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TEC Church Closures * Koran read in Glasgow Cathedral, Blogosphere Erupts * Orthodox Anglicans in Brazil Persecuted * Tanzania Archbishop Caught in Financial Scandal * First Homosexual Bishop Ordained in Canada * Anglican Sem. President Mike Ovey Dies

Islam sees power as God's primary defining characteristic, and Christianity tells us that it is love. --- Dr. Gavin Ashenden

Judge a blog by its content but not by what you might read below the line, where a pair of idle hands may do the Devil's work. That doesn't make the blogger the Devil; nor does it make the blog evil. And you can always choose not to read the comments at all. Ever. --- Archbishop Cranmer blog

A new dimension. Prevailing Christian prayer is wonderfully comprehensive. It has four universals, indicated in Ephesians 6:18 by the fourfold use of the word 'all'. We are to pray *at all times* (both regularly and constantly), *with all prayer and supplication* (for it takes many and varied forms), *with all perseverance* (because we need like good soldiers to *keep alert*, and neither give up nor fall asleep), *making supplication for all the saints* (since the unity of God's new society, which has been the preoccupation of this whole letter, must be reflected in our prayers). Most Christians pray sometimes, with some prayers and some degree of perseverance, for some of God's people. But to replace 'some' by 'all' in each of these expressions would be to introduce us to a new dimension of prayer. --- John R. W. Stott

"Do nothing that you would not like God to see. Say nothing you would not like God to hear. Write nothing you would not like God to read. Go no place where you would not like God to find you. Read no book of which you would not like God to say, "Show it to Me." Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like to have God say, "What are you doing?" ― J.C. Ryle

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
January 13, 2017

According to most recent statistics, The Episcopal Church is closing, on average, about one church a week.

There have been 385 churches closed in seven years between 2009 and 2015. With 364 weeks, that's just a little more than one per week.

With dozens of churches having less than 25 aging members, that figure will only escalate over time. There is nothing to stop it, not even Presiding Bishop's new found evangelism call.

A typical case is the Diocese of Upper South Carolina where blogger, The Underground Pewster, writes that out of 59 parishes, 23 (38%) have an average Sunday attendance (ASA) of 50 or less. 14 have an ASA of 30 or less. You can read his story in today's digest. Those 14 will be gone in two or three years. The hemorrhaging will only continue and escalate.

*****

How many Episcopal churches are there? That is a riddle with no one answer, according to VOL researcher, Mary Ann Mueller. The exact figure is as hard to pin down as finding the Loch Ness Monster.

The Episcopal Church Table of Statistics only holds a clue. Each year since 2002, the Episcopal General Convention puts out a detailed report which highlights the statistical spiritual health of the entire church. It reveals how many baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals have been recorded. It shows the membership of the church in terms of baptized, communicants and others distilled into an ASA. It also shows the number of registered Sunday school pupils as well as the number of open churches and missions.

However, the number of open churches figure doesn't seem to tally with any other calculations that are out there.

The latest Table of Statistics shows that there were 6,553 parishes and missions in the domestic church, adding another 491 congregations in the various foreign dioceses, showing that there were 7,044 reporting parishes and missions worldwide in The Episcopal Church during the 2014 calendar year.

The 2015 Fast Facts has been released, showing that 6,510 open domestic Episcopal congregations filed their parochial report. However, not all congregations file a parochial report as required. You can read her full report in today's digest

*****

From Pasadena, California comes words that an Episcopal parish won't pray for president by name. Citing "an active danger to health and safety" a California Episcopal parish has ceased to pray for the President of the United States by name.

Episcopalians and other Anglicans regularly pray for their bishops and others in authority during the course of a normal Sunday liturgy, including the President of the United States. It is also common to pray, by name, for the President-elect during the window of time between the election and the inauguration.

Mike Kinman, Rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, blogged this week: "If you come to All Saints this Sunday, you'll notice that we have removed the proper names from our prayers for those in authority. Whereas before we prayed for "Barack, our president," we are now praying for "our president, our president-elect, and all others in authority." This practice will continue for at least the near future.

*****

A passage from the Koran that denies one of the central tenets of the Christian faith was sung aloud at a cathedral service in Scotland.

The passage from Surah 19, which specifically denies that Jesus was the Son of God and says He should not be worshipped, was sung during a Eucharist service at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, to mark the feast of the Epiphany.

A video of the recital was posted on YouTube, showing a girl singing the passage in a typical Islamic style. It narrates the Islamic account of the birth of Jesus, which includes the claim that Mary was "ashamed" after giving birth, and the infant Christ miraculously spoke from the cradle -- something not found in Christian scripture.

She then concludes by singing verse 35, which states in translation: "It befitteth not the Majesty of Allah that He should take unto Himself a son," and then verse 36, which has the infant Jesus saying: "And lo! Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him. That is the right path."

The cathedral praised the reading in a Facebook post, calling it a "wonderful event".

However, retired Anglican bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali, strongly condemned it, saying it was especially inappropriate for the feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the revelation of Christ as the Son of God.

"Christians should know what their fellow citizens believe and this can include reading the Koran for themselves, whether in the original or in translation. This is not, however, the same thing as having it read in Church in the context of public worship. The authorities of the Scottish Episcopal Church should immediately repudiate this ill-advised invitation and exercise appropriate discipline for those involved."

In late breaking news, the Archbishop of Canterbury has been urged to discipline a Scottish Episcopal cathedral over a reading of the Koran that denied Jesus was the son of God.

Justin Welby was asked to intervene by the conservative grouping GAFCON UK on Thursday after a service last week at St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, contained a recitation from the Islamic holy book.

You can read my story about all this in today's digest as well as an excellent commentary by Dr. Gavin Ashenden, a regular columnist for VOL.

*****

A group of clergy of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil say they are being persecuted for defending the biblical position on marriage and they want their Church to maintain its unity with the Anglican Communion.

In an e-mail to VIRTUEONLINE, nine clergy, including a bishop, say the chamber of bishops is imposing its position and wants them to affirm same-sex marriage. They are resisting all such efforts.

To that end, they have formed the "Alliance of Anglican Communities", acknowledging the Anglican principle of unity in diversity, freedom of thought, opinion and initiative.

"We seek unity to make explicit and share the motives of our unity in Christ so that the Church we love so much will be strengthened more and more in its witness in society. In our Church, this is indispensable, because we cherish for unity in diversity, freedom of opinion and presence of movements that can enrich it with inclusiveness and comprehensiveness," they wrote.

*****

The Anglican Church of Tanzania's Dar es Salaam Bishop, Dr. Valentino Mokiwa, has been asked to resign to pave the way for a committee to investigate accusations of fraud and abuse of his office.

In Summary:
• The church, through a letter signed by Chief Bishop Jacob Chimeledya, says Bishop Mokiwa was asked to step down after he had failed to assist in an investigation of fraud amounting to over Sh200 million in connection with a special account opened at the Dar es Salaam Commercial Bank (DCB).
• The bishop is accused of failing to supervise church assets in collaboration with other church organs by allowing the leasing of 200 hectares of land in an allegedly shady contract.

Mokiwa rejected a call to resign from his position over failure to assist a special committee investigating fraud and alleged abuse of office.

*****

It is with profound shock and sadness that we announce the sudden and unexpected death of Oak Hill Theological College's Principal, the Rev. Dr. Mike Ovey. He was 58.

A statement from the seminary read, "As the Oak Hill community comes to terms with the loss of our dear brother and leader, we cling on to the promise that 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life'. It reminds us that for Mike, death is not an end but a glorious beginning.

Ovey leaves behind his wife, Heather, and their three children: Charlie, Harry, and Ana.

I knew Mike well. We met on several occasions, the last being at the Anglican Leadership Institute in Charleston, SC. He was a very alive guy, full of energy and dying for a good argument. He was a great brother in the faith whom I will sorely miss. "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants" (Psalm 116:15).

*****

This week Kevin Robertson, who is married to another man, was consecrated as bishop in Toronto's St. Paul's, Bloor Street, one of the largest Anglican Church of Canada parishes in Canada; it also happens to be an evangelical parish.

A number of clergy objected to the consecration:

Standing on the chancel steps, Archbishop Johnson then read from a prepared statement. "As we gather in this sacred act to worship God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- to confer Holy Orders, and to share in the holy meal, I want to acknowledge that I have received a formal letter of objection to these consecrations from some clergy and lay people of the diocese," he said.

"It contains arguments against the canonical and ecclesial validity of these consecrations. I have read and considered their arguments. I am grateful that they have chosen to make their objections known to me in this way with great dignity. I thank them that many of them have made the difficult decision to be here today -- despite their serious reservations -- because of the love and desire they bear for the unity and faithful witness of the Church to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While it is our intention to proceed today, I also want all of you and the whole diocese to know that I am engaged in a serious and mutually committed consultation with those objecting, to find effective ways that our ministries might flourish together in the highest degree of communion possible.

"There are those present who come with joy, hope and celebration of this moment and those who are anxious, dismayed and hurting," he continued.

Johnson went on to say:

"Today was a wonderful, Spirit-filled day. There were people here from all parts of the diocese. It was wonderful that people from a whole lot of different traditions and theological positions were able to come and be here, even if for some of them it was a struggle. I really appreciate the fact that we're continuing to work together to build up the body of Christ.

Of course, if the objectors are correct, it could not have been "a wonderful, Spirit-filled day" at all -- it would have been a disaster for the Diocese of Toronto. Johnson and the objectors are at polar opposite, irreconcilable positions on the legitimacy of Robertson's consecration. Yet they all seem to be pretending to be merrily getting along together. Just another example of how Post-Truth -- the OED's word of the year -- has infiltrated the church, I suppose.

*****

Most millennials do not view Britain as a Christian country, according to a poll to be published Jan. 12.

Instead, they view Britain as a nation with no specific religious identity. But they do believe that religion plays an important role in the lives of individuals.

The survey was carried out by pollsters ComRes and is being published tomorrow to mark the launch of the new Faith Research Centre later this month.

The center will carry out research to help politicians, policy makers, employers and others understand the role of religion in the world.

ComRes interviewed 2,048 British adults online between January 4 and 5, 2017.

Under a third of millennials, those aged 18-24, described Britain as a Christian country. And more than four in 10 of these young men and women said Britain is a country with no specific religious identity.

However, half of millennials said UK politicians and policy-makers should have a good understanding of religion, and that understanding religion "is important to tackling terrorism around the world". [Source Christian Today]

*****

The Archbishop of Canterbury is giving thousands of pounds to a church that holds services in a field, according to a news report in Christian Today.

Gathered under a canopy in a field in Essex, worshippers sing out praise to God and many, including the ABC, seem to believe that this is the future of the Church in England.

This is the very start of a new church plant, a church that will one day serve a brand new community of 12,000 souls. Many will live in the 3,000 new homes on the Beaulieu estate now being built on the eastern edge of Chelmsford.

The project is being backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose "renewal and reform" program, announced £9 million ($10.2 million) in grants to seven dioceses.

The Beaulieu Park church plant will receive some of the £2 million ($2.4 million) earmarked for Chelmsford.

A former C of E priest wrote this; "It is shocking that dioceses are going broke and the C of E can't afford to pay ministers who are doing the hard work of evangelism in difficult areas but has money to do this. When I was at Liverpool Cathedral under Welby, my colleague got thousands of pounds to start a Cafe Church. Guess who came? A few of his cronies who did not like the main liturgical service. They served coffee and croissants. He also got £5000 to start a website to provide information for asylum seekers to churches!

"The retired Canon who actually did work very hard with asylum seekers (evangelizing, taking them to court, discipling, caring) was pushed out of his job (even though he wasn't getting paid a penny) because he was a threat. He was told not to visit asylum seekers to comply with Safeguarding! He wasn't even consulted when the website was being designed! It is all a network of people scratching one another's back."

*****

The Archbishop of Jos in the Anglican Church of Nigeria has spoken about how Christians are finding refuge in God "in the face of turbulence, persecution and wickedness" in the north of the country.

Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi made the comments at the opening service at the annual retreat of Anglican bishops in the province, which is being held at St Peters Chapel at the IBRU International Ecumenical Centre in Agbarha-Otor. He said that the "forces of evil are still at work but Jesus has already defeated powers of hell, of darkness of wickedness and of evil."

Archbishop Benjamin asked the church to "intensify their prayers" for churches in the northern part of Nigeria. Persecution is biting very hard, he said, adding that "the devil has failed because God cannot be defeated."

The Archbishop also called for action to tackle biblical illiteracy; and suggested that Christians should adopt the Jewish tradition of training children properly in scriptures. Hebrew children, he said, were trained for about 30 years in preparation for ministry. He cited the example of Jesus Christ "who was guided for about 30 years and used the remaining three years of his life for ministry in order to interpret the law and the prophets."

He also said that some seminaries were too academic, leading to the church ordaining people who couldn't memorize a chapter of the Bible.

*****

Ninety thousand Christians were murdered for their faith around the globe this year, which amounts to one being killed every six minutes, Italy's CESNUR religious study group said.

Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world, Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), told Vatican Radio.

According to CESNUR statistics, around 500,000 Christians around the globe are unable to practice their faith completely freely, Introvigne said.

Seventy percent of the killings of Christians in 2016 occurred during tribal conflicts in Africa, he said, referring to data from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.

The large number of deaths may be explained by the fact that many devoted Christians refuse to take up arms, he added.

The remaining 30 percent, or 27,000, lost their lives in terrorist attacks, the destruction of Christian villages, or persecution by the authorities, Introvigne said.

However, he said that the number of Christian killings has decreased, compared to 105,000 deaths in 2015.

The data in the report may be incomplete as it doesn't include India and China, where the Christian community survives in secrecy, he added.

*****

Six years on, the UK Ordinariate continues to "go forward in faith". The path for the Anglican Ordinariate hasn't been completely smooth since its founding, but its members are thriving in their unique position within the Catholic Church, according to a Catholic world report

It's been six years since Anglicans were invited to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, entering as groups along with their pastors, bringing with them their Anglican traditions in music and liturgy and pastoral practice. Pope Benedict XVI had called out "to groups of Anglicans"--Anglicanorum Coetibus--with an invitation that had come as a result of Anglican pleading. With the ordination of women in the Church of England, it looked as though hopes for reunion had ended, a door slammed shut, years of well-intentioned dialogue ending in a fruitless void. But Benedict salvaged something and opened a new chapter of history. For those who wished to come into full communion, a new door opened.

The creation of the Ordinariate has ruffled some feathers. It also proved difficult to explain to some cradle-Catholics. People asked--and still ask--"But are they real Catholics?" Over and over again, it has to be emphasized: yes, they are. A priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is a Catholic priest, just like a Dominican priest, or a Franciscan one, or a Jesuit one. They celebrate the Roman Rite of Mass, but if they wish they can use the Ordinariate form, which incorporates some prayers from the Anglican tradition, in words familiar to Anglicans over four centuries of use in England's churches.

No one is sure where the Ordinariate is going next. Some Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church will quietly make their own decisions and join a local Catholic parish, following an RCIA course. Some Anglican clergy will opt simply to apply to become priests in the local Catholic diocese. One of the things it has done has been to give something of a boost to cradle Catholics, who relish its contribution to good liturgical practice, good music, and a strong sense of the glory of the Catholic Faith.

When Msgr. Keith Newton spoke to Pope Benedict after the first couple of years of the Ordinariate's existence, the latter took his hand after hearing reports of how things were going and said, "Just go forward in faith." And I think they'll do just that.

*****

If you think the pansexual infection is among mainly Episcopal, then reflect on the fact that a lesbian couple will now lead an historic Baptist Church - Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen will become co-pastors. The 155-year-old Baptist church was once a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, but no more. Calvary ended its ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012 over disagreements regarding issues including same-sex marriage.

*****

The St. Louis Dispatch reports that the Choir of Men and Boys from Washington National Cathedral will be singing at the presidential inaugural next week, as well as the chorale of Missouri State University. The National Cathedral choir was already scheduled to participate in the interfaith prayer service on Saturday, January 21.

From the story: It's a surprising choice for the National Cathedral (officially the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul). The Episcopal Church is a liberal denomination that has long supported women's rights, racial equality and LGBT rights; two years ago, the Cathedral hosted Friday communal prayers for Muslims. Trump's religious base is composed primarily of white Roman Catholics and evangelicals.

A spokeswoman for the Cathedral said that music director Michael McCarthy made the decision to take part.

*****

Mobilizing the Church for Life The Church today is challenged with a daunting task: upholding the sacredness of life in today's culture.

While the tension between life and death has existed since the Garden of Eden, the Church needs to be equipped to honor life from conception to natural death. Life Summit 2017 promises to be an encouraging and challenging time of learning how the Church can define and defend the sacredness of life. Speakers, workshops, testimonies, and networking opportunities will together enrich our understanding of the sacredness of life--what it is and how we can live out the calling to protect it.

To that end there will be an ACNA March for Life in Washington DC January 25- 27. Come join the March for Life on January 27, 2017

For more information on the Summit contact Anglicans for Life at info@anglicansforlife.org or call 412-749-0455.

*****

There are just two main orthodox sources of Anglican/Episcopal news in North America. The first is VOL and the second is Jeff Walton, Anglican Program Director at the Institute on Religion & Democracy. There are many good blogs like the AAC, ACNA, Samizdat, Curmudgeon, the Underground Pewster to name but a few, but they are primarily disseminators of news not primary source writers of the news.

If either Jeff or myself give up on Anglican/Episcopal news, you will have no reliable sources to know what is going on. Liberal news sources like ENS, Episcopal Cafe, ACNS will continue to spin the news and there will be no counter offensive or alternative.

We need a working budget to go forward in 2017? To keep these digests coming into your e-mail box each week is time consuming. Our work is encouraged by your giving. It helps us believe that all we do is worthwhile. Our hard-working team of reporters and commentators feel the encouragement when you give. Your donation is tax-deductible.

Please help make this possible. You can send a donation to VOL via PAYPAL at the link here: http://www.virtueonline.org/support-vol/

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Thank you for your support.

David

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