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
Primate
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.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

No comment department . . .

. . . because commentary would be superfluous, except to say, the creation account in Genesis also includes these important little tidbits about male and female, Imago Dei, marriage, and procreation which John Kerry and his boss in the White House conveniently overlook.
Wednesday at a ceremony to appoint Texas lawyer Shaarik Zafar to be special representative to Muslim communities, Secretary of State John Kerry said it was the United States' Biblical "responsibility" to "confront climate change," including to protect "vulnerable Muslim majority counties." 
Kerry said Scripture, in particular the Book of Genesis, make clear it is our "duty" to protect the planet and we should look at Muslim countries "with a sense of stewardship of earth," adding, "That responsibility comes from God."

Bishop Lawrence calls for Diocesan-Wide Prayer for the Persecuted Church, September 14

Dear Friends in Christ,

Many of us have been following with alarm the persecution of Christians in various countries of the Middle East and Africa. Concern has been expressed within our diocese by priests and laity of the need for us to have a diocesan response to this current crisis.

At our Diocesan Council Meeting last week all concurred that as Bishop I would appoint an upcoming Sunday to be set aside for specific prayer and intercession for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in the midst of this persecution as well as a day for fasting on their behalf. I have appointed September 14th as a Sunday for such diocesan wide intercession. It is the Sunday nearest to Holy Cross Day which is transferred this year to be observed on Monday, September 15th.

Although it is technically a “feast” day, I am suggesting that we use it as a called fast day for personal and corporate self-denial and intercession whether corporately or individually observed depending upon the constraints of parish and personal schedules. I believe there is virtue in many within the diocese banding together in prayer, self-denial and offering in solidarity with fellow Christians around the world.

Those who desire to assist in monetary ways may I suggest Anglican Relief and Development (ARDF) or Voice of the Martyrs as appropriate ministries to assist those in need. Included in this email is a link for a bulletin insert to be used in your parish on Sunday, September 14th which includes a collect and prayer as well as a suggested Psalm according to the Book of Common Prayer.

Yours in Christ,





+Mark J. Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Collect for the Persecuted Church


This collect was composed by Charles Echols of St. Matthew's Parish, Fort Motte, South Carolina.
Loving Father, you heard the voice of the Israelites in Egypt, and you saw their affliction and their toil and their oppression; so now hear the groans of your children as they suffer in Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Nigeria and throughout the world. Comfort and strengthen them through your Holy Spirit, let them be witnesses that their oppressors might see and turn to you, and hasten to bring them out of their suffering with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bill Cosby responds to Victoria Osteen

Bill pretty much says all that needs to be said.



And here's another appropriate response.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What's wrong with this? In a word, everything

Appropriately filed under "Apostasy" by the Christian News Network:
A recently recorded video is circulating online of Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch speaker and author Joel Osteen, calling on congregants at Lakewood Church to ‘do good for your own self’ because obedience, the church and worship are not for God as much as for self-happiness.

“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy,” she declares in the undated 36-second clip with her husband standing by her side and nodding. “That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy…”

“So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy,” Osteen continues. “When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”



Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25 ESV)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No comment department

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Global South welcomes Diocese of South Carolina

August 21, 2014

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

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

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

Faithfully yours in Christ,


The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina


21 August 2014

Announcement regarding the Diocese of South Carolina

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

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

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

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

Yours in Christ,

+Mouneer Egypt

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

+Ian Mauritius

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cheesy Christian cinema: Nostalgia for a bygone era

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

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

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

Iraq and Islamic State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Rev Nicholas Baines

The bishop of Leeds