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Going Forward After Covid-19 * UK Evangelical Leader Exposed as Abuser * Vatican & ACNA on same page over Homosexual Marriage * Diocese of Eau Claire in Death Throes * Diocese of Nthn. Michigan faces Extinction * Four Bishops have Resigned from TEC * More

Going Forward After Covid-19 * UK Evangelical Leader Exposed as Abuser * Vatican & ACNA on same page over Homosexual Marriage * Diocese of Eau Claire in Death Throes * Diocese of Nthn. Michigan faces Extinction * Four Bishops have Resigned from TEC * Racism at Sewanee * Ousted ACNA Priest Forms New Church * Canadian Anglicans Reject Legal Ruling on Homosexual Marriage

The Archbishop of Canterbury has rendered himself irrelevant, an unnecessary and unhelpful appendage to the worldwide Anglican Communion. Our honorary leader shows himself unwilling to lead the Anglican Communion with any biblical conviction. This shouldn't bother us, though, since we can live a long and healthy life with our appendix removed - I haven't had mine since 1958. -- Chuck Collins and David Virtue

As far as the Bible is concerned, there is no such phenomenon as "a homosexual" or "a heterosexual": there are only people made in the image of God. We all share in the glory and tragedy of being human and we share it in our sexuality as well as other areas of our lives. --- John R.W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
March 26, 2021

IT was another hardscrabble week in the life of the Church Universal, particularly in the Anglican Communion.

Back in March, 2020, many of us pressed pause on "regular" church, assuming we would be back in a few weeks. Four months later most churches are trying to sputter back to some form of in-person ministry, and we've all realized the impact of this crisis will not be measured in weeks or even months, but years. We must prepare for church after Covid-19, writes Derek Allen.

Three hard realities have emerged.

The first is, we can't go back to normal. We have to accept that church as we knew it has changed significantly. We will have to rebuild them rather than simply restart them. The leaders, volunteers, participants, and systems for each ministry will need to be reengaged, reenergized, rebuilt, and in many cases, replaced.

Secondly, the Church After Covid-19 is going to be a two-year process. First, what does it mean to make disciples? And second, how will we know when we are making disciples?

Thirdly, the Church after Covid-19 means the metrics have changed. During Covid, most churches online engagement skyrocketed. Some giving increased, but most seemed to decrease. Our small parish held its own. This week my wife and I will attend Palm Sunday services in person, Easter vigil and Easter services. We have both had our shots. We are looking forward to "going home" again and seeing old friends.

Our parish is doing 100 Days to a Healthier Church by Karl Vaters. We won't go back; we will go forward. In a way going forward is the only option. We desperately want to go back to the way things were--that's the choice most of us would make--but that's not an option--it is not a choice that any of us can make. We cannot go back; we can only go forward. The truth is however, we don't need to go back. Many of us were stuck in ministry ruts that were no longer effective. Now we have the opportunity to go forward without the demands and even constraints of existing ministry structures.

Create a New Scorecard. What really matters in disciple-making? For the past few decades, the church has been in an uncomfortable relationship with numbers. We know that nickels and noses don't add up to disciple-making but trying to reimagine what we should be measuring has been like walking the wrong way up a crowded escalator. Even when you know it's the right way to go, the pressure from those around you makes it almost impossible, says Allen.

*****

The news out of England in a 146-page report, that a leading Anglican evangelical in the person of Jonathan Fletcher was a sexual abuser, was a jaw-dropping zinger. Fletcher reportedly gave and received naked massages, manipulating men to take ice cold baths, with men facing gym-shoe beatings as incentives for spiritual targets, as well as bullying and humiliation under his leadership.

The lengthy independent report on the sexual activities of Fletcher, was commissioned by Emmanuel Church Wimbledon (ECW), revealing "harmful behaviors" including coercion and control, bullying and spiritual abuse.

One incident of a sexual nature included Fletcher telling one man to perform a sex act in front of him and when he did not, Fletcher performed the act instead.

"This behavior demonstrates a gross abuse of power and is far beyond anything which can be deemed acceptable or appropriate from a minister in a position of power, trust and responsibility," the report stated.

Some 98 participants were interviewed, as were an additional 27 victims of those who had experienced the behaviors focused on in this report.

The Church Times reports that Fletcher's behavior was out in the public domain in 2019, but no one did anything about it because it was seen as 'consensual.' In September 2018, the massages and beatings first came to be known more widely, but it took time for the allegations to be investigated and publicized. Because it was all seen as 'consensual' among adults, it wasn't at first seen as a safeguarding issue.

What is deeply disturbing is that the bullying and controlling behavior, and Fletcher's influence over large sections of the constituency, was known about for some years and just accepted - "that's how he is".

Another source told VOL that Fletcher was minister of a proprietary chapel - a private building where he functioned, at a distance from the structures of the Diocese of Southwark.

Fletcher's permission to officiate was withdrawn, but he carried on regardless to accept invitations for preaching, and no doubt the other activities for which he has now been named.

He could, in theory, face a tribunal under the Clergy Discipline Measure, but so far there is no indication that this will happen.

The Diocese of Southwark is roughly the equivalent of New Hampshire, said the source.

A Church Times editorial ran thus:

AS WITH people, so with organisations. Few would command respect, if any, were they to be judged by their worst behaviour. The Church as a whole would think it grossly unfair if people based their view of it on the abuse and prejudice exhibited by a minority (and would be horrified by the number of people who regard it in exactly that light). It is dangerous, then, to argue outwards from the accounts of abuse and mistreatment at Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon ("ECW" in the reviewers' report, published on Tuesday). Yet this is precisely what the reviewers do, supported in a separate statement by members of the Independent Advisory Group, which was close to the investigation. The reviewers quite correctly concentrate on the activities of the Revd Jonathan Fletcher (who declined to participate in the review); but then argue that the factors that enabled him to operate unchecked extend far beyond a not-quite-parish church into the wider conservative Evangelical network.

The list of failings is damning: favouritism, the demand for unquestioning obedience, rule by charisma, the bequeathing and withdrawal of access to an inner circle, the exploitation of patronage (often in a literal sense), a lack of accountability, the "othering" of outside forces who might be expected to exercise oversight, warm fellowship followed by an escalating series of tests to prove that it is deserved, the calculated use of humiliation and fear to maintain loyalty, a sense of privilege, the "unfellowshipping" of people who are judged to have lost their attraction or usefulness, and an enforced code of silence, applied even to those who might ordinarily have been thought to have escaped the clutches of the leader. To label these factors as "cultic" is to put an undeserved religious gloss on them. What they most resemble is gang behaviour, found equally on south London estates and in the lavatories of public schools. What they least resemble, of course, is a healthy, humble, pastoral Christian community.

Wise leaders in the conservative Evangelical fold will recognise that there are particular susceptibilities in their branch of Christianity. It can be unkind to those who fail to conform to its codes; it likes to deal in certainties; it encourages fellowship that is close but can become closed; and it often defines itself in opposition to others, including other Christian traditions. This last tendency generates a defensiveness that discourages self-examination. Indeed, the ECW reviewers question whether leaders who overlooked Mr Fletcher's behaviour are capable of addressing the "unhealthy culture" across the conservative Evangelical constituency, and whether they should not be considering their positions. The Church of England Evangelical Council is offering "a range of resources" on its website "to help Anglican Evangelicals in a time of lament". We imagine that a more thoroughgoing response will be made in the near future.

You can read more stories here: https://virtueonline.org/uk-leading-anglican-evangelical-exposed-sexual-abuser-146-page-report
And here: https://virtueonline.org/jonathan-fletcher-pope-conservative-evangelicalism-was-abusive-bully

*****

It will come as no surprise to VOL readers that a number of Episcopal Church bishops condemned the recent Vatican's pronouncement that it would not bless homosexual unions because they view them as sinful.

The TEC bishops think the Pope and the Roman Catholics are wrong, and they are fierce in their condemnation of that Church's position and their continued support of the pansexual agenda and homosexual persons in the Episcopal Church.

"These words injure LGBTQ+ people and all who advocate for justice and equity for all children," Los Angeles Bishop John Harvey Taylor said March 17 in an email message to his Episcopal diocese in Southern California. The Vatican's statement, he said, "risks putting a stumbling block between Jesus Christ and all who are spiritually hungry and who need and deserve the hope of resurrection."

"These words injure LGBTQ+ people," said one bishop, but what about his words that contribute to the pandemic (among homosexuals) of gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV? Emotional pain matters more than a lethal behavior. Some 35 million, mostly men, have died of AIDS since its inception, 770,000 died of AIDS in 2018. I wonder if you brought them all back from the dead if they would tell you a different story from what they were led to believe and how they behaved.

You can read my story here: https://virtueonline.org/no-sin-sodomy-say-episcopal-bishops

*****

Not surprisingly, the Vatican and ACNA are on the same page over homosexual practice.

The RCC will not recognize homosexual unions or marriage and neither will the Anglican Church in North America. Scripture is clear, no sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman in marriage.

Pope Francis has been under considerable pressure from homosexual activists, in and out of the Church, to give the green light to homosexual marriage. The statement released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to queries on this issue is the most decisive rejection of those efforts ever written. That document can be found here: https://virtueonline.org/roman-catholic-church-nixes-same-sex-blessings

Vatican officials were clear that it cannot "approve and encourage a choice and a way of life" that is "objectively disordered." God, they declared, "does not and cannot bless sin." In short, "the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex."

The ACNA College of Bishops published a similar statement titled Sexuality and Identity and sought to address at least three pressing questions:
• What should our biblical and pastoral response be to those within our Church who self-identify as Christians with same-sex attraction?
• What is the biblical vision for transformation with regard to same-sex attraction?
• What is the most helpful language to employ in describing the reality of same-sex attraction?

They concluded that the usage of "Christians who experience same-sex attraction" was the preferred language to stifle confusion. Their statement was neither judgmental on the one hand, nor did it compromise the Scriptures' clear prohibition against homosexual behavior, found primarily in the teachings of St. Paul on the other. You can read my story here: https://virtueonline.org/vatican-and-acna-slam-door-homosexual-marriage

*****

The Diocese of Eau Claire is in its death throes. In fact, Wisconsin's three dioceses face an uncertain future. The diocese is at a crossroads, with all three Wisconsin dioceses eyeing greater collaboration, according to the Episcopal News Service.

Wisconsin has three Episcopal dioceses but, as of Jan. 1, only one active, full-time bishop, the Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter, bishop of Fond du Lac. Gunter works from a hotel in the small, northwestern city of Eau Claire. He was elected in November as provisional bishop for two years.

The Diocese of Eau Claire statistics tell the story. In 2005, there were 2206 baptized members with an average Sunday attendance of 983, a percentage attendance of 44.5%. By 2019, it was a different story. Baptized membership had dropped to 1246, with average Sunday attendance now down to 592, with a small percentage attendance uptick. The losses from 2005 to 2019 of baptized members was down by 37.7%, ASA was down 43.5% with a slight uptick in attendance of 3%.

You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/diocese-eau-claire-its-death-throes

*****

The Diocese of Nthn. Michigan is also a heartbeat away from extinction, according to a report by Jeff Walton of IRD. 'Cancelled Until Further Notice': Episcopalians on Thin Ice in Northern Michigan Diocese, ran his headline.

Many churches that were closed to in-person worship for much of the pandemic are preparing to re-open. Parts of the Episcopal Church ceased services altogether -- streaming or otherwise -- with parishioners directed to either a diocesan-wide virtual service or to the Washington National Cathedral.

The Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan is one such jurisdiction. Tiny even by Episcopal standards, the grouping of 21 Upper Peninsula congregations accounted for a combined weekly attendance of only 385 persons in 2019, well before pandemic restrictions began. The diocese reports an attendance decline of more than 38% in the past decade.

Population exodus and aging have brought about this decline, accelerated by a lack of evangelism attributable to pervasive universalist theology in one of the denomination's most revisionist dioceses. Diocesan statistics show seven baptisms in 2019, two confirmations, three received from other denominations and 13 marriages. In contrast, there were 35 burials that year -- representing 9% of the entire diocesan attendance in a single year.

Now restrictions intended to minimize the spread of COVID appear to have finished off a diocese that was already dying in 2019.

You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/cancelled-until-further-notice-episcopalians-thin-ice-northern-michigan-diocese

*****

FOUR bishops have now left The Episcopal Church in recent months, indicating that the prevailing sin of homosexual behavior still doggedly pursues the consciences of orthodox bishops.

The most recent is Daniel W. Herzog, Albany VIII. He gave no indication as to his future plans. Herzog retired as Bishop of Albany on January 31, 2007. He was succeeded by Bishop William Love, who had been elected coadjutor bishop on March 25, 2006. Both men have now quit TEC, as has Bishop John W. Howe, former Bishop of Central Florida and Bishop William Skilton of South Carolina.

Two other orthodox bishops, Alden Hathaway and Alex Dickson, remain undecided. You can read the fully story here: https://virtueonline.org/four-bishops-who-have-now-left-episcopal-church

*****

A once-prominent Tallahassee religious leader who was defrocked amid sexual misconduct and harassment revelations is attempting a resurrection of sorts -- with plans to publicly launch his new church on Easter morning.

Eric Dudley, former rector of St. Peter's Anglican Cathedral and St. John's Episcopal Church, will open the doors of Christ Church on April 4 at Thomasville Road and South Ride. The church bought the property Jan. 19 for $545,000 with money raised from its congregation of influential local residents.

Dudley's public reemergence has fanned outrage among some and prompted officials with the Anglican Church in North America to disavow him. Known as a staunch gay-rights opponent, he was ousted from St. Peter's in August 2018 after several men accused him of sexual harassment, including unwanted kissing and touching.

It's truly no surprise," said one of Dudley's victims. "If he were actually repentant and remorseful for what he did, he would have changed his career, rethought about life and focused on healing and restoration. But he did exactly what we knew he would do, which was start his own church and just continue to use the power and authority of the clergy even though he's no longer ordained in The Anglican Church at all."

The Right Rev. Neil Lebhar, first bishop of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the Anglican Church, declined to discuss the matter, other than to say Dudley is no longer a priest within the denomination. Harris Willman, administrator for the Jacksonville-based diocese, said church officials weren't surprised by Dudley's move." You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/eric-dudley-former-priest-defrocked-sexual-misconduct-opening-new-tallahassee-church

*****

, the Episcopal Church's only university! Say it ain't so. With all the posturing and screaming about racism in society and the church by the Presiding Bishop, here we have it right in the bosom of the Church's only educational institution of higher learning.

A group of 63 students and graduates of the university have issued a statement condemning the recent racial incidents on the campus that made nation headlines.

The list of alumni and students who signed the statement includes a mix of lay and clergy leaders from across The Episcopal Church. Most have relatively recent ties to the university, though a few names indicate they were part of Sewanee classes from the 1970s and 1980s.

It should be noted the university's new vice-chancellor is Reuben Brigety, a black man.

In the most recent incident cited by the statement, a group of Sewanee students was reported to have shouted racist epithets at an opposing men's lacrosse team during a March 13 match at Sewanee. That incident sparked an investigation by university authorities, condemnation in a letter from the university's vice-chancellor and a series of student-led anti-racism demonstrations on campus. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/alumni-student-group-issues-statement-condemning-racial-incidents-sewanee

*****

Abuse it seems is not confined to the northern hemisphere, it has found its way south to New Zealand. Anglican bishops there admit instances of abuse and cover-ups, resulting in three archbishops making a formal apology to survivors at a recent Royal Commission.

The Primates of the Anglican Church say some of the historical abuse of people in its care was ignored or covered up by the church. The three archbishops - representing Tikanga Pakeha, Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Pasifika, the three equal houses of the Church - have made a formal apology to survivors at the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care. Archbishop Donald Tamihere said the abuse was horrific, shameful and completely unacceptable. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/new-zealand-anglican-bishops-admit-instances-abuse-cover-ups

This did not stop one liberal bishop, Peter Carrell of Christchurch, suggesting that individual churches should run its redress process for victims of abuse rather than have a national independent system imposed on it. He said it would be too unwieldy. This is putting the fox in the henhouse.

Survivors of abuse are demanding an independent redress agency for both state and faith-based abuse be set up immediately and have made a number of calls for this to be recommended to the government by the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care.

And you wonder why GAFCON put in a new diocese and bishop in Christchurch in the person of Jay Behan to rescue parishes from the stupidity and clutches of a bishop like Carrell.

*****

From Canada we learned this week that Canadian Anglicans have no interest in abiding by accepted legal norms when it comes to homosexual marriage. According to UK-based Anglican church law specialist Mark Hill, the Anglican Church of Canada's marriage canon includes a single definition of marriage, and that definition is "predicated upon the concept of marriage being a union of one man and one woman." The Canadian Church's general secretary fired back that their opinion has "no legal standing in our canonical structures." In the US The Episcopal Church devised a way round this issue calling it "local option".

The Anglican Communion Alliance (ACA), a group of theologically conservative members of the Anglican Church of Canada, says it hopes to see the creation of a task force for discernment on marriage after receiving a legal opinion criticizing the church's present approach to Canon XXI from a specialist on church law based in the U.K.

They can hope all they want, and they can set up all the task forces they like, but the Anglican Church of Canada's liberal and revisionist leaders will ignore it. They have made up their minds and sodomite marriages are going ahead as scheduled. Nothing and nobody will stop them. You can read the full story here: https://virtueonline.org/canada-churchs-general-secretary-says-opinion-has-no-legal-standing-our-canonical-structures

*****

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In Christ,

David

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