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20 Churches Close Each Day * ACNA Bishops Statement Causes Continuous Uproar * Welby Cherry Picks Lambeth Resolution 1:10 * C4SO Diocesan Positions Raises Eyebrows * Welby's Backyard Wedding * Diocese of Albany Parishes Leave for ACNA

20 Churches Close Each Day * ACNA Bishops Statement Causes Continuous Uproar * Welby Cherry Picks Lambeth Resolution 1:10 * C4SO Diocesan Positions Raises Eyebrows * Welby's Backyard Wedding * Diocese of Albany Parishes Leave for ACNA * London Diocese Confirms Lay People in Same-Sex Marriages will be Licensed

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
March 12, 2021

By some estimates, 20 American churches close their doors for good every day. That's over 7,000 churches a year. The decline of mainline Protestant denominations has been well documented, but evangelicals are also seeing the effects of a broad demographic shift as fewer Americans join churches and more people embrace individualized spirituality. Nones, (persons with no religious affiliation) mostly young Americans, are on the rise.

Even Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in the US, is declining. This decline has been going on for more than 10 years.

Of course, Episcopal bishops won't tell you when a church has died; it is demoralizing for the rest who are struggling to stay alive. But die they do. TEC has more parishes with an average attendance of less than 10 persons than it has congregations with attendance of 300 or more. No matter, TEC still has money and access to money to prop up parishes and dioceses for years to come. What they can't prop up are people in the pews, unless you put cardboard cutouts in the pews.

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A new survey finds churchgoers say they plan to return to in-person services. Many churches are already meeting in person, but attendance has typically been smaller to accommodate for social distancing. That will likely change, a Lifeway Research poll suggests.

A study of 1,000 U.S. Protestant churchgoers found 91% said they planned on returning to in-person worship when it is safe to do so.

The study from Lifeway Research, a nonprofit affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, suggests churchgoers are eager to return to pre-pandemic worship practices. Nine in 10 churchgoers plan to return when it is safe to do so.

In January, 51% of churchgoers said they didn't attend any in-person services and 83% said they watched a livestream of a church service instead. With vaccines now becoming more readily available, attendance is likely to pick up soon, the study suggested.

91% of churchgoers plan to attend church in person as much or more post-COVID-19.
The study also noted that only 5% of churchgoers have switched to another church in the same geographic area during the pandemic, and only 3% have switched churches because of a move.

While some smaller congregations may discontinue online services once it is safe to gather in person, other churches may find value in a hybrid model, especially if they have drawn a new audience online and if those new viewers are also contributing online.

Religion scholars say one thing seems certain: Church attendance has been declining slowly for decades and the pandemic is unlikely to change that. To read the full story, click here: https://virtueonline.org/survey-churchgoers-say-they-plan-return-person-services

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The storm created last week with the statement put out by the Anglican Church in North America's College of Bishops offering reassurance that those struggling with same-sex attractions were welcomed and loved, but their behavior would not be, as it went against clear scriptural teaching that prohibited homosexual behavior, blew up the blogsphere. The Archbishop of Canterbury got in on the act as did the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell.

The controversy got the Nigerian Primate leaping on his high horse, delivering body blows at the ACNA; "[the], ACNA was formed by GAFCON, as a safe haven for faithful Christians who reject the apostasy and rebellion in TEC. They should not now find in ACNA the aberrations which drove them from TEC," Ndukuba roared. His statement threatened to tear GAFCON apart.

Ndukuba further threatened Archbishop Foley Beach, saying that "his actions and inactions had serious implications for GAFCON leadership." The ACNA Archbishop went silent, better not to rouse the African Anglican lion further.

But the Nigerian Primate's language got Welby all riled up and he sent off a private note condemning Archbishop Ndukuba's remarks in no uncertain terms. He launched a broadside at Ndukuba; "I completely disagree with and condemn this language. It is unacceptable. It dehumanizes those human beings of whom the statement speaks," Welby proclaimed.

Welby then cited paragraphs c and d of resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference 1998. Welby conveniently cherry-picked Lambeth Resolution 1:10.

You can read my full take on this here: https://virtueonline.org/untangling-anglican-mess-welby-cherry-picks-lambeth-resolution-110

Evangelical Theologian Dr. Stephen Noll had something to say about that. "Welby zooms in on 'paragraphs c and d' of the Resolution since those are the particular clauses that speak of "homosexuals" ("gay" had not become coin of the realm in 1998). [But] the Resolution from the beginning states: "This Conference, in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage."

"Welby offers a truncated version of this clause as "the traditional view of Christian marriage." He does not mention the second half about abstinence because he has been promoting a third way of long-term homosexual partnerships.

Welby even distorts the careful wording of the text when it refers to homosexuality. Paragraph (c) notes that among church members, there are "persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation." This language was carefully vetted by the bishops at Lambeth. They wished to acknowledge the reality of same-sex attraction as a consciousness which orients a person's desires powerfully, even if that consciousness is disordered by fallen human nature (Rom 1:24-27). You can read Dr. Noll's fine take down of Welby here: https://virtueonline.org/come-let-us-confer-part-2-justin-welby-enters-fray

One thing is for sure; If Welby thinks he can somehow "discipline" or charm the Nigerian Primate with his letter, he is mistaken. From the days of Peter Akinola through Nicholas Okoh and now Henry Ndukuba, the message from the Nigerian Province has been the same. No compromise. Not now, not ever.

You can read it all here: https://virtueonline.org/untangling-anglican-mess-welby-cherry-picks-lambeth-resolution-110

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A story I wrote on the ACNA Church for the Sake of Others (C4SO) Diocese, that it might be just a little too trendy for more mainstream evangelical and Anglo-Catholic Anglicans provoked wide stream comment and opinion.

Its bishop, Todd Hunter, broke with ACNA bishops on their homosexuality statement. Hunter embraces Critical Race Theory.

Hunter is the legacy of former ACNA Archbishop Bob Duncan. Hunter was consecrated a bishop in the AMiA without ever having been an Anglican, without any training or experience in Anglicanism and is more comfortable with his Vineyard Church roots. He was viewed as being on the cutting edge of culture and faith. His knowledge of Anglicanism seemed less important than what he might accomplish reaching out to Millennials and Generations X, Y and Z.

Some of his statements and positions, however, are causing consternation and embarrassment to the Church's hierarchy.

In issuing his own statement, Hunter directly hyperlinked in the "Dear Gay Anglicans letter"--in which he, too, objected to the thinking of the College of Bishops. In the course of doing so, he pointedly used "gay Christian" nomenclature.

"My vision is that C4SO churches would create communities in which gay and/or same-sex attracted people are not left to make sense of their sexuality alone. Rather, we want C4SO churches to be places where we all can share our stories, find community, and seek support on our journey of transformation into Christlikeness."

There was no formal renunciation of homosexual behavior in anything Hunter wrote. He skirted the bishops' statement, parsing what he wrote as more compassionate.

Hunter has embraced and issued a guidance praising Critical Race Theory, saying it is useful for churches. He views the writings of one Dawna Markova, whose positive view of CRT he has embraced.

For Lent, Hunter reached out to Soong-Chan Rah, Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park University, Chicago, to lead his diocese. Professor Rah was first noticed as a keynote speaker at a Matthew 25 Gathering in the ACNA in 2017. Protests arose, and he was removed from the speaker list. Now Rah has reappeared in the Diocese of C4SO. The bishop says that for the five weeks of Lent, the diocesan Lenten book reading is Professor Rah's "Prophetic Lament" alongside the Book of Lamentations. This will be accompanied by a Task Force sharing a video reflection on that week's readings. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/acnas-c4so-diocese-might-be-too-trendy-many-anglicans

But the ACNA bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin says the "Dear Gay Anglican" Letter written by layman acolyte Peter Valk does not get the support of the College of Bishops and should not. Bishop Eric Menees, an Anglo-Catholic, said it is a broadside against the province, the authority of our bishops, our polity as Anglicans and should be rejected. You can read it here: https://virtueonline.org/acna-diocese-san-joaquin-says-dear-gay-anglican-letter-does-not-support-college-bishops-statement

Theologian Hans Boersma was critical of the bishops' statement which separates the theological from the pastoral. It can't be done, he says.

The "but" is the problem. It's just not the case that theology is hard-nosed theory, while concrete circumstances demand gentle pastoral implementation. On such a view, the pastoral tail invariably ends up wagging the theological dog, and the theology gets adjusted to the pastoral setting. The outcome, in terms of sexual morality, is invariably the same. You can read his take here: https://virtueonline.org/never-may-theological-and-pastoral-be-separated
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As the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany the Rt. Rev. William Love disappears out the door, and has yet to resurface, some Albany Episcopal clergy are set to join the Anglican Church in North America, according to officials with the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word (ADLW).

The announcement made February 21 is in response to clergy requests for canonical residency under ADLW Bishop Julian Dobbs. It would be the first public movement of clergy in New York's Capital District since the resignation of Bishop William H. Love earlier this winter.

According to officials with the ACNA diocese, the Albany clergy "have formally applied and are being licensed to minister within the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word." They are to comprise a regional ministry network that will "place a strong emphasis on church planting and ministries in the [Capital] Region and surrounding areas of New York."

The liberals in the Episcopal diocese may think they have won the cultural battle in getting rid of Bishop Love, so they can proclaim the joys of homosexual marriage, but they will pay the price in lost parishes and lost revenue.

You can read Jeff Walton's piece on this here: https://virtueonline.org/some-albany-episcopal-clergy-join-anglican-church-north-america

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Welby and the back yard wedding. Yes, you read that correctly. Judi Sture, a regular columnist for VOL wrote; "So once again our great leader (peace be upon him) the Archmuppet of Canterbury, is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

"Meghan, the meal-ticket Duchess, has graciously bestowed upon we plebs the juicy titbit that she and Harry were actually married three days before their £32 million nuptials in Windsor in 2018. For our US readers, that's around $45.5 million green ones sucked from the British taxpayer. Yes, really. And that was just for the bits of the wedding we had to pay for.

'You know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that', the Duchess of Suffering told Ms. Winfrey in the infamous 'interview' this week. And to emphasize the point, she 'revealed' (oh, the excitement!) that they have since had their own vows framed and hung on the wall. Be still, my beating heart!"

It was only a matter of minutes before various clergy took to Twitter to ask questions about this bizarre event. And quite right, too.

When asked, The Archbishop of Canterbury responded by saying "we don't talk about these pastoral matters."

The Royal Soap Opera which has being going on for decades, longer than endless episodes of Coronation Street, has finally come to a head with this. The deeper question is why anyone is taking royalty seriously anymore.

You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/welby-and-back-yard-wedding

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BREAKING NEWS: This just in from England. The Diocese of London which is led by a woman bishop Sarah Mullally has confirmed that lay people in same sex marriages will be licensed for Licensed Lay Ministry in the diocese. 'The campaign for Equal Marriage warmly welcomes the confirmation by the Bishop of London that people in same-sex marriages may serve as licensed Lay Ministers (Readers) in her diocese. We call on other bishops to join her in affirming that marrying someone of the same sex is no bar to licensed lay ministry in the church. People in same-sex marriages can be licensed in the church of England for lay ministry but not for ordained ministry, but we see no justification, either pastoral or theological, for this distinction. We call on the House of Bishops to allow clergy to enter into same-sex marriages and to allow same-sex marriages to be conducted in the Church of England.'

The nose of the camel is clearly in the tent, can the whole body be far behind?

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ON THE INTERNATIONAL FRONT, Anglican Bishop Trevor Mwamba based in Botswana and Germany has returned home to take up the UNIP Presidency.

He says as a UNIP presidential hopeful he has observed that more than ever before, Zambia today needs a leader who is not only a God fearing and a unifier, but also reconciler who will bring a divided nation together.

Dr. Mwamba, a serving Bishop from the Anglican Church and married to Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba who is Botswana's Ambassador to Germany, said in an interview that when he becomes president of the former ruling party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP), he will not be inventing new values to unite the people but renew the already existing values which the forefathers used to unite and guide the nation to prosperity.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has appealed to US President Joe Biden to use the immense wealth and power of the United States to ensure that South Africa and other countries that desperately need coronavirus vaccines have access to them. Speaking to the online publication The Intercept, Archbishop Thabo said, "I would say to President Biden: 'You have an amazing opportunity to be a force for good in the world. So we are appealing to you...look at those that are suffering and ensure that there is access, particularly to the global south, to this lifesaving vaccine.'"

Australia's Anglicans national meeting that was expected to deal with the blessing in church of same sex civil marriages has been postponed. The General Synod (GS) which was scheduled for the end of May has been deferred with no new date for the meeting. The GS consists of representatives from each region/diocese including Bishops, ministers and "laity" -- ordinary Christians.

The situation comes about because the question of blessings was raised by the Wangaratta Anglican Diocese. Their synod -- parliament -- authorized a new service to bless persons who are married in a civil service, including same-sex couples. Newcastle Diocese followed Wangaratta's lead and passed similar legislation -- but allowed it to lapse.

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Christian leaders paid tribute this week to the 'tireless witness for Christ' of Luis Palau who died from lung cancer on Thursday, aged 86. Palau was a close friend of the late evangelist Billy Graham, serving as an intern with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) as a young man, and occasionally assisting with Spanish translation at some of his events. You can read more here: https://christiantoday.com/article/tributes.paid.to.tireless.witness.for.christ.luis.palau/136505.htm

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IS GOD ANTI-GAY, and other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and same-sex attraction. This week I reviewed this slim volume written by Sam Allberry, a conservative theologian, but a self-confessed same-sex attracted man, who believes you can live a full victorious life being both single and celibate. He is not only okay with his life, he is living a positive, liberating life and he is not remotely interested in apologizing for it. Allberry explores the whys and wherefores, refusing to dodge the hard questions of persons, like himself who experience same-sex attraction. Allberry delves into the Greek and Hebrew meaning of words and all the Old and New Testament portions of Scripture that deal specifically with the topic. So, is God anti-gay? No.

But He is against who all of us are by nature, as those living apart from Him and for ourselves. He's anti that guy, whatever that guy looks like in each of our lives. But because he is bigger than us, better than us, and able to do these things in ways we would struggle to, God loves that guy too. Loves him enough to carry his burden, take his place, clean him up, make him whole, and unite him forever to himself, writes Allberry. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/god-anti-gay

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It's over for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. RZIM has cut its staff and will restructure as a grant-making organization to support abuse victims. RZIM plans to lay off the majority of its staff, its leadership has announced.

The development comes approximately one month after the release of the final investigative report from Atlanta law firm Miller & Martin. That report detailed the extensive sexual misconduct and abuse alleged to have been committed by its namesake and late apologist who died in May 2020 after a battle with cancer.

The apologetics ministry intends to lay off 60% of its staff and restart the organization, according to an internal email obtained by The Christian Post.

In the email, RZIM CEO Sarah Davis, the daughter of the late apologist, wrote that the ministry "cannot -- indeed should not -- continue to operate as an organization in its present form."

You can read more here: https://www.christianpost.com/news/rzim-cuts-staff-will-restructure-as-grant-making-organization.html

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For a solid read on Reformational Anglicanism, I point you to the excellent piece by the Rev. Roger Salter, a frequent contributor to VOL. Here's just a taste:

"Authentic Anglicanism is sustained by a three-tiered set of essential and inviolable principles: It seeks to be faithfully Scriptural as an absolute priority. It pursues adherence to historical Biblical tradition as a monitor of interpretation and application. It endeavors to submit reverent employment of reason to the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

"These characteristics are inevitable for the loyal people of God. Scripture must be accurately understood, interpreted, believed and acted upon. Ideally, the Anglican Way is to be a loving and grateful compliance with the will, truth, and guidance of God rightly discerned in his holy revelation to mankind. All Anglicans, with delight and diligence, ought to find spiritual satisfaction and maturity in eagerly searching the Scriptures, earnestly surveying Christian history, and devoutly seeking the leading of the Spirit of God. All of these activities are vital for the strength, stability and effective service of the Church. Our membership ought be strong in sound conviction. The whole church should be well equipped in knowledge and capability to commend Christ and his way of salvation and holy living to those around us." Need I say more. You can read his full take here. https://virtueonline.org/pedigree-reformational-anglicanism

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In Christ,

David

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