jQuery Slider

You are here

Refocusing VOL's Vision * Former Albany Bishop Speaks Out * New Anglican Church Plants * Anglican Missionaries Offer New Paradigm for Missions * Sydney Anglicans on the Move * TEC: Funerals Up; Ordinands Parishes Down * Britain No Longer Christian Country

Refocusing VOL's Vision * Former Albany Bishop Speaks Out * New Anglican Church Plants * Anglican Missionaries Offer New Paradigm for Missions * Sydney Anglicans on the Move * TEC: Funerals Up; Ordinands Parishes Down * Britain No Longer a Christian Country * CofE in Serious Decline * Liberalizing on Sexuality not Halting Decline

Jesus of Nazareth. If you find it hard to believe in God, I strongly advise you to begin your search not with philosophical questions about the existence and being of God, but with Jesus of Nazareth. Most people, like myself, feel on more solid ground when we are thinking and talking about Jesus Christ. The concept of God as he is in himself is beyond us. But with Jesus of Nazareth we are dealing with a historical person. Besides, we believe that this was God's purpose. God himself is infinite in his being and altogether beyond our reach and comprehension. That is why he has taken the initiative to reveal himself -- for we could never come to know him otherwise. And the climax of his self-revelation was the coming of his Son in human flesh -- John R. W. Stott

Our battle these days is no longer political. The truth is, more than it's ever, ever been, the battle we face is no longer horizontal. It is not the Left versus the Right, the Democrats versus the Republicans, the Conservative versus the Liberal. We are no longer living in a world where the conflict is horizontal. Today the conflict is vertical. It is Heaven versus Hell. It is Good versus Evil. It is Right Versus Wrong. --- The Rev. Michael Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas

"What was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, 'I'm literally quoting Jesus Christ,' the response would not be, 'I apologize.' The response would be, 'Yes, but that doesn't work anymore. That's weak.' When we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we're in a crisis." -- Russell Moore

We are living through a period of unprecedented scepticism and indifference about the core message of the church: that God exists, that God is love, and that he came among us to save a broken humanity from its self-destructive sinfulness. -- Giles Fraser

The Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) reminded the See of Canterbury of its duty to the English folks, to proclaim the Gospels, and to turn away from the false gospel of wokeness. --- Calvin Robinson

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
September 1, 2023

I have been told, with some truth, that I focus too much on the negative that is plaguing the Anglican Communion. There is much truth to this. It can leave one feeling depressed and hopeless and that is not good. My focus in the coming weeks and months will be on stories that tell of the good things being done in the communion. They may not make the front pages, but it will offer glimmers of light and in some cases resistance in an increasingly dark communion that is being overcome by pressure groups pushing to change the church's official teaching on human sexuality.

In today's digest you will read three stories that show change is possible and is happening; offering hope for what seems like a growing spiritual darkness overwhelming us all.

My first story is an interview I did with the Rt. Rev. William Love, the former Episcopal Bishop of Albany, now happily ensconced in the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word, a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America. It will cheer and encourage you that there is life and hope after being in the Episcopal Church. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/former-albany-episcopal-bishop-reflects-his-exodus-tec-acna-diocese-living-word

Then you can read Jeff Walton's very fine piece on the success of new Anglican church plants in the Virginia area. He writes; "A small minority of new churches planted in the United States reach their fifth birthday. Remarkably, all seven congregations planted by The Falls Church Anglican (TFCA) as part of its "Timothy" curacy program reached that five-year mark, six continue today. Of those six, two have gone on to plant their own daughter congregations, three purchased or constructed buildings." You can read it all here: https://virtueonline.org/anglican-church-planting-success

Perhaps the most interesting story I have written on missions in years; is the story of Argo and Aimee (not their real names) two Anglican missionaries who are doing pioneer missionary work among Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and in parts of Europe.

What they are doing is a paradigm shift from the old ways of doing missions. No more western colonialism, no more patriarchal, "we are here to tell you what to do and what to believe;" they believe in the radicalness of the kingdom Jesus came to announce -- THAT is the Good News - through radical discipleship, evangelism and multiplication.

It is a paradigm shift from the bottom up focusing on the Kingdom rather than just planting churches. Preach the kingdom of God regardless of age or sex and watch what God does. They have planted more than a 1000 house churches across the Middle East. One Muslim nation, which we cannot name has more than 12 million Christians meeting clandestinely in homes, bringing the gospel to unreached generations, and baptizing them. It might not look very Anglican but souls are being saved as never before.

Here are a few paragraphs in my interview with Argo:

"You can plant churches and have no disciples. I've preached at these places. If you make disciples, you'll always plant churches. The best way to plant churches is NOT to plant churches; it's to teach disciples to obey Jesus. It always goes better when you do it the way Jesus says to do it. He never said to make church members. He said to make disciples. And He said to TEACH them to OBEY.

"Most church planting strategies have it completely backwards. They don't bear much fruit and end up with small, one-generation churches with burned-out, exhausted planters. Churches that don't replicate are mules. They're sterile. We plant rabbit churches. Rapidly multiplying.

"A problem in the West is we've made Church the goal. It isn't. It's not Jesus' goal. His goal is the Kingdom. The Church is the means to the goal. When we don't have Jesus' goal and vision, don't expect to flourish.

"Jesus announces the Gospel of the Kingdom right off the bat in Mark 1, then He goes on a healing and deliverance rampage to demonstrate the power of the Kingdom. That's the very first chapter of the very first Gospel." You can read my three-part interview here: https://virtueonline.org/frontline-missionaries-muslims-build-new-paradigm-mission-strategy-part-1 and here: https://virtueonline.org/frontline-missionaries-muslims-build-new-paradigm-mission-strategy-part-2 and here: https://virtueonline.org/frontline-missionaries-muslims-build-new-paradigm-mission-strategy-part-3

If missions excite you then consider attending this conference held by the Rev. Jon Shuler titled Next30 conference on future church planting in North America. https://virtueonline.org/next30-conference-future-church-planting-north-america


Continuing the good news, Doug Leblanc, writing for The Living Church reveals Sydney Anglicans are looking westward for the parishes' futures.

"As the Anglican Diocese of Sydney looks to the future of its congregations, it stresses a three-word focus: location, location, location. The Anglican Church Growth Corporation explains this focus in its 2023-2025 Strategic Plan." The 15-page booklet mixes:

• evangelical maxims (one diocesan value is an "urgent love for people who, apart from faith in Christ Jesus, face certain condemnation under the righteous judgement of God");
• corporate jargon ("If we keep doing what we have been doing, we will be too slow in establishing a meaningful presence in growth areas, and too cumbersome in enhancing ministry infrastructure in infill areas");
• and biblical texts ("For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales, and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need").
You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/sydney-anglicans-look-westward-parishes-futures


One metric that is growing out of the slowly dissolving Episcopal Church which is now below 300,000 in average weekly attendance, and not reported on, is the growing number of funerals. In many cases they outnumber communicants and ASA combined.

In at least a dozen or so dioceses statistics that I have looked at, funerals have all been in the triple digit range. That is unheard of. You can read an article by Mary Ann Mueller here: https://virtueonline.org/covid-skewers-episcopal-church-funeral-numbers

Ordinands are down as well. The Church Times revealed that applicants are older, and fewer churches can afford stipends. A fall in the numbers training for ordination in TEC, together with churches' inability to pay for full-time ministry, is causing a crisis in clergy recruitment, figures suggest.

Data released by the Church show that the numbers coming forward for ordination have fallen over the past 12 years. Seminaries are also reporting a decline in enrolment over the past five years.

In 2010, there were 325 newly ordained priests, compared with 225 in 2022. Clergy retirement numbers have remained steady at about 400 a year, and half of the remaining clergy are within ten years of retirement.

Those coming forward for ordination are also older and sometimes only within a few years of retirement.

Figures reported at the Episcopal Church Council in June also showed that the number of parishes seeking a priest far exceeded the number of clergy looking for a post.

The director of the Church's office of transition ministry, which supports recruitment by dioceses and congregations, the Rev. Meghan Froehlich, reported that there were 622 vacancies and just 87 clergy identified as seeking a new post.

In the south-east of the US, just eight clergy were searching among 123 vacancies.

PROPERTIES. The Episcopal Church spent tens of millions of dollars in legal battles to hold onto churches. In some cases, they were successful, but in some dioceses they were not. The Dennis Canon did not triumph as they had hoped.

In those dioceses where they won, the victory for TEC might turn out to be entirely pyrrhic. In the next ten years there will be hundreds of churches that have less than 50 mostly aging Episcopalians, emptying and closing. Unless they are sold, they will lie vacant and eventually rot. St. Paul's, Darien, a renowned charismatic Episcopal parish in TEC under the leadership of the late Terry Fullam, has now been closed for several years with no maintenance.


THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND is publicly in free fall. Melanie Phillips a British Jewish journalist summed it up well when she wrote about Anglicanism's self-fulfilling decline. "If priests lose faith in core doctrines, how can anyone else be inspired?"

"According to a landmark survey of 1200 serving Church of England priests conducted by The Times, three quarters of them believe that Britain can no longer be described as a Christian country. Almost two-thirds said Britain could be called Christian "but only historically, not currently.

"The survey uncovered a strong desire among rank-and-file priests for significant changes in church doctrine on issues such as sex, sexuality, marriage and the role of women to bring it into greater line with public opinion.

"What's striking isn't just how many Anglican priests want to liberalize, but how many are so pessimistic about the future of Christianity in Britain. It's not clear whether they think liberalizing sexual doctrine will arrest the decline. They appear to fear all is lost."

"What is clear is that they can't see that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The church will indeed be lost if they abandon the beliefs for which it stands. Far from stopping the rot by going with the secular flow, they are likely to bring above precisely what they fear is already happening."

A majority of priests want the church to offer same-sex weddings and allow premarital and gay sex, according to a major survey. Most priests support a change to allow gay couples to get married in church, with 53.4 percent in favor and 36.5 percent opposed, revealed the survey, which assessed responses from 1,200 active Anglican priests.

The Church of England currently allows blessings for gay couples but only permits church weddings between a man and a woman.

A significant majority of the priests surveyed (62.6 percent) said the church should change its teaching on the immorality of premarital sex, with 21.6 percent accepting all fornication and 41 percent saying sex outside marriage is fine for people in "committed relationships."

A little over a third of the priests (34.6 percent) said the church should not change its teaching on sex outside of marriage.

This autumn, England's bishops will discuss formally reversing that teaching as well as whether to allow homosexual priests to have civil weddings, a practice supported by 63.3 percent of the priests surveyed.

You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/church-england-priests-say-premarital-gay-sex-not-immoral


Can two walk together except they be agreed? Well not really. The Church of England faces possible schism if the Living in Love and Faith report is adopted. "The Bible makes it clear that the priority is to walk faithfully in God's ways, by his grace, neither turning aside to the left nor to the right, even if broadening our understanding of the way might be claimed to be the best thing to do for the sake of "walking together". We must walk together humbly and in love as far as possible, but above all we must walk with Jesus before God according to his word. Many Bible texts clearly show us the way," writes the Rev. Marc Lloyd, Rural Dean of Dallington in the Diocese of Chichester, UK. He is also the book reviews editor of The Global Anglican, Church Society's theological journal. You can read his take here: https://virtueonline.org/walking-together

Another perspective can be found in this piece by J. John of Philo Trust. A Lament for the Church of England. You can read it here: https://virtueonline.org/lament-church-england

On reading the latest news a senior CofE cleric wrote this: "My instinct is that everyone has concluded that the game is over for the Church of England. The cuckoos have taken possession of the nest. New fronts elsewhere are required."


While the CofE wrestles with its future, the Archbishop of Canterbury along with his wife Caroline Eaton, made an unannounced visit to Philadelphia (my hometown) and hung out with a (non-Anglican) evangelical social justice worker Shane Claiborne in a raunchy section of the city. Claiborne is a disciple of Tony Campolo whose evangelistic and social justice work earned him a place at the Clinton political table. He was Bill Clinton's chaplain. Justin Welby did pay a courtesy call on the Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania, one Daniel G. P. Gutierrez. What they discussed we will probably never know.


WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ROME AND CANTERBURY on sexuality issues? None it would seem.

The archbishop of Berlin has released an official statement permitting priests under his jurisdiction to administer blessings to same-sex couples, emphasizing that his directive aligns with the intentions of Pope Francis.

Quoting Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia in a letter dated Aug. 21, Abp. Heiner Koch notes that "it is no longer possible to say that all who are in any so-called irregular situation are in a state of mortal sin and have lost sanctifying grace."

"Pope Francis emphatically calls for pastoral discernment," Koch writes. While rejecting "the legal equality of same-sex partnerships with marriage," Francis "gives the local churches, the pastors, a lot of leeway in dealing with people in so-called 'irregular' situations."

Koch also cites Amoris Laetitia §297 on inclusion: "It's about including everyone; you have to help everyone to find their own way, to participate in ecclesial communion so that he may feel himself a recipient of an undeserved, unconditional and unrequited mercy."

The Pope has apparently said that there are no "below the belt sins." per Church Militant.

Does all this sound familiar? The Episcopal Church, The Anglican Church of Canada, The Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church all permit blessing same-sex unions, with TEC going the full distance embracing same-sex marriage.


Scottish Episcopal Church. Following the success of the 2021 "Gender and Liturgy in Conversation" conference, the "Responding to the Sacred" group of Scottish Episcopalians is preparing for its second conference this September, titled "Responding to the Sacred: Inclusive Liturgies/Porous Walls -- New Conversations."

Organized in collaboration with the Liturgy Committee, the event aims to explore how creative practices in liturgy can foster inclusivity. By engaging with artists and showcasing examples of creative practices, conference organizers hope to initiate discussions about the innovative possibilities of understanding and adopting unfamiliar perspectives in liturgy.

Some of the sessions have titles that read, Including Ecology: taking the doctrine of creation seriously. What liturgical resources are needed in the present climate 'urgency'. 'Staging the Wreckage': Delving into insights from practical theology, shedding light on historically silenced communities and voices. People are Strange: Exploring divergent perspectives and reflections on a liturgical wish list. And just to make you feel that you might be missing out there is a session title Porous Portals: Discovering the importance of including art in worship.

There is not a single mention of the gospel of God's grace; how to evangelize the next generation. When they close the last parish door and toss the key in the garbage, will one elderly vicar be heard to say to his warden, "you don't think we might have gotten it wrong do you, Duncan?"


The following are some excellent articles that capture the present zeitgeist:

Has the Church stopped working? By Giles Fraser: https://virtueonline.org/has-church-stopped-working

THE DEATH OF CHURCH AND PUB by Carl R. Trueman: https://virtueonline.org/death-church-and-pub

Nearly 70% of churchgoers have 'a growing sense of fear' by Michael Gryboski: https://virtueonline.org/nearly-70-churchgoers-have-growing-sense-fear-lifeway-research

Turning worship into a clown show by Carl R. Trueman: https://virtueonline.org/turning-worship-clown-show



English Reformers were unashamed moderate Calvinists by Chuck Collins:

Maintaining the Classic Anglican Tradition by Roger Salter: https://virtueonline.org/maintaining-classic-anglican-tradition


VOL. Dear friends. I have an opportunity to visit Kurdistan, in Nthn. Iraq to meet with missionaries reaching out to the Islamic world. If you think you can help, you can make a tax-deductible donation by check, credit card or PAYPAL below.

P.O. Box 111
Shohola, PA 18458

A PayPal donation link can be found here: http://www.virtueonline.org/support.html

If you know someone who would like to receive these bi-weekly news reports, they can subscribe here: https://virtueonline.org/ It is free and nothing is behind a paywall.

Thank you for your support.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top