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GAFCON Primates Weigh Future in Communion * Hold Your Nose and Vote, says Billy Graham * TEC Seminaries Lowest attended in Nation * High Suicide Rate Among Married Homosexuals

"Gender theory is an invention, an artificial creation. It is impossible to have an identity that does not respect the proper nature of man and that of woman. It is madness that will cause immense damage in society and in the lives of those who support this theory. With gender theory, it is impossible to live in society...The twofold expression of the human person is not heterosexuality and homosexuality, but male and female. This is the authentic theology of anthropology: that God created man: 'male and female He created them.'" -- Raymond Cardinal Burke

What must we do? The gospel offers blessings; what must we do to receive them? The proper answer is 'nothing'! We do not have to *do* anything. We have only to *believe*. Our response is not 'the works of the law' but 'hearing with faith', that is, not obeying the law, but believing the gospel. For obeying is to attempt to do the work of salvation ourselves, whereas believing is to let Christ be our Saviour and to rest in his finished work. --- John R.W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
August 5, 2016

Will they or won't they, that is the question. Will the GAFCON primates attend yet another meeting called by Archbishop Justin Welby, to begin October 2, 2017?

"For all who had hoped that attendance at the January, 2016, Primates' Gathering might restore godly order to the Communion, the results were clearly discouraging. Gafcon is fully committed to guarding the unchanging truth of the Gospel, and restoring the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion. In due course, the Gafcon Primates will take counsel and together make a decision about the wisdom of attending future meetings," said the release.

The next meeting of the GAFCON Primates' Council is scheduled for April of 2017. "We give thanks for the courage that is being shown by our members across the globe, as they share God's Word both "in season and out of season." Please continue to pray for the continued growth of this reformation movement."

If the past is prologue to the future, the odds of the GAFCON primates is pretty slim.

At about the same time as this announcement was made, the General Secretary of GAFCON, Archbishop Peter Jensen, also issued a statement that seemed to provide the answer.

It is now perfectly clear that the meeting [of the Primates] in January failed in its intention. Far from being rebuked, the leaders of the Episcopal Church said that they intend to continue in their present course and indeed to export their ideas vigorously to the rest of the world.

It seems, from what the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion is communicating, that repentance was never required -- which makes the disciplinary measures rather strange.

He said Michael Curry showed disdain for the leaders of some of the most thriving of the Provinces in the Communion and would, in fact, continue on their present pathway.

"Almost weekly there has been a fresh indication of the power of the cultural forces which are opposed to the faith to capture and determine church outcomes. Episcopal leadership from those who stand for biblical truth is strangely muted, while those who wish to come to terms with the culture are making powerful symbolic gestures of accord with error."

Jensen cited TEC, and the Scottish Episcopal Church for providing for same-sex marriage.

To the outside observer, it seems that the same remorseless path is being pursued in the UK. We are always being assured that the next step will be the last and that, from now on, the church will have peace with all sides happy. It is said that only 'extremists' will utter their usual shrill complaints and leave.

Indeed, a decade further on, the protests seem more muted, and those willing to take action, fewer. It has now become much harder to resist the incursion of the world into the church. The cost has become even higher.

On the surface it would seem that the GAFCON Primates will not attend any meeting called by Welby, based on what Jensen has said.

"GAFCON exists to honor the word of God and to unite those who wish to stand unflinching by its teaching. We know of many in the UK who have the same aim and we encourage them to be faithful to the whole counsel of God as they enter a conflict not of their own making." Perhaps Jensen has offered us the answer as to what the GAFCON Primates will do. Stay tuned.

*****

Effective July 25, Bexley Seabury, one of 10 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church, will consolidate under one roof at Chicago Theological Seminary, in Chicago, Illinois, making it the sixth (only Episcopal) seminary in Chicago's historic Hyde Park/Woodlawn district.

The move makes it easier for students of both schools to take advantage of long-standing cross-registration privileges for courses offered by member schools in the Association of Chicago Theological Schools, of which Bexley Seabury and CTS are founding members, and opens the door to the two seminaries collaborating on new course offerings and other initiatives, said a press report.

Bexley Seabury will offer its Doctor of Ministry degree and Anglican Studies and Lifelong Learning programs. Pending state licensing approval, Bexley Seabury also plans to offer its Master of Divinity degree, like its other programs already accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Bexley Seabury previously operated from two sites, one elsewhere in Chicago and in Columbus, Ohio.

However, it should be noted that the smallest accredited Protestant seminaries in the nation are three Episcopal seminaries: Bexley Hall Seabury-Western Theological Seminary Federation with 17 full-time students enrolled, General Theological Seminary with 34 full-time students, and Episcopal Divinity School with 35 full-time students. IRD's Jeffrey Walton reported Episcopal Divinity School will no longer grant degrees after the coming academic school year. "A menu of recycled 1960s-era liberation theology themes garnished with radical sexuality and gender studies proved unappealing to prospective seminarians," noted Walton.

Figures recently collected by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), reveal an interesting picture: students seeking training for church ministry in the United States are largely attracted to evangelical Protestant seminaries, a trend that hasn't changed much over the past twenty years.

The evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary ranks largest with 1,542 full-time enrolled students during the 2015-16 academic year. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary follow closely behind with 1,438 and 1,356 full-time enrolled students, respectively.

While all of the ten largest seminaries in the country are evangelical Protestant, it's interesting that half of those schools are Southern Baptist-affiliated. Five of the six theological seminaries associated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are among the top ten largest in the country. Meanwhile, the SBC-affiliated Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary barely missed the list with 705 full-time students enrolled.

Since the 1995-96 academic school year, Princeton Theological Seminary has seen 30 percent fewer full-time enrolled students. Reformed Theological Seminary saw a 33 percent decrease to 547 full-time students while Candler School of Theology experienced a 39 percent drop to 414 full-time students.

There were a few positive changes. Since 1995-96, the evangelical Wesleyan-rooted Asbury Theological Seminary experienced a 50 percent increase in full-time student enrollment. "They are drawn to Asbury's distinctives of a high regard for biblical authority and commitment to preparing women and men for evangelistic ministry," wrote Dr. Tom Tumblin, Dean of the Asbury seminary Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching and Leadership, in an article for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. "Our faculty includes world-class scholars who have rich field experience and embrace God's call to go, disciple, baptize and teach."

Of course, we can't ignore the significant decline in full-time enrollment among Fuller, Southwestern, Trinity Evangelical, and several others that have transpired over the course of twenty years.

Explanations may vary as to the reasons. Perhaps America's slowly-recovering economy after the 2008 recession played a role or society's growing discomfort with Christianity and hostility towards the public role of the Church has made an impact on student's career choices.

It's hard not to notice the smallest Protestant Seminaries in the country while collecting ATS figures.

However, the consistency in seminary choices over the past twenty years corroborates most full-time students called to ministry prefer orthodox Christianity to liberal trend followers.

*****

World-renowned Evangelist Billy Graham, 97, believes every Christian in America should exercise their right to vote this November, even if they don't like either of the candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties.

"The Bible says we should do everything we possibly can to be good citizens and work for the betterment of our society, and one of the ways we can do this is by voting," Graham writes in his column on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website. "God tells us to 'seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you' (Jeremiah 29:7)."

The Baptist pastor understands that a lot of Christians are too disillusioned with politics nowadays to even cast a vote. However, Graham says if Christians do not vote, or Christians do not run for office, then America's decline is to be expected.

"In other words, staying away from the voting booth may only perpetuate the problems you see," he explains.

Before Christians think of who to vote for, Graham strongly encourages them to pray. After doing so, they will have a better grasp of the issues that America needs to address and which candidate will be the best one to solve it.

"Beyond that, however, pray for our nation and its leaders--not just the President, but all who've been entrusted with public office," he says. "It's the most important thing you can do."

Graham acknowledges that the world will never be perfect, and problem after problem will continue to hound it. "But in the meantime, God wants to use us to overcome sin and establish a more just world for His glory," he says.

Meanwhile, Graham's son, Franklin, is also echoing his father's statements. During his stop in Washington's Capitol as part of the Decision America Tour, he told the crowd to choose between Republican nominee, Donald Trump, or Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, even if Christians have to "hold their nose" while doing so.

"You're just going to have to ask yourself which of the two do you think we as Christians will at least have a voice with?" Graham said. "You have to make that choice. Now, you might have to hold your nose."

*****

Developed countries motivated by a need for oil and desire for profits are abandoning their principles to allow Islamic Jihadists to destroy Middle Eastern Christianity, the "cradle" of the faith.

So said the patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch, His Beatitude Ignatius Joseph III Younan, to the annual international gathering of Knights of Columbus in Toronto, last week.

"We have to understand that totalitarianism based on Islamic creed is the worst among all systems of government. Yes, my friends, the very survival of Christians in the cradle of Christianity is quite in danger," the patriarch said.

"Why shall we wonder at the rise of the Islamic State or its new 'Caliphate,' when these 'allied rich countries' -- with among the most retrograde systems of government -- continue to channel funding and weapons to terrorists spreading hatred and committing barbaric atrocities in the name of a religion?" (This was an obvious reference to Saudi Arabia, America's chief ally in the Middle East, whose royal family supports radical Islamic believers in return for their endorsement of the Saud family's rulership.)

In a straight-from-the-heart cry for help for the rapidly vanishing but 2,000-year-old Christian presence in Middle East, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph told the Knights that Saudi Arabia was funding Muslim jihadists to act out a new kind of murderous intolerance, and the Western democracies were letting them do it.

*****

Muslims across France attended a Catholic Mass in a gesture of solidarity after the murder of a priest.

Fr Jacques Hamel was killed in his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen, by two men who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. France's Muslim council, the CFCM, urged Muslims to show "solidarity and compassion" over the murder.

"We are all Catholics of France," said Anouar Kbibech, the head of the CFCM. Services were held in Rouen, as well as in Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral.

*****

The Olympic Games bring people together across nations, faiths and backgrounds. Whether it was ever intended to be or not, the festive competition may just be the largest interfaith gathering in the world.

More than 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries will compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics, which is expected to draw millions of visitors from around the world. During its busiest periods, the Rio 2016 committee expects over 17,000 athletes and officials will be living in the Olympic village.

With such a turnout, the Olympic committee is preparing for a high demand on spiritual resources. To satisfy that need, Olympic and Paralympic Villages feature a multi-faith center with chaplains and prayer spaces representing Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism.

"Our job is to provide athletes with a place where they can find comfort and spiritual peace, whatever their religion," Father Leandro Lenin Tavares, a Rio de Janeiro priest coordinating the center, said in a statement. "We are a symbol of peace, brotherhood and the unity of peoples."

*****

Military chaplains are working across the globe to care for the spiritual wellbeing of armed forces personnel in a bid to prevent suicide -- a significant issue amongst military veterans. And last week, the Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Bishop Ian Lambert, visited his American counterparts at Camp Arifjan, in Kuwait, to pray and to discuss "the challenges and rewards of being a military chaplain."

While in Kuwait, Bishop Lambert met with members of the ADF serving in the Middle East; and held discussions with two chaplains from the US-based Episcopal Church serving members of the US Army, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Knaup and Captain Ian Burgess; and two Australian chaplains, Captain Murray Lund and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Gibson.

The chaplains agreed that caring for a service member's spiritual wellbeing is an important key to preventing suicide. "The principle that we are spiritual beings must be brought regularly to our commanders," Bishop Lambert said.

Lieutenant Colonel Knaup told Bishop Lambert that spiritual strength was one of the five pillars of the US Army's current resiliency training; and he demonstrated on of the US tool's for suicide prevention: Ace cards. The cards encourage soldiers to "Ask, Care and Escort" battle buddies with suicidal thoughts.

"I was glad to see Chaplain Lambert's concern for service members," Captain Burgess said. "It's great to see that in Australia they're using some of the same programs -- like the ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) program -- and that it's bearing results there."

During their meeting, the chaplains prayed for peace, and for protection and courage for service members of the coalition and partner nations.

On his return to Sydney, Bishop Lambert, who had 20 years of active service in the ADF before ordination, called for Anglican clergy and their spouses, and those considering or training for vocational ministry in Australia, to attend an information day on Thursday (4 August) at Randwick Barracks, which is being held to challenge others to join in ministry as service chaplains.

*****

St Paul's Cathedral of the Diocese of Huron in London, Ontario, has structural problems, which will cost approximately $1 million dollars to fix, according to news reports.

Parishioners are making jam and marmalade, selling pictorial calendars and holding fund-raising concerts in order to raise the money needed to cover the repairs.

However, many are questioning the leadership in the Diocese of Huron, as so much time and energy has gone into discussing homosexual weddings (for which there is little or no demand), and so much time has been put into outreach and social causes, that not enough time was given to the other aspects of the church, such as maintenance and repairs of the church building.

The new Bishop of Huron voted in favor of homosexual weddings at the Synod in 2016, with the retiring Bishop also voting in favor of LGBT3Q2 weddings in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Many are now questioning the quality of the leadership in the Diocese of Huron that has brought the church members to this point where the Cathedral for the Diocese is questioning why it is such poor shape structurally.

*****

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has admitted its involvement in forced adoptions in the 20th Century. Archbishop Philip Richardson, who, as one of the church's three primates, has responsibility for the Tikanga Pakeha -- the part of the Church representing the descendants of European settlers -- has welcomed calls for an official inquiry and said that the church is ready to open its record books, says an ACNS report.

In 2013, the Australian government apologized after a Senate investigation found that as many as 250,000 women had their babies removed between the 1950s and 70s. In the same year, the film Philomena, documented the widespread forced removal of babies from unmarried mothers in Ireland.

The scale of forced adoptions in New Zealand, in what became dubbed the "baby-snatch era" from the 1940s to the 1970s, is not known because there has never been an official inquiry. In 1997, the New Zealand parliament dropped its investigation into the "coercive" practices, despite acknowledging that it was carried out by both the state and the church.

Many parents have spent decades trying to trace their children and have demanded a public inquiry. But the country's justice minister, Amy Adams, has ruled this out, saying it was focused on more urgent issues. "This is not to deny or diminish any harm that those affected by past adoption practices may have experienced," she told the Stuff news website. "However, the Government currently has a busy legislative program focused on issues that affect large numbers of New Zealanders, such as family violence, privacy laws and trusts."

Archbishop Richardson told Stuff that the Anglican Church in New Zealand had taken part in the forced adoption process and confirmed that some dioceses had reached legal settlements with parents on a case-by-case basis.

"We should always be open to examining our past," he said. "If later evidence was to show a systemic failure on the part of the church, across all dioceses, of the kind of significance of some of the Australians' experiences, then of course the church would need to cooperate."

*****

Speaking with Polish bishops last week, Pope Francis pulled no punches in rejecting the notion that "everyone can choose their gender."

"This is terrible," he said bluntly. "Today in schools they are teaching this to children--to children!" He said this is part of the "ideological colonization" that "influential countries" are trying to impose on the world.

"We are living in a moment of annihilation of man as image of God," the pope said. "God created man and woman, God created the world this way, this way, this way, and we are doing the opposite." He told the Polish bishops, "We must think about what Pope Benedict said--'It's the epoch of sin against God the Creator.'"

Thus did Pope Francis, not for the first time, reject political correctness in order to speak boldly and truthfully about the destructiveness--to children, to families and to society--of "gender ideology."

*****

Homosexuals who "marry" each other are almost three times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, even in very gay-friendly Sweden, according to a study published in the May issue of the European Journal of Epidemiology.

The authors of the study noted that social intolerance of homosexual behavior could not so easily be blamed for increased suicide risk, given that Sweden is known for its accepting attitude towards same-sex relationships.

"Even in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality such as Sweden, same-sex married individuals evidence a higher risk for suicide than other married individuals," the authors note.

The study, "Suicide in married couples in Sweden: Is the risk greater in same-sex couples?" used the government of Sweden's detailed databases to compare a population of over six thousand homosexual "married" couples to the larger population of heterosexual couples who married during the period between 1996 and 2009, following them until 2011.

The study found that participants in homosexual marriages had an overall 2.7 times greater chance of suicide than participants in heterosexual marriages, with the true value having a 95% probability of falling somewhere between 1.5 and 4.8.

Homosexual men in same-sex "marriages" were found to have a higher elevated risk (2.9) than women (2.5).

The study's results are similar to numerous other studies in recent years that have found a strong relationship between homosexual behavior and a variety of negative psychological outcomes, even in countries that are very accepting of homosexual behavior.

*****

A senior Church of England clergyman has been found guilty of sex offences committed against two young men in the 1970s and 80s, amid claims of a church cover-up.

A jury at Durham crown court found George Granville Gibson, 80, the former archdeacon of Auckland, guilty of two counts of indecent assault against two men, then aged 18 and 26. He was found not guilty of buggery and four other charges of indecent assault. Two charges of indecent assault were dropped.

The court was told that the former bishop of Durham, John Habgood, had been told about Gibson's inappropriate behavior, which occurred when he was a vicar at St Clare's Church in Newton, Aycliffe. A former clergyman told the court he "got the push" from the church after raising concerns about Gibson.

Gibson was found guilty of indecently assaulting that man.

One of those giving evidence against Gibson, accused the C of E of a "massive cover-up". He said: "I didn't make a complaint because no one would believe me, no one would believe that a man of the cloth would do that. I thought and still think no one would believe me. He was a vicar."

The prosecution had set out a case of the senior clergyman's "systematic, deliberate" abuse of vulnerable men. Gibson admitted in court to having had homosexual urges, but said he had only ever been sexually attracted to men, not young boys.

*****

A major Evangelical Free Church in Sweden is preparing to use drones to drop thousands of Bibles into areas of Iraq controlled by Islamic State.

The Livets Ord (Word of Life) church in Uppsala, in the north of Sweden, has said it will use drones flying at high altitude, to release thousands of small, electronic Bibles into Iraq.

"The Bibles are the size of pill boxes and have a display. They require no electricity, but work on their own," the church's mission director, Christian Åkerhielm, told Swedish broadcaster SVT, according to the newspaper, The Local.

"Our ambition is to pass on the hope and love of the Christian gospel to a population living in closed areas where they are being denied human rights," the Livets Ord said on its Swedish homepage.

*****

In Australia, a child abuse inquiry told an Anglican priest that he could face new charges. A former altar boy has testified that he's still being harassed in the New South Wales city of Newcastle, years after he levelled accusations against an Anglican priest.

The man has told the public hearing that the priest molested him in the 1970s, and in the years since he reported the abuse to police, he says locals have tampered with his car, trespassed on his property, and made death threats.

The priest was never convicted, but now, he could be facing fresh charges.

*****

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