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Church of England Faces Multiple Crises * Welby Condemns Hagia Sophia being turned into Mosque * Who Owns the Anglican Communion? * Springfield Diocese reaches settlement with Bishop * BARNA -- Online Services Not Meeting Needs * Sudan Slaughter

Church of England Faces Multiple Crises * Welby Condemns Hagia Sophia being turned into Mosque * Who Owns the Anglican Communion? * Springfield Diocese reaches settlement with Bishop * BARNA -- Online Services Not Meeting Needs * Slaughter in South Sudan includes Anglicans * Continuing Anglicans meet with Polish National Catholic Church * Falwell Steps Down as President after Inappropriate Photo with Woman

Social righteousness. It would be a mistake to suppose that the biblical word 'righteousness' means only a right relationship with God on the one hand and a moral righteousness of character and conduct on the other. For biblical righteousness is more than a private and personal affair; it includes social righteousness as well. And social righteousness, as we learn from the law and the prophets, is concerned with seeking man's liberation from oppression, together with the promotion of civil rights, justice in the law courts, integrity in business dealings and honour in home and family affairs. Thus Christians are committed to hunger for righteousness in the whole human community as something pleasing to a righteous God. --- John R. W. Stott

I keep hearing Christians asking, "Could this be the end of the world?" And I want to remind them that things like this have happened again and again. For example, in 1917--18, there was the great Spanish flu pandemic, during which churches in some parts of the world were shut for a year. We forget that we have been here before. --- N.T. Wright

Grace Community Church (John MacArthur's church) statement doesn't leave much room for faithful Christian leaders to come to other conclusions for their own churches. "Say, 'We're free to do this' all you want, but take great care before you say, 'And you have to do this too.' Don't sacrifice our spiritual freedom for your political freedom." --- Jonathan Leeman

The world's largest relevant dataset (on transitioning) reveals hormones and surgeries don't bring wholeness and happiness. We need to find better, more humane, and effective responses to those who experience dysphoria. --- Dr. Ryan T. Anderson

Is it any wonder the Church of England gets into a mess when it tries to enforce clergy church discipline? If you are governed by bureaucracy, procedure and the spirit of the age, rather than the Word of God, that is where you end up. --- David Baker

"When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it." --- John L. Dagg

If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you dislike, it is not the gospel that you believe, but yourself. --- Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
August 7, 2020

It was another bad week for Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England. One wonders if things can get any worse and if the bottom has been reached.

FIRSTLY, it was revealed this week that Welby is subject to a safeguarding inquiry after a complaint was laid against his handling of the revelations about John Smyth, who was accused of beating boys at Christian holiday camps. Smyth fled to Africa soon after these revelations came to light and died there. The question is why did he not report the behavior of John Smyth at the Iwerne boys' camp where he was busy beating boys to satisfy some inner sexual need of his own? Welby has yet to tell his side of the story, but it won't satisfy everybody for sure. But he'll probably keep his job.

Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, is also subject to an inquiry in connection with the same case, after earlier being punished for his failure to act decisively against the pedophile bishop Peter Ball.

The Church of England has admitted that there are about 30 separate safeguarding inquiries under way into senior clergy -- bishops or cathedral deans. This figure includes a proportion of retired clergy. There are only 104 active bishops in the whole Church of England and 42 deans. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/church-england-safeguarding-inquiries-go-top

SECONDLY, a new report which has branded the Church of England's disciplinary system "toxic" will come as no surprise to everyone who has been following the story.

The paper by a Dr. Sarah Horsman, described the C of E's Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) as symptomatic of a wider "toxic management culture". It also called for any replacement system "to be much more distinctively Christian, wiser, more transparent and... simply kinder".

The report's findings included the shocking facts that more than a third of clergy undergoing a CDM considered suicide; only 18 per cent felt they were treated as innocent until proved guilty; and just about half "strongly disagreed" with the statement "I felt supported by the diocese through the process". You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/cofes-clergy-discipline-scandal-symptomatic-deeper-problem

THIRDLY, the Church of England is accused of turning a blind eye to priests' abuse of their wives. Victims tell of violence, rape and threats of death at the hands of their clergyman husbands. An investigation by The Telegraph has identified instances where Church authorities failed to act over allegations, including sexual abuse, domestic violence and adultery, even when handed apparently compelling evidence. You can read more here: (Insert LINK)

FOURTHLY, the lockdown has been more than a passing financial crisis for the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. It has been a wake-up call that is challenging the way parishes and dioceses are funded and managed. Empty pews mean empty pockets. Money from the laity that is the bedrock of church finances is rapidly drying up.

In Southwark, priests were authorized to take a minimum £1,500 as their Easter Offering from the general parish collection, even if the amount given by the people did not reach that amount. Some parish priests, knowing how low funds have fallen, have been unwilling to take that much.

Diocesan trustees have reported that 70-80 per cent of their income comes from the parishes, with the rest from investments. Without that regular cash flow, the Church cannot function. The Church cannot run its churches, much of its education work, its safeguarding, its youth programs, its work to help the poor and others in need. And though priests do not receive salaries, considerable sums have to be found for their care in their retirement.

The financial impact of the pandemic on many parishioners, some of whom have lost their jobs or are helping out family members in dire straits, has also caused a drop in money from standing orders.

Cutting costs for a business usually means reducing the salary bill, but because the Church uses unpaid clergy in many positions there is usually far less scope for wage-cutting than for a conventional employer. The Church's only option is to target lay staff, which may be deemed unjust. One option for an organization in a crisis is to liquidize some of its assets. The most drastic step a diocese can take is the closure of churches. You can read more here: https://www.thetablet.co.uk/features/2/18538/empty-pews-mean-empty-pockets

FIFTHLY, the discovery was made this week that there is a shortage of Church of England bell ringers as young people no longer find change ringing 'appealing'. Bell ringers say they are struggling to recruit bell ringers under 21. Church bells could fall silent in Britain's towns and villages because of the shortage.
The BBC surveyed delegates at the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and three-quarters said it had become harder to recruit new members in the past decade, while eight in 10 said it was difficult to engage under-21s.

The British public generally likes the cultural appeal of the CofE but it won't stop historic churches and cathedrals being shuttered permanently if there is not a revival in the land, and there are no signs that is happening. Waiting on the Lord is one thing, waiting on Justin Welby and the Church of England to lead the Anglican Communion into the promised land is quite another. Rock on, GAFCON!

***

This did not stop the Archbishop of Canterbury opposing the move to turn Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. Justin Welby and four other presidents of the ecumenical Churches' Together in England (CTE) group have spoken out against the decision by Turkey to turn the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque. Built in A.D. 537 as the Cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople, it was the largest Christian church in the Byzantine Empire. In 1453, after the Ottoman conquest, it was turned into a mosque.

The newly formed secular government of what had become the Republic of Turkey turned the building into a museum. It was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Earlier this month, the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, took part in the first Friday prayers at the site to mark its transition back to a mosque, a move that had been condemned by bodies including UNESCO and the World Council of Churches.

In a statement issued shortly before President Erdoğan's presence at the prayer service, five CTE presidents, including Welby, described the move as "lamentable and painful for many people of faith the world over."

***

WHO OWNS THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION? There is an arrogance emanating from both the Church of England and the American Episcopal Church that somehow, they own the Anglican Communion and what they say goes, even as their respective provinces whither on the vine.

It's subtle of course. The Church of England has the ecclesiastical power and The Episcopal Church has the monetary power which enables them, they think, to move mountains., i.e. persuade bishops of their authority, even as GAFCON overwhelmingly owns the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide.

The Church of England can barely muster 721, 800 on any given Sunday and the Episcopal Church some 533,000. Following the end of COVID-19, both churches could see even greatly reduced numbers.

The American Episcopal Church has defied God to His face on human sexuality, denying fundamentally the binary relationship of a man and a woman. In doing so, they have promoted a new religion.

Theologian Gerry McDermott put it concisely when he said, "Progressives who embrace gay marriage, worship another Jesus, a different gospel, and proclaim another Spirit (2 Cor 11.4). These are not two ways of being Christian; they are two religions worshipping different gods." You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/who-owns-anglican-communion

***

The Diocese of Springfield's Standing Committee and Bishop Daniel Martins have reached an agreement over the timing and terms of his retirement, allowing Martins to continue carrying out some of the functions of bishop until his successor is installed and granting the Standing Committee ecclesiastical authority over the diocese for an interim period.

The agreement, announced July 29, was reached through a mediation process led by retired Indiana Bishop Edward Little. Martins had asked for and received permission to live in Chicago starting in September 2018 because of what he told ENS was a "personal family matter," while returning to his diocese regularly to continue his ministry there. In October 2019, he announced his retirement plans in an address to the diocesan synod. He said he intended to step down in June 2021, upon the consecration of his successor.

Instead, he will enter a "transitional sabbatical" on Feb. 1, 2021, the diocese said, at which point he will "delegate ecclesiastical authority to the Standing Committee." He will continue to handle "matters that require the bishop's actions," such as ordinations and deployment of clergy, though his schedule of regular visits to congregations will cease during the sabbatical. [ENS]

***

The Episcopal Church is pouring close to a quarter million bucks into what it calls "seed money" for new church starts and missional communities. The 10 initiatives approved include three discernment grants, five seed grants, one growth grant, and one harvest grant. So, only one real "harvest grant" whatever that means. This is called throwing good money after bad. Is anyone talking about TEC's much vaunted and failed 2020 campaign to double the church? Well, here we are, and TEC ain't doubled. In fact, it is losing membership.

***

The Anglican Bishop of Kingston, Jamaica, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Robert Thompson is retiring after almost a half-century working for the Christian Church. He laid down his pastoral staff on the altar of the Kingston Parish Church after leading a service to mark Independence Day 2020.

He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in 1974 and has been bishop for the past 15 years. "I'm doing this at the right time," Thompson said, "when I can laugh at myself, having learnt not to take myself too seriously because whatever I have achieved over these years, there are others to come who will achieve even greater things."

***

Billy Graham will get a statue to replace that of former North Carolina Governor Charles Aycock (1859-1912), a former governor in the US Capitol. Aycock was one of the masterminds of the 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina, race riot and coup, in which a local government made up of Black Americans was overthrown and replaced by white officials.

The sculptor, Chas Fagan, will now begin working on a life-sized model that will have to be approved by a congressional committee. Fagan has previously created several statues of religious figures, including St. John Paul II for Washington's Saint John Paul II National Shrine, as well as Mother Teresa for the Washington National Cathedral.

"From a Christian religious point of view, Billy Graham is an undeniable worldwide icon," Soucek said. He cited the six decades Graham placed among the top 10 in Gallup Poll's list of the most admired people.

***

How effective are online services in meeting the needs of members of a congregation? As it turns out, not very. A recent survey by the Barna Group shows this sad news:

35 percent (only) of respondents are still attending their pre-COVID church.
32 percent are no longer attending church.
14 percent have switched to a new church.
18 percent are watching worship services from different churches each month.
50 percent of Millennials have stopped attending church.
17 percent of Generation X attend a new church.
40 percent of Baby Boomers stayed at the same church.
In typical stark terms, Barna has written this headline from the data gathered:

"One in Three Practicing Christians Is Still and Only Attending Their Pre-COVID Church," ran the headline.

While online services are sub-optimal for most people (they'd rather gather together for 'real church'), it is better than nothing. But people are not enthusiastic about it.

***

Six children taken hostage were among 32 killed, with 20 others wounded, when unidentified gunmen stormed a cathedral compound in Jonglei State, South Sudan on 27 July.

The children were taken captive when the assailants attacked Makol Chuei village, in the Anglican Diocese of Athooch, from two directions. The cathedral's dean, Daniel Garang Ayuen, and at least 14 women and children who sought refuge in the church, were murdered in the brutal onslaught.

"After killing people in the church, the gunmen went to the homestead village and killed people there," said Bishop Moses Anur Ayom. "The gunmen burned down the whole village in Makol Chuei."

The six abducted children and others who went missing during the assaults were later found dead in the bush. The gunmen also vandalized the cathedral, destroying musical instruments.

Bishop Moses said, "As a church leader, I forgive the gunmen. The Bible says we have to forgive those who do wrong to us."

***

Continuing Anglican Joint Synods (G4) met recently with the Polish National Catholic Church to continue their dialogue. Updates were given by the various churches and the Union of Scranton about recent events within their respective communions and how they have adapted to the ongoing Covid situation. The Churches spoke with a united voice about the marginalization of the Church by the media and various elected officials during this pandemic.

The members participating were of one accord affirming that Church is absolutely essential for the faithful to live out their Catholic Faith and Sacramental lives: especially during this time of anxiety and pandemic. The dialogue also discussed various ways the Churches can continue to grow closer together and achieve the unity that our Lord prayed for His Catholic Church. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/anglican-joint-synods-g4-polish-national-catholic-church-dialogue

***

The American evangelical world continues to tumble and turn with a photo this week of Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, showing him vacationing on a yacht with his pants unzipped, holding a drink, and with his arm around a woman, with her pants unzipped. POLITICO broke the story and VOL ran with it. His excuse for his pants being unzipped was in sympathy with her being pregnant. I had to pick my wife off the floor. "He's a hypocrite," she said. Outrage ran around the twitter world and blogsphere over the photo.

Then a top House Republican with ties to Liberty University called on Falwell, Jr. to step down as president of the large Christian school in the wake of a viral photo.

"Jerry Falwell Jr's ongoing behavior is appalling," Rep. Mark Walker (NC-R) the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, wrote in a tweet that called for Falwell's resignation.

And Falwell's response; "I'm gonna try to be a good boy from here on out."

Pressure mounted however, and by late evening the university's Board of Trustees announced that Falwell was taking an "indefinite" leave of absence from his post as president and chancellor of the country's largest Christian college. He was appointed to the position after the death of his father in 2007.

You can read the full story here: https://virtueonline.org/jerry-falwell-jr-taking-indefinite-leave-absence-liberty-university-president

***

FORWARD IN FAITH, NORTH AMERICA announced the recent death of The Rt. Rev. William Avery Thompson. Bishop Thompson was a giant in the faith among Anglicans in North America. He served to defend the catholic faith for over fifty years in ordained ministry which included being the founding bishop of the Diocese of Western Anglicans. Bishop Thompson was a pillar in The Episcopal Synod of America, which served as the forerunners to Forward in Faith North America.

***

BEIRUT Christians need your support following a massive explosion which rocked the Lebanese capital, on Tuesday evening, causing utter destruction in the port area of the city and damaging homes up to six miles away. It was followed moments later by a blast wave that knocked people to the ground. At least 135 people were killed, about 5,000 injured and hundreds of thousands made homeless.

Christians in Lebanon were already desperate due to the post-Covid economic crisis, bringing food shortages and social unrest before Tuesday's explosion.

The explosion particularly affected East Beirut's Christian neighborhoods, damaging churches and Christian ministries, with many Christians amongst the injured, homeless and dead. It also destroyed the grain silos at the port, where most of the country's supplies of wheat were stored. Bread is the staple food in Lebanon. Another terrible blow is the loss of huge stores of medicines, which were housed near to the place of the explosion.

Many Christians are in desperate need following the explosion. Through their existing project partners in Lebanon, Barnabas Aid can send immediate aid to their brothers and sisters who have suffered in this disaster. Urgent needs are food, medicines and accommodation. You can make a donation at the link below:

https://barnabasfund.org/donateus/?project=PR1533&appealcode=BBE%2007/20#_top

***

If you have a funny bone then perhaps you will like these two satirical essays; one by myself the other from Babylon Bee. You can read them here:

Episcopalians propose voting by Tik Tok: https://virtueonline.org/episcopalians-propose-voting-tik-tok

And

Episcopalians Permanently switch to cardboard parishioners:
https://virtueonline.org/episcopalians-permanently-switch-cardboard-parishioners

***

VOL urges all its readers to stay safe. Mask up, practice safe distancing and wash your hands. The life you save might be your own. Remember Zoom is good for worship, bible studies and just doing face to face with friends. "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together," even if it is virtual.

In Christ,

David

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