Friday, April 18, 2014

Good news on Good Friday: TEC loses another round in court

From the Diocese of Fort Worth:
First came the ruling against TEC in the direct appeal we brought to the Texas Supreme Court, issued on August 30. Second came the denial of TEC’s request for the court to rehear (or reconsider) that ruling. And now comes their third loss, on April 17. The high court has denied TEC’s motion to recall the mandate it sent to the trial court, which would have “stayed the proceedings” (stopped the legal process in Texas) while they try to get a review of our case from the U.S Supreme Court. Apparently the state Justices agreed with our attorneys that it is highly unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court will review the case at this stage. Nonetheless, TEC has until June 19 to seek review at the national level. 
The next step in the litigation here in Fort Worth is a hearing at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 24, in the courtroom of Judge John Chupp, where we have requested that he set aside the supersedeas order and refund to the Diocese the $100,000 cash bond we posted two years ago in order to maintain possession of our property. With his original decision having now been reversed by the Texas Supreme Court, there are no legal grounds for the order to remain in effect. 
In addition, attorneys for the Diocese are completing new pleadings and a revised motion for summary judgment, which should be filed with the 141st district court sometime next month. 
Once again, it is time for the TEC lawyers to come clean with their clients about their prospects in this case and to stop filing more and more unnecessary legal motions that only delay the process. Without a significant benefactor paying all their legal fees, the small little group calling itself “the local Episcopal parties” could never have taken matters this far. It is prudent for them to cut their losses and move on. 
Thank you for your continued prayers and support. Let us give thanks to the Lord for his goodness and grace as we fight this spiritual battle that has been thrust upon us.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth

It's Friday . . . but Sunday's comin'

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Liberty University's "World Vision problem"

You can file this one under "You can't make this stuff up (but you wish it were)." Apparently, Liberty University has entered into a partnership with known spiritual charlatan Benny Hinn.
Liberty University has a World Vision problem.

Until World Vision announced and quickly reversed its policy on same-gender marriage, most of its donors probably thought they were giving money to help feed and evangelize poor children and families all around the world. While World Vision lost donors because of its betrayal of orthodox Christian doctrine, the furor created by the decision focused attention on what World Vision actually did–and didn’t do–with its donors’ money. Donors learned that their money didn’t actually go to the child pictured on the refrigerator (but to the child’s village), nor did World Vision always share the gospel as a part of its outreach. While people have been grieving the fact that thousands of children have lost sponsorships, we don’t know how much of that has been offset by donors redirecting their philanthropy to denominationally based efforts that promise to more effectively take the gospel to the people who need to hear it.

The World Vision public relations crisis had three related components:

We discovered that World Vision was willing to reject clear biblical teaching. 
We discovered that World Vision isn’t actually a gospel-preaching missions organization. 
We discovered that our own churches and denominations do a better job than we thought. 
Last week, we learned that Liberty University, America’s largest Christian college, had engaged in a partnership with Benny Hinn that would permit students to watch 10 hours of video, take an easy quiz, and qualify for ordination through Hinn’s World Healing Fellowship. The news spread quickly through blogs and Twitter, and Liberty, realizing they had an unfolding public relations disaster on its hands, released a statement that asserted that they and Hinn were not in partnership.

Not only does the statement appear to be false (keep reading), but the attention that this story is bound to create is going to cling to Liberty in unflattering ways as parents of college-aged teens start to discover just what has been happening at the nice little Baptist school tucked away in the Virginia mountains. It’s not just the Benny Hinn affiliation that will damage Liberty, it’s the discovery that Liberty has made something of a habit of consorting with cultists and charlatans over the last few decades. We’ll return to the interesting histories of Hinn’s Liberty friends, but first we’ll examine Liberty’s denial that it is in a partnership with Hinn.
Keep reading, and weep.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Wives and mothers can be disciples, too!

This year's edition of "Let's question all things orthodox during Holy Week" is, as Al Mohler so adeptly observes, a painful illustration of the pathetic state of modern biblical "scholarship." The tiny piece of papyrus which purportedly has Jesus referring to "My wife" is, depending on which "expert" you believe, a crude forgery or an authentic document from sometime around the 8th century. Either way, however, it is hardly worthy of the attention it has drawn from a media wolfpack desperate to discredit Christian orthodoxy and help an academic charlatan like Karen King build her fantasy world around a past that exists only in her vivid imagination.

Mohler calls attention to a specific claim made by King in which she seems to be trying to lower the expectations surrounding her little scrap of paper.

But the most important line in the entire issue is offered by Professor King herself: “In my reading, however, the main point of [the fragment] is simply to affirm that women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.”

Really, Karen? Women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus's disciples? What a concept!

I wonder how Joanna ever missed out on that.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Waning evangelical support for Israel tied to rejection of dispensationalism

Dale M. Coulter, writing today for First Things, observes that waning support for the state of Israel among American evangelicals may be indicative of a shift in theological perspective.
While there is no doubt a push for greater recognition of Palestinian Christians among certain evangelical groups, a key issue that has yet to be addressed is the role of dispensationalism and its view of the End. When John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel is a prominent advocate of a rapture theology, one can be sure dispensationalism is in the background. There is a theological issue at stake in this debate that offers a backdrop for the political debate. Evangelicals who want greater support for Israel ignore this issue at their peril.

Placing the theological foundation of any support for Israel within a dispensational framework is problematic because it weds the issue to a highly debated and controversial theological position. In brief, dispensationalism maintains a clear distinction between Israel and the church although Progressive Dispensationalism sees both as part of the one people of God. God has not forsaken his covenant with the natural descendants of Abraham. The consummation of Christian salvation history will begin with a secret rapture of the church, the point of which is for God to fulfill his plan for Israel. Historical events such as the foundation of the modern state of Israel are viewed as prophetic clues to the approaching of the end.

As understood by John Hagee, Christian Zionism is framed in terms of end-time prophecy. In addition, Hagee weds together biblical texts about blessing Israel to a prosperity message, saying that doing the former will bring the latter. He also suggests that any deviation in support for the state of Israel will lead to divine judgment. Again, this is shaky terrain.

No Reformed person worth their salt theologically would go near dispensationalism or prosperity theology although a “Calvinist” occupying the space between theological worlds might. Even within Pentecostal circles rapture theology is not universally embraced. Premillennialism, the belief that at his second coming Jesus will set up an earthly kingdom is fairly standard, but there is room for divergence on a secret rapture of the church.

The point is that the future of evangelical support for Israel cannot rest upon a theological foundation that divides many Evangelicals from one another. It would not surprise me to discover that there is a correlation between waning support for Israel and a rejection of the rapture theology behind dispensationalism.
The remainder of the article wanders into the weeds with some speculation about the development of "an Evangelical theology of Judaism." Catholics, Orthodox, and some mainline Protestant groups have apparently done a better job of engaging practicing Jews at a deeper theological level, to the point, at times, of making evangelicals nervous about their commitment to the centrality of Christ as the only way to salvation.

Pros and cons of supporting Israel aside, however, the growing rejection of dispensationalism is a welcome sign of theological maturation by many evangelicals. John Hagee's history of fomenting "end times" hysteria and his latest fabrication surrounding the "four blood moons" ought to place him outside the pale of orthodoxy even among the most sectarian of evangelical groups. Russell D. Moore has plotted a more sane (although, I would argue, not yet fully satisfactory) course for future evangelical excursions into the study of last things and, as head of the influential Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, he will likely have a lot more say in plotting that course than will the fast fading figure known not so affectionately as "Dr. Armageddon."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Greg Boyd debunks John Hagee "blood moon" nonsense

I would have to say I'm not always on the same theological page with Greg Boyd (and I certainly think he could use a refresher course on proper worship attire), but this impassioned refutation of John Hagee's "blood moon" nonsense is simply brilliant.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Same sex marriage dissidents: The always insightful Mollie Hemingway at her always insightful best

Underneath the stale ideological pushing and shoving involved in the recent Brendan Eich/Mozilla debacle is a far more substantive issue that really strikes at the heart of a civilized society. Eich's problem is not that he is, to use the oft repeated cliche, "on the wrong side of history" when it comes to the "evolution" of marriage. Rather, he is, like every normal thinking person before him over the last, say, six thousand years, simply right about an institution at the heart of human civilization. There are some things, like the complementarity of men and women, which simply cannot be changed no matter how strong the winds of cultural relativism blow.

The always insightful Mollie Hemingway is at her always insightful best in her latest article for The Federalist. . .
OK. We probably already understand relationships have value, right? Assuming we’re not sociopaths, we do. So what is the difference between marriage and other relationships? There’s no question marriage has been treated dramatically differently than other relationships by governments and society. Why? Is it that it features a more vibrant or emotional connection? Or is there some feature that is a difference in kind – that marks it out as something that ought to be socially structured? We usually don’t want government in our other relationships, right? So why is marriage singled out throughout all time and human history as a different type of recognized relationship?

Well, what singled it out was that sex was involved. Sex. Knocking boots. The bump and grind. Dancing in the sheets. Making the beast with two backs. Doing the cha-cha. And so on and so forth. And why does that matter? Well, there’s precisely one bodily system for which each of us only has half of the system. It’s the one that involves sex between one man and one woman. It’s with respect to that system that the unit is the mated pair. In that system, it’s not just a relationship that is the union of minds, wills or important friendships. It’s the literal union of bodies. In sexual congress, in intercourse between a man and a woman, you are literally coordinated to a single bodily end.

In every other respect we as humans act as individual organisms except when it comes to intercourse between men and women — then we work together as one flesh. Coordination toward that end — even when procreation is not achieved — makes the unity here. This is what marriage law was about. Not two friends building a house together. Or two people doing other sexual activities together. It was about the sexual union of men and women and a refusal to lie about what that union and that union alone produces: the propagation of humanity. This is the only way to make sense of marriage laws throughout all time and human history. Believing in this truth is not something that is wrong, and should be a firing offense. It’s not something that’s wrong, but should be protected speech. It’s actually something that’s right. It’s right regardless of how many people say otherwise. If you doubt the truth of this reality, consider your own existence, which we know is due to one man and one woman getting together. Consider the significance of what this means for all of humanity, that we all share this.

Now if one wants to change marriage laws to reflect something else, that’s obviously something that one can aim to do. We’ve seen the rapid, frequently unthinking embrace of that change in recent years, described one year ago in the humanist and libertarian magazine Spiked as “a case study in conformism” that should terrify “anyone who values diversity of thought and tolerance of dissent.”

Perhaps there should have been a bit of a burden of proof on those who wanted to change the institution — something beyond crying “Bigot!” in a crowded theater. Perhaps advocates of the change should have explained at some point, I don’t know, what singles out marriage as unique from other relationships under this new definition. What is marriage? That’s a good question to answer, particularly if you want to radically alter the one limiting factor that is present throughout all history. Once we get an answer for what this new marriage definition is, perhaps our media and other elites could spend some time thinking about the consequences of that change. Does it in any way affect the right of children to be raised by their own mother and father? Have we forgotten why that’s an important norm? Either way, does it change the likelihood that children will be raised by their own mother and father? Does it by definition make that an impossibility for whatever children are raised by same-sex couples? Do we no longer believe that children should be raised by their own mother and father? Did we forget to think about children in this debate, pretending that it’s only about adults? In any case, is this something that doesn’t matter if males and females are interchangeable? Is it really true that there are no significant differences between mothers and fathers? Really? Are we sure we need to accept that lie? Are we sure we want to?
. . . and it only gets better, so please keep reading.

Monday, April 7, 2014

South Carolina Supreme Court quashes serial appeals by TEC

CHARLESTON, SC, April 7, 2014 – The South Carolina Supreme Court has intervened in a lawsuit and granted the Diocese of South Carolina’s Motion to Transfer jurisdiction from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. This may effectively prevent The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), from using serial appeals to further delay a trial to prevent the two groups from seizing Diocese of South Carolina property.

The Supreme Court decision comes days after TEC and TECSC filed new appeals apparently aimed at delaying the discovery process in advance of the trial that is scheduled to start on July 7. While the Supreme Court ruling does not prevent the denomination from filing appeals, it eliminates the time-consuming step of first going to the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

“We are grateful that the South Carolina Supreme Court recognized that TEC and TECSC are misusing the judicial system to delay resolution of this case,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese. “Their strategy of using legal motions to delay court decisions caused eight months to be wasted when they asked the federal court to override the state court injunction. As in that matter, the courts sided with the Diocese of South Carolina.”

Judge Diane S. Goodstein, who will preside over the trial, today issued an announcement to counsel in the case that Court Administration has set the trial date for July 7-18, 2014 and she will not allow attorneys to have “protection” from having to be in attendance at the trial during those dates.

TEC has a long history of dragging out legal battles, apparently in hopes of draining the resources of parishes and dioceses it seeks to punish for leaving the denomination. It has spent more than $30 million on litigation in the past few years. TEC routinely appeals court decisions in hopes of wearing down its opposition – and to intimidate parishes and dioceses that wish to leave the denomination.

Now that the Supreme Court has taken jurisdiction of all appeals , it is likely that future attempts to use appeals to delay resolution will be ineffective.

The Diocese of South Carolina disassociated from the Episcopal Church in October 2012 after TEC tried to defrock Bishop Lawrence. Following the Diocese’s decision, 49 churches representing 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members voted to remain in union with the Diocese and not with TEC.

The Diocese has consistently disagreed with TEC’s embrace of what most members of the global Anglican Communion believe to be a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ’s teachings optional for salvation.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Matt Walsh on the inevitable downfall of the "gay rights" movement

The present advance of the "gay rights" movement, illustrated so egregiously in the firing of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, is a temporary phenomenon. Like all tyrannical movements, it will have its day and then take its place alongside all other such aberrations on the ash heap of history. As Matt Walsh points out, it is inevitable.
Don’t you people read? Haven’t you learned anything from history? ‘Advancements’ earned through tyranny never endure. You can only win a debate by suffocating your opposition for so long. Your strategy is doomed for failure, because it has always failed.

In the name of ‘fighting for the freedom to love,’ you’ve utilized hate. For the sake of ‘tolerance,’ you’ve wielded bigotry. In order to push ‘diversity,’ you’ve been dogmatic.

You are everything you accuse your opponents of being, and you stand for all the evil things that you claim they champion.

You are exposed. We see you for what you are: a force of destruction and division.

You showed your hand, and now you’ll lose the game.

It’s inevitable.

Marriage has, had, and always will have, by definition, a certain character and purpose; a character and purpose centered around, above all things, the family. Marriage is the foundation through which a thriving and lasting civilization sees to the propagation of itself. Human beings can only reproduce by means of ‘heterosexuality,’ and this reality sets the ‘heterosexual’ union apart. Marriage is meant to be the context in which this reproduction occurs.

Marriage is many things, but it is also this. And ‘this’ can never be removed from it, no matter the direction of the political winds, or the motion of the shifting sands of public opinion.

Marriage and the family are dimensions of the same whole. They cannot be detached from one another. They, as a whole, as an institution, can only be weakened — not erased or redefined. And so the campaign to protect and strengthen the institution was and is designed to do just that. It was never about ‘legislating love’ or imposing intolerance or ‘discriminating against gay people,’ or any other silly bumper sticker platitude.

You want to be free to love? You are. You always have been.

Heterosexuals don’t claim to monopolize love; only reproduction. Me, I love in many ways and in many directions. I love my wife, yes, and I also love my parents, and my country, and football, and hamburgers. These are all different kinds and degrees of love, yet still love.

But, alas, only one of these loves can (or should) result in the creation of a biological family. Thus, this love carries with it a certain distinction and a certain responsibility.

Bigotry? There is nothing bigoted about it. This is mere science. You see, bigotry only enters into the conversation when you try to destroy a man’s life just for participating in the conversation.

You are the agents of bigotry, my friends. You. You are what you say we are.

Canon Andrew White: The Vicar of Baghdad