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BISHOPS to meet in Utah...Tsunami invites Apb's doubts about God...ECUSA news...

"We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of another." C.S. Lewis on Apologetics, 1945

Dear Brothers and Sisters,


In a week the House of Bishops will gather in Salt Lake City to consider the Windsor Report and its implications for the Episcopal Church and the church's long term future with the Anglican Communion.

Nothing much is expected to come out of it except perhaps another vague regret for the pain ECUSA has caused the rest of the Anglican Communion, but Griswold will make sure that the HOB will continue the process of (endless) conversation, offering no conclusive statements or resolutions that propose any about face in the church's direction on pansexual behavior. No one would dare suggest that homoerotic bishop V. Gene Robinson step down, and no one will even hint that ordinations of avowed homosexuals and lesbians to the priesthood should cease.

One bishop, John W. Howe (Central Florida) has proposed that the HOB accept a five-point proposal for them to consider including regret for having damaged the Communion; demonstrate a desire to continue to "walk together" with the rest of the Communion; agree to a moratorium on same sex-blessings and the consecration of non-celibate homosexual persons until or unless a "new consensus" emerges in the Communion that such actions are seen as legitimate in the light of Scripture and Christian tradition; ask those among us who believe such actions are legitimate to "make their case" to the rest of the Communion and ask those of us who participated in the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire to refrain from representing the Anglican Communion in international and ecumenical gatherings following the example of our Primate who resigned from leadership in the ARCIC work.

How this will go down remains to be seen but it is the best thing so far to emerge and clearly a good starting point. The bishops will also find a group of orthodox priests gathered there to pray for them.

But Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman told The Christian Challenge magazine that the intention of the faithful bishops' participation is to help "shape the response" of the HOB to the Windsor Report, which they want to directly address those parts of the report specifically relating to Episcopal bishops. Ackerman also said that it is "quite likely" that (especially if their efforts are less than fruitful) the faithful bishops will issue some sort of statement following the meeting that would be distributed to Anglican primates in advance of their critical February meeting.

But C. S. Lewis's statement is worth reflecting on. If these bishops hold views at variance with the 'faith once delivered' and from the vast majority of orthodox bishops in the communion what business do they have holding onto their bishoprics!

UNOFFICIAL WORD OUT OF LAMBETH PALACE is that when the Primates meet in February in Ireland that Rowan Williams is unlikely to agree to anything that puts ECUSA or Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold down. If that is true then it all now depends on how many of the Global South archbishops will demand action, a source told VirtueOnline. The future of the communion will rest on the shoulders of the outspoken Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola and some 22 fellow orthodox Primates. On another note, when Frank Griswold preaches at the Choral Eucharist in the cathedral in Belfast on February 20 a number of Irish Evangelical Anglicans will stage a protest, VirtueOnline has learned. "I think we can expect some form of protest by the still robust core of traditional Prayer book evangelical Church of Ireland clergy," said a source.

THE TSUNAMI EARTHQUAKE AND FLOOD continues to hold center stage and Anglicans around the world, but mostly American Episcopalians are shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the mostly affected areas in Southeast Asia under the archbishop there, the Rt. Rev. Yong Ping Chung.

I have posted two stories: one examines the various voices in the Anglican Communion including the Archbishop of Canterbury's incoherent and theologically fuzzy response that got him into trouble with the London Telegraph over a headline they put on his own words. If he can't be clear about the nature of a loving God and natural evil what are ordinary Anglicans supposed to think? You can read what he wrote and a response to it. A second article explores why the Christian response is so overwhelmingly different from Islamic and Hindu non responses. It is precisely the Great Physician who calls his people to overwhelming acts of love in the face of horrendous unnatural occurrences of evil that blow away the Dharma and Kharma fatalism of Islam and Hinduism. One hates to think what the rest of the world would do if the West Coast of the U.S. was swept away with a tidal wave starting in San Francisco and ending in Seattle. Would we see the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars of aid pouring into this country? One doubts it.

IN U.S. NEWS, Christ the King Anglican Church was born on New Years Day in Lansing, Michigan. Lansing's newest church held its first worship service on the first day of the New Year, 2005 - the first Anglican Church to open in that area.

"Christ the King will be an orthodox Anglican church that will reach out into the community to all those who share our belief that the Scripture is the word of our Lord God Jesus Christ," said one of the founding members, Karen Emerson of Lansing. Christ the King will use visiting clergy to lead services each week. Rev. David M. “Doc” Loomis of the Hudson Anglican Fellowship church in Hudson, Ohio lead the first service. Three other Anglican priests from Michigan assisted Rev. Loomis. The new church is not yet affiliated with the Episcopal Church but it has received organizational assistance from the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Mission in America.
"It is our hope to grow into a full ministry church serving the community and those seeking to be in communion with orthodox Anglicans worldwide,” said Fred Fico, another founding member from East Lansing. “We have a solid foundation of more than 25 families to grow from.” Interested persons can call 517/372-4521 or e-mail remerx@aol.com.

And in the DIOCESE OF CHICAGO VirtueOnline got a call from the Rev. Elijah Olugenga from All Saints Anglican Church on Chicago's south side to say that his Nigerian parish, started barely three months ago, now has 55 members and is off and running. Of course it is not part of the ECUSA and their boss is the Primate of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. Look for more Nigerian Anglican upstart congregations in 2005.

In the DIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES, Bishop Jon Bruno has sanctioned the ordination of another homosexual deacon to the priesthood, scheduled for January 23, 2005 at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul. The deacon is the Rev. Gwynne Guibord who is in a 'committed' relationship with another woman and is a high-profile player in both local and national ecumenical activities. Dr. Guibord had been affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), America's first and openly gay church, but her position as an ecumenical liaison officer was abolished by the MCC in 2002. She then approached the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, seeking to become a postulant. She was ordained deacon in January 2004. She will be ordained priest in January 2005.She is the first openly homosexual person to become president of a state ecumenical council in the USA. Upon her election, Guibord said, "I think that people are beginning to recognize that gays and lesbians are faithful people." Guibord is immensely popular in southern California among the religious elite. She is a psychotherapist by profession (as is her partner). Guibord was ordained a deacon in January 2004 by Assisting Bishop Carranza (former bishop in the Anglican Church of Mexico). Word has it that Bruno will participate at her ordination as priest at the cathedral even though he has publicly said he would not do such ordinations but would allow them to continue in his diocese. This was done as a sop to the three parishes who are litigating against him for their properties. He threw a bone to the orthodox by pledging not to personally participate in same-sex blessings while the Windsor Report is under consideration. Never mind that any priest in his diocese may do otherwise. Indeed, such a 'blessing' was performed in the diocese as recently as December 26!

AND THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH AT SEWANEE is in the news again. The Journal of the Cumberland Center of Justice and Peace, Winter 2004 edition ran a headline: Bishop Robinson Telephones Gay/Straight Homecoming Reception. The reception for gay, straight, and lesbian alumni and their friends and supporters held after the football game on Homecoming Weekend by the Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace and the Sewanee Gay/Straight Alliance at the Bairnwick Women's Center was highlighted by a telephone call from Bishop Gene Robinson, College Class of 1969. The bishop called to send his greetings and wish everyone well and then said he would love to come back to Sewanee - and that if and when he did, meeting with the Gay/Straight Alliance would be at the top of his list of priorities. Asked about his reaction to the Windsor Report the homoerotic bishop said that it was good the Church was moving forward, and despite the objections of many, "you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube."

RECTORS OF THE LARGEST ORTHODOX EPISCOPAL CHURCHES in the U.S. gathered in Florida this week. This annual event usually draws some 18 clergy but it is now down to 14 "battered and bruised" men, said a source. What they talk about is naturally secret but many are taking a beating from revisionist bishops and there will be much talk about what they will do after the Primates have met in Ireland. You can be sure that they will all be weighing their options as they face an uncertain future in the Episcopal Church. To join this exclusive club you have to have a parish with close to four figures in attendance. Surprise, there is nobody from the Diocese of Newark.

AND FROM NEW DIRECTIONS a magazine serving Evangelicals and Catholics seeking to renew the Church comes this. A-gendered Agenda. Why should ECUSA be expected to apologize for the hurt caused by the consecration of an openly gay bishop? The case for gay bishops seems remarkably close to that for women priests. Supporting the latter, one eminent theologian interpreted "In Christ there is neither male nor female" (Gal.3.28) to mean "the difference between male and female is irrelevant…Is one male or female?...No, one is a new person in Christ". If gender is "irrelevant" in Christ, it is "irrelevant" to ordination.

Some of those opposed to the consecration of Gene Robinson signed up to this kind of exegesis and then jumped off at the women priests stop, as if the interpretation was a Routemaster bus. The trouble is that others who also boarded the argument now wonder if the logical destination of the argument isn’t in New Hampshire. For if it really is the case that baptism into Christ means one is no longer male or female it would seem that homosexual acts are not sinful: a man can take the place of a woman and vice versa. Whereas scripture had been understood traditionally to mean homosexual acts indicate pagan degradation, now it seems, it is the Gospel itself that makes such acts legitimate: "Is one male or female? No…baptism makes gender irrelevant".

Of course, St Paul would be rather surprised by this interpretation of Gal.3.28, but that too is irrelevant. Supporters of women’s ordination are happy to agree that (like his Lord) Paul was hopelessly limited by the prejudices of his culture, so he couldn’t see the full implications of the salvation from gender difference Christ had wrought.

The LGCM has noticed that it’s unjust to quote scripture in favour of women priests but against homosexual bishops. Affirming Catholicism, Reform, FiF and the Archbishop of Canterbury have all made a link. When will the rest of the Anglican Communion catch up? Or will they now agree with us that the natural equality between men and women does not so simplistically translate into interchangeability?

In the meantime, the Lambeth Commission has achieved some good: orthodox Anglicans can sympathise with liberals in ECUSA. They are now suffering the kind of injustice and inconsistency they have been meting out to traditionalists for years.

AND THE LATEST FIGURES from the Diocese of California Congregational Development blog comes this. "He who sits in the Heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision." (Psalm 2:4).

The Presbyterian Church USA reports a loss of 46,658 members nationally in 2003 to a total of 2,405,311, down 1.9% from 2,451,969 in 2002;

The Episcopal Church reports a loss of 35,988 active members in 2003 to 2,284,233, down 1.6 % from 2,320,221 in 2000; with a loss of 24,000 in average Sunday attendance;

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America reports a loss of 53,141 baptized members in 2003 to a total of 4,984,925 down 1.1% from 5,038,006 in 2002;

The United Methodist Church – which states that 2003 figures have not yet been released – reported in 2002 a loss of 43,253 domestically to 8,255,207, down 0.5 % from 8,298,460 in 2001.

IN A JUDGMENT that has implications for mainline Protestant property disputes across the country, a California Methodist congregation has won the right to keep its property after breaking its affiliation with the United Methodist Church (UMC). In December, the Supreme Court of California ruled against the nation's third-largest denomination—rejecting a request to review an earlier court decision that awarded the Fresno-based property, worth more than $1.5 million, to a breakaway Methodist congregation.

"We just praise God. This is his victory. This is his property," said Kevin Smith, senior pastor of the formerly Methodist church, renamed St. Luke's Church. The 180-member congregation severed ties with the UMC in 2000. Members, believing the denomination has departed from biblical teachings, sought to retain the church building, which parishioners had paid for over a 50-year period. According to Methodist church law, all church property is held in trust for the national church. The local Methodist jurisdiction, the California-Nevada Annual Conference, sued for ownership. It won the initial trial in 2002. But the Fifth District Court of Appeal overturned that decision last August. The appeals panel ruled that St. Luke's had indeed entered into a trust agreement. But it said that California statutes allow such trusts to be revoked. The Episcopal Church U.S.A., the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) all have similar property trust laws. Three Episcopal Church U.S.A. parishes in Southern California are trying to leave the denomination and keep their church property.
THIS YEAR'S AMIA CONFERENCE in Myrtle Beach, SC next week (January 12-16) is drawing some heavy hitters. The theme is. 'Empowering and Equipping for Mission' and includes author Brian McLaren of the emerging church, Canon Michael Green the grand poobah of evangelism and author of Asian Tigers for Christ and a slew of other books, as well as Bishop David and Mary Pytches and hot shot preacher Bishop Thad Barnum. The big news is that five Primates of the Anglican Communion will also be there including Archbishops Kolini of Rwanda, Yong Ping Chung of Southeast Asia, Nzimbi of Kenya, Malango of Central Africa and Archbishop Dirokpa of the Congo. Two other Bishops Geoffrey Rwubusisi and Josias Sendegeya of Rwanda will also be in attendance. Conference promoters say nearly a 1,000 have signed up. Also in attendance will be the entire contingent from the Anglican Communion in Canada (ACiC).
THE AMERICAN ANGLICAN COUNCIL has produced “Equipping the Saints: A Crisis Resource for Anglican Laity”, an educational resource for individuals and congregations for congregations on the AAC mailing list. But anyone who would like to have a copy can download a PDF version from the AAC website at www.americananglican.org. The booklet includes statistical information, a timeline of
significant events, "Frequently Asked Questions," a glossary, recommended action items for laity and other features.

A STORY ABOUT THE SAUNDERS MISSIONARY that appeared in the last digest provoked an outpouring of sympathy and support. Donations can be sent to the Samaritan Home Relief, c/o Diyana Saunders, 3 Treworthy Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. Checks can be made out to the Samaritan Home Relief. Efforts are underway to raise $400,000 to rebuild and fund the orphanage as many children have been orphaned by the tsunami.

AND FOR SHEER LUNACY you can always take in a lecture on Sufism: The Philosophy of Islam at Christ Church Cathedral, Houston, complete with slides by Turkish native Meli Seval. No word on whether Frank Griswold will attend and give his own personal testimony "beyond good and evil."

An article by Os Guinness, KISSING JUDASES that appeared in the last digest came out rather garbled. If you were frustrated by that I urge you to hit the link below and read it again. I think this is one of the finest articles on what is currently going on in the Episcopal Church today.

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All blessings,

David W. Virtue DD

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