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Protestant Churches Will Face Apocalypse after COVID-19 * PPP kept 75% of Churches Open * 1 in 5 Churches will Close -- Barna * Welby called on to Resign over Bishop Bell Affair * Sewanee Rampant with Drugs and Alcohol * More

Protestant Churches Will Face Apocalypse after COVID-19 * PPP kept 75% of Churches Open * 1 in 5 Churches will Close -- Barna * Welby called on to Resign over Bishop Bell Affair * Baptism Practices Roil Wales and England * Sewanee Rampant with Drugs and Alcohol * Half American Adults & 30% Evangelicals say Jesus isn't God

Christians should never have a political party. It is a huge mistake to become married to an ideology, because the greatest enemy of the gospel is ideology. Ideology is a man-made format of how the world ought to work, and Christians instead believed in the revealing truth of Scripture. --- Charles W. Colson

Humanity and race. Consider these five bases of our common humanity. All of us, whatever our race or rank, whatever our creed, colour or culture, have the same Creator who made every nation from one man, the same Lord who disposes the history of every nation, the same God who is near and intends that we should grope after him and find him, the same Lifegiver who sustains us and the same Judge who will call us to account in the end. -- John R.W. Stott

The tragic paradox of liberalism is therefore this: that its core value of equality means it can't uphold and defend its values, institutions and historic traditions in order to ensure its own survival. That's why the west is in such trouble. --- Melanie Phillips

The compassionate heart. We have to feel what Jesus felt -- the pangs of the hungry, the alienation of the powerless, and the indignities of the wretched of the earth. For ultimately, the unacceptable inequalities between North and South are neither political nor economic, but rather moral. Until we feel moral indignation about worldwide social injustice and strong compassion for worldwide human suffering, I seriously doubt if we shall be moved to take action. --- John R.W. Stott

Clergy were also slave owners until the eve of the Civil War. A 2006 report by the Virginia Theological Seminary noted that 82% of the Episcopal clergy tied to the Diocese of Virginia in the 1860 census "had at least one slave, while some owned dozens." --- The Virginia Pilot

It costs something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a person in an arm-chair and taking them easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory--- J. C. Ryle

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
September 4, 2020

Will Protestant America see an ecclesiastical apocalypse once COVID-19 has settled down? Will a second wave wipe out church attendance to the point that churches will close, money will dry up and we will see the end of church life as we know it?

Professor Carl R. Trueman, writing in First Things says that over the last six months he has heard or seen COVID's effect on churches described as "apocalyptic." Frequently, the word has been used in its improper but colloquial sense of "catastrophic" or "disastrous," referring to the chaos it has created for worship services or the damage it has done to budgets. Sometimes, however, it has also been used in its correct sense, to refer to the way COVID has revealed things previously hidden: for example, the fact that some government officials consider casinos and pet grooming more important than worship services, or that the relationship of state power to ecclesiastical authority is highly contested even within many churches.

In conversation with many ministers, he noticed one key concern again and again: How many Christians will return to church once COVID has stabilized? "It is anecdotal at best at this point, but the figure often cited in my presence is 30 percent: Three out of every ten pre-COVID worshipers might stay away for good. One friend told me that his denomination's leadership has informed its ministers that a third of its congregations might close within the next few months."

Now this might be a little hyperbolic, but it does indicate a serious trend...it has a chillingly credible feel to it.

The deeper question is, who will be most affected? For Roman Catholics, the Mass is central to their worship, for Protestants less so. Roman Catholic theology sees this presence of the absent Christ in sacramental terms. The Mass is the place where Christ comes and meets with his people. And the Mass, involving physical elements and (ideally) consumption of the same, makes it rather obvious what is lost in a virtual environment.

But what of Protestants? The focus is different. Preaching (the proclamation of the word) is the central focus for most Protestants; for Anglicans it is a case of both/and, not either/or.

For revisionist/liberal/progressive Christians the pain will be felt the most. Issue driven churches like The Episcopal Church, will be hit very hard. Who needs to be told over and over that whites are racist, just for being white, that climate change, pansexual acceptance, economic insecurity and a whole list of woke issues must be addressed to make us all better Christians, simply won't stand up? If the grand story of the gospel; sin, salvation, redemption, justification, sanctification, hope, eternal life is not in the repertoire of sermons, what's the point of church?

A case in point is the Presbyterian Church USA, which announced this week that it might have to limit or even end its tradition of holding a biennial General Assembly as a mass gathering due to financial woes and declining membership.

In a video posted on the PCUSA's website Monday, Nelson said the denomination "cannot continue" to hold what he called "the big tent General Assembly" in which "we have people from all over coming in and spending six, seven, eight days at a general assembly and utilizing that in a big arena."

Nelson attributed the reduction in future General Assembly events to financial woes tied to the mainline Protestant denomination's considerable membership decline over the past several years. People are leaving, he said. In 2000, the denomination had approximately 2.5 million members; by 2019, that number had dropped to a little over 1.3 million members or about half of what it was before.

Then he blurted out the truth saying, "PCUSA has seen a dramatic loss in both members and member congregations, partly over many leaving the denomination over its theological positions. One factor in the decline has been the denomination's stance on LGBT issues, such as allowing regional bodies to ordain openly gay individuals and recognize same-sex marriages."

There you have it. Ditto for the United Church of Christ, The Disciples of Christ, The Methodist Church, and of course, The Episcopal Church, which can barely summon 500,000 on any given Sunday. If TEC should lose 70% of their congregations, my earlier predictions that TEC would die in two decades, could be reduced to one decade or even less.

COVID-19 might now be seen as the winnowing hand of God. The apocalypse has already started.

*****

The coronavirus relief Paycheck Protection Program was instrumental in keeping 75 percent of churches open and other Christian organizations fully-staffed amid the government lockdowns nationwide. This is according to a survey by Vanderbloeman, which collected data from over 900 churches in a period of months.

The Christian Post reports that even though it was illegal for many churches to meet in person, the Paycheck Protection Program ensured those staffed at houses of worship did not lose a paycheck. According to the survey, the program provided "unprecedented support" for Christian organizations around the country.

The Paycheck Protection Program was part of the CAREs act and doled out a total of $689 billion, of which between $6 and $10 billion were distributed to churches, The Christian Post reports. The program ended on August 8, 2020, but some proponents of the program wanted to keep it going to continue to protect peoples' paychecks.

Reportedly, the Catholic Church received some $1.4 billion from the program, the rest went to protestant churches. This included some 400 evangelical organizations that received at least $1 million each. Only seven evangelical organizations received $5 million to $10 million in relief.

However, the Barna Group reports that 1 in 5 churches are still at risk of closing permanently in the next 18 months if the government lockdowns continue. This shocking statistic was calculated by Barna Group president, David Kinnaman, who said the main reason was due to significantly fewer people coming to church due to media-fueled reports on the danger of Coronavirus. And he warns this will continue if nothing changes.

He also predicts that the "digital church is here to stay" as online attendance continues to climb.

Now there is another aspect to think about in taking government money. There could come a time when the state mandates that churches must marry homosexuals, (presidential candida Beta O'Rourke proposed this). If you do not, a church could be forced out of business. Note what is happening to Albany Episcopal Bishop William Love. His refusal to marry two queers will likely get him tossed out of the church. Now translate that into a broader church/state demand.

*****

Earlier this year, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) released a report stating that giving in April 2020 "equaled or surpassed April 2019 giving" and that a majority of churches had exceeded their January 2020 giving.

However, Barna president David Kinnaman has seen that churches were handling the crisis "pretty swimmingly" at the onset of the pandemic, but the continued pressures have changed circumstances.
The United Methodist Church has also seen a downturn in giving with a 26% drop in collections. And the National Association of Evangelicals released a report in late April stating that nearly two-thirds of churches have seen a drop in giving since March. The nonprofit has kicked off a "Bless Your Pastor" campaign to raise funds to "show and share God's love" for pastors and their staff.

According to Patrick Markey of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, about 8,000 parishes applied for federal aid by the Small Business Administration, but only 20 percent received money to pay for salaries.

*****

LETTER SUBMISSION - 'TO AN ARCHBISHOP AND BISHOP: APOLOGISE. RESTORE THE NAME OF GEORGE BELL HOUSE. OR RESIGN'

Following this week's Private Eye article and Church Times letter, we the undersigned again call upon Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Martin Warner to consider their positions.

The evidence against Bishop George Bell has been gathered and thoroughly examined. Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden have declared the allegations are unfounded and there is no case to answer [Lord Carlile recently judged the 30 Church of England Core Groups as "the most incompetent and unjust form of investigation I have ever seen."]

It follows, therefore, that no "significant cloud remains" hangs over Bishop Bell's head -- it hangs elsewhere. Bishop Bell's name has now been fully vindicated, so there is no good reason why an apology should not be forthcoming and the name of George Bell House restored.

But Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Martin Warner continue to perpetuate this injustice against the wartime Bishop of Chichester by willfully and arrogantly refusing to admit they were wrong. There is no willingness on their part to right that wrong. They display no humility in acknowledging that wrong. They have no intention to lift that "significant cloud".

As Stephen Parsons says in 'Surviving Church': "Incompetence whether caused by ignorance, conceit or malevolence, is a particularly important matter when the individual refuses to admit to it and own up to it".

After Archbishop Welby's comment last year: "It is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet" -- a few of us did not ignore or sweep under the carpet those allegations against Bishop Bell. We fully investigated the clear likelihood of 'mistaken identity' -- especially after the IICSA brought to light the "bonfire" of John Treadgold Dean of Chichester.

Bishop Bell's niece Barbara Whitley, the only surviving relative and in her 90's, and the Rev Peter Mullen and Andrew Morse have already called for resignations.

A number of folk have signed this letter, including myself, calling for the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner, unless an immediate and full public apology is forthcoming regarding Bishop Bell and the name of George Bell House in Chichester is restored.

For further information regarding this Letter and its Signatories, please contact:
Richard W. Symonds, The Bell Society, 2 Lychgate Cottages, Ifield Street, Ifield Village, Crawley -- Gatwick
Tel: 07540 309592 [Text only -- Very deaf]
Email: richardsy5@aol.com

***

Conflicting government guidance about baptisms in England and Wales has prompted the Church in Wales and the Church of England to pursue different policies.

Both Churches allow baptism by affusion, as in infant baptism. The new guidance relates to baptism by full immersion.

The Welsh Government has published guidelines on the use of water in services during the pandemic which suggest that only self-baptism is allowed: "If at all possible full immersion baptisms should be avoided. The use of a baptistery should follow the same guidance as swimming pools."

It continues: "To comply with physical distancing guidance, baptisms should be by self-immersion (self-immersion means only the candidate should be in the baptistery or pool and not touched by anyone unless they are from the same household) and no one should be baptized by another person, with exception of a member of their own household."

As a result, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Rev. Gregory Cameron, said that the advice was too vague to apply to the Church in Wales.

A Church in Wales statement confirms this: "The guidelines produced by the Welsh Government have been written with all faiths in mind, and don't explicitly address the Anglican context. As far as we are concerned, the Bench (of Bishops) would advise against any Baptism by total immersion in the current circumstances, and so the regulations as set out don't apply."

***

Sewanee, the Episcopal Church's only university, is rampant with student drug and alcohol abuse, according to the new incoming vice-chancellor, Reuben Brigety.

In an annual report, The Healthy Minds Survey, conducted by the University of Michigan and used by more than 600 colleges, Brigety said, "We are on the outer edge, more than double the national average for reported drug use among our students, as well as very high upper digit self-reported binge drinking... Over the last five years we have averaged 75-100 drug arrests on the Domain every year."

Brigety released a video detailing the new approach to enforcing the University's existing drug and alcohol policies. Under these new procedures -- originally articulated July 30 -- any student possessing, using, manufacturing, sharing, or distributing drugs will be suspended. Should the student be reinstated, a second infraction would result in expulsion.

You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/sewanee-university-rampant-drug-and-alcohol-abuse

***

More than half of American adults, including 30% of evangelicals, say Jesus isn't God, but most agree He was a great teacher, according to results from the 2020 State of Theology survey.

Even though the Bible and traditional teachings of the Christian Church hold that Jesus truly existed as both Man and God, among the key findings of the biennial State of Theology survey from Ligonier Ministries conducted with LifeWay Research, is that 52% of American adults believe that Jesus was a great teacher and nothing more.

And nearly a third of evangelicals also support that view, a preliminary release on the findings of the study said Thursday. The complete report on the survey, conducted March 10 to 18 among 3,002 U.S. adults, including 630 professing evangelicals, is expected to be released on Sept. 8. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/more-half-us-adults-30-evangelicals-believe-jesus-isnt-god-study

***

IN OVERSEAS NEWS, Dr. Mounir Hanna, Archbishop of the Alexandria region of the Anglican Episcopal Church, mourned officers and soldiers of the armed forces in Sinai who were martyred on Sunday in an armed confrontation against the atonement elements in Sinai.

The Archbishop said in his statement: The martyrs gave their good blood as a price for the security and stability of Egyptians, praying that God bless them with their mercy and inspire their families with patience and solace.

Hanna stressed that terrorist operations will not prevent Egyptians from moving forward in the path of economic and social development, but rather drive the armed forces and police to do more in that ongoing war against terrorism and evil forces that do not want stability nor peace for Egypt.

The Anglican Council of Zimbabwe (ACZ) wrote in solidarity to a pastoral letter by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference entitled "The March is Not Ended". ACZ noted with concern the several responses by the Government of Zimbabwe to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference which seem to dismiss the fact that the Church is called to exercise its prophetic role, which mean challenging their political leaders on their conduct of affairs, particularly if this affects the people of God.

The Catholic bishops' pastoral letter, titled "The March is Not Over," after a quotation from recently deceased American civil rights leader, John Lewis, was read in churches across the inflation-crippled country on August 16. The Catholic bishops claimed that Zimbabwe faces "a multi-layered crisis of the convergence of economic collapse, deepening poverty, food insecurity, corruption and human rights abuses."

The price of basic goods and services have doubled in Zimbabwe since the government sought to revalue the nation's currency in June. Fuel prices have increased by over 500 percent since January, and demand for diesel is especially high because businesses must depend on generators to circumvent the government's daily 18-hour electricity cuts.

The Catholic bishops had singled out for criticism the government's violent suppression of protests on July 31, which allegedly included the abduction and torture of activists. "Fear runs down the spines of many of our people today," the Catholic bishops wrote. "The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented ... Our government automatically labels anyone thinking differently as an enemy of the country: that is an abuse."

The Anglican bishops said in support of the Catholic leaders that since time immemorial, the Church in Zimbabwe has spoken against injustice and has been consistent in that regard. Any view or postulation to the contrary would be an attempt to re-write that narrative in order to promote a negative picture of what the Church stands for.

A Scottish Hate Crime Bill would allow atheists plan to target Christians for 'Spreading Hate'. The left-separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) administration's proposed Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill is set to criminalize speech that is "likely" to "stir up hatred" against supposedly marginalized groups. As written, the law would not require police or prosecutors to demonstrate malicious intent behind the statements.

In light of the sweeping new powers to police speech, the convener of Atheist Scotland, Ian Stewart wrote in the Dundee newspaper The Courier: "Atheists see some merit in Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf's Hate Crime Bill, as it will enable the prosecution of all Scotland's religions and their Holy Books for spreading hatred."

"It is utterly unacceptable that in progressive, social democratic Scotland that squalid, Bronze Age village disputes, as described in the Holy Books, about control of women, goats or water should give Scotland's 'Holy Willies' authority to spout out vitriol against atheists, agnostics, apostates, sceptics, non-believers, women, trans people and homosexuals," he declared.

Stewart said that his group intends to "monitor all Holy Books, sermons in places of worship and the social media accounts of the various religions" and will report any supposed offenders to Scottish Police for criminal prosecution.

Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali commented via Facebook: "Isn't Ian Stuart spreading hate against religious people and should he not be prosecuted under this very Bill when it becomes law? As the book he so despises says, if you dig a pit for others you will fall into it yourself!"

***

A nationwide book club is being launched to bring the UK's Christians together in reading. The Big Church Read is the initiative of Hodder Faith and St Andrew's Bookshop, and will get underway on 21 September. It is hoped that the nationwide roll-out will inspire a culture of reading good Christian books across the UK Church. The first book in the Big Church Read is The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer, a book that challenges Christians to unplug and slow down as they live out the life God has intended for them.

Covid-19 has left the Diocese of Sodor and Man in dire financial straits, a new report reveals. The concerns are laid out in the Diocesan Strategy for Church Buildings 2020, which warns that the financial impact of three months of lockdown on the diocese and its churches has been "catastrophic".

"Dwindling returns" from parishes have left the diocese facing a "financial black hole", with predictions that it will "run out of money" in five years "maximum". "Sooner in reality as PCCs will continue to run out of money," the report reads.

The report warns that the diocese may have to sell off buildings to stay afloat.

Three archbishops, including Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticizing the AstraZeneca vaccine candidate because it uses research cells from a foetus aborted more than 40 years ago, the Daily Mail reports.

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, Anglican archbishop Glenn Davies and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios Griniezakis wrote a joint letter to Mr. Morrison opposing the Oxford University vaccine on 'ethical grounds'.

Australia's most powerful Catholic archbishop said he is 'deeply troubled', as the vaccine candidate has been developed from a kidney cell line called HEK-293.

The HEK-293 cell was first taken from an aborted foetus in Holland in 1973.

***

Two notable deaths occurred this week. The first was the Rev. Dr. Steven Peay, 66. His wife Julie was with him. He was a professor, then Dean, of Nashotah House Seminary. Most recently, he was acting canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Milwaukee. I interviewed Dr. Peay in 2015 and you can read my exclusive interview with Dr Peay here: https://virtueonline.org/nashotah-house-we-are-intentional-about-staying-true-faith-once-delivered-saints-dr-steven-peay

A source told VOL that Peay had always been in favor of women priests, but he kept it a secret from most of the trustees. He was starting to become more open about working toward women celebrants at the House, and the hiring of a woman priest as an assistant dean and the composition of the Alumni Council were indications of this. Even most of the trustees/directors who are in TEC do not support changing the House's policy against women celebrants.

The second death that occurred this week was Blanche Inez Kostka Rodgers, the wife of the Rt. Rev. Dr. John H. Rodgers, the second Dean and President of Trinity School for Ministry. She was 86. Blanche was a devoted wife, mother, and woman of deep faith and conviction. Blanche brought her kindness and generosity in support of the establishment of Trinity School for Ministry, where she and John remained active members of the community.

***

If you have an ecclesiastical funny bone you might like my take on the Anglican Bishop of Toronto's demand that all her clergy undertake anti-racism training. https://virtueonline.org/ecclesiastical-concentration-camp-opens-4pm

***

We urge readers to act appropriately in public by wearing a mask, practice social distancing and continuing to wash hands. COVID-19 is not over. A second spike may well be on the way before a vaccine is available. Daily Bible reading, prayer and staying in touch with friends and family is still the best recipe for staying sane.

In Christ,

David

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