocese of South Carolina filed its brief with the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Diocese’s brief supports the Feb. 3 decision by Judge Diane Goodstein, who ruled that the Diocese, its trustees and parishes are "the sole owners of their real, personal and intellectual properties" and that TEC has "no legal, equitable or beneficial interest" in any properties of the Diocese.

TEC had appealed the ruling and the state Supreme Court agreed to consider the appeal. The Diocese’s brief supports Judge Goodstein’s ruling on the basis of state and federal precedent, as well as established church history.

After first filing its own appeal brief with the State Supreme Court , TEC sent parishes in the Diocese letters offering to stop its legal action if – in exchange – the Diocese would give up the symbols, trademarks, assets and property protected by Judge Goodstein’s decision. Recognizing this as a way to try and create dissension among Diocesan churches, distract attorneys and as a publicity ploy, the illegitimate offer was turned down.

National Church Founded as ‘Voluntary’ Association

After the Revolutionary War, the former American colonies were averse to anything that even appeared to be “top down” control, such as the hierarchy of the Church of England. That aversion was expressed first in parish governance, but later in the initial rejection of bishops and the avoidance of all language of hierarchy. The Episcopal Church was founded as a "voluntary association" of dioceses. It has always been inherently possible for a diocese and its parishes to leave TEC. It happened during the Civil War, and those dioceses that separated from TEC when the South declared its independence were welcomed back when they chose to return after the conflict. That essential nature of voluntary association has never changed.

The Legal Nature of the Issues

TEC’s essential legal arguments can be distilled down to one proposition: TEC claims to be a "hierarchical" church, with complete, top-down control of the entire organization.

“There are multiple and significant problems with these assertions in this case as detailed in this brief,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary. “First, TEC's organizational structure is irrelevant to this case. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled clearly and repeatedly that in property matters of this sort courts not only can, but should decide them based upon 'neutral principles of law' if that can resolve all the issues. That means questions of ownership can be settled on the same basis as in any secular case.”

An example of this point is the 2009 decision of the All Saints case by the South Carolina Supreme Court. As in any litigation involving churches, doctrinal issues are often involved. However, if the court can decide the matter applying the customary laws of property ownership, it may do so. That occurred in All Saints.

“A second problem with TEC’s position is that South Carolina law prevents a party from re-litigating issues in which a court of final authority has already rendered a decision,” Lewis said. “The Illinois court has already affirmed at its highest level that TEC is not hierarchical in the way asserted in this case. Thus TEC is precluded from re-litigating the issue of whether a hierarchy exists above the level of a diocese.”

TEC litigated whether it was a hierarchy in a case between TEC and a Diocese in Illinois and lost on that issue.

Under neutral principles of law, several further crucial legal principles apply. The reason that TEC has no interest in the real, personal of intellectual property of the parish churches is that an express trust requires a written declaration, signed by the party conveying that interest. No such instrument was ever executed by the Diocese or any of its parishes to convey anything to TEC.

The only real issue, using the principles of law in South Carolina that affect all organizations not just religious ones, is who has the rights to control the Diocese, TEC or those who have continuously been its leadership, in unbroken succession, all the way back to 1785.

The whole case is well summarized in the conclusion of the brief, said Lewis.

"Six years ago two parties in this case were also parties in All Saints. They were on the same side then. This court disagreed with their legal arguments,” Lewis said. “One of them accepted this court's ruling; one of them has not. That is why the same issues are before this court again."

The full brief as filed with the Court can be found here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Anne Kennedy: What's wrong with Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley and others of his ilk (basically, propagators of the "seeker driven" movement) do not preach the Gospel or anything close to it. The essence of their message is, "Be nice people, welcome everyone, and work hard on being even nicer and even more welcoming."

This, as Anne Kennedy so adeptly points out, is utterly impossible.
And so here's what's wrong with Andy Stanley, and everybody else really, because I know you're longing for my summation of three minutes of TV preaching. Here it is, ready? I Can't Do It. I can't do the work you're telling me to do. I can't be welcoming enough. I can't be happy enough. I can't be positive enough. I can't be good enough. I can't be sinless enough. I can't pray enough. I can't rest enough. I can't do it. I'll just repeat that, as if I were actually saying this to Andy Stanley, I Can't Do It. And you telling me to work harder actually just makes me angry and slightly hating of God. Stop piling work on me. I can't do it.

Rather than that, how bout cracking open that electronic bible of yours and talking about God, just for a few minutes. I really don't care about what you think I should do, or who you think God is, or what God's purpose is for my life. I'm not turning on the tv to find out what you think I should do and be. This is why, if you can't make it to church, don't turn on the tv. Read the bible, out loud, and then go work in the garden or something. Don't watch this garbage. The shiny screen, the polo shirt, the gesturing, it doesn't make the preacher into a real preacher. A real preacher opens up the bible and tries to understand what the bible itself is saying about God. A real preacher doesn't need power point. A real preacher doesn't need to read a study about what people most regret in their lives. A real preacher doesn't need to lower the voice soothingly when saying something satanic like this, to paraphrase Andy Stanley, “the number one regret people name is not letting themselves be who they really are.” Not only is the grammar terrible, that particular sentiment is from the pit of hell.

It's not about you. Church isn't about you. It's not about the work you can do. It's not about how to get more out of life. It's not about making you feel good. It's not about you. It's about God. And any preacher that says anything otherwise is lying to you and you should get out of there.

Diocese of South Carolina not fooled by disingenuous "settlement offer" from TEC

Statement from The Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to Bishop Mark Lawrence, Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina

On June 3rd, Mr. Tom Tisdale, legal counsel for The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, sent letters to attorneys representing all Diocese of South Carolina churches in the litigation, an offer of settlement proposal. It essentially proposed that if the Diocese and Trustees relinquished their names, identities, and all assets (including the St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center), then The Episcopal Church (TEC) would relinquish its claim to all parish properties.

After careful consideration of this proposal it was quite clear that it was not a legitimate offer of good faith negotiation and never was intended to be. Thus, the proposal has been unanimously rejected by all parties to the litigation for the Diocese of South Carolina.


1. First, if it had been legitimate, it would have come from someone with authority to bind all the parties on the Episcopal Church side. The Presiding Bishop, though referenced in the letter, does not have that authority for TEC. It would - at minimum - require an action by TEC's Executive Council, if not General Convention. Tisdale’s letter doesn't even have the signature of legal counsel for TEC. Counsel for TEC was contacted to request that they provide the necessary proof of authority, along with THEIR signature on this offer. There has been no response.

2. Equally important, a valid proposal should have come to the Diocese’s lead counsel for this litigation, not to a parish representative. After nearly two weeks from the time of the original "offer" that contact has still not been made. A good faith offer has still not been properly presented .

3. Along these same lines, it should have been done entirely in confidence, and not presented as a kind of mass public statement. On Friday (6/12) it was publicly announced by a TECinSC blogger that Bishop vonRosenberg had sent a written notice to all his parishes, informing them this offer had been made. Both communications represent a serious breach of confidentiality. Today's announcement from them further emphasizes this dynamic. If some kind (any kind) of good faith negotiation is what they were really interested in, this certainly was not the way to conduct it.

Particularly to the point, the letters from Mr. Tisdale should not have been presented in the midst of the appellate briefs being filed. It must be noted that the expiration date of this offer was the same day our reply brief was due to be filed with the State Supreme Court. That is obviously no accident.

4. Finally, a serious offer (the specifics of this one entirely aside) would have given adequate time for discussion and consideration, given the nature of the proposal and the number of parties involved. This proposal failed to do so. The attorney receiving Mr. Tisdale's original offer asked that it be withdrawn and resubmitted after the June 15 deadline for our reply brief to be filed. The fact that our reasonable request was rejected points to the essential question.

Why was this really done? There are likely four motives at play here.

The first and primary intention of all this was to disrupt the preparation of our reply brief for the South Carolina Supreme Court. The timing here is not coincidental. The time and energy devoted to dealing with this non-offer was significant. That cannot be overstated.

Secondly, and of similar importance, this was an attempt to create division between the Diocese, Trustees and the Parishes. By structuring their "offer" in this way it tries to set what is good for one against what is good for the other. Our unity in this case has been, and continues to be, essential to its success. To falter now, when our case is so strong and the end so near, would be foolish. But that is what counsel for TEC would desire.

Additionally, there is always publicity. Not even the smallest legal proceeding in this case has been too small to merit a press release. Mr. Tisdale has alluded, frequently, to their willingness to negotiate, while never once making a proposal over the last two years. This "offer" gives the appearance of being reasonable and conciliatory while offering nothing of substance. What the parishes would get, if accepting this proposal would be their property. What they would lose, would be their historical heritage, their place in a diocese, St. Christopher and all the ministry it makes possible, all the assets of the Trustees, the Diocesan House and the legal protections carrying this case to conclusion would guarantee. This is no bargain! Their offer gives the Diocese of South Carolina nothing the court hasn’t already said is rightfully ours, while asking us to relinquish the identity we’ve held since 1785.

Finally, TEC would like to mitigate their loss at the S.C. Supreme Court level. Having lost in Illinois and being on a similar track in Texas (with a further loss there this past week), they are desperate to avoid another precedential ruling. It is worth remembering that this issue is not just about our individual parishes or even the Diocese of South Carolina. We are part of a larger conflict in which the outcome here may significantly benefit other parishes and Dioceses wishing freedom from TEC. This is not a request for reconciliation but rather for capitulation.

It should be noted that TEC has never, in the 90+ cases litigated nationwide, agreed to a settlement – even when it was requested. In the Virginia case, for instance, the local diocese was close to settlement with the local departing parishes when the Presiding Bishop’s office intervened to prevent any such action. There was, as the court testimony later revealed, "a new sheriff in town." Not once, in the two and a half years of our own litigation, has there ever been a proposal made for settlement. (That's what we were trying to pursue when they attempted to remove the Bishop, as some may recall.) The Presiding Bishop's chancellor is on record as saying they would never settle. In that, they have been utterly consistent up until now. This is not an attempt to end the litigation but rather to disrupt it - and to do so when we are only one hearing away from its final conclusion.

The only factors that appear to have changed for our case that would prompt this proposal are that:
a) TEC appears to be facing imminent loss at the state Supreme Court level and
b) the Presiding Bishop, who launched the scorched earth policy leading to an estimated $40+ million in litigation, will be replaced this fall.
Negotiation requires a “good faith” partner. For all the reasons cited above, this alleged "offer" was shunned for the deceitful imposter it is.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

When refuting Islam, history is more effective than hysteria

Robert Jeffres, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, fancies himself as the next Jerry Falwell. That is, he presents himself to the media and to the world as the spokesman for fundamentalist Christianity, wrapping himself in a pseudo-prophetic mantle, warning that, absent some heavy duty repentance and turning back to obeying the laws of God, doom is imminent.

Jeffres, however, is no Falwell.

To begin with, Falwell was more of a social crusader and proto-culture warrior than a doomsayer. While he shared with Jeffres the same aberrant view of eschatology (pre-millennial dispensationalism), its excesses were muted, especially after Falwell dove headlong into American politics and actively campaigned for numerous causes, even going so far as to endorse candidates for office. Correcting the moral course of the country through the political process was antithetical to Falwell's theological orientation. He was more functionally post-millennial than pre-millennial. Whether or not you agreed with him, he was an articulate spokesman for a particular moral vision, although he did occasionally lapse into hysterics. Moreover, Falwell's enduring legacy is that of a pioneering Christian educator, having founded what has now become a well respected institute of higher learning.

Jeffres, conversely, lacks all of Falwell's virtues while possessing all of his shortcomings in spades. In his frequent appearances on cable television programs, he comes across as buffoonish and intellectually incurious, regurgitating what has been standard fundamentalist boilerplate for over half a century. Last year, he published a book in which he made the convoluted argument that Barack Obama, while not himself "the Antichrist," was nevertheless "clearing the way" for his coming. Like so many dispensationalist doomsayers before him, Jeffres based nearly all of his dire predictions on the faltering moral condition of the United States, giving no consideration to the good, bad, or indifferent conditions of other nations.

More recently, however, Jeffres has taken a more international view, setting his sights on Islam and the mortal peril it poses to its followers.
"It was Satan himself who delivered those delusions to those people to lead people by the millions away from God," Jeffress told his 11,000-member congregation. "Islam is a false religion that will lead you to hell. It is based on a false book that is based on a fraud. It was founded by a false prophet who was leading people away instead of to the one true God."

Jeffress made parallels between Islamic radicals like Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and ISIS and the antichrist. The antichrist, he explained, will work to exterminate Jews and Christians from the world just like these terrorist groups.

"Did you know that there were more martyrs in the 20th century than all the other centuries combined together? ... Jesus said, 'These things are going to be like the birth pains of a woman. They will increase in intensity and in frequency,' he warned.

"Christians will be slaughtered by the millions for their faith in Jesus Christ. You say, 'Wait a minute, during the tribulation? I thought all Christians were going to be raptured and we were going to get out of here and that there weren't going to be any Christians. It's true, the church will be raptured before the final seven years of Earth's history, but during that final seven years, many people will come to faith in Christ but they will pay a terrible price to do so."

Jeffress made clear that the Quran is a fake, noting over 35 verses that command Muslims to murder Jews and Christians who get in the way of Islam's jihad.

The Quran is filled with phony stories and includes over 35 commands to kill Christians and Jews and those who stand against the expansion of Islam.

"These terrorists are Islamic terrorists, doing what they're doing in the name of their faith," said Jeffress. You cannot find one single verse in the New Testament that calls for violence against non-believers. Jesus said to love your enemies. Muhammad said to butcher your enemies."
Set aside, for the moment, the references to the "rapture" and the seven year "tribulation," a dispensationalist "end times" scenario developed from a misinterpretation of a patchwork of unrelated biblical texts. That is to be expected from a preacher of Jeffres' theological bent. Weeding all that out, his harangue against Islam certainly points out some of its obvious dangers and rightly condemns the despicable practices of its most radical practitioners. But the argument is undermined by a lack of historical perspective. Simply calling Islam "Satanic" and labeling it a "false religion," without explaining the circumstances surrounding its origins, makes for nothing more than an hysterical rant.

It is all too easy to rage against Islam and its holy book as the work of Satan. It is a bit more challenging to buttress that claim with solid historical evidence. As Peter Leithart has noted in his review of the essay collection, The Hidden Origins of Islam, there is credible scholarly opinion that the Quran was originally intended as a lectionary of Scripture readings compiled by a heretical Syriac Christian sect. The term "Quran" itself means "lectinarium." In other words, Islam's sacred book was intended as commentary on Scripture (Old and New Testaments), not as Scripture in and of itself.

The most likely explanation for the historical origin of Islam is that it grew out of Nestorianism and Monophysitism, two ancient heresies which were popular among Syriac Christians. Islam is best understood, then, as a heresy of a heresy; not so much a false religion as an apostasy of the true religion.

None of this makes Islam any less "Satanic." Any claim which denies Jesus is the Messiah is antichrist and of the Evil One. It is important, however, when seeking to expose the falsehood of Islam, to understand its actual historical origins rather than simply hurling a-historical hyperbole and invective.