The integrated Christian. Paul loved to liken the Christian life to a race in the arena. Notice that to 'run well' in the Christian race is not just to believe the truth (as if Christianity were nothing but orthodoxy), nor just to behave well (as if it were just moral uprightness), but to 'obey the truth', applying belief to behaviour. Only he who obeys the truth is an integrated Christian. What he believes and how he behaves are all of a piece. His creed is expressed in his conduct; his conduct is derived from his creed. --- John R. W. Stott
Sinners saved by the grace and mercy of God know a thankfulness that exceeds any merely human thankfulness. How do we express thankfulness for the provision the Father has made for us in Christ, the riches that are made ours in Him, and the unspeakable gift of the surpassing grace of God? As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" [2 Corinthians 9:15]. --- Albert Mohler
In three dimensions. An integrated Christian is growing in faith, life, and mission as a three-dimensional responsibility. --- John R.W. Stott
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
December 9, 2016
I live with my wife in a condominium complex on the Delaware River in Philadelphia and in the three years we have been here, we have gotten to know a few couples. One couple, Pat and Jack, are among our favorites. They are (very) old faithful Catholics who worship at the cathedral in Philadelphia. They are wonderfully Irish who love their wine and their language can be a bit salty at times. They are still a loveable couple.
Recently, Jack's knee got infected and he was operated on. At 88, he has never fully recovered and might not. But every day I am here and not travelling, I pop in and see them both.
I sit opposite Jack and look him in the face. He takes my hand and says simply, "David pray for me." He knows I am not a Roman Catholic, but that doesn't seem to bother him. I don't know if or how often his priest visits him, but he seems to love my visits and he always asks me to pray with him. His wife, Pat, seems to accept that a crazy protestant who has a faith she has never seen before, will pray for her husband. She sheds a tear when I finish. Somehow the prayer has impacted her. I don't know how or why.
Each time I see Jack, I get a bit bolder and my prayers a little longer. I pray that God will hold him in the palm of his hand, I pray that God will give him length of days, and "as the shadows fall", I pray that God will give Jack peace. I'm assuming their priest is a man of faith and administers Mass to them both. I'm assuming my visits are interim between the priest, who is the "real thing." I'm a poor substitute. Jack tells me he says the Rosary each day. I don't ask what that means. Whatever it does, it gives him some reassurance.
Today when I went to see him, he had not slept for three days. Pat was barely able to stand, the poor woman. So I asked him if he was afraid to die. He said no, but his eyes and face said differently. He says the last few days he has had dreams and thoughts of his first wife and what did it mean? His past was haunting him and I could feel it. He was feeling guilty, even though I know he had treated her well, putting his life savings on the line when she was admitted to a mental institution, and later in divorce. I don't push for more of his past.
I am not a pastor and don't pretend to be one. I take his hand and tell him that whatever the past was all about, whatever sin was committed, that Jesus can and will forgive him. He takes comfort in that. I think he knows that he is not long for this life, but he wants to believe that God has forgiven him for whatever needs forgiving.
He grows restless; I think he knows I can't stay much longer. Work calls. He reaches out a hand that is shaking and a bit bloody where he scraped it recently. "Pray for me David, please pray for me. I need you to pray for you. I know you have faith like few people I know." I take his hands in mine and we bow our heads and I pray. "Please Lord, look after my friend Jack, may he sleep in peace this night and may his wife get some sleep as well." I pray that God will forgive him his sins and his soul rest in peace.
I finish. He says 'amen', does the sign of the cross and then grasps my hand and kisses it. I tell him jokingly that I am not the pope and he doesn't have to do that, but it gives him comfort and some sort of solace. As I leave he says, "please come back and pray for me." As I pass through the front door I look back and he is looking at me and smiling. Perhaps I will be a bit bolder next time.
The Church of England got a wake-up call from a young bishop this past week. He said the church is being run by out-of-touch academics and elites who are scared of patriotism and failing to protect the family. Ouch.
The Rt. Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, said the church would not be surprised by Brexit if it had listened to the concerns of those who feel "frozen out". Instead, it has become "so disconnected from many of these communities that it no longer hears what they are saying, let alone amplifies their voices to the nation."
The attack was outspoken and not common for an establishment bishop who hates rocking the boat, but he said that during the past few decades, the Church of England's agenda had been set "not by the poor, but by academia, the moneyed elites, and certain sections of the secular media."
"We then listen to the poor on condition that what they say backs up our own pre-conceived arguments," he said. "They have become for us an illustration, or a theological idea -- anything other than people."
He penned his remarks in the Church Times, and then went on to say that instead of listening to what the poor want, the church has obsessed over gay rights, and "all too often, middle-class clergy squirm nervously during Remembrance Sunday, and excise any hymns that hint of nationalism."
He also accused the church of failing to stand up for family values, adding; "Across many communities, extended family life remains very strong.
"For all its frustrations, it is where most people find support, self-identity, and purpose. But too many Anglicans seem embarrassed to stand up for the sanctity of the family."
Many Brexit voters, the bishop added, did not choose to leave the European Union due to racism or intolerance, but because they wanted to take back control over their country.
"It was less an anti-immigration vote than a patriotic vote from people who were fed up with having pride in their nation, its flag and its armed forces misrepresented as intolerance or racism," he said.
In the run up to the Brexit referendum, the Church of England was accused of publishing a "Pro-EU prayer" to help worshippers decide how to vote calling worshippers to "work with all the peoples of Europe" for the "common good".
What will the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt. Rev. Rod Thomas, do if the Church of England authorized services of same-sex blessing, the slippery slope to altering its heterosexual marriage Canon. What if the bishop upped and left the C of E?
He is opposed to women bishops around England, he is on the executive committee of the Anglican Mission in England, set up in 2011, to spearhead new orthodox churches outside the CofE's structures. He remains supportive of AMiE and is publicly committed to the international confessing Anglican movement, GAFCON, with which AMiE is associated.
If he left the Church of England, surely he would become AMiE's Bishop, ordaining frontline clergy for their new churches and supporting their existing churches as well as being involved in GAFCON internationally? You can read Julian Mann's take on this in today's digest.
The scandal of how UK officials denied entry to Britain to three Archbishops from Iraq and Syria who have been driven from their dioceses by Islamic State, was revealed last week by persecuted church agency Barnabas Fund.
The cause was taken up by British newspapers at the weekend under headlines like as 'Britain bans heroic bishops'. Barnabas Fund this week claimed that Britain's reputation for giving safe haven to the persecuted, is at risk after it refused short term entry visas for the three Archbishops from war-torn Iraq and Syria. The two were invited to London to meet Prince Charles at the consecration of a new cathedral for the Syrian Orthodox Church in London. Prime Minister Theresa May was one of those who sent messages to the congregation to welcome the presence of Syrian Christians.
But there was no 'room at the inn' for the Archbishop of Mosul, the Archbishop of Homs and the Archbishop of St Matthew's Valley (Nineveh Valley). According to Barnabas Fund, the reasons given for their visas being refused included the claim that they did not have enough money to support themselves in the UK and that they might not leave the UK. You can read the full story in today's digest including commentary by Dr. Gavin Ashenden.
A North American Anglican Leader blasted the duplicity of Western Anglicanism this week saying that growth only occurs when vision and values match.
Canon Phil Ashey, president of the American Anglican Council, said the Biblical, apostolic catholic and conciliar values that birthed Anglicanism are given lip service while leaders of the Anglican status quo drift increasingly into heterodoxy and the outright denial of the very essentials of our faith.
"They justify this with technical and legalistic appeals to the fact that the original values have not been formally or officially repealed," he says.
"No one has abandoned the Creeds or the Thirty-Nine Articles," they will say. But they are said with fingers crossed, and presented as meaninglessly as the offerings of Israel in Isaiah 1.
("Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New moons, Sabbaths and convocations--I cannot bear your worthless assemblies...They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.") Isaiah 1:13-15
Ashey ripped the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of the Church of England and asked what if they are preparing for an "about face" on their teaching of marriage, as some inside leaders of the Church are suggesting. "There seems to be a growing inevitability that the leadership of the Church of England will sooner than later provide liturgical blessings for same-sex partnerships, perhaps even marriages. They may say that they are remaining faithful because they have not officially repealed the Church's teaching that marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman. But in blessing same sex unions they will be repudiating the Biblical doctrine of creation, including marriage. (see Gen.2:24; Matt. 19:4-6; Eph. 5:31)." You can read the full story in today's digest.
Los Angeles Episcopal Bishop Jon Bruno inhibited St. James Parish from attending their LA Diocesan Convention this week. The priest of St. James the Great wrote an open letter to the diocese and bishop saying that after three years of full participation in convention, it has seen its privilege of representation revoked by the bishop's office and they have not been allowed any delegates. “Thus we are not able to enter the discussion and vote on any resolutions or canon amendments of vital interest to us, or the election of a bishop coadjutor who may likely decide our fate.”
Presiding Bishop Michael has once again found himself in the midst of another major personnel debacle. This time it is with the diocese of Haiti. He wrote a letter couched in mystery to two Haitian bishops saying they face Title IV discipline.
The issue is about money and how it is being spent. "We are reassessing Haiti," the newly-minted Episcopal Director of Development, Tara Holley told the Council members. "We are revising the Memorandum of Understanding. We're looking for accountability, for transparency, for leadership, thoughtful reporting, accurate reporting and job descriptions. We're looking at all of these pieces of project management that will make things in Haiti run more smoothly." Ms. Holley told the Executive Council that: "The Episcopal Church received a $5 million gift for Haiti in 2015, and the gift was withdrawn."
On Dec. 1, Curry penned a letter to Bishop Jean Zache Duracin (V Haiti), Bishop Oge Beauviour (Haiti Suffragan) and the Rev. Dr. Kesner Ajax (Diocese of Haiti Standing Committee President), which was released to the wider church. The letter has left people scratching their heads as they try to determine what he means. Haiti is one of The Episcopal Church's 11 offshore foreign dioceses or missionary jurisdictions. The Episcopal Church likes to boast that it is the "largest" diocese the church.
This is not the first time that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has written a letter which has left the wider church scratching its collective head as to the exact nature of his meaning.
A year ago, Dec. 15, 2015, six weeks after the XI Bishop of North Carolina became the XVII Presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, he wrote a letter in which he revealed the first hint of what was to come at Episcopal Church headquarters at 815 Second Avenue in New York. In that letter, the Presiding Bishop placed Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, Deputy Chief Operating Officer & Director of Mission, Samuel McDonald, and Director of Public Engagement, Alex Baumgarten on administrative leave for "possible misconduct in carrying out their duties as members of senior management of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society."
Liberal Episcopal blogger Canon Mark Harris surmises that American and Haitians understand finance differently, which may be fueling some of the problem with the Bishop of Haiti. The diocese would like to self-divide or even become an independent and throw off The Episcopal Church's yoke of supervision, he writes. We will watch how this plays out. You can read Mary Ann Mueller's excellent research story on all this in today's digest.
An old friend of mine recently attended a service at Trinity Wall Street, one of the historic churches of New York City. She wrote: "The Eucharistic Liturgy referred to "the woman Mary," and "Blessed Mary" -- but at no point was the word "Virgin" mentioned. I asked the celebrant about it, and she replied that it wasn't her decision, but the Rector's; he felt that "woman" was more in keeping with the original language, it wasn't "her body" but "her spirit" that was important, etc. (The Rector was absent that day.)
"On a previous visit to Trinity last summer, the Rector -- one Rev. William Lupfer -- made a point of saying that the parish was not "exclusive," and that a meeting would be called to address the concerns of "the LGBTQ community." At the door, I told the Rector that I loved the worship of the church, and asked him if he would be willing to start a chapter of Anglicans for Life. He claimed to be unfamiliar with the group. I told him I knew he "would not want to exclude pro-Lifers." He answered, "[Trinity] has a certain identity. We are not all things to all men." When I pressed him on his pledge not to be "exclusive," he answered, "It is not exclusivity. It's identity." It was all I could do not to look him in the eye and call him a lightweight and a hypocrite. I wish I had!"
At its convention last weekend, the Diocese of Los Angeles elected to become a "sanctuary diocese" for undocumented immigrants to the United States.
In the explanation to the resolution, the Rev. Francisco J. Garcia, Rector of Holy Faith in Inglewood, writes, "For many years, immigrant families have suffered on the margins of our society. They have been scapegoated during difficult economic times and victimized by harsh anti-immigrant ordinances passed by some states and localities.
"In the aftermath of the recent presidential election there is heightened concern that the campaign rhetoric villainizing immigrants will become policy targeting them because of their immigration status or religious beliefs.
"As a people of faith committed to dismantling oppressive systems and building structures and communities that reflect God's compassion and justice, we must do nothing less than make straight a highway in the desert for our sisters and brothers."
The resolution passed "by an overwhelming large margin," according to a press release put out by All Saints', an uber liberal parish.
In another move by the diocese, they elected the Rev. John Taylor to be the next bishop coadjutor on the 8th ballot. The only other serious contestant was the Rev. Paul Fromberg. Bishop Pierre Whalon, who apparently wants to leave Europe and return to the US, backed out after the third ballot. The good news is that Mr. Taylor is a heterosexual male, married and a former journalist. We'll see how open he is to talking to me, free speech and all that stuff.
The Diocese of Central New York got a new bishop in the person of the Rev. The Very Rev. Dr. DeDe Duncan-Probe. She presently serves as the Rector of St. Peter's in the Woods Episcopal Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
She claims to have a Ph.D. from Oxford University. VOL looked a little more closely at who authorized this Ph.D. she claims she got in 2013. Actually, it's from something called The Graduate Theological Foundation, awarded by The Foundation House/Oxford University.
A source in the UK told VOL that in the UK, degrees can only be awarded by an institution validated for that purpose by the government. Its email address is usually suffixed "ac.uk".
"I can see no mention of how these "GTF" degrees are awarded by any English university. I think it unlikely that Oxford University does so -- it has all of its own degree programs to award, and its reputation to protect."
The only hard evidence of any connection with Oxford is here:
Those who attend a summer school in Oxford are permitted by the GTF to claim credits towards the GTF degree.
Although these students study in Oxford, they do not graduate from Oxford University.
So it is misleading to suggest that whatever qualification she has is validated by Oxford University. She may have spent a couple of weeks at one of its colleges during the summer vacation, attending an external course, but that seems to be about all.
Is this a classic case of resume inflation?
A pro-homosexual film put out by the LGBT community will premier In a Welsh Cathedral this week. The documentary is about gay nuns, and the movie has been welcomed by the arch-liberal Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan.
All One in Christ is a 12-minute documentary about two ex-nuns who fall in love before being rejected by their community. Deeply critical of the Church's attitude towards gay couples, it will be screened in St Asaph's Cathedral, North Wales. And you wonder why the Church in Wales is dying. This is just another nail in its coffin.
The Archbishop and Primate of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh, delivered himself of a rebuttal to the Church of England in an Advent GAFCON letter. He described as "disturbing" a response the Church of England gave at its highest level at resolution 1:10. "The Secretary of the Archbishops' Council has written an open letter to Canon Lines in which he describes the Lambeth resolution as merely "an important document in the history of the Anglican Communion". But this is no ordinary resolution. It has been the standard appealed to again and again in Communion affairs and most recently in the Communique from the Sixth Global South Conference in Cairo which describes it as representing the "clear teaching of Scripture". One senses things are going to get very rough between Welby and Okoh in the coming months, and if I am not mistaken the loser won't be from Nigeria. You can read his full take in today's digest.
Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, England, one of the most famous foundries in the world, and the oldest in Britain, is set to close in May of 2017, when the current master bellfounder, Alan Hughes, retires. Negotiations are underway for a sale of the business, but it will not remain at the current site. The foundry was established in 1570, although it has existed under various names and in various locations. It has been at its current location in Whitechapel for over two hundred seventy five years, and Hughes is a fourth generation bellfounder, his great-grandfather having taken over the business in 1904.
The famous bells of Big Ben in London were cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, as was the Liberty Bell. Many Episcopal churches in the US have Whitechapel bells, most prominently the ring in the upper belfry at the Washington National Cathedral, and Whitechapel bells can be heard all over the world. A listing of places with Whitechapel bells can be found here. More information about the foundry, an interview with Alan Hughes, and beautiful pictures here.
Three members of an Anglican theological college in Nigeria were killed and others have been critically injured after "a ghastly motor accident", the Anglican Church of Nigeria has reported. They were members of the community of St Francis College of Theology in Wusasa, in Kaduna state; and were travelling in the college minibus to represent the college at a function in Gwagwalada, when the accident happened. On hearing news of the accident, the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, sent a primatial delegation to visit the college to express condolence and to offer support.
Episcopal and interfaith chaplains were about to raise a tent in the Oceti Sakowin Camp on Sunday, when a message runner approached and called them to join the crowd already gathering around the sacred fire in the camp's centre. As they joined the hundreds of people around the fire, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault II, announced that that federal government said it would not allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the drinking water source for some 8,000 people living on the Standing Rock Reservation, which covers 2.3 million acres in North and South Dakota.
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