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Christian Revolution Remade the World * CofE Massively Shrinking * Ft Worth Legal Decision Dumps TEC * Ravi Zacharias: Apologist or Con Man? * Anglican Chaplains Challenge Freedom of Religion Issues * Iwerne Camp to close * Is N.T. Wright Wrong?

Christian Revolution Remade the World * CofE Massively Shrinking * Ft. Worth Legal Decision Dumps TEC * Ravi Zacharias: Apologist or Con Man? * Anglican Chaplains Challenge Freedom of Religion Issues * Titus Trust to Close Iwerne Camp * Is N.T. Wright Wrong about Justification * Africa News

Evangelism and the Bible. It is an observable fact of history, both past and contemporary, that the degree of the church's commitment to world evangelization is commensurate with the degree of its conviction about the authority of the Bible. Whenever Christians lose their confidence in the Bible, they also lose their zeal for evangelism. Conversely, whenever they are convinced about the Bible, then they are determined about evangelism. --- John R.W. Stott

Rome has spoken. We definitely prefer a cuddly, roly-poly interfaith elephant swinging its trunk to the Beatles' "All you need is love" and the chummy Abu Dhabi Declaration to a prickly orthodox Catholic porcupine who believes in sticking to St. Paul's slogan: "There is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved." - Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes

The Gospel is not do, but done! --- Rev Roger Salter

Who needs an exclusive gospel when you can walk into a supermarket and choose from 48 varieties of yogurt — none of them claiming to be the only true yogurt? --- Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
May 29, 2020

Historian Tom Holland has written a new book, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, which has come as something of a surprise for several reasons. First, Holland is not a Christian. Second, Holland’s book is one of the most ambitious historical defenses of Christianity in a very long time.

While studying the ancient world he realized something. Simply, the ancients were cruel, and their values utterly foreign to him. The Spartans routinely murdered “imperfect” children. The bodies of slaves were treated like outlets for the physical pleasure of those with power. Infanticide was common. The poor and the weak had no rights.

How did we get from there to here? It was Christianity, Holland writes. Christianity revolutionized sex and marriage, demanding that men control themselves and prohibiting all forms of rape. Christianity confined sexuality within monogamy. (It is ironic, Holland notes, that these are now the very standards for which Christianity is derided.) Christianity elevated women. In short, Christianity utterly transformed the world.

In fact, Holland points out that without Christianity, the Western world would not exist. Even the claims of the social justice warriors who despise the faith of their ancestors’ rest on a foundation of Judeo-Christian values. Those who make arguments based on love, tolerance, and compassion are borrowing fundamentally Christian arguments. If the West had not become Christian, Holland writes, “no one would have gotten woke.”

It is ironic therefore that mainline Protestants especially and including The Episcopal Church have jettisoned the very beliefs that not only made Christianity what it is and has become. But in adopting so-called progressive ideals, they are killing off historic Christianity, buying into abortion, homosexual marriage and down playing absolute doctrinal standards. Then they sit back and wonder why no one wants to darken the doors of their churches!

As Holland writes, “In fact, the very critiques of those who condemn Christianity for various perceived injustices are rooted in Christian precepts.”

It may well be that COVID-19 is the judgement of God on faithless churches that no longer preach the gospel. The Episcopal Church can barely muster 500,000 ASA and that figure will be considerably lower once the coronavirus ceases to exist (and that could be a long way off). The Anglican Church of Canada barely musters 97,000 ASA and the Church of England, the Mother Church, can barely muster 756,000 in a population of 56 million. Combined, they are not as big as one or two dioceses in the Anglican Church in Nigeria. And you wonder the African Anglican provinces have no respect for Canterbury and Justin Welby. Why should they?

Welby agonizes (literally) over whether he should embrace homosexuality. African Anglicans in Nigeria are dying because Boko Haran despises such weakness, loathes sodomy and slaughters Christians!

*****

If there was any doubt in your mind about how things are doing in the Church of England, then you can read my latest here: https://virtueonline.org/church-england-faces-massive-shrinkage-owing-covid-19-pandemic In short, the church of England is massively shrinking, according to an article in The Times.

As a result, The Church of England is beginning the process of rethinking its role owing to a "massive shrinkage" in the number of dioceses and parish churches that it runs -- and could even mean that it had dozens fewer bishops.

The incoming Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, 61, has been appointed to chair a review of the future of its 42 dioceses, (42 cathedrals and 16,000 churches). This review comes two months after every church closed its doors and services went online.

He will outline a vision and lead a strategy committee which will look at the size and number of dioceses in future. Sources say he has privately signaled that he is prepared to contemplate dramatic cuts and the mothballing of historic buildings.

A 2018 survey of The Church of England revealed that 2.9% or 756,000 weekly attend a parish, down from 895,000 a year earlier. The population of England is 56 million. The Church has 108 bishops.

The rise of online services has prompted a rethink of how the Church of England pays for its 42 cathedrals and 16,000 churches -- of which 12,500 are listed by Historic England -- with dioceses under pressure to merge their functions in education, theological training and administration to save money, said The Times.

"The crisis is going to lead to a massive shrinkage in the number of cathedrals, dioceses and parish churches," said a source familiar with his thinking.

"This has vastly accelerated a dramatic change in the way the Church of England will do its stuff because of declining attendance and declining revenues."

Separately, senior Anglican figures said that rather than cut clergy in response to the church's financial woes, there must be a cull of bishops, whose numbers have "grown like Topsy" to 108, more than double the figure in the late Victorian era.

And you wonder why ACNA exists in the US and GAFCON exists as a global Anglican alternative to the Lambeth conference! No brainer really.

*****

The truly big news of the week was the FT. Worth legal decision that saw the Episcopal diocese of Ft. Worth delivered a body blow over who owns the properties in that diocese.

The Supreme Court of Texas told the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth that they had no right to the properties they alleged were theirs, (and for which they had fought over for 12 years in the courts) and said they could go pound sand.

It was basically about neutral principles.

In THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH v. THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, Justice Eva M. Guzman writing for the court, finds that the withdrawing (Anglican) faction of the splintered Episcopal diocese is the rightful Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth:
"Applying neutral principles to the undisputed facts, we hold that (1) resolution of this property dispute does not require consideration of an ecclesiastical question, (2) under the governing documents, the withdrawing faction is the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and (3) the trial court properly granted summary judgment in the withdrawing faction's favor. We therefore reverse the court of appeals' contrary judgment".

The 30-page unanimous opinion from Texas' top judicial body reinstates a trial ruling that had been earlier overturned by an appeals court. The ruling winds down litigation between the departing diocese and the Episcopal Church that was set in motion more than a decade ago after the national church filed suit against departing Anglicans. Lawyers for the Episcopal Church maintained that elected officers of the diocesan leadership were no longer the Episcopal diocese and that dioceses hold property in trust for the national church under the denomination's 1970s-era Dennis Canon, wrote Jeff Walton of IRD.

Distinguished canon lawyer Allan S. Haley wrote of the opinion that it makes short shrift of ECUSA's remaining arguments. "It demolishes ECUSA's Dennis Canon, first by holding that a beneficiary like ECUSA cannot declare a trust in its favor in Texas on property that it does not own, and second by holding that even if the Dennis Canon could be said to create a trust in ECUSA's favor, the Canon does not, as Texas law specifies, make the trust "expressly irrevocable". Thus, it was well within the power of Bishop Iker's Fort Worth Diocese to revoke any such trust, which it did by a diocesan canon adopted in 1989 -- to which ECUSA never objected in the twenty years following that act."

The Supreme Court decision puts the ACNA-affiliated group in control of the diocese's $100 million worth of property. TEC spent over $60 million in legal fees to fight for these properties. This is a huge loss to TEC.

Katie Sherrod, the angry Episcopal diocese's director of communications blasted the court's decision and said the diocesan leadership is, "deeply disappointed and actually shocked by this decision" and will now consider whether to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

That might not go down so well. "We never say never, but SCOTUS has not taken a church property case since Jones v. Wolfe (1979)," said Suzanne Gill, speaking on behalf of the (Anglican) Episcopal diocese.

GAFCON and Global South primates and bishops will undoubtedly see this as the Hand of God in the liberation of these parishes from the clutches of an apostate, neo-pagan denomination. Even though "God dwells in temples not made with hands," (Acts 7:48) it will be seen as a vindication of ACNA's necessary existence in the face of a post Christian Episcopal church that preaches "another gospel" (Gal. 1: 8-9) The ruling can be seen here: http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1446580/180438.pdf

*****

To tickle your funny bone, I wrote a satirical essay in which Presiding Bishop Michael Curry admits that COVID-19 could kill off TEC. You can read it here:
https://virtueonline.org/episcopal-presiding-bishop-admits-covid-19-could-kill-church

*****

Religious freedom issues are coming very much to the fore in America and no more so than when and where it is acceptable or not acceptable to preach the Gospel in an increasingly secular world. Political correctness, the nastiness of the pansexual movement, AKA LGBTQ is making it harder to preach the Gospel, which is now deemed uninclusive because of the particularity of the Gospel’s claims.

Anglican Chaplains is a ministry you may never have heard of, but one Christianity can't live without. Evangelism's "Tip of the Spear" perfectly describes the ministry of Anglican Chaplains.

Defending and advancing the Gospel far outside the comfort of church pews and into the hostile secular forces of our society today is no easy battle. Anglican chaplains are specially educated, trained, equipped, and deployed to serve in a variety of governmental and non-governmental settings. This may sound like the mantra of chaplaincy, but this stealthy ministry goes far beyond the view of the general public for a faith mission that is life changing.

The chaplaincy began thirteen years ago as a member of the Convocations of Anglicans in North America (CANA), directly connected to the Church of Nigeria. Today, the Rt. Rev. Derek L.S. Jones, has oversight on almost 200 active chaplains. "We provide ministry around the world, on Naval war ships with Sailors and Marines, with U.S. Special Forces in Africa, at US Air Force Bases in Europe and Asia, and in-between the margins of chaplaincy at rodeos, with bikers, with
Civil Air Patrol cadets, and even in cities within refuse dumps in Latin America."

The organization even publishes a quarterly professional Journal for Chaplains.

Bishop Jones holds a pivotal position for his organization to make real change. Aside from being a retired combat veteran fighter pilot with numerous "Top Gun" awards, he was elected by his peers to serve on the Executive Committee for the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF) and will become Chairman in 2021. He is also a charter member and serves as Secretary on the Executive Board of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.

Most recently, Bishop Jones was instrumental in writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit-Little Sisters of the Poor lawsuit, an Amicus Brief to the United States 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals for Freedom of Religion.

*****

OUT OF AFRICA the news is not good.

FROM UGANDA we learn that Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba is rallying Ugandans against the pandemic violence and says wife beating and gender-based violence is increasing during the Covid-19 lockdown.

"We have witnessed an increase of cases of GBV during the lockdown. As religious leaders, we appeal and encourage people to work together to prevent it in our homes and communities. We should also provide psycho-social support to the victims during this pandemic," Dr. Kaziimba said.

Uganda police registered 328 cases of GBV between March and April. Archbishop Kaziimba attributed the cases of GBV across the country to lack of money and food.

"When there is no food in the house, men tend to get mad and resort to beating their wives. But there are also women who are busy abusing their husbands because their husbands do not have money and this has further intensified anger among the couples. I ask all men to desist from beating their wives, but women should also respect their husbands," he said.

The Archbishop also asked the national Covid-19 task force to prioritize food distribution to HIV/Aids patients, many of whom have not been able to access their anti-retroviral treatment due to the lockdown.

FROM NIGERIA, the head of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, Primate Henry C. Ndukuba has appealed to the Federal Government of Nigeria to allow religious organizations to resume normal functions, in accordance with the guidelines of the Federal government and the hygienic rules of medical practitioners.

This he said was in reaction to calls for the re-opening of Churches and religious centers that were closed in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said that it was necessary for the battle against COVID-19 to also be tackled spiritually. "The secret things belong to God and He will surely show His people what to do, no matter the situation."

While he commended the Nigerian government on the actions taken so far, he urged leaders to learn from these happenings and ensure that the lives of the people and the welfare of the society remains above personal and political interests, not just now, but even after the pandemic.

*****

While Church of England leaders have been told to shut down their churches and chaplains are not to perform their regular chaplaincy duties, we learned this week that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been secretly volunteering in lockdown -- as chaplain at St Thomas' Hospital.

Justin Welby is known for his virtue-signaling with public displays of groveling over the church’s ancient sins. Apparently, he has been making regular visits to comfort the diseased and the dying at the London hospital near his flat at Lambeth Palace.

Like other chaplains working on Covid-hit wards across the UK, the head of the Anglican church has undergone special training in infection control and wears personal protective equipment (PPE) over his black clerical shirt and dog collar.

A source close to Bishop Welby, 64, said: "Justin has been a volunteer chaplain at St Thomas' Hospital since lockdown, working alongside other chaplains praying for the sick and dying.”

*****

The beleaguered Titus Trust, which runs Iwerne Camp, said it is closing down the Iwerne Camp and will no longer use the name Iwerne for their camps. This follows "an extensive year-long review", resulting in a "reorganization focused on extending and strengthening its ministry to independent schools into the future".

It said the review had been informed by "detailed feedback from school teachers and other stakeholders" and had "paved the way for an agile and more regionally focused approach to organizing its popular summer activity holidays".

The Christian camp was associated with John Smyth who abused boys with vicious beatings among other acts of moral depravity. Smyth fled England and died at his home in Cape Town after a years-long abuse scandal involving the late evangelical leader.

Commenting on the changes, a spokesman for the Trust said: "We remain committed to supporting Christian teachers and pupils in their faith and witness in both the day and boarding independent schools of England and Wales."

*****

Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream Challenges for the Church of England asks the seemingly obvious question, “Should churches reopen, and what are they for?

Symes writes the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a 'lockdown' on March 23rd, the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England ordered that all churches should immediately close and not be used even for private prayer by clergy.

The main reason given was to set an example in taking seriously the danger of the virus and slowing down its spread: just as sports venues, theatres, restaurants and garden centers were closing, and many people were no longer able to work or having to work from home, so the church should not be an exception. Anglicans should suffer the deprivations of the lockdown along with the rest of the population; they should also show that they are obedient to the authorities. Clergy were encouraged to use technology to broadcast worship, prayer and teaching from their homes, and to find creative ways, within government guidelines, to continue to support the most vulnerable.

It will be interesting to see the effects of this as researchers investigate what has happened. Anecdotal evidence suggests that churches with existing programs to support the vulnerable, such as running foodbanks, have been able to continue with this, though with restricted opportunities for the personal contact that is so essential. Churches with tech-savvy clergy and/or motivated laity, with less focus on the building as an essential aid to worship and whose congregations are more used to interacting through screens, have adapted best. More traditional churches, especially smaller and rural congregations have probably struggled. While some parishioners in these churches may have been listening to occasional services on the radio, new material on phonelines or even through the internet, there must be many who have had no contact with church since late March. As the habit of regular worship has been broken, people may be difficult to win back.

In other words, the churches with already most potential for growth and mission -- generally more evangelical and with younger congregations -- are surviving and even thriving through this lockdown, while those already in decline: multi-parish benefices with small, elderly congregations, for whom the practice of faith is inseparable from being in a building with others, are in danger of losing even the small amount that they have. Given the inevitable serious economic impact of the lockdown, the Dioceses of the Church of England will find sustaining regular ministry in these declining parishes even more of a challenge.

You can read his full essay here: https://virtueonline.org/challenges-church-england

*****

A “hero” of the Christian faith and apologist Ravi Zacharias died this past week. He was duly applauded by Christianity Today, The New York Times and other secular and sacred media outlets that saw him as a defender of the faith. He spoke last year to a gathering of Anglicans in Dallas, Texas which this writer attended.

But there was a dark side to the man that an attorney in California, one Steve Baughman exposed in a book, Cover-Up in the Kingdom: Phone Sex, Lies, And God's Great Apologist, Ravi Zacharias. “The great evangelist, Ravi Zacharias, had been a pretender for decades. The influential apostle to the Academy had built a self-named empire by claiming for himself academic credentials that he did not have. He told fans and donors that he was "a professor at Oxford" and a "visiting scholar at Cambridge." He told them that he had been "educated in Cambridge," where he had studied quantum physics under the renowned John Polkinghorne. He told them he had chaired a department that never existed. But then Zacharias had an online affair with a married woman. On October 29, 2016, she informed him that she would confess the affair to her husband. The evangelist responded by threatening suicide. And he did so in writing.”

The evangelical press and his denomination passed it all off as the musings of a single woman out to get him, hating that one of their own could be so seriously flawed.

But then comes along a Canadian scholar, one John Stackhouse, who critiqued Zacharias’s apologetic methodology saying it was seriously flawed.

Here is what he wrote. “I am troubled by the report of his relationship with Lori Anne Thompson. I am dismayed by his career-long habit of inflating or simply fabricating academic credentials in a job regarding which academic credentials are key.

These problems notwithstanding, however, in general I have always thought RZ was a poor thinker and an often off-putting communicator, and by "always" I mean since I heard a recording of his first Veritas Lectures at Harvard almost thirty years ago.

“Strangely, most people who are professional apologists I find to be of the same sort: not very well educated, not very informed, and not very helpful. Sorry about that, but I've been observing apologetics, at least in North America, for decades, and the pattern remains the same. A keener with a master's degree or perhaps a doctorate from a non-elite school offers not-very-good arguments to audiences of mostly Christians who don't know enough to know how good is the stuff they're getting. If the apologist has sufficient stagecraft and moxie, he can make a living at it. Meanwhile, real scholars stay away. (Notice who doesn't endorse books by such people, as well as who does.)”

Another Canadian theologian, Prof. Randal Rauser, also took issue with Zacharias on a number of issues. You can watch both men at the following links below:

For Prof. Randal Rauser's critique of this video, please click HERE. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPYRXop7aPA
For an explanation of why I sometimes criticize public Christians in public, please click here:
http://www.johnstackhouse.com/why-i-criticize-in-public/

*****

The Planned Parenthood abortion business improperly applied for and received $80 million in federal funds meant to support small businesses as they battle the economic fallout from the coronavirus. America’s biggest abortion company came under fire for the fraudulent actions and pro-life advocates are calling on the Trump administration to make the abortion giant repay the money.

Some 37 Planned Parenthood affiliates received the funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), despite the abortion corporation being explicitly blocked from doing so. Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties in California received the largest loan of $7.5 million, and that affiliate was caught selling the body parts of aborted babies.

Senator Ben Sasse, the author of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and a Nebraska Republican, was disgusted by the news. You can read more here:
https://www.lifenews.com/2020/05/20/planned-parenthood-abortion-biz-improperly-applied-for-and-received-80-million-in-coronavirus-funds/

*****

Another theologian who is being given a pass because of his popularity, but who is coming under increasing scrutiny for his theological views especially on Justification is Dr. N. T. Wright, the evangelical Anglican bishop and author of numerous volumes. He is the darling of evangelicals and Catholic alike.

But should he be given a pass just because he is famous? No, says theologian and pastor the Rev. Roger Salter. He has looked at Wright’s writings and in a five-part series compares Wright with Martin Luther and says that Wright comes up short, and we should stick to Luther on this absolutely central doctrine. He says Wright radically dismantles the gospel with profound consequences for himself and the wider church universe.

Writes Salter; “Theologians can never be cavalier in their communication of ideas. Nor should they be ambitious in the quest for originality and notoriety. In our time rigorous revision is proposed for everything that has constituted trusted tradition - doctrine, interpretation of ecclesiastical history, and the comprehension of eminent Christian lives; their significance and worth to subsequent generations.”

You can read his five part series here: https://virtueonline.org/choice-pastors-nt-wright-or-martin-luther-part-5

*****

Is Salvation by Grace and Faith...or is it by Ritual and Works? Or ... how do all these factors come together? You can read Dr. Bruce Atkinson’s fine exposition here: https://virtueonline.org/salvation-grace-and-faithor-it-ritual-and-works

*****

COVID-19. As we exit Easter and the Ascension period, we need to pay attention to our surroundings and what the future holds.

Many of you from different states will have different openings of your churches. Some have already defied the message of masks and safe distancing and as a result, some pastors have died. Please listen to the experts and not to the number crunchers; the virologists know the truth and we need to heed them as to if and when we can open church doors again.

My parish, along with thousands of others, uses Zoom and while not perfect, it works. We should also remember that the vast majority of Americans who attend churches are in their 60s and are therefore more vulnerable to COVID-19. They will not soon rush back to church any time soon. We need to be sensitive to them and their concerns.

God bless you all as we struggle together to discern God’s will as we prayerfully hope that COVID-19 recedes into memory.

David

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