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Nigeria Upholds Faith, Condemns West * Some Primates to Boycott Welby's Summit * CEC Consecrates Bishop for England & Europe * Wales Sees Closures * South Carolina Fights Back * Nashotah House Slammed by San Joaquin Bishop * Moratorium on WO - Six Leaders

The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught." Isa. 29:13

Jesus Christ stands on trial, not now before the Sanhedrin, before Pontius Pilate the procurator or Herod Antipas, but at the bar of world opinion. The 'world', which in biblical language means secular, godless, non-Christian society, now uncommitted, now hostile, is in the role of judge. The world is judging Jesus Christ continuously, passing its various verdicts upon him. The devil accuses him with many ugly lies and musters false witnesses by the hundred. The Holy Spirit is the *Parakletos*, the counsel for the defense, and he calls us to be witnesses to substantiate his case. Christian preachers are privileged to testify to and for Jesus Christ, defending him, commending him, bringing before the court evidence which they must hear and consider before they return their verdict. --- John R.W. Stott

I firmly believe that a Europe which has renounced Christ will not be able to preserve its cultural and spiritual identity. --- Archbishop Hilarion (Russia)

Is Jesus Lord, or are the forces of advanced modernity lord? The church that cannot say no to all that contradicts its Lord is a church that is well down the road to cultural defeat and captivity. But the courage to say no has to be followed by an equally clear, courageous and constructive yes--to the Lord himself, to his gospel and his vision of life, humanity and the future, so that Christians can be seen to live differently and to live better in the world of today. --- Os Guinness

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
Sept. 29, 2017

NIGERIA The 12th General Synod of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the largest province in the Anglican Communion, met this week and came out with a statement reaffirming its stand to remain firm in the faith.

Led by Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the Synod renewed its earlier resolutions supporting their declaration of being a church that is Bible-based, spiritually dynamic and committed to evangelism.

"The Bible remains the foundation of our church and the need to uphold its primacy and orthodoxy in every aspect of the church's life has never been more urgent and compelling than now. It therefore encourages its leadership to be firm and resolute in pursuing this course.

"The General Synod further calls on all Anglicans in the world to return to biblical foundation of the Anglican Church and reject the theological innovations of this present age. It is only by upholding the faith of our fathers that the church will honor God and impact current and future generations."

Now, you would think this is a call that should be heeded by the Episcopal Church even as it slowly disappears from sight, based on recent figures that show it in serious decline. But no. When 115 bishops met in Alaska recently, their concerns ran to prayerful "listening", (a much-favored word by liberals who can't act on anything) about issues like climate change, environmental concerns, race and poverty, but not a word on the faith once for all delivered to the saints, which, regrettably, most bishops have long since abandoned.

TEC bishops are on a pathway to resolve the ills of the planet with endless resolutions, most of which, like General Convention's resolutions, are soon forgotten, unless, of course, they revolve around sex, in which case they hold front and center stage until they are resolved to the satisfaction of those who wish to change the Church's teaching about how we ought to behave. You can read my story here about this Alaska gabfest, carbon footprints and more, here, or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/yct8bnuu

When GAFCON primates meet next week in Canterbury, there will be some notable absentees, including Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Myanmar. It is still not certain if the Primate of South Sudan will attend.

The Anglican Communion claims it has somewhere between 77 million and 80 million, depending on who you talk to. Now if you add up the numbers for these provinces in Average Sunday Attendance that are not attending, they approximate nearly 31 million Anglicans. Nigeria has 20 million, (though some figures place it anywhere from 18 million to 25 million.) The Episcopal Church in Sudan and South Sudan (New Province): 4,500,000; the Province of the Anglican Church in Rwanda is 1,000,000; the Church of Uganda is 8,100,000 and the Church of the Province of Myanmar: 62,000. TOTAL: 31 million. If you exclude South Sudan, then some 26.5 million Anglicans will not be represented at this gathering of primates, fully one-third of all Anglicans.

According to Archbishop Justin Welby, the primates will be deeply engrossed in serious discussions on climate change. TEC Presiding Bishop Michael Curry can explain why it was necessary to increase his and 115 fellow bishops recent jaunt to Alaska, where they increased their carbon footprint to make the point about Native Americans and climate change.

But what of talk about the moral innovations that stalk the communion? The Scottish Episcopal Church's recent actions permitting fellow Anglicans to perform same-sex weddings, piggy backs directly on what The Episcopal Church has done.

The Scottish Episcopal Church voted recently to approve same-sex marriages. At the last Primates' meeting, TEC, which also marries same-sex couples, had to suffer the consequences of its action, including not participating in formal Anglican Communion meetings or voting on decisions related to policy or teaching. Neither of these were enforced, and TEC representatives continued to vote and gabble incontinently to their hearts' content.

There were no "consequences", of course. TEC and Curry and Welby went right on doing what they have always done -- ignore the will of the primates and, yes, talk about things they can do nothing about.

One story posed this; "It is thought to be a formality that SEC will face the same consequences although conservative bishops from Africa may push for harsher penalties after being dissatisfied at the level of punishment given to American Anglicans."

Maybe. Welby is the master of schmooze, and please don't call it reconciliation. It isn't, and that is why the above primates will boycott this meeting in protest.

The one very bright hope is that the new South American Primate, Greg Venables, is a truly solid evangelical who could openly challenge Welby on his lack of leadership.

*****

US

The Diocese of South Carolinais not letting sleeping dogs lie and the bishop and Standing Committee is fighting back at a recent South Carolina Supreme Court decision allowing the TEC Episcopal diocese to reclaim all their properties. They have rebutted that claim and say that Justice Hearn should have recused herself.

"If one religious group can be treated in this fashion today, there is good cause for concern that others may fare no better in the future," they said. Among other claims they make is that United States Supreme Court followed "neutral" principles of state law which, they say, must be applied as they would be in any other case. You can read the full story here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/y9wgtwpx

The Episcopal Church continued its Gadarene slide into an inevitable oblivion. TEC Lost 11,833 Members In 2016. And its ASA also dropped. Domestic membership now stands at 1,745,156; ASA down to 570,453. The question is have the membership rolls been significantly scrubbed from churches, or are the living (and dead) still to be found, who long ago left the churches? You can read two analysis pieces on this in today's digest.

Nashotah House appears to be on the wrong side of history. Is it losing its Anglo-Catholic ethos? Recently, the seminary announced that it had invited Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to give the Archbishop Michael Ramsey award for excellence in the areas of Ecclesiology, Ecumenism and Liturgy.

Not so fast, wrote a furious Eric Menees, the Anglican Bishop of San Joaquin, in a letter to Springfield Bishop Dan Martins.

"Regarding ecclesiology, Bishop Curry has chosen to disregard the will of the primates of the Anglican Communion and continues to act willfully as one not under authority. Regarding ecumenism relations between TEC and the vast majority of Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical churches are at an all-time low.

"Regarding liturgy, Bishop Curry is presiding over the creation of new rites that defy scripture, tradition and reason. In the last few years Seabury, General and EDS have all but folded. Recently, with the abrupt transitions of the dean and several faculty members I suspect that Nashotah House will not be far behind." That's telling him. You can read the full letter here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/y8tabc63

It is fascinating to watch bishops like Martins, Brewer (Central Florida) and Sumner (Dallas) who claim to be orthodox, still stay in TEC, parsing the actions of the denomination, when they know full well they are on a sinking ship. The pension has to be worth it. But what of their souls?

Bishop Menees took a final swing at Martins, saying this; "While Bishop Curry preaches reconciliation at every turn he fails to practice what he preaches with his continued support for the ongoing lawsuits in Quincy, Fort Worth and South Carolina. Given this reality, Bp. Martins, can [you] give me a reason to send my men to Nashotah House? San Joaquin has had a long and positive past with Nashotah but at this point I am really shaking my head and wondering what in the world has happened?"

VOL wrote to Bishop Martins to get his side of the story and he wrote this; "The letter was unfortunately leaked before I even received it. It was addressed to me at Nashotah House, where I actually happen to be at the moment, but it has not arrived here yet. When I officially receive the letter, it is my intention to reply, but privately." The deeper question is, what now of the future of Nashotah House?

Six Anglican leaders came together this past week to look at the recent decision of the ACNA not to ordain women either to the priesthood or episcopacy, but would allow those dioceses who wish to do so to ordain women.

In a statement they put out, they said, Scripture is clear on holy orders. In both Testaments it rejects female headship in God's Church and calls for male-only headship. That means a male-only presbyterate/priesthood.

This, they say is based on God's creation order, which he established before the Fall. It is also consistent with Scripture's portrait of the Father's eternal headship over the Son and the Spirit.

"The movement to ordain women to the presbyterate/priesthood is recent, (largely) Western, and divisive. It has gone around--rather than followed--the biblical model for resolving disputes.

"We recommend a moratorium on the ordination of women to the presbyterate/priesthood until this question is resolved by a Church-wide consensus. Those who oppose the WO to the offices of priest and bishop on the grounds of Scripture and tradition take one of two views on women and the diaconate."

Among the signers are the Rt. Rev. Dr. John Rodgers, President and Dean Emeritus, Trinity School for Ministry and the Rev. Dr. Gerald R. McDermott, Anglican Chair, Beeson Divinity School. You can read the full document here or in today's digest. http://tinyurl.com/ycnu2dkb

The TEC bishop of Maryland, Chilton Knudsen, simply doesn't get it. A 170-year old landmark church - St. John's in the Village, Baltimore, is closing. There was no sustainable option to keep the parish open, said a diocesan press release. On November 5, All Saints Sunday, the doors will lock forever.

But it's this line from Knudsen that will have you gasping for air; "The late Phyllis Tickle wrote the Church is experiencing a new Pentecost. My prayer is a paraphrase of one from J. Philip Newell's Celtic Benediction: 'In the turbulence of our own lives and the unsettled waters of the world today let there be new birthings of your Spirit. In the currents of our own hearts and the upheavals of the world today let there be new birthings of your mighty Spirit'." REALLY! What birthings? What mighty Spirit? where? Perhaps Knudsen had the ACNA in mind...not.

ENGLAND. The Archbishop of Canterbury says that he does not have a problem with a boy wearing a dress.

A family is preparing to sue their sons' Church of England school after boys were allowed to come to class wearing dresses, saying it is against their faith.

In an exclusive phone-in with Imam Qari Asim, Welby admitted he found this case difficult - he had his head in his hands as the question was being asked - but urged discussions rather than legal action.

He told Nick Ferrari: "I would say to them, I don't think that's a problem.

"The other family are making up their own minds. The other child is making up their own mind. Talk to your child. Help them to understand. Help them to see what's going on and to be faithful to their own convictions."

NEW BISHOPS IN ENGLAND. They are Anglican, but not of the Church of England. First, we had a Missionary bishop for Britain consecrated at Jesmond for evangelical Anglicans seeking a reformation for the reformed catholic faith in England. On May 2, the Rev. Jonathan Pryke was consecrated a bishop at Jesmond Parish Church in the Diocese of Newcastle by bishops of the Church of England in South Africa (CESA), in the hope their ceremony will see a renewal and rebirth of the faith in England.

Then, on June 30, GAFCON consecrated one of their own, Bishop Andy Lines, to be an orthodox Anglican bishop for England and Europe. Now, this week, Bishop Gavin Ashenden was consecrated a Missionary Bishop to Anglicans in UK and Europe by the Christian Episcopal Church of Canada. Ashenden is a former Queen's Chaplain, scholar and writer.

He is charged with the responsibility of working as closely and collaboratively as possible with those Anglicans who are committed to remaining faithful to orthodox Christianity, in particular with the Free Church of England and the 'Unity Forum' that has been created to achieve that unity of purpose and action in the UK. You can read about the consecration in today's digest.

Add in the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), Church Society and suddenly, the chipping away at the Church of England looks serious. Add to the noise the possibility of disestablishment and suddenly, all talk of reconciliation by Welby, Fearon, Kings and other notable 'reconcilers' is in the history can.

Sooner or later, the English equivalent of the Anglican Church in North America will become a reality, and then the fun and games will begin. The deeper question is why GAFCON and the Global South archbishops even go on taking Welby and the Church of England seriously anymore, why not simply brush them off as irrelevant.

*****

WALES. More than 10 churches a year are closing in Wales, figures have shown. Data from the Church in Wales showed 115 Anglican churches have closed over a 10-year period, about 8% of the total, with 1,319 still in use.

There are currently 11 properties advertised for sale on the church's website.

The Church in Wales said closures were a "significant issue" and, while the sale rate had stayed steady, it was unlikely to slow down.

Head of property, Alex Glanville, said there was a move to take a regional look at churches rather than let each one deal with the issue on its own.

"We're grouping a lot more parishes and congregations together, about 10-15 churches in an area, and thinking which ones can we sustain.

*****

TO LEE OR NOT TO LEE that is the question. All the huffing and puffing to rid America of some of its historic and iconic figures is beginning to look a bit absurd. Lee was a devout Christian and a devoted Episcopalian. VOL correspondent Mary Ann Mueller looks at the whole issue in some depth. You can read her story here or in today's digest http://tinyurl.com/ybhcubge

*****

A man walks into a church and shoots it up and all we want to talk about is football! It started with one quarterback taking a knee during the National Anthem and more than 200 National Football League players joined in the protest, egged on by the President.

Now players are losing their endorsements, more than a third of fans are vowing to stop watching the game, and the President is calling for a boycott.

The man who walked into a church and started shooting was a legal Sudanese immigrant. He killed a woman in a Nashville church parking lot and then went into the church, firing away, hitting six more people, until he was finally subdued by a hero.

So, on the same day as millionaire players were deciding whether to kneel or stand, a small church with no other agenda but to pray and worship became the target of one man's evil.

Where was the outrage in America about yet another killing, again in a church? The story barely made the headlines, but a bunch of mostly brainless football players who earn more money than God, make the headlines with a president who taunts them for political gain.

And you wonder why God, the Holy Spirit, might be vanishing from America and making his way through the cities and towns of China, Latin America and Africa! It doesn't take a brain surgeon.

*****

God Loves a Cheerful Itemizer. An article in Christianity Today says experts assessing how Trump's tax plan to double the standard deduction would cost ministries bigly.

If you make between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, you'll probably give less to charity under President Donald Trump's proposed tax plan, says a study commissioned by Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs.

Back in May, researchers from Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, ran the numbers on the Trump administration's proposal to double the standard deduction from $6,300 to $12,600 for individuals, and from $12,600 to $24,000 for joint filers.

"The Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code is just that--a framework," said Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). "The details"--many of which are left up to Congress to decide -- "are what will tell the real story."

Busby broke down for CT how Trump's proposals would affect charitable giving:

Lowering corporate tax rates and the pass-through rates for small business are pro-growth elements, placing more dollars in the hands of those who support churches and ministries. That is good for ministries, but the impact will tend to be long-term.

The elimination of the personal deduction reduces available resources to make charitable deductions.

The repeal of the death tax removes the significant incentive for many to make charitable contributions to avoid this tax.

But the change that is likely to make the biggest impact on middle-income taxpayers is the doubling of the standard deduction, Busby said.

Raising the standard deduction puts money back into taxpayer pockets, but also means those who itemize their charitable contributions on their IRS 1040 forms would drop from about 30 percent of the population to about 5 percent, said National Christian Foundation president emeritus, David Wills. If that group of people is no longer able to write off their charitable contributions as tax free, they may be less inclined to give.

The devil is in the details.

*****

Hugh Hefner, (who died this week), Gene Robinson and John Shelly Spong all woke up in Hell. Hefner turns to Robinson, "Looks like you really took seriously the Culture War on sex that I set in motion. Was it worth it? And you, Spong, you greased the way, denying Christian morality with all its do's and don'ts. Was it worth it?"

Silence.

All Blessings

David

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