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America in Crisis * Church of England at Crossroads * 100 CofE leaders warn Bishops over Sexuality * Protests over Toronto Homosexual Bishop * Perth Archbishop Roger Herft Steps Down * 6th Trumpet Gathering of Archbishops in Cairo a Defining Moment

If we are in Christ, personally and organically united to him, God blesses us with enormous blessings -- a new status (we are put right with him), a new life (we are renewed by the Holy Spirit) and a new community (we are members of God's family). But how does it happen? We have to come in penitence and faith to Jesus Christ, and commit ourselves to him. It is thus that God unites us to Christ. And this union with him is publicly dramatized in baptism, for to be baptized, Paul wrote, is to be 'baptized into Christ' (Gal. 3:27). --- John R.W. Stott

"My theory is: men distance themselves from church because they think church, and maybe Christianity in general, is feminine, and they want to be masculine and don't want to be feminine." --- Leon J. Podles

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
October 14, 2016

"Our country is entering a crisis. The once expansive, confident middle class is dissolving. Economic globalization has eroded the wages of middle-class workers. An ever-cruder mass culture normalizes dysfunctional behavior. People are either winners or losers, and there's less and less in between," writes R.R. Reno editor of FIRST THINGS magazine.

"...It's a crisis of declining trust and stability, lost solidarity and permanence...A deep sadness comes when we realize, finally that we're on our own, which is where secular individualism brings us in the end. Many now live without a Father in heaven. Political correctness denies them the patrimony of a workable cultural inheritance. For an increasing number of young people, there's not even a father at home. A nation of orphans, literal or metaphorical, will not long endure.

"...Will we seek to live in accord with the idea of a Christian society, or will we accept the tutelage of a pagan society?...By my reckoning, a false view of freedom as unimpeded choice and self-definition has led to a deregulation of culture more consequential than market deregulation... Today's progressivism is waging war on the weak. Putting an end to that war is the most important social justice issue of our time.

"We need to say, out loud and with confidence, that we're best off when we live under the authority of the permanence of marriage, accept the duties of patriotism, and affirm the supernatural claims the church makes upon our souls."

*****

Nearly a hundred evangelical leaders have written to Church of England bishops warning that any change in teaching or practice over same-sex relationships would cause "fundamental disunity".

The letter was sent to every bishop, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, on Tuesday as they consider whether to introduce some form of acceptance or blessing for gay couples. It warns the smallest change would "trigger a process of division and fragmentation among faithful Anglicans".

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has to try and hold the Anglican churches around the world together amid deep divisions over sexuality.

The signatories include major church leaders, as well as heads of Anglican networks and some of the Church's largest theological colleges. Any shift in teaching that sex should only be within marriage between one man and one woman, would "cause a break not only with the majority of the Anglican Communion, but with the consistent mind of the worldwide Church down many centuries," they warn.

"Responses would vary, but the consequences for the life and mission of the Church will be far-reaching, both nationally and globally."

Beneath the question of same-sex relationships were deeper "tectonic issues" including the authority of the Bible, the Church's "apostolic inheritance" and how it relates to wider culture, the letter said.

"Any change in the Church's teaching or practice -- such as the introduction of provisions that celebrate or bless sexual relationships outside of a marriage between one man and one woman -- would represent a significant departure from our apostolic inheritance and the authority of the Bible in matters of faith and doctrine," the letter read.

"It would also, inevitably, be a further step on a trajectory towards the full acceptance of same-sex sexual partnerships as equivalent to male-female marriage."

The 88 signatories include representatives from four major Anglican theological colleges, which train new vicars for the Church. Although signing in a "purely personal capacity", the figures cover Wycliffe Hall, St Mellitus College, St John's School of Mission and Oak Hill College.

Also among the signatories are members of the Living Out group, who describe themselves as "same-sex attracted", but follow the Church's demand of abstinence. Ed Shaw, a trustee of the charity, said that any change would leave him "and thousands of other same-sex attracted Christians high and dry".

He told Christian Today: "It [the Church] has told us for thousands of years we should remain celibate.

You can read the full story in today's digest.

*****

Theologian Ian Paul writes, The Church of England is at a crossroads in her calling to bring hope and transformation to our nation. The presenting issue is that of human sexuality, in particular whether or not the Church is able to affirm sexual relationships beyond opposite sex marriage. But the tectonic issues beneath, and driving, this specific question include what it means to be faithful to our apostolic inheritance, the Church's relationship with wider culture, and the nature of the biblical call to holiness in the 21st Century.

As culture and attitudes continue to change, the Church faces a range of new social realities. These include the rise in cohabitation and the wide scale acceptance of divorce with its negative impact on children, the explosion of diverse types of family relationships, the emergence of gender fluidity and bisexuality, and the recognition of same-sex unions. These far-reaching social changes raise questions and -- in some quarters -- undermine confidence in our inherited teaching.

The Church has not always navigated these social realities well. We recognize the damage caused by judgmental attitudes. We have sometimes failed to recognize acts of great kindness and humanity. We have elevated some sins above others. We have ignored the plank in our own eye. There is much work ahead, not least in ensuring that our communities offer sacrificial hospitality and service to all, regardless of background, family structure or sexuality.

At the same time, we remain convinced of the essential goodness of the Christian moral vision. The Bible is clear that God has given the marriage of one man with one woman as the only context in which physical expression is to be given to our sexuality. We believe that we flourish, whether single or married, as our lives are brought into harmony with God's intended design.

Any change in the Church's teaching or practice -- such as the introduction of provisions that celebrate or bless sexual relationships outside of a marriage between one man and one woman -- would represent a significant departure from our apostolic inheritance and the authority of the Bible in matters of faith and doctrine. It would also, inevitably, be a further step on a trajectory towards the full acceptance of same-sex sexual partnerships as equivalent to male-female marriage.

There are substantive issues at stake here, he writes.

*****

Clergy protest election of homosexual bishop in Toronto. A number of clergy have written to Justin Welby and the Ontario College of Bishops to protest the election of Rev. Canon Kevin Robertson to the position of suffragan bishop. Robertson is married to a man and sees his election as another step towards, in his words, "the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of our church".

The protest is a valiant, if futile, effort to stem the tide of the inevitable. The protesters in the letters below have been saying much the same thing for at least 10 years, probably longer. At each stage, from same-sex blessings to homosexual clergy to homosexual activity not being contrary to the church's core doctrine -- what's left of it -- to, finally, same-sex marriage and homosexual bishops, the protests were as heartfelt as they were impotent. The steady drip, drip of liberal heresy has been accumulating volume and momentum for decades; there will be no stopping it.

The small satisfaction one might take from all this is that the most severe judgement God visits on his people is to remove the restraints that contain the evil in our midst and let us have what we think we want. The Anglican Church of Canada is getting what it wants, and therein lies its doom.

VOL has learned that the newly anointed homosexual bishop, Kevin Robertson, is to be assigned to the episcopal area of York-Scarborough, where his current parish is situated. That means that the flagship evangelical and decidedly non-affirming parishes of St Paul's, Bloor Street (where Jenny Andison hails from) and Little Trinity will have an out and partnered area bishop. For her part, Jenny will replace Bishop Poole in York-Credit Valley, which will make for interesting times at St Thomas's, Huron Street, where women still do not function in a priestly capacity. Riscylla Walsh Shaw will be the second woman in a row to be the bishop of Trent-Durham.

*****

The Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, is standing aside to, in his words "focus" on the sex abuse royal commission.

In a letter to parishioners, Archbishop Herft said he would stand aside with immediate effect, to "focus my attention on the royal commission's ongoing inquiry into the Diocese of Newcastle".

The Archbishop gave evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in August, and said he would stand aside from all duties, including ordinations, pastoral visits, public functions, correspondence and related engagements.

"I have taken this decision after much prayer, thought and consultation with my advisors to allow for the mission and ministry of the Diocese of Perth to flourish," he wrote.

*****

The 6th Trumpet Global South Conference in Cairo bringing together 150 Primates, bishops and laity is over, but the repercussions of what they wrote are now beginning to ripple around the world. These godly men and women made it perfectly clear that they would stand by the teachings of scripture and the Church on human sexuality and they would not be moved by culture and the siren call of sodomites demanding acceptance of their behavior. The whole western Anglican Church might go to Hell, but they will not follow them. Not now, not ever.

The Anglican Communion News Service was basically dismissive of the communique, viewing it as yet another attempt by conservatives not to face the "inevitability" or "reality" of homosexual marriage. The truth is Welby is fiddling while the Communion burns. His refusal to stand by scripture as final and authoritative on sexuality is turning into a tragedy for all sides and for the integrity of the gospel.

The communique was definitive and compelling. Canon Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council, has written a brilliant analysis of this and has written on seven takeaways from that historic communication.

In brief, here they are:

1. The Anglican Church in North America is fully recognized and in communion with the largest ecclesial body of Anglicans within the Anglican Communion

2. Our mission as Anglicans is to extend the Kingdom of God to all corners of the world, and the Kingdom of God is nothing less or other than the righteous, just and compassionate rule of God through Jesus Christ.

3. Mission is rooted in and shaped by Biblical and historic Christian doctrine. Therefore Anglican Churches that depart from Biblical and historic Christian doctrine sever themselves from their roots and compromise their witness and mission.

4. Global South and GAFCON proclaim publicly their intent to work together

5. The current Communion Instruments are "broken cisterns" (Jer. 2:13) that are unable to sustain the life and mission of Anglican Churches worldwide

6. A warning to the Church of England: any pastoral provision for blessing same-sex unions will result in serious consequences

7. The lesson from Carthage: "enhanced ecclesial responsibility" for Bishops

So what's the punchline? It's in these two paragraphs:

The present and potentially escalating crisis poses challenges to the Global South in the shepherding of her people. We recognize the need for our enhanced ecclesial responsibility. We need to strengthen our doctrinal teaching, our ecclesiastical ordering of our collective life as a global fellowship and the flourishing of our gifts in the one another-ness of our mission.

The Global South Primates will therefore form a task force to recommend how these needs can be effectively addressed.

"Enhanced ecclesial responsibility" should be read carefully in light of the lessons learned from the Church in Carthage, whose bishops "were confident of their authority to order the Church." (para. 19). "Enhanced ecclesial responsibility" should also be read carefully in the context of both the ordering and shepherding of the churches of the Global South, and "our ecclesiastical ordering of our collective life as a global fellowship." (para. 32, emphasis added) Is this "global fellowship" simply the Anglican Churches of the Global South? Or is it beyond that?

You can read his full take in today's digest.

These VIEWPOINTS are brief owing to limited Internet access and because my wife and I are endeavoring to take a vacation. I hope you will understand.

In Christ,

David

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