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CHRIST stripped from Christmas...Solstice service at cathedral...diocesan news

"The battles over Christmas also demonstrate that it's not Christian conservatives imposing their values for the sake of radical change. It's actually a tiny minority of secularist militants who want to remake America into a less religious society, thereby provoking indignant backlash from believers who want only to defend long-standing traditions." Michael Medved from Behind the News

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

If one had any doubts that the Christian Faith in America is under serious attack, one has only to consider what the ACLU is doing in state after state - removing the Ten Commandments, Christmas crèches, crosses in flags, in fact anywhere the public square might have a Christian symbol it is being sued into oblivion and removed.

Attempts to strip Christmas of any Christian content are meeting with growing success with each passing year.

"School districts in New Jersey and Florida ban Christmas carols. The mayor of Somerville, Mass., apologizes for "mistakenly"'' referring to the town's "holiday party'' as a "Christmas party." The Broward and Fashion malls in South Florida put up a Hanukkah menorah but no nativity scene. The manager of one of the malls explains: Hanukkah commemorates a battle and not a religious event, although he hastens to add ``I really don't know a lot about it." He does not. Hanukkah commemorates a miracle, and there is no event more "religious" than a miracle," writes Charles Krauthammer, who is himself Jewish.

The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique, he writes.

Yet more than 80 percent of Americans are Christian and probably 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Christmas Day is an official federal holiday, the only day of the entire year when, for example, the Smithsonian museums are closed. Are we to pretend that Christmas is nothing but an orgy of commerce in celebration of ... what? The winter solstice?

BUT NOT TO BE OUTDONE OR LEFT BEHIND the Episcopal flagship cathedral St. John the Divine in New York City held a series of "Winter Solstice" concerts this past week, fulfilling the fears of many that the Episcopal Church in its mad gadarene desire for cultural acceptance or disappearance may have finally won the title of Episcopaganism.

On these never to be remembered occasions, the audience is taken on a symbolic journey through the longest night of the year. The return of the sun is represented by the world's largest tam-tam gong, seven feet in diameter, which ascends, played by a musician in a bosun's chair, up toward the Cathedral Nave's 100-foot-high ceiling. New this year, a "Moon Gong"--a giant Chinese wind gong with shimmering sound--moved with its player horizontally across the Narthex of the Cathedral.

Another effect took advantage of the Cathedral's 604-foot interior length: a giant "Earth Ball," moving along the aisle as if through space, and then rising, spinning, up into the vault of the Nave. Set "in the round," musicians play from various points and heights including a stage, surrounded by the audience, near the middle of the Cathedral. The stage's centerpiece was a giant, rotating "Tree of Sounds," a 28-foot-tall spiral sculpture laden with bells, gongs and chimes."

Paul Winter's Sun Gong celebrated the return of the sun after the longest night of the year. The musical, theatrical, dance and environmental spectacle, the multicultural, ecumenical event celebrated the triumph of light over darkness during the Holidays.

NOW TRY TO IMAGINE the cathedral in downtown Lagos where the Primate of Nigeria Peter Akinola has just announced that he will return the church to pre-Christian nature worship and polytheism with an array of Nigerian earth eating, gong bong, lesbitransgay, won ton soup sipping, partially naked polygamists with harps dancing and singing the joys of returning once again to being one with nature. Symbolically the Primate picks up a specially bound copy of St. John's gospel and hurls it into a specially prepared fire in the nave, symbolizing the end of St. John's rather narrow, uninclusive view of darkness and light.

The Nigerian Church's desire to double the church from 18 to 36 million in three years just went up in a pillar of pepper corn smoke.

ON THE HOME FRONT the dioceses are rivaling each other to try and figure out who can go out of business the fastest.

Consider the following resolution that will be presented to the DIOCESE OF VIRGINIA convention at the end of January 2005. Here it is:

Whereas, General Convention 2003 affirmed the right of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons to be ordained and/or consecrated; and Whereas, Justice demands a fair and open society; and Whereas, The Episcopal Church has always been a discovering community appreciate of new learning; and Whereas, Individuals have no choice with regard to sexual orientation; and Whereas, The time has come to affirm the true identity of the Episcopal Church in America; THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, THAT ANY DISSIDENTS REMOVE THEMSELVES FROM CHURCH ROLES AND CLERGY RENOUNCE THEIR MINISTRIES AND BISHOPS RESIGN and that the Church move forward as an open, tolerant and accepting community, grateful for the action of General Convention 2003; and be it further Resolved, That General Convention 2006 reaffirm the actions of General Convention 2003, and that experimental liturgies of union be practiced through the whole Church. Submitted by the Rev. A. Patrick L. Prest. Another wonderful example of Via Media inclusivity.

Now if this passes can one doubt that the entire northern half of the diocese which is solidly orthodox won't send a letter to Bishop Peter Lee telling him in no uncertain terms that they are gone and he can do his damndest in the courts for the properties?

And in the DIOCESE OF MISSOURI one of two churches is closing its doors. A Diocesan news announcement says that Christmas Eve will be last service at St. Barnabas' in Moberly. Unable to attract new members or adapt to the changing demographics of north-central Missouri, the mission will close its doors after 44 years! That's the official spin. Unofficially the parish has no gospel to proclaim and therefore no members to make them want to stay. The other parish is the recently exited Church of the Good Shepherd now down to 14. Wrote a VirtueOnline reader, "This parish doesn't have much hope of staying open." Stay tuned.

ON A MORE ELEVATED NOTE a number of orthodox clergy and laity have made a Petition for Anglican Unity and have sent it to Bishop Duncan M. Gray, III, the DIOCESE OF MISSISSIPPI asking him to support the Windsor Report in its call upon the Episcopal Church in the United States to express regret for the actions of the General Convention 2003 in the approval of the election of V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, and for its action in acknowledging that the blessing of same gender unions is consistent with the common life of the Church.

They also asked the bishop to do all in his to remain in the Anglican Communion, and to enable the Diocese of Mississippi to remain a member and part of the Anglican Communion. Then they said this: "[We] Encourage ECUSA leaders or bishops who either voted for V. Gene Robinson, or who are participated in, or allowed same-gender blessings, and who hold positions within the Anglican Communion, to stand down from such positions on Anglican Committees as requested by the Windsor Report, including, but not limited to, the Presiding Bishop, who serves on the Standing Committee of the Primates, and The Rt. Rev. Catherine S. Roskam, Suffragan Bishop of New York, who serves on the ACC.

Finally they encouraged Bishops and clergy who are already defying the requested moratoria on blessings to honor the invitation of the Windsor Report, or to have the courage to forthrightly and solemnly acknowledge that they are not willing to honor and/or live in compliance with the Windsor Report. That's telling them. It'll be interesting to see how that one plays out.

THE EPISCOPAL BOOKSTORE at the ECUSA headquarters in NYC has run an ad in the New Yorker magazine with the caption, "Looking for a big enough God?" But if you go to the bookstore website and check the number of titles they carry within different categories, one of the top categories was "Sexuality" with "Gay and Lesbian" being part of many titles. There were about three times as many "Sexuality" titles as there were "Evangelism" titles. When a VirtueOnline reader e-mailed them to ask the meaning of their ad slogan, he did not get a response.

More from the DIOCESE OF TEXAS and Bishop Don Wimberly's ordination of an openly gay man to the diaconate. A reader wrote to say that when Wimberly was asked at a clericus if he intended to ordain a practicing homosexual his response was that the individual concerned had stated he was (gay) and promised to remain celibate, though by inclination he admitted to being homosexual. Wimberly further said that if any one could prove that the individual violated that promise he would proceed under the moral canon for this diocese that prohibits clergy from any sexual relationship outside of Holy Matrimony. Wimberly's point is that ordaining a celibate homosexual is no different than ordaining a celibate heterosexual. Wimberly recently stated categorically that he supported the Windsor Report and was going to be in communion with Canterbury regardless of what ECUSA did.

IN A PREVIOUS DIGEST I wrote that the Roman Catholic Church is looking seriously at offering a safe place for Anglo-Catholics in ECUSA. A reader wrote back to say that such a place already exists in the Anglican Use, which is based on the Pastoral Provision promulgated by Pope Paul VI in the early 80s. They have only about 6 or 8 parishes nationally, most in Texas, but many more ex-Anglican ministers and their wives serve garden-variety Catholic parishes. The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth has one Anglican Use parish (St. Mary the Virgin, Arlington), with 4 married priests. That's especially noteworthy in that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is actually much more conservative, in the Anglican way, than the Catholic diocese is in the Catholic way.

Said the Rev. Ken Neill of Ft. Worth: "Anglo-Catholics actually don't make it to the Catholic Church that easily. The inner logic of RC and AC are quite different. As my last (Anglo-Catholic) Episcopal rector put it: Anglo-Catholics are Catholic on the outside, but Protestant on the inside."

THE BISHOP OF DURHAM, The Rt. Rev. Dr. N. T. Wright will be the guest speaker at St. Andrew's, Mt. Pleasant in the DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, January 6-7, 2005. He will give a series of lectures on The Resurrection: Life after 'Life after Death' dealing with some of the modern confusion about life after death, looking at what resurrection actually is and how we think about our present life in relation to the biblical promises. Dr. Wright is one of the outstanding theologians in the Anglican Communion. The conference will begin on Thursday evening, Jan 6 through the evening of Friday, Jan 7. For more information including the conference schedule, costs and registration please see the attached brochure (pdf document) or call 843-884-6169. The conference is sponsored by Onward To Omega.

I have posted a number of Christmas stories for your edification including a prayer vigil a number of orthodox folk hope you will attend when the House of Bishops meet in Utah next month.

We close out this Christmastide with these words from an ancient Syriac liturgy:

Jesus Christ,
radiant center of glory,
image of our God,
the invisible Father,
revealer of His eternal designs,
prince of peace; Father of the world to come.
For our sake he took the likeness of a slave,
becoming flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
for our sake,
wrapped in swaddling bands and laid in a manger adored by the shepherds and hymned by the angelic powers, who sang:

Glory to God in the heavens
and on earth peace and good to men.

Make us worthy, Lord,
to celebrate and to conclude in peace the feast which magnifies the rising of your light, by avoiding empty words,
working with justice,
fleeing from the passions,
and raising up the spirit above earthly goods.
Bless your Church, formed long ago to be united with yourself through your life-giving blood.
Come to the aid of your faithful shepherds,
of the priests and the teachers of the Gospel.
Bless your faithful whose only hope is in your mercy;
Christian souls, the sick,
those who are tormented in spirit,
and those who have asked us to pray for them.
Have pity, in your infinite clemency,
and preserve us in fitness to receive the future, endless, good things.
We celebrate your glorious Nativity with the Father who sent you for our redemption, with the life-giving Spirit, now and for ever and through all ages.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

VIRTUEONLINE wishes all its readers around the world a blessed Christmas.


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