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TEC Faces Uncertain Clergy Future * Eastern Michigan Bishop Acknowledges Demographic Decline * GAFCON Leader Decries Charges of Homophobia * Australia's Sex Scandals * English Cathedrals get Money Infusion * REC Presiding Bishop Dies

God's grown-up children. God never ceases to be our Father, and we never cease to be his children. But he wants us to become his grown-up children. Dependent and obedient we must always be, yet the obedience we are to give him must not be slavish, mechanical or grudging, but intelligent, glad and free ... God treats his children as adults, and gives us the responsibility to discern and decide for ourselves. In this way our obedience becomes creative. It fosters and does not inhibit our growth. --- John R.W. Stott

You can say Christ died for our sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say we are washed in the blood of the lamb. You may say that Christ has defeated death. They are all true --- C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

A solid foundation. The solid foundation on which our hope of glory rests is the love of God. It is because God has set his love upon us that we know, beyond any question or doubt, that he is going to bring us to glory. We believe that we are going to persevere to the end, and we have good grounds for our confidence. It is partly because of the character God is forming in us through suffering that we can be confident ('suffering - endurance - character - hope'). If he is sanctifying us now, he will surely glorify us then. But it is chiefly because of 'the love that will not let us go'. --- John R.W. Stott

A mere theory of the atonement will not save anyone. The atonement itself, and our personal connection with it, is what saves us. --- Bill Muehlenberg

Of Queen Elizabeth II: Keep your own counsel. Don't deliberately alienate anyone. Bind together a fractured nation full of mutually antagonistic, mistrustful and confused people. Carve out a space for the preaching of the Gospel. Reform, with moderation and prudence. Seek the common good. Trust God. And survive. ---Susannah Black is associate editor of Providence Magazine

By David W. Virtue, DD
www.virtueonline.org
December 2, 2106

The Episcopal Church is starting to learn some bitter lessons about itself...despite all the talk of the Jesus Movement and "evangelism" now being promulgated as the "new thing" to rescue the church from oblivion.

What is the future for Episcopal Clergy? Headlined a story in EPISCOPAL CAFÉ this week. The Episcopal church is running out of ordained leaders to carry it into an unknown future.

The Episcopal Church is aging with the average age of parish members increasing, but also that 67.3% of active priests are aged 55 and over and since 2009, retirements have outpaced ordinations to the priesthood by almost two to one.

Not good news. What is worse, the pipeline is emptying by the day with closing or juncturing seminaries and with the costs reaching prohibitive levels for churches to pay a priest what he needs when he graduates from seminary. What is more, Nones now outpace Christians in America. Millennials are not darkening the doors of any of the mainline denominations.

The Church's answer? "Our goal is to invite the church to think out loud about how we bring ordained leaders to our churches. From our experience, study and prayer, we recognize these to be important issues in our time. We invite dialogue in the many and diverse ways we have available: conversations on social media, at church gatherings such as meetings of diocesan transition ministers, diocesan conventions, the House of Bishops, and other leaders in our church. We offer this not as a declaration, but as an invitation to dialogue."

TEC can dialogue itself to death and nothing will change.

According to a 2013 Church Pension Group report, Episcopal clergy include 428 dual-call couples (both partners ordained). Approximately 14 percent of active priests are married to another Episcopal clergyperson. (This figure does not include Episcopal clergy married to clergy in other traditions.) It is reasonable to expect that this number will only continue to grow. In some search processes, dual-call couples have been seen as a burden. We see a need for a culture change in which dual-call couples are considered a blessing.

One answer being proffered is to provide leaders in non-traditional, non-parochial ministry, which the Jesus Movement is calling people: urban challenges, underserved populations, veterans, the "church without walls," environmental concerns, prisons, to name a few. We need to find sustainable financing for these developing areas of ministry, said a report.

Another thought is to diversify the clergy.

Although search committees have worked hard to offer slates of candidates for bishop with more non-traditional candidates--women, LGBT clergy, other racial and ethnic communities--we still see that straight, white, married males are most often elected. From 2013 through Oct. 28, 2016, there were 23 elections for bishops. Women were candidates in 16 of those elections, African-American and Hispanic candidates in 13. Women were elected in five of those dioceses. (One is no longer serving as a bishop; three are awaiting consecration.) Four Hispanic male candidates were elected, one Korean male, and one African-American male. These elections of untraditional candidates validate the normalcy of female candidates, but there is still much work to be done before the House of Bishops looks like the rest of the Episcopal Church.

The trouble with this is that there is no evidence that women and blacks make churches grow. All of the women bishops in TEC are thorough going liberals with no gospel to proclaim except endless talk of justice, LGBT issues and racism. But those issues don't bring in the masses and don't make churches grow.

There is talk now about Interim Ministries. "We invite the church to discuss the roles of interims and priests-in-charge during times of clergy transition." The church also talked about part-time clergy

Leadership. "We invite the church to consider the effects of part-time ordained ministry on both parish and priest. The number of full-time calls continues to decrease, and the number of priests able and willing to work part-time fails to match the need. The church has long advised of the need for bi-vocational clergy, but that has not yet become a practical reality."

I have news for you. It is a reality for church planters in the ACNA, but here's the difference. TEC is dying and moving from full time to part time or Interims. ACNA priests start out as bi-vocational, but as they grow the priests become full time. (I, myself am in this situation. We have a parish plant of approximately 35-40 and our last priest was bi-vocational. We are slowly growing and gaining new members and the plate increases exponentially. We anticipate that within a year or so, we can call a full-time priest.)

TEC believes that its full-communion agreements with Lutherans and Moravians will make them flourish. This is a myth and short-term thinking and it is only temporary; they, too, are dying.

TEC leaders believe that diversity is the next reality and they want more clergy who are multilingual, in the hope this will draw in the crowds. This is only true if the message they are proclaiming is worth listening to. The vast majority of bi-lingual churches in the U.S. are independent charismatic and Pentecostal churches, many of them lay led.

"Calling" is Not "Hiring" TEC leaders now opine. "The best calls happen when the Holy Spirit is part of the process. We remind our communities that seeking new clergy leadership is a spiritual process, not an executive search, and we encourage our congregations to be open to God's imagination as they seek new spiritual leaders." The Holy Spirit will have no part of a Church that embraces pansexuality, a faux evangelism that does not call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

TEC leaders then acknowledged this:

The number of applicants for clergy positions will be fewer than in years gone by.
Clergy are less willing or able to relocate.
More clergy are trained through local or distance-learning models, and fewer through traditional seminary settings.
Many clergy have already had a first career before responding to a call to the priesthood.
Members of the diocesan staff, particularly the diocesan transition minister, are your guides and supports through this process.
The church requires background checks on candidates.
The bishop must approve your choice of a new clergy leader.

Without a clear exposition of the gospel none of this will work. It will be the same old, same old, just with different players.

*****

As if to make the case (above), the bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan, Todd Ousley warned his people against what he called the "culture of fear". He spoke candidly at a recent diocesan convention in Gaylord, Michigan, and said that some parishes in his Lower Peninsula diocese are facing economic scarcity and demographic decline:
"Within the Diocese of Eastern Michigan, these past ten years have seen a decline in membership and Average Sunday Attendance. We are now 45 congregations on our way very quickly to 43. Annual congregational giving has declined, making financial viability increasingly difficult for an increasing number of congregations. Our population continues to decline and Michigan demographics show us growing older while losing our young to opportunities in other parts of the country."

"The reality of our communities and our churches is one that ought make all of us pause."

The diocese has indeed been hard-hit, losing 28% of members and 36% of attendees from 2005-2015, a rate of decline that surpasses the national denomination. Marriages and baptisms have taken a bigger hit, with the former down 63%, while children's baptisms were down 47 percent and adult baptisms down 62%.

You can read Jeff Walton of IRD's take on this in today's digest.

*****

The Missionary Diocese of Trinity based in Indianapolis, Ind., established by the Anglican Church of Nigeria as a missionary network for evangelism in North America and Canada has had a name change. Forthwith it will be known as the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity, effective immediately. The acronyms will now be ADOTT instead of MDT.

The diocese was first established as the Missionary District of the Trinity in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), then as the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity approved by the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion in 2011. MDT is affiliated with CANA and ACNA-Anglican Province in North America.

The Anglican Cathedral Church of Resurrection, Indianapolis, IN, recently hosted the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the Most Rev Foley Beach as the guest preacher for the 2016 Cathedral Harvest.

The Diocesan Bishop is the Rt. Rev. Amos Fagbamiye. The diocese has a number of parishes in the Midwest as well as parishes in Regina, SK, Canada (the pioneer CON Church in Canada).

*****

It's a pretty heavy thing to be accused of homophobia says Dr. Peter Jensen, a GAFCON leader and former Archbishop of Sydney. The word is not an intellectual judgement, but a more damning moral one, he writes.

"There have always been examples of unkind attitudes, bullying and discrimination towards people who appear to be, or who identify as, homosexual, just as there has always been racism, snobbery and other ugly traits. Sadly, Christians have sometimes been guilty of this, and in doing so we are failing to follow the way of Christ.

"However, in recent years the accusation of 'homophobia' has been levelled not just at these unkind attitudes towards gay people, but also reasoned biblical convictions about problems associated with homosexual practice, and any expression of concern about the power and intolerance of pressure groups. We are told that no matter how compassionate a person is towards gay people, if we do not fully embrace the goodness of the gay identity and lifestyle we are homophobes. We are said to rely on irrational feelings and thoughts to reject and damage homosexual people.

"You cannot argue your way out of such a moral judgement. You are not being accused of using bad arguments to support a case, but of reacting viscerally in an immoral and damaging way."

You can view an excellent video by a C of E priest, Sam Alberry, who experiences same-sex attractions and offers a biblical rebuttal to homosexual behavior. You can view it here:

http://www.gafconuk.org/news/rev-sam-allberry-talks-about-homosexuality-bible-and-gafcon?utm_source=GAFCON+Communications&utm_campaign=fb444d360f-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_12_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ae55802e3e-fb444d360f-90164461

*****

AUSTRALIA'S SEX SCANDALS

In Perth, an ex-Anglican priest was found guilty of child abuse over a 30-year period in Western Australia's south. Raymond Sydney Cheek was found guilty of sexually abusing five boys. Cheek, 84, had been on trial in the WA District Court, charged with committing an act of gross indecency and two counts each of indecent assault and indecent dealings with a child between 1955 and 1985.

The jury returned its verdict after deliberating for almost one day.

In Newcastle, a child abuse royal commission to look at pedophile priests, questioned a defrocked Anglican dean who denied he lead a group of paedophile priests. The former Dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence, was defocked in 2012.

Under cross examination, the defrocked Anglican dean vehemently denied at a royal commission hearing that he was the leader of a group of child abusers, but admitted he failed to act when he "suspected" a priest in his charge was having sex with a teenage boy.

Mr. Lawrence has been labelled one of the most influential priests in Newcastle's history. The former priest was questioned at the child abuse royal commission today about his time as a rector in Griffith, where a man known as CKH claims he was sexually abused by Mr. Lawrence as a teenager. You can read the full story in today's digest.

In Tasmania, a far-reaching paedophile ring, involving victims and predators from Tasmania, was active within an offshoot of the Anglican Church, Royal Commission lawyers alleged in a damning submission.

Counsel assisting the commission Naomi Sharp also recommended the actions of former Tasmanian Bishop Philip Newell be found to have helped cover up allegations against a serial paedophile priest.

The Anglican Diocese of Tasmania has rejected the proposed finding against Bishop Newell, who was the church's Tasmanian bishop from 1982 until he retired in 2000. You can read the full story in today's digest.

In Brisbane, the theology there is worse than the sexual sins of other places in Australia. The former Primate and Archbishop of Australia, Phillip Aspinall, has appointed Archdeacon Jeremy Greaves as an assistant bishop in the Diocese. He announced this at an ad clerum recently. Greaves' appointment will be viewed by many as controversial and even provocative. He gained notoriety for himself when Dean of Darwin Cathedral, as a proponent of "progressive Christianity", most recently being lead organizer of the 2016 "Common Dreams" conference in Brisbane. He is an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, but perhaps even more troubling, he rejects key understandings of Christianity that he will be required to reaffirm at his consecration (having already promised at his ordination to teach them), writes Australian cleric, David Ould. Greaves said he was happy "to abandon the creed."

Aspinall's own life and ministry has been one of a series of disasters. In 2014, I wrote that under Aspinall's leadership, the Australian church showed numerical and financial decline, subsisted on bad theology, sex scandals, aging congregations and poor governance issues with nine of the 23 dioceses facing an uncertain future. Philip Aspinall was at the center of the degeneration. The whole business was described as being in a "parlous state." You can read the full story in today's digest.

*****

Standing Rock has become a "spiritual battle", according to Bishop John Floberg, the evangelical bishop of North Dakota.

The continuing actions of those opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), who call themselves water protectors, continue to draw attention. The Episcopal Church has gone on record as formally supporting the indigenous peoples' actions near Standing Rock against the pipeline's path through their sovereign territory and land they consider sacred.

"If there is one individual who personifies Christian support for the indigenous protests, it is the Reverend John Floberg, who is responsible for Episcopal (Anglican) parishes on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock.

He coordinated the actions of 500 clergy and lay people from 20 different religious groups who gathered at the camp on November 3rd, and he has persuaded his own denomination's leadership, including Michael Curry, the African-American Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, to play an active part in opposing the line's completion. Although the Episcopal Church is firmly on the liberal side of America's religious spectrum, this is still new territory for a religious group which for years was the spiritual home of the nation's social and cultural elite."

*****

Islamic State fighters are the "grandsons of Satan", according to survivors of the torture and slaughter in Mosul in Iraq, writes Ruth Gledhill for Christian Today.

Iraqi forces are trying to drive ISIS from the Nineveh Plains, which has for centuries been a traditional homeland for Christians and Yazidis in Iraq.

The liberation of Iraq is being taken cautiously because of the large numbers of vulnerable civilians who are still alive, but are effectively being held hostage by the brutal Islamist fighters.

In a report from Iraq by the BBC's Richard Galpin, who visited some of the few districts of Mosul that have been freed from ISIS, Basma al-Saoor, a survivor who visited a church and also the rubble of her former home, said: "They [ISIS] are the grandsons of Satan."

When ISIS took Karamles and nearby villages two years ago, civilians were ordered to leave, convert to Islam or be killed. Nearly everyone fled.

Father Paul Thabet, the priest at Saint Addai Church in Karamles, showed Galpin how statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Child, and angels had all been decapitated, the altar shot through with bullets and a priest's tomb desecrated.

Father Thabet called for those responsible to face justice, and he fears that good relations between Muslims and Christians in the region have been destroyed beyond repair.

Galpin reports that beside Iraqi army soldiers, the troops taking part in the fighting against ISIS include Shia militias, Peshmerga Kurdish troops, Christian militias and some Sunni tribesmen.

*****

Is the BBC In danger of failing to take Religion seriously? Programs such as Songs Of Praise, presented by Pam Rhodes, Alec Jones and Diane-Louise Jordan could be at risk, writes Ruth Gledhill for
Christian Today.

A senior BBC presenter has criticized the corporation's attitude to religious programming in a rare intervention by an insider.

Roger Bolton of Radio 4's Feedback says: "Just six months after the Archbishop of Canterbury called in these very pages for broadcasters to take religion seriously, it seems the BBC is doing anything but."

Bolton spoke out after the BBC decided to drop the post of Head of Religion and place corporate responsibility for religion and ethics under Factual Scotland "to simplify the existing management structure". James Purnell, the former Labour minister who is head of radio and education at the BBC, is to take responsibility for religion as part of his remit.

Writing in the Radio Times, Bolton says this will threaten the coverage of religion on the BBC.

He says: "How can young people and immigrants to this country understand the UK without learning of the crucial role Christianity has played in the formation of its political structures and culture? How can people feel they're being welcomed as equal citizens if we don't bother to find out about what is often the most important part of their life, their faith?

"How can we understand what's going on in the Middle East, for example, without knowing about the Shia/Sunni split? This is not about promoting faith; it's about promoting knowledge and understanding -- surely a central role of a public service broadcaster? But the BBC is coming up short."

*****

In the Diocese of Huron, Canada, the dean, one Kevin Dixon, has quit. He was an uber liberal dean, who, when he was installed as cathedral Dean, had an imam read from the Koran to celebrate the occasion.

Dixon has now moved on to become vice-president of operations at International Justice Mission Canada (IJM), an organization dedicated to protecting the poor from violence throughout the developing world.

When he was employed by the Diocese of New Westminster, Dixon was one of the first rectors to offer blessings to same-sex couples, during which time Dixon was critical of J.I. Packer's understanding of the Bible:

The Rev. Kevin Dixon, priest at St. Mary's Anglican Church in Kerrisdale, meanwhile believed Packer adopted a "literalistic" reading of the Bible.

"It's important for people to understand that the holy scriptures is a very nuanced document. I think we need to allow people room to come to a new understanding," said Dixon, the local newspaper reported.

"I have not always held the view that same-sex relationships are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but now I do."

*****

After weeks of preparation, Anglicans around the Communion are getting involved in prayer, reflection and action for the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, reports the Anglican communion News Service. The 16 Days of Activism campaign runs from Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs to Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. The annual campaign sprang from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991.

*****

A group of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops have acknowledged both churches' failure to protect children, women and indigenous peoples, reports Gavin Drake of ACNS. In a statement issued by the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) on Nov. 25 following the group's historic meeting in Canterbury and Rome last month, the leaders called on the Church to repent and seek justice for victims. They say that, "at the foot of the Cross we, as bishops, have reflected on an 'ecumenism of humiliation.' We lament our failures and share the brokenness of our church communities."

*****

It must be nice to be glued to the state when you want money, even if the religion propping up English cathedrals has all but evaporated. Nearly five and a half million pounds (nearly $7 million US) will be awarded to cathedrals across the UK as the government announced the final phase of a two-year program on Monday.

Twenty-four Anglican and Catholic cathedrals will benefit from the grants totaling £5,423,000 for urgent repair work. Ely, Manchester, Southwark and Truro cathedrals were awarded £500,000 each as part of the wider First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund totalling £40million.

The vast majority of Monday's grants went to Church of England buildings, with Catholic cathedrals taking about a fifth of the total.

Overall, 57 cathedrals have received an average of £274,000, ($345,000) with 12 cathedrals awarded more than £1 million each ($1,258.000 US).

Second church estates commissioner, Caroline Spelman, said it was a "farsighted investment that will bring a return to cities across the country".

There is no word that this will jump start revival in the cathedral, but it will be nice for American tourists to see the cathedrals spruced up a bit. Revenue from tourists is always handy as well.

*****

The faux diocese of South Carolina is about to get its third, or is that, fourth provisional bishop. This time it is the retired Gladstone B. "Skip" Adams III, who hails from central New York. He takes over the reins following Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg's retirement. Adams, 64, is charged with leading the church, which is currently awaiting a decision by the S.C. Supreme Court regarding a legal battle that began when two-thirds of parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina left the national church, citing theological differences over the authority of Scripture, including homosexuality and other issues.

Skippy did not have a sterling ride in Central New York. At one point in his tenure, he inhibited Fr. David Bollinger, priest for 20 years at St. Paul's, Owego, NY, for supposed financial irregularities, allegedly in order to shut the priest up after he blew the whistle on a pedophile priest. Bollinger said Adams tried to cover it all up.

Bollinger named Fr. Ralph Johnson as the unmarried priest for his alleged pedophile activities at St. Paul's parish in the 1970s and says that the inhibition, recently extended for a second term of three months, was also because of the cover-up of the Diocesan Controller's invasion of his private savings account. Johnson was later found guilty and deposed by Adams.

Bollinger sent the signed complaint to the bishop and pastoral response team. As a result of doing this, and because he blew the whistle on the former parish priest, the bishop turned on Bollinger and inhibited him and then accused him of misusing his Discretionary Fund, he said. I suppose it is a slightly better choice than the incendiary Gene Robinson. As I have repeatedly said that picking from the bottom of the ecclesiastical barrel is now a pastime in TEC circles.

*****

OBITUARY. The Most Rev. Royal Grote, Jr., Bishop of Mid-America, and Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, passed away unexpectedly this week. A Memorial Service for the Presiding Bishop, 70, will be held at the Church of the Holy Communion, Pro-Cathedral of the Diocese of Mid-America, in Dallas, Texas, at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 13, 2016.

Grote was the fourth longest consecrated bishop in the ACNA College of Bishops. He is the third ACNA bishop to die following Bishop John-David Schofield (2013); Terence Kelshaw (2015) and now Bishop Grote (2016).

*****

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