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ACoC Synod Nixes then Approves Same Sex Marriage * TEC takes San Joaquin * CofE Shared Conversations deemed success by ABC * Bishop Bell Pedophile charges Upheld * Evangelicals Back Donald Trump * Church of South India Leaders examined for Fraud

Twentieth-century liberalism hollowed out the mainline churches and has left them in ruins, demographically and financially --- Joe Boot

Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God" - William Carey

Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you" Exodus 20:24

Pharisaism haunts the churches of the West ... It ruins true religion, for reality is an indispensable condition of God's blessing. We must be more honest before God, more open with each other and more real in ourselves if we are to expect God to use us. -- John R.W. Stott

"They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion" -- Psalm 84:7. This is an encouragement to finish well in life, to keep going and to believe the later years can be more fruitful than the former years --- Pippa Gumbel

These [Canadian] Anglican bishops presiding over the decrepit remnants of old liberalism's assault on their churches appear ready to hammer the last nails into their own coffin of spiritual apostasy and cultural irrelevance. --- Joe Boot

Christianity without Christ is a frame without a picture, a casket without a jewel, a body without breath. --- John R.W.Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
July 15, 2016

It was one of those moments that if you were not listening carefully you might have missed. But what he said profoundly affected me and probably many more. The Police Chief of Dallas, who is Black, was telling us all about the shootings in his city when he said this. "I am a man of faith. In 2010, my son killed a police officer and was then shot and killed himself in a shoot-out that followed."

In his six years as police chief, David Brown has endured profound tragedy -- in many different ways. This past week, a sniper gunned down four of his Dallas police officers and killed an additional officer.

Then he told us how he lost his own son in a police-related shooting. How else but a sustaining faith could sustain a man in such a time as this. Then he made this heartfelt plea; "We're hurting. Our profession is hurting. Dallas officers are hurting. We are heartbroken," Brown said. "There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred to our city. All I know is this: This must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens."

I don't suppose I have listened to a more heart rending moment from a police officer as this. I did not see this coming. I expected a bunch of hard-nosed white cops, AR 15s hanging on their arms, staring into the cameras with language about taking out those mofos, and then saddling up, ready for all-out war on the streets of Dallas. It never happened. The Police were decidedly restrained.

Later I watched a tweet where a group of Black Lives Matter came head to head with a gang of counter protest whites, with slogans saying All lives Matter, and I thought 'here we go, the fun (or shooting) is about to start.' And then an extraordinary thing happened, the white brothers, complete with American flags, crossed the street, embraced the Black brothers and a prayer meeting ensued, complete with a cop praying with them. There's hope for America despite what happened in Dallas this past week.

*****

In San Joaquin, California, this week, it was a case of case closed. The Episcopal Church won a massive legal victory worth an estimated $50 million when the California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the breakaway Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.

The court action brings an end to eight years of litigation that pitted Episcopalians against former Episcopalians and cost millions in legal fees. The Anglican diocese will comply with the ruling and vacate the 28 properties involved in the case, said the Rt. Rev. Eric Menees, its bishop since 2011.

"I'm not going to take the Episcopal Church to court," Menees said two days before the ruling, as he considered the prospect of no review by the court. "I'm not going to do anything other than work with them to hand over the properties."

Now the Episcopal Church is poised to reclaim assets across California's Central Valley, from Fresno to Bakersfield, Modesto, and San Rafael. Assets at stake include investments, such as those in endowment portfolios, as well as a crown jewel of real estate: Evergreen Conference Center, Oakhurst, located 12 miles from Yosemite National Park.

Meanwhile, congregations now affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America are gearing up to use backup plans they hoped to never need. They will be moving out, Menees said, and into other facilities that have agreed to take them as tenants.

Ministries will continue, Menees said, but outreach will be hampered, as congregations move further away from the neighbors they have been serving. Among those bracing for the transition is St. James Cathedral in Fresno, where a Spanish-speaking community has swelled almost 20-fold from 50 in 2008 to 950 today.

"It's going to be hard to find a place that's large enough to accommodate them," Menees said.

The untold story is who will now fill these soon to be empty Episcopal churches? Certainly not Episcopalians. There aren't enough to go around. Watch out for a huge sale of empty parishes in the coming weeks. They will be bought by Muslim organizations or other evangelical churches looking to house growing churches.

The New Zealand born bishop, who was parachuted into the diocese to take over after John-David Schofield died and two Episcopal bishops, Jerry A. Lamb ad Chester Talton, were sent in as provisional bishops before its latest provisional bishop, David Rice, was parachuted in.

It's sort of ironic that the only two New Zealanders that have landed on these shores affiliated with the Anglican Communion, have been a liberal in the person of David Rice and the other is Bishop Julian Dobbs of CANA/ACNA!

You can read canon lawyer Allan Haley's brilliant take on all this here: http://tinyurl.com/hlsn7c7

*****

THE other big news in North America this week was what took place in the Anglican Church of Canada. The synod met and voted on same-sex marriage.

On the first vote, the resolution lost by one vote in the clergy ranks. Cries ascended, with homosexuals and lesbians weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth about a homophobic church, with half a dozen bishops saying they would not honor the vote and go ahead and pronounce their blessing on same-sex "marriages" anyway. It was 'local option' writ large, a lesson clearly learned from the Episcopal Church.

Then "miraculously" (praise the Lord) it was announced out of thin air by the ACoC General Secretary, Michael Thompson, that his vote had been overlooked in the electronic count. Initially, it was thought that it had been miscoded as a lay vote, rather than as a clergy vote. So, suddenly, everything changed, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz breathed a sigh of relief, wiped his brow on a large handkerchief given to him, no doubt, by the Dean of the cathedral in Vancouver, and said the resolution had passed.

Thompson claimed that he was designated (and, therefore, his clicker was designated) in the database as a non-voting member of synod. Any computer program worth anything would immediately flag this as an error as soon as the non-voting member used his secure clicker in an attempt to vote. The marriage canon vote was at the end of the synod. How many times had Thompson already used the clicker before this in other votes? Why was the error not flagged before the marriage canon vote? Either the Data on the Spot programmers have some serious problems with missing error routines in their computer code or..... there is something very fishy going on."

There should be a thorough third party audit of the whole process.

When VOL asked what impact the voting might have on The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America and part of the global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans which affirms the Jerusalem Declaration, VOL was told that there did not seem to be any interest in those three dioceses joining the ANiC.

It should be noted that while a number of liberal and revisionist diocese will now go ahead and perform same-sex marriages (which several said they would do regardless of how the Synod voted), canon law won't change until the 2019 vote.

One bishop, considered a conservative, is Michael W. Hawkins, the current Bishop of Saskatchewan. He is on record as saying that the differences on the issue of sexuality should not get in the way of the greater commonalities that unite Anglicans. www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/-we-need-each-other "The bishops of the diocese of Saskatchewan have said that even though they do not support changing the marriage canon to allow for the marriage of same-sex couples, they will work for unity regardless of the vote's outcome. What unites us is our faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. While these disagreements are painful and distressing, we need each other."

Another source told VOL that there seems to be concerted efforts to more tightly tie the (mostly small, northern, poor) conservative dioceses to the ACoC, as many of these dioceses receive significant dollars from the ACoC. See www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/northern-dioceses-enjoying-upsurge-in-partnerships-with-south

"I also believe that the "frog" has been in the "water" too long to jump out even though the water is now nearly boiling," said the source.

One story that did emerge from this, exclusive to VOL, is the story of all the bullying that went on against three orthodox bishops, which you can read in today's digest. You can also read another VOL exclusive story of an Anglican priest from Iran who found the Lord from an Islamic background and then became a priest in the ACoC. He fell foul of his Toronto Bishop, Colin Johnson, and, before that, Terence Finlay, who turns up at Gay Pride Parade days with all the gusto of a bull in heat.

You can read four stories on all this in today's digest.

*****

AND then there was all the sham talk about the "Shared Conversations Process" going on in the Church of England in an attempt to broker same sex marriage into that church.

Members of General Synod met in an informal setting in which they had listened and been heard as they reflected together on scripture and a changing culture in relation to their understanding of human sexuality.

Throughout these conversations, deep convictions were shared and profound differences better understood. The Shared Conversations over the last two years came to a conclusion, with over 1300 members of the church directly involved. "It is our hope that what has been learned through the relationships developed will inform the way the church conducts whatever further formal discussions may be necessary in the future. It is our prayer that the manner in which we express our different views and deep disagreements will bear witness to Jesus who calls us to love as he has loved us."

In comments to members of Synod at the end of the Shared Conversations, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:

"At the heart of it is to come back to the fact that together we seek to serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and in whom there is never despair, there is never defeat; there is always hope, there is always overcoming; there is always eventual triumph, holiness, goodness and grace."

Theologian Dr. Joe Boot and Andrea Williams of Christian Concern said this, "The outcome of the shared conversations was as many predicted; confusion, frustration, disappointment and division. The paucity of the biblical argument to support anything other than that of the Orthodox and presently held position was ignored. It was replaced by a simple appeal to secular norms. . At a time when what the church needs is clear leadership and biblical clarity we are confronted with the hand-wringing of leading bishops, with head shakes and hand-waving at the Christian Concern booth as though Jesus own words from the New Testament on Christian Concern banners in the lobby were offensive. Traditionally orthodox bishops are now refusing to 'state their position' and the rudder of the ship is being steered in the wrong direction."

REFORM and other orthodox Anglicans did not participate in this charade, as they know full well that feelings now come before Scripture when these kind of gabfests occur, and they were not going to participate in something where the whine of the few would override 2,000 years of church teaching. It'll be interesting to see if they finally make a move to leave the CofE.

The Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes has written a brilliant commentary on this shared charade nonsense in today's digest. You can see it here: http://tinyurl.com/zbz3y9n

*****

The Church of England this week defended its handling of Bishop George Bell abuse case. Bell was accused of being a pedophile 37 years after his death. Despite demands to publish the evidence against him, the Church would not do this because of a "moral duty" to safeguard the victim, it said.

Supporters of Bishop Bell, who achieved international recognition for his opposition to the Nazis and his work on behalf of the Jews during the war, have protested repeatedly at the damage caused to his reputation by allegations that have not been proven in court.

The Chichester diocese paid compensation to the complainant, Carol, in September, 2015. The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, also formally apologized to her.

Bell's condemnation as a pedophile was then challenged by a group of lawyers, academics, politicians and senior Church figures. They wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year, and also circulated a document in defence of Bell to members of the General Synod meeting in York last weekend.

Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday, has been among the most vocal defenders of Bell.

In a letter today to those objecting, Bishop Paul Butler, Church of England lead bishop on safeguarding, says the Church was right to settle the claim.

He writes: "I am aware that as a group you have found our decision to settle a civil claim - and publicly say so - very difficult and have articulated your reasons for this both in various statements and other public forums including your website."

The Church of England recently announced a review of lessons learned from how it handled the case, he says.

*****

It's possibly the biggest evangelism opportunity of the millennium. Church leaders are adopting the Pokemon slogan in aid of their own evangelism: "Gotta catch 'em all" as thousands of Pokemon Go players turn up on their doorsteps.

The "augmented reality" gaming phenomenon, which has added up to $9 billion to the value of Nintendo since it was released just days ago in the United States, New Zealand and Australia, has given an unexpected boost to churches.

Churches have not always been the greatest fans of the distinctive pocket monsters, such as Pikachu and the "legendary" Rayquaza. But that is changing as fast as a player can catch a Pidgey on their mobile phone.

The wireless geo-location technology used in the game means many "gyms" and "Pokestops" are church buildings.

And it is the rare millennials, the missing generation in many churches, who are turning up at churches across America and Australia in swarms to catch Pokemon and do battle for control of gyms.

If UK phones are reset to the United States, the game can also be played in Britain, which has led to a Methodist church in Birmingham being identified as one of the UK's first known PokeStops, after players started turning up. The City Road church has now posted new signs advertising its 11am Sunday service: "Pokemon Go Gym, you are welcome - Jesus Cares About Pokemon Gamers".

A Presbyterian church in San Diego organized a free, church lunch with a Pokemon "lure" event. The church wrote on Facebook: "We'll be setting lures tomorrow from 12-1 at our pokestop (church sign). Come by our sidewalk to catch Pokemon, get free lunch and maybe even take control of our Pokemon Gym (Sanctuary)."

One US church put on its sign: "We are a pokestop. Get supplies outside, find Jesus inside."

*****

Evangelicals in the US are backing Donald Trump, while the 'nones' are rallying behind Hillary Clinton, according to the latest Pew Research Center. They find that, despite the professed wariness toward Trump, among many high-profile evangelical Christian leaders, evangelicals are, if anything, even more supportive of Trump than they were of Mitt Romney at a similar point in the 2012 campaign.

Nearly eight in ten white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, including a third who "strongly" back his campaign.

Meanwhile, voters who describe their religion as "atheist," "agnostic" or "nothing in particular" are lining up behind Clinton, much as they supported Barack Obama in 2012.

Two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated registered voters say they would vote for Clinton if the election were held today.

"Considering both groups are quite large, the votes of white evangelical Protestants and religious 'nones' could be important to the outcome of the 2016 election," says Pew in its report.

White evangelical Protestants make up one-fifth of all registered voters in the US.

Religious "nones," who have been growing rapidly, make up one-fifth of all registered voters.

The support for Trump among Christians is solid, even though many evangelical leaders have suggested it is incompatible with evangelical principles and beliefs. In the survey, more than half of white evangelical voters say they are dissatisfied with the choice of presidential candidates.

*****

A sliver of light in the Culture Wars. McDonald's will now start blocking porn access over its free WiFi.

If you've been using McDonald's free WiFi to check out the latest porn while eating a McGriddle, we've got some bad news for you. The fast food giant recently adopted a new filtered WiFi policy that prevents guests from viewing pornography on their phones, tablets, and laptops while visiting the company's corporate-owned restaurants, internet safety advocacy group Enough is a Enough announced Wednesday. A spokesperson for McDonald's confirmed the policy change to Consumerist this week.

"McDonald's is committed to providing a safe environment for our customers, and we are pleased to share that Wifi filtering has been activated in the majority of McDonald's nearly 14,000 restaurants nationwide," the spokesperson said.

ON the other side of the Culture Wars, an advertisement pushing transgender "bathroom rights" is set to air during the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

The 60-second spot features a man pretending to be a woman, attempting to use the woman's restroom before a second individual, presumed to be a store manager, stops him from entering. The manager's actions are quickly usurped by two ladies, who scold him and escort the cross-dressing man into the ladies' room.

The ad concludes with the transgender individual's voiceover, maintaining amendments to the law in favor of transgender "rights" would "help to insure that people like [him] aren't mistreated when we need to do something as basic as using the restroom."

"This ad cuts through the political rhetoric and simply asks people to consider the serious challenges and discrimination faced by transgender people - discrimination that is still legal in most states," argues Ineke Mushovic, the executive director for the Movement Advancement Project, one of several organizations that produced the spot. "Most Americans want to do the right thing, but they have never met a transgender person, so they have misconceptions."

The ad will debut on FOX News July 21, during the network's coverage of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland; the following week, it will appear during MSNBC's broadcast of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

*****

From Chennai, India, comes ongoing news of serious fraud allegations against the Church of South India. There have been complaints of discrepancies.

VOL has written about this before and said that the Anglican Church in India (north and south) is now the most corrupt in the world. That 'honor' was once held by Mexico. No longer. India gets first place.

The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has begun a probe of alleged financial irregularities at the country's largest Protestant denomination. The fraud investigator got into the picture after individual audits found discrepancies in the books of the Church of South India Trust Association, which manages the Protestant church in the country, and is headquartered in Chennai.

The Registrar of Companies, through an inspection audit last year and a series of income-tax audits since 2010, found the institution was not providing a clear picture of its accounts and not maintaining a list of properties. CSI Trust Association, incorporated as a religious and charitable company under Section 25 of Companies Act, faces various other allegations including making amendments to its rule book without the Centre's approval.

"The order for investigation was received just a week back," said a top official with the Chennai office of SFIO, on condition of anonymity.

The investigation is the culmination of a campaign -- starting in 2007 -- by church members who moved agencies from the local police in Coimbatore to the Prime Minister's Office to probe alleged fraud.

A VOL reader, the Rev. Dr. Joseph G Muthuraj, has written a commentary piece titled Devils Lurking in the Church of South India Books? and says the State is doing the spiritual job of exorcising the devils that seem to lie behind all types of account books and files in the CSI.

"The CSI is engulfed in a systemic corruption well-oiled by persons in power. It seems that for the bishop 'corruption' is probably a semantic issue. It is defined basically as "the abuse of public office for private gain". It means that an official accepts, solicits, or extorts a bribe and also sells church property to obtain secretly personal gain. In corruption, 'a position of trust is being exploited to realize private gains beyond what the position holder is entitled to' and 'even if the gain involved is not illicit under applicable law'. This type of corruption is tolerated and even encouraged in the CSI.

"The motivation for fraud and embezzlement is the pressure for the "need" of money to pay back a personal debt, accumulate wealth for oneself, win elections and to maintain authority and control in all circumstances. The system provides opportunities for fraudsters to have access to assets and also ways to conceal the illicit deals. They rationalize in their minds that 'fraud' is okay and as a result lies are generated to justify the covert actions."

The professor of NT also took a swipe at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and said the ACC should not entertain some of the culprits who may seek asylum with the Anglican churches world-wide when the enquiry is going tough for them or when they seek to evade possible punishment. "The ACC seems to be engaging in actions in support of Moderators and bishops (both past and present) without fully appreciating the crisis that the Church of South India has been subjected to. It is my fervent appeal that the ACC authorities do not quench the spirit of reformation that is evident among the rank-and-file Christians of the CSI and that it takes their concerns seriously and also extends moral support, whenever necessary, to those who are fighting against corruption in the church." You can read his take in today's digest.

*****

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