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ASIA: Church Aggressively Mission...Ct. Six Axed...Knippers dies...more

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

From the moment you walk into any cathedral or church regardless of how great or small it might be, whether it is in a big city or in a village where the church is often mounted on wooden stilts to withstand flash floods that quickly rise two feet or more in a matter of hours, the words slap you in the face.

On a concrete archway over the Eucharist table at All Saints Cathedral in downtown Kota Kinabalu painted in bright colors are the words "Breakthrough in Mission," "That None Shall Perish," "Following Jesus...all the way," -- and the phrases are written in English, Bahasa Malay, and Mandarin, so everyone gets the message. Inside St. Mark's Church in Lahad Datu there is an extra submission, "Rebuild and Reform."

This is the Church in Southeast Asia -- a church driven by mission to save souls, and not just in thriving metropolitan areas like Singapore, but in cities like Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, and in interior churches locked in jungle areas like Keningau, Lahad Datu, Beluran and Telupid.

I have visited dozens of these churches, and the message is always the same -- do mission work, evangelize, make disciples of all nations -- and that includes the neighboring countries of Indonesia, with its teeming Muslim millions, Thailand, Brunei, and more, all of which have yet to hear the glorious and liberating news of salvation offered in Christ.

A church in Southeast Asia that is not driven by mission is simply not a church that is doing God's business. It's that simple.

It is why Archdeacon Albert Vun, who has successfully grown St. Patrick's Church in Tawau to nearly 4,000, now looks beyond his own church, his city and the geo-political borders around him to Indonesia, the next conquest for the gospel.

I met him in Kota Kinabalu at a clergy conference, and we talked briefly. I soon learned he had a missionary heart. "I want to reach Thailand for Christ," he told me over coffee. I had hoped to meet him again at his church in Tawau, but when I got to the airport I received a gracious letter from him handed to me by one of his staff saying that he was sorry he could not be there to meet me as he had to be in Thailand to inaugurate the opening of the first outreach mission church from Malaysia. The man has his priorities just right.

ON MONDAY I drove in a 23-year-old Toyota taxi to my next "mission" church stop deep in the interior passing through the jungles of Malaysia with its lush greenery to a town called Lahad Datu, where I am the guest of the Rev. Melter Tais his wife and four small children at St. Mark's Anglican Church.

The 200-kilometer ride was not without incident. At one time I saw a military truck overturned and bodies being hauled out by fellow military officers. My taxi driver took one look and floored the accelerator, a cloud of black smoke belched from the car, and we took off like greased lightning. He looked at me and in broken Malay English said "no stoppee." Really. One doesn't mess with the military.

Ten minutes later we encountered the first of two real, live military check points. I saw the sweat beads on my driver's face, and I knew we were in trouble. He took his left hand off the wheel and rubbed two fingers together. I reached for my wallet, extracted a couple of large Ringgit (dollar) bills, and waited. We rolled up to the men with rifles and sweat bands. On an impulse I smiled sweetly and saluted. Immediately the guard with the biggest, most menacing rifle saluted back and waved us on. My driver was ecstatic. "Me Malay pay biggee, you Amelican good for business." The Ugly American has his place in the universe after all, I thought. Twenty miles down the road we encountered our second roadblock. Again my driver gave me the same finger routine, but the sweat was not so noticeable. I took the bills out of my pocket, ready to bribe our way through. Again another smile and salute, and we were waved along. My driver was so excited he almost rammed a truck bearing a load of decidedly prickly-looking fruit. I decided then and there that God had another dimension to his character -- excitement. I reached for my ubiquitous water bottle, wishing it was something a little stronger. The sweat was pouring off me.

We arrived early afternoon, and I was met by Rev. Melter and introduced to his wife and family. Then we headed on downtown for lunch. Halfway through the meal the power failed, and the whole place went dark. The air conditioner instantly died; the fans died slower deaths. I smiled sweetly, and we continued our conversation as though nothing had happened. The conversation was about mission, and not even a power outage deterred the good reverend. Sweating in 95-degree heat and humidity took on a whole new meaning. I took a bucket shower on my return to the vicarage.

That night I spoke to a 50-plus group on Global Christianity and the crisis in the Anglican Communion. They understood every word, and some had even read my scribblings on the Internet. The priest announced that all the churches in town were combining for an all-night prayer meeting as crime was becoming more rampant in the town, illegals were crossing the border from Indonesia, and Jesus needed to be proclaimed boldly. The initiative came from St. Mark's Anglican Church and the priest. And you wonder why the church is growing and prospering and God is adding such as are being saved.

BACK in the U.S., the ongoing news is the fight for their ecclesiastical lives of the "Connecticut Six" against the ravaging and marauding Bishop of Connecticut, Andrew Smith.

To my knowledge, there has never been such an outpouring of support, anger, and outrage at the actions of one bishop. Not even the war against the Rev. Samuel Edwards by Jane Dixon the Bishop of Washington matches this.

To date six retired bishops have blasted Smith; another 17 active, sitting bishops have written him a letter ripping his actions in threatening to inhibit and depose these godly priests, and Bishop Daniel Herzog, bishop of Albany, took the gloves off and in a personal letter to Smith invoked the Nazi era reminding him of what Martin Niemoller said about silence... "when they came for me there was nobody left to defend me."

The broadsides took Smith by surprise. This is the largest single group of priests in the Episcopal Church ever to be threatened with deposition, and he is being slapped around like a dying seal tossed around by whales in the ocean.

Smith's personal e-mail address was floated widely, and he has received hundreds of e-mails from outraged orthodox laity and clergy across the country. Here it is again. adsmith@ctdiocese.org. Write to him and tell him exactly what you think. He won't love you for it, but who cares? We are in a fight for the soul of the church, and these priests are worth saving.

As a result of the pressure Smith relinquished a little and said he would re-examine the whole issue and invited yet another meeting with the "Connecticut Six." They in turn said they would think about it, no doubt sensing that a goodly chunk of Episcopal and Anglican opinion is against him, if not the primates themselves, and anything he does to precipitate a crisis will show the Global South bishops, yet again, the fascist behavior of revisionist Episcopal bishops. But late yesterday talks broke down.

VirtueOnline has learned that civil action is pending as Smith's use of Canon 10 is being misused to deny the six priests the trial to which they are entitled. You can read all the documents and stories that are flowing from this bishop's actions in today's digest. It is a major historical move that will have repercussions for years to come.

FRANK GRISWOLD betrayed his hand big time. He lost control of himself in Camp Allen, Texas, recently, lashing out at Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, and previously in Ireland where he accused six orthodox leaders of being numbered among the servants of the Father of Lies. There is increasing evidence that Frank Griswold's force fields are taking major hits from extra-terrestrial beings. One day when "every knee will bow," Griswold will have a severe attack of osteoporosis right before he heads to his "Father of Lies," the same Father who was apparently seen stalking the halls of Dromantine in Ireland in the guise of orthodox Primates and their lackeys.

Now we must state the truth and state it boldly. It is not just the six orthodox persons he named as being in league with the Devil in Ireland; Griswold's comments indict ALL orthodox bishops, clergy, and laity in the Episcopal Church. We cannot ignore that truth. We have reached the point where truth is now turned completely on its head, with the remaining orthodox in the Episcopal Church being the devil's handmaidens while the liberals, revisionists and pansexualists, including a homoerotic bishop, are the ones doing the will of God or at least the will of The Episcopal Church and Frank Griswold.

So the question must be asked, in light of Griswold's belief that it is we the orthodox, both evangelical and Anglo-Catholic who are serving Satan and not his revisionist bishops, including the homoerotic V. Gene Robinson, what then is our future in the Episcopal Church? Do we have one? What strategy can the orthodox muster to make any difference at GC2006? If rites for same-sex blessings are formalized and passed, then it would seem the only strategy left is for the orthodox bishops and those handful of orthodox in the House of Deputies to leave. I have been told the Network bishops are meeting next month to consider a strategy for GC2006, I will let you know what it is when I find out.

When I asked Archbishop Yong Ping Chung in Kota Kinabalu last week, before leaving on my tour of the interior, if he thought there was much hope for the repentance of the leaders of the ECUSA, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't think so. I see no evidence of it."

Asked if he still believed that confirming the work of the Anglican Mission in America was a good thing, he nodded and said yes. "It was imperative that a safe place be established for the Episcopal Church's faithful believing Christians. It was necessary then and I would do it all over again. It would also seem to me that things are getting worse in America not better. Witness what is happening in Connecticut."

UNRAVELLING THE LANGUAGE at Dromantine. There is still talk about what was said or meant in the language of the communiqué from Ireland. The two words "voluntary withdrawal" were in the final draft. However, this has been understood by the Global South Primates to mean "suspension" for the Episcopal Church and the Canadians. Archbishop Yong explains it like this: "When you tell a person he is not welcome, and please don't come, it means precisely that. It's a polite way of showing them the door." That was the intent of the language. Now the Global South Primates allowed the words 'voluntary withdrawal' rather than 'suspension' in deference to the archbishop of Canterbury, who they felt was being put in the middle of the whole mess and had no way out." Unfortunately at the end what was left was confusion on all sides.

But one thing is certain, regardless of what happens in June in Nottingham with the Anglican Consultative Council and the North American provinces, the final test will be GC2006. If there is no real and explicit repentance, then it is over for the ECUSA. Another Primate told VirtueOnline that either the Americans and Canadians will be asked to withdraw permanently from the communion and walk apart, or the majority of Global South bishops will walk away from any future primatial or Lambeth conferences. So the end will come next year, not Lambeth 2008, because that would only be a bloodbath that Rowan Williams has no ability to handle. In short it would be a tsunami for the communion, unlike a low-level tidal wave that occurred in 1998.

IN AUSTRALIA the newly consecrated Bishop David Chislett has been banned from his parish and his licence as rector of All Saints Brisbane pulled following his recent consecration at Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Philadelphia. In an allied move Bishop Ross Davies' has been banned by Archbishop Watson of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. He issued an authoritative bulletin to his "colleagues" banning Bishop Davies, Anglican Bishop of The Murray, and any other bishop not in communion, from officiating in the archdiocese unless written authority has been obtained. The bulletin said, "you are not to issue any invitation to Bishop Davies or to any bishop of a church that is not in communion with this Church to minister in the Diocese of Melbourne unless you have first received the written authority of the Archbishop of Melbourne and the invitation is in accordance with that authority. I also advise that, as Acting Primate, that I have made a reference to the General Synod Church Law Commission concerning matters relating to the consecration earlier this month."

Clearly the lines are being sharply drawn around the communion.

THE LATEST ISSUE OF ALPHA features the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, on the front cover speaking at an Alpha supper.

In his talk, titled "Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant?" Dr. Williams compared the Christian faith to a landscape and described Alpha as "a course that will try and give you a little bit of basic guidance through the landscape."

He said, "It won't instantly answer all the questions. It won't nail down the ultimate truth, the final argument, which will persuade you beyond all shadow of doubt...it is a door through which I hope and pray that you will glimpse what the landscape is like."

Once again we see the leader of 80 million Anglicans at his ambiguous finest. Nothing too definitive, behold the landscape, give it a try maybe, hold onto your doubts if need be. So what happened to Jesus as the Alpha and Omega, the Chief Cornerstone, the First and the Last, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the only way to the Father, etc? It is precisely this kind of muddled, convoluted thinking and reasoning that has the orthodox scratching their heads.

What do you think would happen if the archbishop of Southeast Asia got up and said to all his clergy, "My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as you confront Buddhism, Islam, materialism and despair, tell them about the (Christian) landscape... it won't nail down the ultimate truth, the final argument ... oh and by the way if coming to Christ is an option for you as you look out on the landscape of life ... do consider it."

Let me tell you, church planting would cease, and within a generation the faith would whither and die. Now it is precisely because the church here has a firm conviction about who Jesus is; His message and what his life, death and resurrection mean, that it is growing and thriving. Affirming Catholicism might play in the halls of academe; it will never play on the street, where sin and salvation is the only game and where the destiny of souls is at stake. Alpha is big news here in Southeast Asia. The movement has just hired its first full-time regional director, the Rev. Fred David who gave up the security of a thriving parish in Kota Kinabalu to spread the Alpha word.

I will write more from this land with its aggressive clergy on fire for God. For more stories on the Church on Southeast Asia go to www.virtueonline.org.

LATE BREAKING NEWS...Mrs. Diane Knippers, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington and founder of Speak Out! passed away this week after a long and valiant fight against cancer. She was a founder member of Anglican Mainstream International and a vestry member of Truro Church, Virginia where she attended with her husband/artist Ed Knippers. She was outspoken in her condemnation of the Episcopal Church's leadership and her last act before dying was to call on Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to resign for his appalling leadership of the Episcopal Church and for his statements at Dromantine and Texas.

All blessings,

David W. Virtue, DD

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