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Church in West Declining * 60 Episcopal Bishops to Wear Orange * Quincy Wins Over TEC in Property Wars * San Joaquin Diocese Files for New Hearing * Labrie released with Ankle Monitor * Church of South India Moderator Blasted for Corruption

Jekyll and Hyde. Who am I? What is my 'self'? The answer is that I am a Jekyll and Hyde, a mixed-up kid, having both dignity, because I was created and have been re-created in the image of God, and depravity, because I still have a fallen and rebellious nature. I am both noble and ignoble, beautiful and ugly, good and bad, upright and twisted, image and child of God, and yet sometimes yielding obsequious homage to the devil from whose clutches Christ has rescued me. My true self is what I am by creation, which Christ came to redeem, and by calling. My false self is what I am by the fall, which Christ came to destroy. --- John R. W. Stott

Moving from weak to strong on a particular issue requires that you calibrate your conscience. Just like you may calibrate a clock or a scale that is a bit off, you may need to align your conscience with the standard of God's Word so that it functions accurately. --- Andy Naselli

It is wonderful how natural light -- the brightest and most beautiful of all lights -- can cheer the soul. --- John Piper

Self-denial and self-discovery. We are the product on the one hand of the fall, and on the other of our creation by God and re-creation in Christ. This theological framework is indispensable to the development of a balanced self-image and self-attitude. It will lead us beyond self-acceptance to something better still, namely self-affirmation. We need to learn both to affirm all the good within us, which is due to God's creating and re-creating grace, and ruthlessly to deny (i.e. repudiate) all the evil within us, which is due to our fallenness. Then, when we deny our false self in Adam and affirm our true self in Christ, we find that we are free not to love ourselves, but rather to love him who has redeemed us, and our neighbour for his sake. At that point we reach the ultimate paradox of Christian living that when we lose ourselves in the selfless loving of God and neighbour we find ourselves (Mk. 8:35). True self-denial leads to true self-discovery. --- John R.W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters
www.virtueonline.org
May 20, 2016

In case you haven't noticed, the Church in the West is in a decline, and in the United States, it's about to hit a steep decline. The rise of Nones, the shrinkage of Protestantism, and, according to one report, the number of voters who identify themselves as Catholic in polling research, has taken a dip -- from 22.6 percent in 2012 to just 20.3 percent in 2016.

People of no faith tend to be liberal in faith (if they have any) and considerably more liberal in morals, which have steadily evolved into LGBTQI+. None of this bodes well for faith voters, many of whom now see Donald Trump as America's savior, never mind that his personal life (three wives and the latest is a trophy wife) defies any kind of Biblical understanding of marital faithfulness.

It is clear we are being tested as a nation on a whole host of issues, with no one candidate seemingly the voice for millions of America's Christians, who may well feel that staying at home and not voting is the answer.

I don't know if that is the right answer, but the polarization in the nation is frightening and most people I talk to say they have never seen anything like it. Never. These are older generation folk I ask, and they all shake their heads and feel that the nation is being tested as never before,; and they feel helpless, angry, alone and frightened.

Columnist Terry Mattingly captures it well when he writes: The nightmare vision focuses on a stark, painful moral choice.

"It's Election Day, and a Catholic voter who embraces her church's Catechism, or an evangelical committed to ancient doctrines on a spectrum of right-to-life issues, steps into a voting booth. This voter is concerned about the social impact of gambling, attempts at immigration reform, a culture fractured by divorce, battles over religious liberty and the future of the Supreme Court.

"In this booth the choice is between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Period.

"That's the scenario people I know are talking about and arguing about," said Stephen P. White of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., author of the book "Red, White, Blue and Catholic."

Many religious conservatives believe they "face a choice between two morally repugnant candidates," he added. "The reality of that choice is starting to drive some people into despair. ... I understand that, but I think it would be wrong for people to think that they need to abandon politics simply because they are disgusted with this election."

This nightmare for religious conservatives is especially important since, in recent decades, successful Republican presidential candidates have depended on heavy turnouts among white evangelical Protestant voters and, on winning, at the very least, a majority of "swing votes" among Catholics who frequently attend Mass.

While this year's election is, in some ways, unique, traditional Catholics and other moral conservatives need to realize that they are engaged in a debate that has been going on for centuries, said White. The big question: "Can Christians be good citizens?"

In an interview with the journal National Review, he explained: "The author of the second century 'Letter to Diognetus' addressed this question. Three centuries later, St. Augustine wrote City of God largely in response to the same question. ... The question is about the nature and scope of the political good: Is the good of the political community compatible with Christian claims about the nature and destiny of the human person?"

At the moment, the choice is especially painful because religious believers are living, and voting, in an age in which up appears to be down, and black appears to be white, said White, in a telephone interview. Suddenly it's controversial to argue that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, that children need mothers and fathers and that human beings are created, by God, as males and females.

So what about that voting-booth nightmare?

In one online essay, evangelical author, Tony Reinke, of the "Desiring God" website, rounded up a list of 12 proposed voting options in 2016. There were, for example, five motivations for not voting -- including a conviction that voting is not a "Christian priority." Others may abstain to "send a message" of some kind.

It is sobering to try to think about the current state of American politics "from the viewpoint of 30 years from now. ... You look at the options we have right now and you have to wonder if our grandchildren will be asking us, 'Why didn't anyone have the courage to do something, to try to offer people some other choices?' "

German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, had an answer to the political turmoil of his time: Preach! The German theologian's words about fear ring remarkably true today.

"Let's say there is a ship on the high sea, having a fierce struggle with the waves. The storm wind is blowing harder by the minute. The boat is small, tossed about like a toy; the sky is dark; the sailors' strength is failing. Then one of them is gripped by . . . whom? what? . . . he cannot tell himself. But someone is there in the boat who wasn't there before. . . . Suddenly he can no longer see or hear anything, can no longer row, a wave overwhelms him, and in final desperation he shrieks: Stranger in this boat, who are you? And the other answers, I am Fear. . . . All hope is lost, Fear is in the boat."

On January 15, 1933, in a Berlin church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered this haunting allegory in a sermon entitled "Overcoming Fear."

Germany was in the midst of fearful and turbulent times, indeed. The devastation of defeat from World War I, just 14 years earlier, was fresh on the people's minds and hearts. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 compounded further pressures on the struggling German economy, driving the number of unemployed to more than six million. The new Weimar Republic lacked political stability and leadership, and fears of communism and extremism loomed large. As these dark waves battered them from all sides, many Germans--including German Christians--feared what the future would hold.

"Fear is in the boat, in Germany, in our own lives and in the nave of this church--naked fear of an hour from now, of tomorrow and the day after. Fear Has Conquered Us"

Another rising leader took interest in this dire situation, but he offered a quite different solution. Rather than help people overcome their fears, he sought to exploit them for power. With a commanding sense of authority and a persuasive tongue, he offered them a savior: himself.

Just 15 days after Bonhoeffer's sermon, the country made this man, Adolf Hitler, their Chancellor. As Bonhoeffer warned, but could've never foreseen, fear drove Germany--and millions of others--into deeper pain, division, and despair.

"That is the final triumph of Fear over us; that we are afraid to run away from it, and just let it enslave us. Fear has conquered us."

Many today remember Bonhoeffer for his radical Christian discipleship and sacrificial involvement in the German resistance movement against Hitler. However, few know him for what he believed was most central to his life and ministry: nourishing the body of Christ through the proclamation of the Word. Bonhoeffer cared deeply for the spiritual life and health of the local church, serving in various pastoral roles in Germany, Spain, England, and America. He even wrote his doctoral thesis--Sanctorum Communio--on the church as a holy community.

As we enter a political time of fear, we should remember whose we are and who we really belong too.

*****

A group of 60 Episcopal bishops is urging Episcopalians to wear orange on June 2. Bishops United Against Gun Violence is backing a movement for common sense gun legislation.

The Episcopal bishops' advocate for background checks on all gun purchases and other violence prevention measures, is urging all Episcopalians to consider wearing orange on June 2, as a sign of their commitment to reducing gun violence in their communities.

"Poll after poll demonstrates that some 85 percent of Americans, including large majorities of gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association, favor background checks on all gun purchases, yet Congress won't act," said the Rev. Mark Beckwith of the Diocese of Newark, who convenes Bishops United in collaboration with Bishop Ian T. Douglas of Connecticut and Eugene T. Sutton of Maryland. "We need to take every opportunity to illustrate just how widespread the support for this simple legislation really is."

The Wear Orange movement began in 2013, after Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old high school student, was shot to death on the south side of Chicago, just a week after marching in President Obama's second inaugural parade. Her friends asked people to honor Pendleton by wearing orange--the color hunters choose for safety--on her birthday, June 2. Their cause was taken up by gun violence prevention groups around the country, who last year promoted the first National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

This year, more than 85 partner organizations, including Bishops United, are urging their members and friends to wear orange to commemorate Pendleton's life and to help pass common sense gun legislation.

In a piece for VOL by Sarah Frances Ives, she writes that the bishops, including Budde, thinks that the orange stoles will stop gun violence. "No, they are not bulletproof stoles and they will not stop gun violence that way. The garish stoles still stop it by provoking great thought. You see, this color is symbolic representation of no gun violence. My read on the situation is that if they don't stop gun violence, at least they will provide entertainment at seeing how many Episcopal bishops and priests can be hoodwinked into spending discretionary money to look like clowns and magicians. You know, maybe they can all moonlight at Barnum and Bailey when the circus makes its annual visit. Because money here is tight and getting tighter."

IN OTHER NEWS from the Diocese of Washington, Ives writes that Bishop Budde has asked that all of the Diocese of Washington participate in the annual Capitol Pride Parade that begins in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, DC, on June 11. But if you can't make the parade, maybe you could make the other events which include: Sunday Funday Pride Drag Brunch, advertised as "A cocktail or two is always civilized, but toss in some legendary drag hosts..." (You get the picture), Sunday, June 5., or Drag Ball, that includes "DC's loveliest drag queens," another Sunday, June 5 event. (But when are they going to church? Maybe we should ask.) Then there's this choice morsel, Gay Men Seated Speed Dating on Tuesday, June 7. "All gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer men are invited for a night of speed dating. Guests will participate in a classic seated dating event, with the opportunity to meet several new people in an intimate and romantic setting!" Intimate groups of speed dating: sounds like Christian married monogamy to me! They are seeking true and faithful life-long love with one person, I'm sure. Same event for women only is the next night.

So Bishop Budde's vision for the Episcopal Church is becoming clear. On Sunday Funday we all show with our orange stoles, have some civilized vodka, leer at the drag queens, and get ready for a group of intimate speed dating. Who needs church services and those pesky buildings?

On another note that oddly connects with the diocese's pursuit of decadence, is word that the Washington National Cathedral is selling properties to keep the doors open. David J. Kautter, Chair of the Cathedral Chapter, announced that the Cathedral is selling its last two remaining properties off the Close. These were the homes for the dean of the cathedral and the head of school, at 3525 and 3511 Woodley Road, DC. The costs are $5,995,000 and $1,957,895 respectively (source Zillow). Kautter says they are cutting back and streamlining everything. In other words, the Cathedral needs money! Quick!

Ives writes that the human part of this sorrow cannot be ignored. "I frequently meet former employees of the Cathedral who tell stories of losing jobs, financial security and ruined retirement dreams. Some cry and others tell about tearful and brutal layoffs that still occur.

"Maybe Budde should have had her former employees who still suffer financially make these orange stoles. But probably they will be making the gin and tonics on Sunday morning for the drag queen brunch."

*****

This week two of the four pending court cases involving realigning dioceses had further developments.

In Illinois, the Episcopal Church's protracted efforts to punish the Anglican Diocese of Quincy by freezing its bank accounts and suing for possession of its real property, met with a resounding rebuff from the Fourth District Court of Appeals -- for the second time in two years. In California, the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin filed a petition with the California Supreme Court to review the inexplicably obtuse decision by the Court of Appeal in Fresno, to stand by its clearly erroneous reading of California corporate law.

The Episcopal Church (USA) and its Potemkin shell of a plaintiff diocese, sued the Anglican Diocese for everything it owned, based on their claims of "hierarchy" and the permanent, irrevocable trust supposedly embodied in the Dennis Canon. They lost their case in the Adams County Circuit Court in Quincy, Illinois. They appealed to the Fourth District in Peoria, which affirmed Judge Ortbal's thorough and thoughtful decision. Then they asked the Illinois Supreme Court for leave to appeal the case to that tribunal. In November 2014, it refused, so the decision by the Court of Appeals became final.

Anglican Canon lawyer Allan Haley said, "Final", that is, for any litigant but the David-Booth-Beers-led and trust-fund-financed Episcopal warriors: they promptly filed a new action in Peoria (not Quincy). In this complaint, they now claimed that 18% of the $3.8 million in diocesan funds, which they had managed to freeze in the previous action (by threatening the bank with a lawsuit), actually was held by the Anglican Diocese in trust for some of its member parishes -- and that, under the infernal Dennis Canon, again, the Episcopal Church had the right to apply those funds for the benefit of its parishioners, who had now joined the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

One parish, St. John's Anglican Parish, believes the court ruling means it is one step closer to keeping its properties and assets. "This is a major decision," said Quincy attorney Tad Brenner, who has served as legal counsel for the Diocese of Quincy.

The recent court rulings tied to the Diocese of Quincy, have no connection with theology or ethics. They are dealing with brick-and-mortar issues and which entity is entitled to property and other assets.

The Diocese of Quincy is considered a constituent member of the Anglican Church in North America.

The most recent court ruling can be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, but that must be done by mid-June. There are also U.S. Episcopal Church cases against 23 individual churches in the diocese that are pending, including St. John's Anglican Parish in Quincy. Brenner also represents 21 of the 23 individual churches in question, including St. John's.

"The Illinois Supreme Court normally only accepts about 4 percent of appeals," Brenner said.

*****

The number of Episcopal run schools that have run into sexual difficulty is fast approaching double digits.

One continuing saga is the case of Owen Labrie, who first made headlines in the summer of 2014, when the St. Paul's School Senior Salute sex scandal broke. Now he's back in the news because the judge who put him behind bars two months ago, has released him, reinstating his $15,000 bail, thus allowing him freedom as he continues to appeal his felony conviction.

Judge Smukler took the Supreme Court's advice to heart. He held a new bond hearing and reinstated bail with the added provision that Labrie wear an ankle monitor with a GPS tracker, which will be paid for by Labrie.

Judge Smukler revoked Labrie's bail because the St. Paul's School graduate frequently violated his curfew hours, even travelling from Vermont to Boston to do educational research, meet with his attorneys, and socialize with his girlfriend.

On March 14, Labrie was hauled into court by the Merrimack County Attorney's Office, outlining Labrie's acts of omission and commission, and Judge Smukler revoked his bail on the spot. The prep school grad was lead out of court in handcuffs.

You can read the full story by Mary Ann Mueller in today's digest.

*****

ON THE INTERNATIONAL FRONT, a group of angry Indian laymen from the Church of South India (CSI) has written a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, saying that its moderator and bishop, Govada Dyvasirvadam, is not fit to be on the Archbishop of Canterbury's task force to reconcile differences in the Anglican Communion, and should be removed immediately, because they say he is corrupt, a polarizing figure, a man who has accepted bribes and much more.

Major Joseph Victor, General Secretary, Laity Association of CSI-Madras diocese, says that Bishop Dyvasirvadam has made himself unfit for this grand mission, as his life and episcopal ministry are clear witnesses to actions done in contrast to the noble aim of the Task Force. "How can a bishop who spent all his time with little or no pastoral qualities, running the church machinery like a corporate company chairman, a politician and a CEO, be expected to do the ministry of restoration, rebuilding and healing tasks in other parts of the world?

Victor said that not only has he led the CSI into more troubled days, placing it in the path of decay and destruction, his office as the Moderator of the CSI came to an end almost four months ago, and his position as Bishop of Krishna-Godavari diocese was also vacated as he reached the retirement age of 65 years, on 28 March 2016.

Other leaders weighed in on the bishop. The Rev. Dr. Gnana Robinson, a man who holds several titles in the church, publicly accused the Anglican Moderator of having a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

"I am indeed shocked and ashamed to hear through friends that "the world Anglican conference was planning to include Bishop Dyvasirvadam on their task force, which is expected to sort out differences in the churches. I wonder how ecumenical the Anglican Episcopate has been, that it has been ignorant of what has been going on in the Church of South India with around 4.5 million members during the last 16 years, ever since the question of corruption in churches has been brought to the attention of the global church, especially during the tenure of Rev. Dyvasirvadam as secretary, bishop and moderator of the CSI Synod.

The Rev. Dr. Joseph G. Muthuraj, Professor in New Testament at United Theological College in Bangalore, also weighed in on the Moderator, and said this, "The CSI is reeling over the effects of not just bribery and embezzlement, but dishonest, illegal, anti-people and unconstitutional practices that fester through all the ranks of authority."

So this begs the question: why has the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council Josiah Idowu-Fearon not moved to have him removed from this task force. Inquiring minds want to know. Such blatant hypocrisy cannot be allowed to stand and go unchallenged.

You can read a number of stories on all this in today's digest.

*****

Two interesting items regarding the Church of England this week.

The first is that the Church Commissioners of the Church of England's investment arm announced that it had almost trebled the value of its investment fund over a 20-year period. The value of the Commissioners' investment fund has grown from £2.4 billion at the start of 1995, to £7 billion at the end of 2015; producing a return of 8.2 percent last year.

The second item is Archbishop Welby's call for "great further step" to end AIDS by 2030. He gave his strong support to the work of community-based responses to the global Aids epidemic, ahead of next month's UN High Level Meeting on Ending Aids, in New York.

In a video message released in ahead of the 8 -- 10 June meeting, Archbishop Justin Welby celebrates the great progress that has been made to eliminate AIDS as a threatening global disease by 2030, and calls for a "great further step", the mobilization of "political, financial, technical and clinical resources through communities" to make this a reality.

He praises the role of communities, and, particularly, faith-based communities, in providing treatment for the poor and marginalized. In particular, the Archbishop highlights the role that the Anglican Communion has played for many years in offering community-based treatment, "enabling communities to . . . support the victims of Aids, their families and others affected directly and indirectly."

One thing the Archbishop didn't say, or perhaps deliberately overlooked, was a call for men, mostly men, to STOP HAVING ANAL SEX. Of course to say that, would make him immensely unpopular, and cries of homophobia would ascend unto the highest steeple in the land, perhaps even to heaven itself where presumably St. Peter sits, and would immediately start throwing thunderbolts at Justin to remind him that God frowns on homophobia.

Taxpayer dollars will go on funding AIDS drugs however, and sodomites will go on doing what sodomites do and the tax payer be damned.

*****

The primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier, has increased the pressure on Pakistan over their continued detention of Asia Bibi, under the country's much criticized blasphemy laws, by writing to Pakistan's High Commissioner to Australia, Naela Chohan, and Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, about the case.

Last month, members of the Anglican Consultative Council, meeting in Lusaka, called for a fresh investigation into her case, leading to her "honorable acquittal." Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, after being accused of insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed, after she shared a drinking vessel with her Islamic colleagues.

"It is clear that a disgraceful application of Pakistan's blasphemy law, 295c, has brought tragedy and shame upon [Asia Bibi] and indeed the beautiful nation of Pakistan," Freier later wrote on his blog, in an article republished by ACNS.

In his letter to Australia's Foreign Minister, he asks Bishop to pursue justice and mercy for Asia Bibi and for the protection of the Christian minority in Pakistan. In his letter to the High Commissioner for Pakistan to Australia, he has asked that Pakistan re-open Asia Bibi's case and acquit her, and also work to protect Christians in Pakistan, who go constantly in fear of their lives and property.

*****

DOMESTICALLY, the Rt. Rev Amos Fagbamiye, Missionary Diocese of Trinity (MDT), announces that it has growing parishes in Canada. One is the Anglican Church of the Redeemer in Regina, SK. The Fellowship continues, even across the world. The bishop reports strong bonds of fellowship and relationship between the two partnering dioceses -- Diocese of Lagos West, Nigeria and MDT (North America). Some of his MDT clergy will represent and participate in the 2nd session of the 6th synod of the Diocese of Lagos west, (May 19 -- 21, 2016) scheduled to be held at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral Church (AVMCC), GRA, Ikeja, Lagos.

The bishop also announced a new mission in Minnesota (Mid-West Archdeaconry): The canon missioner of the mid-West Archdeaconry -- Rev Canon Alfred Oluwatuyi, recently led a team to explore the viability of a new mission center under the missionary Archdeaconry of the Midwest in Minnesota.

A new parish was inaugurated (North East Archdeaconry), USA - the Anglican Church of the Epiphany, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was formally inaugurated, April 24, by Bishop Fagbamiye with the induction of the Rector (Rev Ogunseye). Six candidates were confirmed and five women were accepted into the Mothers Union (MU)/Women Guild (WG).

The diocese also announced a new mission in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. After weeks of intensive search, strategic planning and dedicated prayers, the Anglican Mission of the Missionary Archdeaconry of Canada within the Missionary Diocese of Trinity (MDT), will open its doors to members for its inaugural worship service 1PM, Sunday, July 3, 2016, at the University College Chapel, Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ministry and dedication of the effort is from the Rev Christian Okeke.

Three New Anglican Mission Centers are also set to begin in Canada. The Rev Canon Silas Odumegwu (Montreal, QC) -- Ogbaaru diocese to MDT, Rev Canon Chikeka Obioma (Edmonton, AB) -- Egbu Diocese to MDT and Rev Canon Udoamaka Nehemiah (Northern Saskatchewan) -- Niger Delta North diocese to MDT.

The Missionary Diocese of Trinity is a diocese & mission of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). You can see more here: www.mdtrinity.org

*****

The Trinity School for Ministry Board of Trustees announced that they have appointed the Rev. Dr. Henry "Laurie" Thompson III as Interim Dean/President. He will take office on July 1, 2016. The Dean/President is the senior administrator and chief academic officer of the seminary and is responsible for all of the daily operations and fundraising efforts. He replaces Dr. Justyn Terry, who is returning to the UK.

Mr. Douglas Wicker, Chairman of Trinity's Board of Trustees, said, "Laurie Thompson is a superb leader and pastor and he has been an important senior administrator at Trinity for many years. He is intimately familiar with all aspects of the operation of the school and he will be able to take the reins without missing a beat." He added, "We have received many excellent applications for the position of Dean/ President, but we haven't found the right leader yet. We feel confident that this is God's will for us at this time. Appointing Laurie as Interim Dean/President will allow us the time we need to carefully discern God's will. We continue to trust that God will bring us the right candidate at the right time."

Laurie Thompson first came to Trinity in 1997, after spending 19 years in parish ministry. He has led the Doctor of Ministry program since 2001, and has also served as the Dean of Administration and, most recently, as the Dean of Advancement, where he played an important role in the "Reach for the Harvest" campaign, which raised $15.4 million for various strategic initiatives. He is married to Mary Thompson and they have three adult children and 9 grandchildren.

*****

We are in the midst of our spring fund appeal drive and I hope you will take a few moments to put a check in the mail to support VOL's vital ministry. Regardless of size every penny helps. You can also send a donation via PAYPAL at the link here: http://www.virtueonline.org/support-vol/

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Thank you for your support.

David

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