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COVID is changing Dynamic of Church Worship * Queen is Cancelled * ACNA Diocese Opens in Haiti * Australian Anglicans Face Questions of Sexual Abuse * REC PB Condemns CRT and Homosexuality *Bishop Resigns over Sexting * Anglican Missionaries n ME

COVID is changing Dynamic of Church Worship * Evangelical Triumphalism faces Chinese Christian Growth * Queen is Cancelled * ACNA Diocese Opens in Haiti * Australian Anglicans Face Questions of Sexual Abuse * REC PB Condemns CRT and Homosexuality * Canadian Bishop Resigns over Sexting * Anglican Missionaries see growth in Middle East * CRT Condemned by Black Theologian

Every time the gospel has been proclaimed boldly and accurately in church history, there has been persecution. Every time the church speaks out to confront ungodliness in the culture, there is a backlash. I have no desire to go looking for persecution and conflict, but the fact that I live so free of persecution makes me question my commitment to the things of God. I don't like conflict, but I hate to stand among people like Caiaphas. --- Bill Muehlenberg

Stop twisting yourself in knots to make Christianity inoffensive. Christianity IS offensive. It comes from heaven and it rebukes our sinful world. Christ was not celebrated. He did not go out to white-glove banquets and listen to elegant dinner speeches. He preached the truth in love, he obeyed the Father, and then he was brutally crucified, hung naked as a public spectacle and a Roman warning to any dumb enough to follow him. I am so very tired of evangelicals who try to make the Christian faith palatable to the natural man --- Owen Strachan

What if we stop dealing with racial conflicts in schools, universities, and the workplace by reference to "CRT" but instead by reference to phrases that are more easily understood and well-defined in American law--phrases like "racial discrimination" or "racial harassment"? This formulation allows us to distinguish between offensive ideas (which the law protects) and discriminatory conduct (which the law prohibits.) --- David French

Dear Brothers and Sisters
June 18, 2021

COVID-19 has changed us in three important ways. There has been an unprecedented outpouring of creativity and change, the move online has broken barriers of time and distance, and we have transformed our liturgy, writes George Barna.

We seem to be moving towards a "hybrid church" where there will be both online and in-person services in many churches. In the process, we are solving connection problems that we have struggled with for decades. The question is, will the hybrid church become the new normal?

Over time, Christians have found ways of working through--sometimes beautifully, sometimes with difficulty--the means to become a new hybrid.

The early church began as a Jewish community centered on Jesus that evolved into a universal and diverse body of believers. Catholics and Protestants have been growing together as a result of the ecumenical movement. The Book of Common Prayer was adapted and enhanced as a result of the Book of Alternative Services.

All of these transformations involved risk and overcoming the fear of new circumstances.

While some churches are thriving, most are only surviving. Some data indicates 3 out of 5 churches will close in the next five years.

Dr. Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, recently delivered up some grim facts.

• Church attendance and the number of people who identify themselves as Christians are in sharp decline.

• Christians are not as involved in church as their parents were.

• Nearly half of young adults and young people are feeling increasingly uneasy about witnessing. Millennials ignore the command to go and make disciples.

• Christianity is being marginalized, while consumerism and self-fulfillment are today's top goals.

This data has the church on its heels. Twelve months ago, the church gurus focused on improving the livestream as the key to maintaining members and remaining strong. Churches across America are in a battle for survival.

But the most recent data shows that COVID-19 brought in a shift of lifestyle and a new perspective about how people viewed the church.

"We have to recognize that attitudes toward the church have changed, says Pastor Mark Clark, founding pastor of Village Church, a multi-site church with locations in multiple cities across Canada.

"These days, many view the church as anti-gay, judgmental, too political, racist, and hypocritical.

"Those are probably the top things that the outside, the post-Christian world, says about the church (and many within the church who choose to leave). The church has to be able to speak into these things."

How can the church recover from such a bad reputation? For a large percentage of society, the church was once the light of the community. That is no longer true.

But serving others in our local communities is a small step in the right direction. Can serving others save the reputation of the local church? I'm not sure, but it's a great place to start. Who does not like being served? Who says no to random acts of kindness? Churches can step up even in small ways, but perhaps the Benedict Option beginning at the grass roots might be the beginning of renewal. One thing is for sure--where people serve, no one loses.


A lot of American evangelical Christianity is triumphalist. Many evangelicals falsely believe that God works on what American evangelical "prophets" think and their "biblical" timetable and their hardships, which are mostly minimal. (Try being a Christian in Iran or North Korea, for example). So, they plead for the Lord to return to alleviate them from their minor sufferings and mortgage payments.

Consider this. There are an estimated 120 million Chinese Christians and only 81 million card carrying Communists. There are an estimated 2 million Christians inside the Communist Party. The biggest threat to China is the Christian Church. The Communist Party fears Christianity more than it fears the Uighurs. I have often used the figure of 60 million Chinese Christians. I was wrong. The figure is twice that. (Source Pocket Testament League and CIA)

Let's put that in a larger perspective. Right now, there are more practicing Christians in China than all of Western Europe put together. There are more Christians in China than all of the combined Anglican Communion which numbers at the most 80 million. But here's the biggie.

Christians in America total 205 million, with approximately 140 million being Protestants. If you take out mainline protestants and other non-evangelical groupings, the figure might be closer to 120 million. Now Christianity is in overall decline in the US with Nones (non-religious) now the fastest rising group. So, it might be fair to say that there will, in the next five years, be more practicing Christians in China than the US and Canada combined!


This week the Queen was cancelled. She is 'Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England'. A group of Oxford students at Magdalene College removed a portrait of Her Majesty from a common room on the grounds that "depictions of the monarch and the British monarchy represent recent colonial history". The decision was made by members of Magdalen College's Middle Common Room (MCR), of whom ten voted in favor of removing the portrait, two against and five abstained, according to the BBC.


Episcopal Church leaders predictably slammed the SCOTUS decision, siding with a Catholic Foster Agency in Philadelphia this week that refused to allow homosexual couples to adopt children. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and HOD President Gay Jennings called the action "bigotry," "discriminatory", "homophobic" and "exclusionary"

The 9.0 ruling devastated Episcopal church leaders. On June 17, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Catholic Social Services in its suit against the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which ended its contract with CSS to provide foster care because CSS refused to work with same-sex couples. It violated the First Amendment, the court said.

You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/episcopal-church-slams-scotus-decision-siding-catholic-foster-agency


ANGLICAN THEOLOGICAL STUDIES. If you had any doubts about the steady growth of Anglicanism in North America, consider this. In his address to his Provincial Council, Archbishop Foley Beach said that the College of Bishops approved Asbury Seminary's Anglican Track as an official school of study for the ACNA. They join the Reformed Episcopal Seminary, Trinity School for Ministry, Nashotah House, Beeson Divinity School, Gordon-Conwell, and Regent College. One can also add the Ridley Institute for Anglican studies.


REC Presiding Bishop Ray Sutton condemned Critical Race Theory and
in an address to his church's General Council. Speaking at the 56th General Council of the REC recently, Bishop Sutton said that while Critical Race Theory may at some points offer useful information, they are not necessarily Biblical nor Christian in their premises, principles, and practices. They can even at times become explicitly anti-Christian, displaying another kind of religious prejudice. And since they are only theories, they can offer misinformation or exclude key information. Moreover, these secular racial theories in the hands of some biased researchers unfortunately succumb to atheistic totalitarian, Marxist ideologies. The bishop also spoke to the recent controversy over "gay Christian" terminology, observing this was a flawed approach to Christian anthropology and ecclesiology. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/rec-presiding-bishop-condemns-critical-race-theory-homosexuality


The Anglican Diocese of the Living Word, an ACNA Diocese, revealed that it had launched an outreach into Haiti with eight new parishes joining the ADLW. Bishop Julian Dobbs made the announcement at his recent Diocesan convention. He also introduced Bishop William Love, former TEC Bishop of Albany as his new assisting bishop. Both bishops got standing ovations.

The fractious Episcopal Diocese of Haiti does not have a bishop diocesan after years of internal conflict. The diocese, which has more baptized members than any diocese in the Episcopal Church, struggles with self-governance and its relationship to the broader church. The diocese remains in episcopal limbo. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/acna-diocese-launches-outreach-haiti


The Anglican Church in Australia finds itself in deep scrutiny over revelations of sexual abuse. All Anglicans should be deeply grieved by the study released this week by the Anglican Church of Australia on domestic and family violence, said the new Archbishop of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel. "Like my predecessor, I want to state clearly that all forms of domestic abuse are incompatible with Scripture and Christian faith. Nothing justifies violence or coercion. Christian relationships are to be marked by love, gentleness and respect."

The report indicates the prevalence of family abuse was the same or higher than in the wider Australian community. The report will be studied to determine ways to further strengthen responses to domestic abuse and family violence within church communities and a ten-point commitment has been enacted by the General Synod, as well as work already undertaken in the Sydney Diocese. "There is much work to do and our shock and sadness should stir us into further action," said Archbishop Raffel.

You can read stories here: https://virtueonline.org/australia-no-tolerance-abuse
And here: https://virtueonline.org/sydney-anglican-church-must-rethink-doctrine-has-left-trail-devastated-lives

In other Australian news, the Bishop of the Diocese of Gippsland says he supports a synod motion endorsing non-marital relationships. They voted to change its own version of Faithfulness in Service, the national church's guidelines for standards in ministry, to remove the classical definition of chaste relationships (marriage between a man and a woman) and replace it with a more ambiguous definition of "committed and monogamous relationship". The resolution came from Bishop-in-Council and was endorsed by Bishop Richard Treloar in his Presidential Address. The move, not the first in Australia, effectively announces to the diocese that sexual relationships outside marriage (including homosexual relationships) are no bar to ministry. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/bishop-gippsland-supports-synod-motion-endorsing-non-marital-relationships


A former bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) has resigned from his episcopacy after allegations, which he admits are "well founded," that he "sent inappropriate sexualized electronic communications to an adult person" with whom he had a pastoral relationship.

Lincoln McKoen, who had been Bishop of the Territory of the People, a diocese in British Columbia formerly known as the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, was initially "inhibited" (essentially suspended) on June 1, just days after the grisly discovery of a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, which had been operated by the Roman Catholic Church. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/canada-decline-and-fall-bishop-lincoln-mckoen


For years we have known that Hong Kong Archbishop Paul Kwong has been in the back pocket of the oppressive Communist-driven Chinese government. Living Church writer David Goodhew has summarized it as BEIJING'S MAN IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION. You can read the full story here: https://virtueonline.org/beijings-man-anglican-communion

He writes: "Justin Welby and official Anglican structures have been silent over the oppression of Uighur Muslims, the people of Hong Kong, and Chinese people generally. Concerning oppression elsewhere they are often much more vocal. For official Anglicanism, Black lives matter (sometimes); Chinese lives, not so much."

One key reason is the presence at the heart of official Anglicanism of Archbishop Paul Kwong. He chairs the key Anglican institution, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) -- and Kwong has consistently promoted the Chinese Communist Party's stance. The key fact about Archbishop Kwong is his long-standing membership in the Chinese Communist Party's Political Consultative Conference. This position is held only so long as Kwong articulates a consistently pro-Beijing stance. And you wonder why GAFCON will have nothing to do with the ACC and Welby, this is another reason why. It's not all about homosexuality. Compromise runs deep in many places in the Anglican Communion, and this is one of the worst examples.


As TEC sinks slowly into the sunset, some bishops are getting worried and are asking what to do with parishes that are in major decline. One diocese is putting the screws to its parishes. The Diocese of Washington under Mariann Budde has gotten the diocese to pass Canon 54, titled "Diocesan Stewardship and Parish Vitality". "This is about our responsibility to each other as Christians across the Diocese of Washington," said the Rev. Andrew Walter, canon to the ordinary of the diocese, which has more than 80 congregations in the District of Columbia and four counties in southern Maryland, reports TLC.

A diocesan canon is a legally enforceable document, and some of the language is stark. The statement of purpose says the canon is intended to enable the diocese to "make a determination of whether the long-term viability of a parish as a self-sustaining entity furthering the mission of the Episcopal Church is in jeopardy to the extent that Diocesan oversight or intervention is necessary."

A summary document says this; "Diocesan Council may recommend further action that would include, but is not limited to: counseling for the parish and its leadership; a change in clergy or lay leadership of the parish; assumption of parish assets and operations by the Diocese; a change in parish status; a merger of two or more parishes; and, closing a parish."

In other words, if you don't perform, you're history. Recently the diocese sold off Christ Church, Accokeek, for an undisclosed sum of money. Better to have money in the bank than pay legal fees trying to hold onto a parish. Under Canon 54, Budde can seize the property and sell it off to whomever. Perhaps former PB Jefferts Schori could suggest a tavern or two.


THE ACNA: A VIEW FROM THE NALC. Founded respectively in 2009 and 2010, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) are on parallel tracks. The reasons for their founding were similar. In the case of the Anglicans, it was a longstanding objection to The Episcopal Church's (TEC) drift into theological liberalism and moral revisionism. Though not the first event to make people leave TEC, Gene Robinson's consecration in 2003 as the first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop generated the momentum needed to establish a new Anglican province in North America.

This is an excellent read. We commend it to you. Click here for more: https://virtueonline.org/acna-view-nalc


TWO ANGLICAN MISSIONARIES SEE GROWTH OF CHRISTIAN FAITH IN MIDDLE EAST. A lot of ministry goes unheralded and behind the scenes. Two Anglican missionaries I interviewed have been working quietly in Iraq since 2014, and say they are seeing green shoots of Christian faith in Middle East countries dominated by Islam and scarred by war.

"We've been in Iraq for seven years. Recently we moved to a larger city, the hub of discipleship activities for the region, to further spread the Gospel." The missionaries asked not to be named or location identified to protect their lives and ministry. Both missionaries hail from Texas and are under the spiritual authority of the Anglican Church in North America. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/two-anglican-missionaries-see-growth-christian-faith-middle-east


Famed theologian points to 'demonic ideology' behind critical race theory, BLM movement -- but says a great awakening is on its way. Black theologian Dr. Voddie T. Baucham says that there is an insidious "demonic ideology" behind the teaching of critical race theory, core tenets of the Black Lives Matter movement, and more. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/famed-theologian-points-demonic-ideology-behind-critical-race-theory-blm-movement-says-great


Rick Warren, America's premier evangelical preacher, announced he is retiring after more than 40 years leading Saddleback Church. "This is not the end of my ministry," Warren told his congregants on Sunday. "It's not even the beginning of the end. ... We're going to take one step at a time in the timing of God. ... God has already blessed me more than I could ever possibly imagine. I don't deserve any of it, and so this next transition in my life is something I am anticipating with zero regrets, zero fears, zero worries."

The Southern California-based megachurch has begun looking for Warren's successor. He is the author of the best-selling The Purpose Driven Life. He championed evangelicals fighting AIDS overseas. After his son died of suicide in 2013, he and his wife Kay began a mental health ministry.

In Nashville, TN this week, Ed Litton, the relatively unknown senior pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, defeated two preeminent rivals to be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention during a session of the SBC's annual meeting.

Litton has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his work since at least the 2014 riots after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Litton's election is considered a defeat for hard right conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention's recent battles over race, sexual abuse and gender roles.


PERSECUTION NEWS. Iran went to the polls and elected a new hardline president. Most of the candidates were hard-liners, which UK charity Release International warns will increase pressure on the persecuted Church.

Hindu nationalism puts Indian Christians at risk. PM Narendra Modi, a hardline Hindu, is no lover of Christians and sees them as a throwback to English colonialism.

In Nth Korea, being a Christian is a death sentence. If you aren't killed instantly, you will be taken to a labor camp as a political criminal. Kim Jong-un is reported to have expanded the system of prison camps, in which an estimated 50-70,000 Christians are currently imprisoned.

Nth Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia remain the top three nations most persecuting Christians, according to Open Doors.

Despite the increasing persecution in countries on the World Watch List, like North Korea, Syria and Nigeria, we see God at work in a powerful way. Thousands are coming to Christ and the Church stands strong, say persecution watch folk.


I wrote a piece on Why Revival Tarries. It is not my usual stuff or style, but I felt convicted by what I am seeing and hoping that the spirit of repentance will overtake the Church as it moves post COVID. You can read it here: https://virtueonline.org/why-revival-tarries


BOOKS. It might be the "silly season" for news, but not for book writers. I have some six books that I am reading and reviewing. They include: Reformation Anglican Worship by Michael P. Jensen; ANGLICANISM, Reformed Catholic Tradition by Gerald Bray; Two new commentaries; one on the Book of Revelation by Melvin Tinker and the other on Romans by Robert B. McLeod; Understanding the Jewish Roots of Christianity, edited by Gerald R McDermott and Do Christians, Muslims and Jews Worship the same God? Please be patient while I work my way through these august volumes.


If you have a sense of humor, you might like my satirical essay The Updating of God: God 2.0 is on the way, says TEC Presiding. You can read it here: https://virtueonline.org/updating-god-god-20-way-says-tec-presiding-bishop

You can read another satirical essay; EPISCOPAL CHURCH AFFIRMS GAY PRIDE MONTH WITH LGBTQI WAFERS, WINE AND FLAG. Read it here: https://virtueonline.org/episcopal-church-affirms-gay-pride-month-lgbtqi-wafers-wine-and-flag


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