The phrases "religious liberty" and "religious freedom" will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance. --- Martin R. Castro
Wilberforce understood that there would be no preservation of justice nor the growth of godly social order without a transformation of people's hearts and minds -- beginning with the individual --- Rev. Joe Boot of Ezra Institute
The Holy Spirit's work. All four main stages in the great event we call conversion are the work of the Holy Spirit. First, *conviction of sin*. It is the Spirit, Jesus said, who would 'convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment' (Jn. 16:8-11). Next, *faith in Christ*. It is the Spirit who opens the eyes of convicted sinners to see in Jesus their Saviour and Lord, and to believe in him, for 'no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit' (1 Cor. 12:3). Thirdly, the *new birth* is a birth 'of the Spirit' (Jn. 3:6-8). Fourthly, *Christian growth* or sanctification is his work too (2 Cor. 3:18). So the power of the Holy Spirit in evangelism is not optional, but indispensable. --- John R.W. Stott
Births outside of marriage are declining in the United States, driven by a decline in births outside marriage among immigrant women and a flattening out of births outside marriage among American-born women. The trend may represent the end of an era of increase in unmarried mothers. The abortion rate has also been decreasing. --- Shannon Roberts for Mercatornet.com
Elections are in fact a tug-of-war for the soul of America. --- Marie Whitaker
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
November 11, 2016
The nastiest election in modern American history is over. The winners are jubilant; the losers are in tears. But the political fallout has deeper moral and theological implications that could change the direction America is going in; and many believe that could be for the good. Issues like religious freedom, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court, Obamacare, lower interest rates, better business opportunities and much more. On the other hand, deporting 11 million Mexicans, building a wall, dumping on China, rescinding an Iranian deal and the character of Donald Trump are viewed negatively if you happen not to be white and middle class. How it all works out remains to be seen.
It was America's evangelicals who gave Donald Trump an overwhelming mandate -- 81% of them gave Trump their vote. One blogger summed it up by saying, "Too many white evangelicals want an angry, vengeful, violent Caesar not a loving, peaceful non-violent Messiah. They want Trump not Jesus. The Kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One. The Kingdom of God has already arrived -- on a donkey, at a table & on a cross."
Trump turned American politics upside down and Evangelicals made Trump's candidacy; now they need to help remake his presidency.
This week, maps were redrawn. Political realities were upended. America was redirected--and, for good or for ill, Evangelicals were a big part of that reality. White Evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the general election, after propelling his campaign in the primaries.
Many Evangelicals didn't follow the leaders that warned them away from Trump. These Evangelicals, and many Americans, were angry enough to vote for a stunningly unpopular candidate who promised change. It turns out that that basket was a lot bigger than many people expected.
We knew that half of America would be outraged, but the surprise is which half, writes missiologist Ed Stetzer.
"Now the world is outraged. And much anger is being directed at Evangelical Trump voters. Yet we need to remember that Trump voters are not Trump.
"I (Ed) shared this in an article, "Lord, I Thank Thee That I Am Not like Those Evangelical Trump Supporters," back during the primaries.
"Trump's supporters--like many Americans--are complicated.
"I don't know them all, but I know some--including some members of my church.
"The ones I do know don't hate immigrants (though they think illegal immigration is an economic and criminal problem), think a multicultural society is a good thing (while they are quite tired of politically correct speech codes), and they really do want what's best for the country (though we might differ on what that is).
"Still they support Trump.
"I may not agree with that decision, but I do care about them. In part because, for some Trump supporters, I am their pastor.
"So it's easy to say that Americans voted for Trump because they hate women or minorities, but that's the lazy analysis, unfair to many. Most don't. They are not a basket of deplorables. Many are people who are voting because of what they believe, and they've elected Donald Trump as America's next president.
"So, as the dust settles, we ask ourselves, what do we do next? Here are five thoughts to consider after this election:
1. Accept the outcome and what it means. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly. One thing we saw is that the ideological chasm between rural and urban America is wider than we ever realized. For a long time the cities were the cultural centers, but there are people all over this nation and they have used their voices. Those who had a different view should hear and seek to understand.
Casting our votes doesn't mean our job is done.
2. Stay in the game. Don't cast off issues that came to the surface in this election. Stand up for the unborn, raise voices for religious liberty, care for refugees, pursue racial reconciliation, and more. Share the love of Jesus in an angry moment in our culture.
3. Avoid the temptation of further division. In fact, work proactively to mend fences and unite. This isn't the time to point fingers and say "I told you so," or to assign blame. We need each other more than ever, and the lines that divided us over these last few months cannot be allowed to grow deeper. It is time to heal, and remember that we are called to forgive even the deepest slights. No matter what side of the aisle we were on--or even if we were sitting on the sidelines or in the middle--we all wanted something better for our country these past 18 months. But we seek a different and better place altogether, and we stand united in that.
The Huffington Post has decided to end its unprecedented editor's note that appeared at the end of every story about Trump, calling him a racist, misogynist, and more. They explained, "[H]e's now president and we're going to start with a clean slate... If he governs in a racist, misogynistic way, we reserve the right to add it back on. This would be giving respect to the office of the presidency which Trump and his backers never did."
If the Huffington Post can speak of a clean slate, should Evangelicals not try the same?
I know that's not what many want to think or say. But that's what we seek to do as Americans. And it's even more appropriate for us as Christians, writes Stetzer.
President Trump will be president for all of us; just as President Obama was. We need to pray for him to be a good leader.
We can be prophetic and still seek to pull this divided country together.
4. Don't give up on character. Now that Donald Trump is President-Elect, we need to demand greater character. Donald Trump's actions, comments, and attitudes were shocking, and it's shocking that Evangelicals have so drastically changed their views about character. Now, this does not necessarily mean everyone who voted for Donald Trump changed their views about character. But statistically there was a sharp swing in the willingness to accept and defend behavior that was egregious. I (Ed) recently shared data showing that the people of God, who are called to hold to the highest standard of morals and ethics, now rank as the highest group percentage-wise of those who say that these things don't necessarily matter.
There are many Evangelicals who voted for Trump, and many Evangelicals who advised him. It's time to advise him now that immigrants are made in the image of God, women are not tools and toys, racial and religious prejudice must be confronted, and so much more. The answer is not for us to change our views on character, it's to help a flawed candidate become a President of character.
Evangelicals elected Trump. Now they need to call him to a better way.
Evangelicals made Trump's candidacy; now they owe it to the world to help remake his presidency.
5. Repent and forgive where needed. This election has held up a mirror to our nation, and what we saw wasn't pretty. It brought out the worst in us, but remember, the worst was already there--out of the mouth the heart speaks. We saw the ugliest versions of our collective self, and if we don't admit it we will never be better than we were at our lowest point. It's time for us to repent. We may need to repent of things we have said. We may need to repent of things we have not said. We may need to repent of anxiety that has gripped us because we were worried about temporal things. We will all be tempted to look at each other warily after this, but it's time for grace. Our ultimate enemy is not Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton, or each other. Our enemy is Satan and he has been defeated. Nothing can change that.
6. Hope. Is it too much to ask to hope that Donald Trump will be a better president than he has been a person? Perhaps it is, but at this point, that's what we can hope and pray.
This prayer from the Anglican world is beautiful. (John Wesley died an Anglican, we like to remember.)
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Church of England continues in free fall writes Mary Ann Mueller, VOL's associate writer and researcher. In a major article on the state of the CofE she writes, "There are 63.7 million people living in England, 25 million of them claim to be members of the Church of England, yet according to the recently released CofE Statistics For Mission (SFM) report, fewer than one million Anglicans show up to church on Sunday.
In fact, in 2007, the British media reported that more English Roman Catholics attend Mass than Church of England Anglicans. Then it was noted that 861,800 Catholics go to weekly Mass, compared to 852,500 Anglicans. The latest 2015 SFM stats show that attendance at Sunday services has dropped to 752,000, or a dismal 2.3% of all Anglicans and just a little more than 1.4 % of the entire population of England, of which 32,757,000 claim to be Christian -- Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Calvinists, Baptists, Orthodoxy, Salvation Army members ...,
The Church of England's motto is: A Christian presence in every community. England boasts about 1,200 incorporated towns, of which 50 are cities. To help meet its goal of having "a Christian presence in every community", the Church of England has 15,685 churches -- including 42 cathedrals -- scattered throughout the country in 40 domestic dioceses. These churches are the local parishes for at least 55 million people of which 32 million are Christians. Not all small burgs and unincorporated villages have an "official" Church of England presence in town. But, since the Church of England is the established state religion, all Britons have an automatic access to the Church of England for life events -- baptisms, weddings, and funerals -- regardless of their religious affiliation. You can read her full account in today's digest.
Egyptian Anglicans are in a complex battle over its status with the Evangelical Churches Association, AKA the Protestant churches of Egypt. The question is, are Anglicans Protestants or something else?
Dr. Mouneer Anis, the Anglican Archbishop, says his church is not and should not be under the Protestant Council and has protested in the courts. He says he feels "under heavy attack".
At the heart of the dilemma for Dr. Anis is whether the Episcopal Anglican Church in Egypt is Protestant or should remain independent. On the number of occasions I have been in Egypt with Dr. Anis, those present with him have included leaders of the Coptic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Armenian Orthodox Church and a sprinkling of Muslim leaders and scholars. There has never been a Protestant Church leader invited to these ecumenical occasions. This does speak to the heart of the Anglican Archbishop and his perceived place in the religious life of Egypt.
You can read my full and extensive coverage of this issue in today's digest.
South African democracy is failing the people, says Anglican Archbishop Makgoba Thabo. He has called for prayer and "drastic action" for the future of South Africa.
The ACNS reports Makgoba, as saying that the people of South Africa are being failed by the country's two-decade-old democracy. "After 22 years of democracy, too many people still experience living and working conditions that deliver neither human dignity nor economic justice," he said. "We are challenged by a high rate of poverty, inequality of opportunity and unemployment. This is why we need good research and comprehensive policy initiatives like the National Development Plan, and the Church must lend its support to all who strive to bring about the 'abundant life' that Jesus promised to every child of God."
Archbishop Thabo made his comments in a sermon at the Cathedral of St Andrew and St Michael in Bloemfontein, in a service marking its 150th anniversary. "The congregations which have gathered in this place for faithful worship for 15 decades have seen war and civil strife, promoted peace and reconciliation, and observed and participated in history in the making. . ." he said. "Here God has, again and again, met people and sent them out to proclaim his truth, with clarity and courage, through difficult and challenging times. And God knows that we have difficult and challenging times in South Africa today."
He criticized the South African government which, he said, "appears set on spending huge amounts of money on a nuclear procurement programme which threatens to become an albatross of debt around the necks not only of our children but our grandchildren and great-grandchildren too. Moreover, they are doing this at a time when renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper and easier to produce."
And he also criticized the government's plans to leave the International Criminal Court. The ICC, he said, is "a pioneering initiative in international justice which leading figures in fighting for our democracy played an instrumental role in setting up. The framework under which the court was established, and its prosecutors, are not beyond criticism, but it seems strange to suggest that because the justice it dispenses is not perfect, there should be no justice at all."
He said that rather than leaving the court, the government should "act with the confidence and determination of its predecessors, and boldly engage the international community with a view to improving the court."
The Rev. Canon Andrew White, widely known as the 'Vicar of Baghdad', has long suffered with multiple sclerosis. His ministry vocation involves a lot of travel and even more speaking, often close to tears, and yet, sadly, it is his mobility and speech which are most affected by his illness. But two decades of MS haven't stopped him being "hijacked, kidnapped, locked up in rooms with bits of finger and toe and things". He has been held at gunpoint, physically attacked, and seen many members of his staff kidnapped or killed. He has lived in Iraq's holocaust, and seen hell with his own eyes. Glory in tribulations? We don't grasp the half of it.
He recently posted a health update on his Facebook page saying; "There are good angels and evil angels: the Devil is the enemy, bringing nothing but dark nights and disruption. But note the move from despair -- "I am finished" -- to victory: "...on the winning side.. see great things." It could almost be a psalm, moving from desolation to consolation. One moment God seems to have callously abandoned; another, He is there, with His warmth, peace, joy and encouragement.
Please remember and pray for Andrew White. He desires and works for heavenly things: he serves God and seeks to make Jesus known. He radiates faith, hope and love, even when the Holy Spirit feels absent in a world of gloom, discouragement and pain. The tempter, seducer and destroyer may be corroding Andrew White's brain, but he will never sever the mystical union or silence the prophetic inspiration. He can evict a mind, but he cannot blind the sons of God to the vision of divine light and beauty. Our ecstasy awaits; our joy is in heaven. 'I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me..'
The oldest church in the City of London has taken a leap into the future with the technology of the 21st century, writes Ruth Gledhill of Christian Today.
Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who is one of the most traditionalist of the Church of England's serving bishops, led a live-streamed Eucharist at the seventh-century church of All Hallows by the Tower, which pre-dates the Tower of London by 300 years.
Jessie Morgan, who is over 100 years old and who had been a Brownies' leader at All Hallows from the late 1920's, said she was "amazed" at the new technological developments available to churches.
She said she hoped it would allow more people to connect with a place which had been central to her Christian formation and her life.
All Hallows was founded by the Abbey of Barking in 675AD. The live stream service is part of Capital 2020 -- the diocesan strategy for developing new and effective ways to serve the people of London.
The arrival of the Church Mission Society's Thomas Norton and other missionaries in the southern Indian town of Alleppey, Kerala, 200 years ago, is being marked with a major celebration in the state's Nehru sports stadium in Kottayam. More than 50,000 people are expected to attend the celebration, which will include a presentation from the surviving grandchildren of the original missionaries.
Norton was the first of a number of CMS missionaries who arrived in Alleppey -- a town now called Alappuzha, and known as the Venice of the East. He was followed by Bishop Speechly, Henry Baker and Benjamin Bailey. They set about establishing formal education for all, including women; and founded a number of schools and colleges.
The anniversary will be marked with a large procession and gathering of bishops ahead of the celebration in the sports stadium on Saturday (12 November). "Throughout the celebrations organizers have sought to continue the vision of the original missionaries who recognized the importance of education and economic development to secure the future of the region," a CMS spokesman said. "Therefore, the bicentenary celebrations have incorporated a number of community development and educational programs, including one project to build new homes to house the homeless, another to provide scholarships to poor students, and others aimed at agriculture, rural areas and church planting.
The CMS College in Kerala is the oldest college in India. Earlier this year the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, visited the college and laid the foundation stone of a new bicentenary block.
An all-girl choir is to sing for the first time in Gloucester Cathedral Choir's 475-year history.
The 21 girls, aged seven to 12, will have separate duties from the boys, but will combine with them for important occasions like Christmas services.
Conductor Nia Llewelyn Jones, said: "They're not that different to the boys - cheeky, sassy, but they're a great bunch of girls."
The cathedral's choir was founded in 1541 by King Henry VIII.
Since 1999, girls have been able to sing with the boys in the Cathedral Youth Choir for 12 to 18 year olds. Then in 2014, the Cathedral Junior Choir was set up for both boys and girls - aged six to 12.
Canon Celia Thomson said: "I hope that lots of people will come to hear them and experience the worship with them singing."
From Canada comes this on the American election.
David of Samizdat, a conservative blogger writes on the mental anguish of liberal New Westminster Bishop Melissa Skelton at Trump's victory. For the record, Skelton is a US citizen who lived in Seattle before becoming Bishop of New Westminster.
Samizdat writes: "Although I am not an avid fan of Donald Trump, I am very much enjoying the reaction of elitist liberals whose disdain for and aloofness from the common herd helped propel Trump to victory.
Such is the "in shock, grief and confusion" of Bishop Melissa Skelton, that she felt moved to write a pastoral letter to calm the disquiet of her flock over the results of democracy in action in her homeland:
I awoke this morning, as many of you did, in shock, grief and confusion as the elections in the US concluded. While, as a person born in the US, I could offer my own analysis of what happened, I'm more interested in saying just a few things to you in the face of these events in the life of our neighbour to the south, a neighbour who deeply influences us and the rest of the world.
Stay a while with your uncomfortable feelings and the things you may now be curious about.
One piece I read this morning talked about our own urge to get past the uncomfortable feelings that many of us may be feeling today. I encourage you to stay in touch with both the feelings and the questions that are coming up for you out of what has occurred over these many months. It may be that God is working in you as you experience your own response and as you discern how you may wish to respond.
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