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By David W. Virtue, DD
December 30, 2021

While the Pandemic occupied most of our thinking in 2021, affecting how, when and where we worshipped, it was by no means the only story. Churches adjusted with online Zoom services, but slowly, over time, parishioners made their way back to their parishes, their priests and people they knew and loved. Financially, it was a rough time for most churches and that will take some time to straighten out. Will plate and pledge ever be the same again? Time will tell. Some churches closed; more are anticipated to go the same way. Small parishes that existed on the edge will likely fall off it if the national church doesn't kick in with dollars to prop them up.

The deeper reality is that most small churches cannot afford a full-time priest, especially if he is married with a family. Wives need to work. Juggling that with children is no easy matter. The future remains uncertain. Average Sunday Attendance will never be the same again.

Nones, (people with no religion) are growing faster and emptying pews of the Church of Jesus Christ in all its myriad forms. Evangelicals and Roman Catholics are feeling the heat as they watch the number of unbelievers shoot past them. Secularization, bad theology, catechetical failure, pansexuality, isolation, loneliness and the irrelevance of church life is emptying churches faster than the Titanic sinking. New reports say that our minds and bodies will pay the price. The West is in serious moral and epistemological decline; this is reflected in church attendance.

VOL's No. 1 story of the year was the revelation that Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury had tried, unsuccessfully, to manipulate the Anglican Communion into accepting homosexuality, but met resistance in the person of Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola. It was all documented in a book by the African Archbishop; Who Blinks First?: Biblical Fidelity Against the Gay Agenda in the Global Anglican Communion. Williams lost. He grossly underestimated the former Nigerian Primate, believing Akinola would blink first over homosexual practice that is racing like an out-of-control virus throughout the Anglican Communion. In the end it was Williams who blinked and retired eight years before he had to.

VOL's No. 2 story was the ownership of $100 million dollars' worth of church property in Ft. Worth. The courts declared Bishop Ryan Reed and his orthodox followers the true owners after getting a final decision in February, leaving them in place when the United States Supreme Court refused, (without comment), to hear the case. It got downright nasty when exiting Episcopalians stripped some five churches of pews, statues of saints, a crucifix and disassembling the high altar. In fact, they took everything short of the kitchen sink, and tried to keep bank accounts. A court order forced them to return it all. The TEC-affiliated diocese renamed itself the Episcopal Church in North Texas. TEC was forced to pay $4.5 million in legal fees and expenses to the ACNA diocese.

VOL's No. 3 story was the forced exit of Bishop William Love of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany for his refusal to embrace Resolution B012 -- homosexual marriage. Love now serves in the non-geographic ACNA Anglican Diocese of the Living Word. Several parishes left with Love and joined up with the ADLW and the ACNA Anglican Diocese in New England.

VOL's No. 4 story was the uproar at the iconic Washington National Cathedral over an invitation to evangelical pastor Max Lucado, who opposes homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Liberal Dean Randolph Hollerith invited the evangelical author to preach a sermon. This action brought down the wrath of homosexual bishop Gene Robinson, lesbian activist priest Susan Russell, along with a bevy of pansexualists, as well as Washington Bishop Mariann Budde, angry and aggrieved over the decision to invite Lucado. The band of progressives backpaddled faster than a speeding bullet with Dean Randolph Hollerith defending his invitation saying, "Our commitment to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters is unshakable and unchanged but "repairing the breach" starts with listening to people who disagree."

VOL's No. 5 story was the debacle at the once stalwart evangelical Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, which saw a practicing homosexual (his "husband" was present) ordained by a progressive Episcopal bishop, one Glenda S. Curry. After thirty years being at war with the diocese, the cathedral succumbed to a woman bishop's will. Canon R. Craig Smalley, the dean, tried to say he did not know this was happening, but he was caught in a lie when the bishop issued a statement saying it was all out there for everyone to read.

Eighteen years ago, Dean Paul Zahl flew a black flag to protest the ordination of a partnered homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire. The cathedral has been embroiled in a long-standing fight with its bishops, with its most recent dean, Andrew Pearson resigning over unresolved tensions with the Episcopal Church.

VOL's No. 6 story was the defection of Rochester, England, Bishop Michael Nazir Ali to Rome. It was a bitter blow to the Church of England and to GAFCON, where he was a theological advisor. Nazir-Ali should have been the Archbishop of Canterbury but got waylaid by then PM Tony Blair. He should have been picked up to run GAFCON Europe, another failure. What makes this so disastrous is that Nazir-Ali was an evangelical, when those who defect are always Anglo-Catholics. His argument that the CofE had lost its way, is, of course true, but the pain of his loss will be felt for a decade and more.

VOL's No. 7 story is that climate salvation and covid outranks heavenly salvation for the 40 primates of the Anglican Communion. They met online in preparation for the next Lambeth Conference and threw their weight behind climate change and the COVID pandemic as chief talking points before the upcoming August Lambeth summit.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and deepened fault lines between rich and poor in our world. This is powerfully demonstrated in the unequal distribution of vaccines. We are united in calling for greater vaccine equity, based on a spirit not of charity but of recognizing the common good in resolving the current disparity. We call for generosity from those who have towards those who have not and for a greater acknowledgment of the effect of the pandemic on health and education," they wrote.

This fulfills the aspirations and yearnings of Archbishop Justin Welby, who believes climate change is the single biggest issue facing humanity to keep the planet from self-destruction. Climate change also dodges the bullet of having to enforce Resolution 1:10 on human sexuality which has deeply divided the Anglican Communion and brought about the birth of GAFCON.

VOL's No. 8 story is the Church of England's "grand operatic death." Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York said this; "Our vision and strategy is a vision and strategy for growth. It is not about managing decline gracefully. We want the Church of England to grow and even if it doesn't -- then let our death be a grand operatic death, let it be fantastic and let's not crawl in a corner." --

The Church of England wants to go out in a blaze of glory, unlike a Guy Fawkes skyrocket that briefly bursts and then flames out as it hits the Thames River. A grand operatic death is what the Archbishop of York wants. That's what he told the Church of England Synod. They may yet get their wish. The CofE is fast fading into the night as it becomes more woke over homosexuality. It excoriates and isolates its traditional and evangelical wings and hopes that by accommodating to the culture, it will bear spiritual fruit. In a population of 66 million, less than three quarters of a million people attend a local parish. Most of the parishes have aging and dying congregants.

VOL's No. 9 story is the GAFCON primates grappling with the consecration of women bishops in Africa. In what might have been an issue to derail GAFCON, eight Primates, met in All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi and declared that, despite a moratorium, a recently consecrated woman bishop in Kenya would not stop the gospel trajectory. "The Jerusalem Declaration affirms that the Bible makes a distinction between salvation issues and other secondary issues."

The Primates acknowledged that while there is disagreement and ongoing discussion on the issues of the ordination of women as deacons or priests, and the consecration of women as bishops, they were agreed that these are not salvation issues. They are not issues that will disrupt their mission: to proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations. On the same occasion, the archbishops excoriated Welsh bishops for blessing same-sex marriages. Anglican leaders noted the establishment of an extra-provincial diocese in Australia.

VOL's No. 10 story is the growing schism in the Anglican Communion. Divisions are deepening almost monthly, with increasing fragmentation over homosexual practice. New revelations about the trajectory of the Church of England, the Mother Church, with a 'Living in Love and Faith' "reconciliation" report touting full homosexual acceptance, only ratchets up the anger among Global South primates, solidifying their determination never to compromise with Western pan-Anglican pro-homosexual attitudes and behaviors. Is it time for a new Anglican Communion? Divisions within the Anglican Communion will not go away and are, in fact, irreversible. GAFCON pledged in late 2020 to form a new Diocese for Anglicans who will be forced to leave the Anglican Church of Australia.

OTHER STORIES of note include the death of TEC 's most notorious heretical bishop John Shelby Spong. His 12 Theses trashed orthodoxy, but the HOB never had the courage to bring him up on charges. South African Bishop Desmond Tutu died leaving a legacy of peace and his non-violent overthrow of apartheid. He did come in for criticism from some Jewish leaders who believed his views on Israel and Jews were antisemitic. Several Episcopal dioceses announced mergers and revelations that they faced unknown futures with the decline in attendance. Those dioceses include the Diocese of Vermont, which faces an uncertain future with all metrics of money and attendance down. Wisconsin's three dioceses face an uncertain future. The Diocese of Eau Claire is at a crossroads, with all three Wisconsin dioceses eyeing greater collaboration.

2022 will not bring better news for the Episcopal Church having abandoned the gospel in favor of woke causes and a social gospel that saves no one and nothing. TEC's decline will continue despite talk of "beloved community" by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. TEC's millions of dollars will not save it. Will the ACNA grow and flourish next year? Archbishop Foley Beach is doing a masterful job walking around landmines that several dioceses face, while pressing for greater evangelism and discipleship; so, the trajectory is good for church growth. The "fields are white unto harvest" and he and his bishops know that. GAFCON will slowly replace the Lambeth Conference as Western Anglicanism moves steadily towards extinction. The future of Anglicanism is the Global South not the dissolute West.


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