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TEC losses increase * Pittsburgh Bishop Duncan to Retire * LGBT Lobby in CofE Faces Pushback * Jerusalem Bishop Exonerated * Diocese of Maryland Gets New Bishop * Bexley Seminary Moves to Chicago * Pew Says Religion in America is Dying

Satisfaction and substitution. We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its centre the principle of 'satisfaction through substitution,' indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution. The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him; nor an exact equivalent, a *quid pro quo* to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father; nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator. Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character. The theological words 'satisfaction' and 'substitution' need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstances be given up. --- John R.W. Stott

Pastors and church people, remember this as you seek to reach unbelieving Millennials in your communities. There is basically a 50-50 chance the Millennials you speak to do not feel at peace with where they are spiritually, and a 50-50 chance they feel "wonder" about the universe. This is not a generation closed off to the supernatural and wondrous - it's a generation weary of institutional hypocrisy. Reach out to the young people in your community as a family, not as an "organization" or a "club." Engage Millennials' sense of wonder. Speak to their spiritual unrest. Point them to Jesus. --- Bryan Owen

ON GAY MARRIAGE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND and the Canon Pemberton's decision: "This is not good news for the future of this debate. The assumption of superior insight, detachment from the actual facts involved, and the valorisation of emotionalism suggests that there is little prospect of further constructive conversation, let alone good disagreement." --- Rev. Ian Paul

ON THE CHURCH: What we are experiencing, my friends, is not just a natural cycle, not just a pendulum swing. There is a mountain of evidence--still growing--that we are well into a monumental sea-change, not an organic evolution, but a tectonic shift of the sort that happens only every several hundred years. I would argue that the change we are in the middle of will turn out to be more significant than the Reformation of the 16th century. In fact, we need to go back about 1,700 years, to the early 4th century, to find the other bookend. --- Bishop Daniel Martins, Diocese of Springfield.

We must admit that our [Episcopal] church is broken, terribly broken. We have been consumed - and continue to be consumed by the unholy trinity of Lawsuits, Legislation, and Liturgies. We need to admit that this trio is not the solution to our decline and may, in fact, be one of the reasons for it. We claim to be healing agents in the world when we can't even be healing agents in our own Communion or our own Province. We must quit making excuses for our decline, citing the decline of the mainline denominations (our decline is worse), blaming the falling birth rate and increasing death rates of our members. Instead, we must look to our own complacency, our own conflicts, and our own self-focus as sins of which to repent. --- Neal Mitchell, Diocese of Dallas

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
November 13, 2015

In case you missed it, here are the most recent TEC figures on its losses from 2010 to 2014.

TEC lost 241 churches from 2010 to 2014, an average of 48 churches per year. (That's almost one a week.)
TEC lost over 189,000 members.
TEC lost over 82,000 in average Sunday attendance.
Median average Sunday attendance went from 65 to 60. (It is probably less now in 2015).

From 2013 to 2014 the average Pledge increased from $2,553 to $2,626. (However, if you account for the inflation rate, TEC's effective giving decreased by .9%.)

BY CONTRAST The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) had 700 congregations in 2009 but by 2014 it was 948. Membership also rose. In 2009 it was 100,000, and by 2014 it was 110,006. Attendance in 2009 was 69,197, and by 2014 it was 71,664. The ACNA is now bigger than the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) with an estimated 80,000 ASA.

*****

The militant LGBT lobby is about to face some serious opposition in the Church of England. The tide is slowly turning in favor of conservatives on the issue of gay marriage.

A source told VOL that the number of Evangelicals in the Church of England has been rising steadily for 20 years, and the proportion of clergy who are relatively orthodox has therefore been rising. "The demographics all point to an Evangelical outcome, provided we can see off the current challenge from the fading liberal faction."

Two cases in point. Conservative evangelicals in the Church of England rejoiced recently when they celebrated the election of the three leaders of the "living out" community to the General Synod of the Church of England.

Dr. Sean Doherty, who lectures in Christian ethics at the evangelical St. Mellitus College in London, topped the clergy poll in the London diocese. Also elected were Rev. Sam Allbery, Associate Minister of St. Mary's Church, Maidenhead and the author of Is God Anti-Gay?, and Ed Shaw, Associate Pastor at Emmanuel Bristol.

All three experience same-sex attraction but live out a lifestyle in which they consciously "help Christian brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction stay faithful to biblical teaching on sexual ethics and flourish at the same time."

This was a clear smack in the face at the Rev. Colin Coward and Changing Attitude, the openly gay CofE organization.

More recently the Church of England won a round against an openly homosexual priest, one Canon Jeremy Pemberton who was prevented from taking up a post as a hospital chaplain. He sued the Church but an employment tribunal found he was not discriminated against. In a 58-page judgement, the panel also dismissed a claim of harassment made by Pemberton.

The case was brought against the former acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, the Rt. Rev. Richard Inwood. Pemberton claimed that the Church of England's stance on same-sex marriage breached the 2010 Equality Act. It came after his permission to officiate was revoked after marrying his partner in April 2014.

So here is a priest who was married, had 5 kids, divorces his wife--that's adultery--takes up with a man whom he marries and thereby commits homosexual fornication, and then expects the church to roll over and have him assist the sick and dying with words of comfort when he himself is so deeply conflicted and living in sexual sin. Would you want this poof by your bedside while you lay dying?

Perhaps, as one observer noted, "The Church of England is not in terminal decline despite its past and current failures. The dead wood is being pruned, and the new shoots that are growing up in its place will bear plenty of fruit if they are watered well and allowed to flourish. As we have seen time and again, God refuses to let his church slip away. The Church of England is not dying--it is regenerating." Pemberton is clearly part of the dead wood. You can read a story about this in today's digest. The Canon is taken to task and debated by an evangelical priest on television.
You can watch the video here: http://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/debating-the-pemberton-tribunal-2/

*****

Anglican Bishop Robert Duncan announced he will retire next year as head of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, seven years after leading conservative churches locally and throughout North America in a historic and stormy break with the liberal Episcopal Church and its Canadian counterpart.

Last year Bishop Duncan had already ended his denomination-wide leadership of the wider Anglican Church in North America, the ACNA, which formed in the wake of the split. He told local Anglicans that at age 67, he is now also ready to let go of his duties in Pittsburgh. His retirement will be effective June 30. No word on who his successor might be.

"As I have said my prayers and sought counsel, it has seemed to me like the work I was called to do is as complete as it can be," Bishop Duncan told hundreds gathered for the diocese's annual convention at St. Stephen Church in Sewickley.

"The years of conflict--and of course-correction--within the body of Christ are past now," he said. "The challenge ahead is one of strengthening the church for discipleship and evangelization in a hostile and needy nation and world."

Bishop Duncan, who was elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1995, emerged as the foremost spokesman for conservatives long disenchanted with liberal trends in the Episcopal Church. The simmering conflicts exploded with the 2003 ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay person to achieve that office.

Bishop Duncan and a majority of Western Pennsylvania congregations split with the Episcopal Church in 2008.

He served five years as archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, a position he turned over to current Archbishop Foley Beach in 2014.

Bishop Duncan said he and his wife, Nara, will retire to the Laurel Ridge area of Westmoreland County. You can read more about this in today's digest.

*****

The Supreme Court in Israel has exonerated the former Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem of allegations by the current Bishop of Jerusalem. A seven-year long confrontation between Bishop Riah Abu El Assal and Bishop Suhail Duwani was apparently resolved by the court in Riah's favor.

Riah had accused Dawani of personal corruption and the misuse of Church funds.. Riah claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars were carelessly spent on groundless allegations in legal and court fees which must be repaid to the Church.

"In addition to recovering lost Diocesan funds, an investigation is imperative into other incidences of harassment and persecution by Bishop Dawani, who abused his church authority by mistreating the former Bishop who served the Church for over 43 years." Riah said Dawani should step down as bishop. You can read the full story in today's digest.

*****

United Church of Canada Moderator Mardi Tindal won't state the minimum in which her members should believe. She notes, "There are enough religious voices that would say, 'I have all the truth.'"

The United Church of Canada, which was formed 86 years ago with the grand vision to bring Protestants together "in one glorious national church," is undergoing one of the most precipitous slides in modern religious history.

In the midst of a breathtaking erosion in its membership, the church is undertaking what some call a great experiment to redefine itself through an intense engagement with the surrounding secular world; whether it be through advocating for the environment, fighting for the rights of homosexuals to marry or taking on the cause of the Palestinians, the church has attempted to blur the boundaries between religion and the broader society.

Supporters believe this strategy will eventually right the ship because they are following the word of God to engage in the world.

To others, though, the United Church is engaged in a self-destructive act, aiming to be so many things to so many people that it will morph into just another social advocacy group disconnected from 2,000 years of Christian tradition. Critics say there is a severe lack of orthodoxy, lax demands on belief and even too much latitude for ministers who can question the existence of God and the divinity of Christ.

Connie denBok, a United Church minister in Toronto, is among those who despair that the church has become so much of the world, so focused on popular issues, that it is evolving away from the core of Christianity.

"I would say that the United Church no longer has many unifying factors."

In 1926, Congregationalists, Methodists and Presbyterians joined to create a church with 600,000 members -- which rose to a peak of 1.1 million by 1964. Today, estimates put membership at around 500,000 and falling.

The Anglican Church of Canada faces exactly the same problems because of similar theological and spiritual compromises, and it is also fast disappearing. Now it is a gamble on who reaches the bottom first.

*****

Following the departure of Bishop Heather Cook from the Diocese of Maryland into jail for killing a cyclist while drunk, the diocese has now welcomed a new woman bishop in the person of Chilton R. Knudsen.

Knudsen is the former Bishop of Maine and is herself a recovering alcoholic.

The diocese has been without a bishop suffragan for 10 months since Heather Cook struck and killed a cyclist while driving while intoxicated. She resigned her position and last month was sentenced to a seven-year prison sentence.

You'd figure the diocese might have picked a straight, white, happily married heterosexual male without a drinking, drug or texting problem. Apparently they are not to be found.

*****

The Board of Directors of Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation (BSSF) has announced that beginning with the Fall 2016 term, the seminary will operate all programs--Anglican Studies, Master of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry, and Lifelong Learning--from one site, in Chicago. The change, recommended to the board by its Beyond Walls Task Force, was adopted by unanimous vote.

The move will bring to Chicago Bexley Seabury's Master of Divinity program. The seminary will split from its partnership with Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio following a collaboration that began in 1999. The current agreement with Trinity runs through Spring Term 2016. Transition planning is underway in consultation with current M.Div. students, so that they can complete their studies on schedule.

"Consolidating Bexley Seabury's operations in Chicago will bring new energy and focus to our work and, I am confident, will create still more choice and flexibility in course offerings while continuing to provide the kind of rich community life that has been one of the Columbus program's greatest strengths," said BSSF Board Chair, the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia.

By all accounts Bexley Seabury is on the ropes and probably won't last another five years. There are fewer seminarians, less money to pay for them and few Episcopal parishes that can afford a full time priest when they graduate.

*****

The dwindling Christian population of the Middle East could vanish completely within a decade unless the global community intervenes, say alarmed aid groups. Followers of the Bible are being killed, driven from their land or forced to renounce their faith at an unprecedented pace.

The world has largely stood by as a dangerous tide of intolerance has washed over the region, according to a new study by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The study includes disturbing data about the plunging numbers of Christians in the part of the world that gave birth to the faith, and makes a dire prediction of what could happen.

"It's an answer that depends on the response of the world," Edward Clancy, director of outreach for the New York-based Aid to the Church in Need, told FoxNews.com. "What response is there going to be toward us if we act?"

SO why have we not heard from the new Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on this enormous potential for the extinction of Christianity in the Middle East?

Furthermore why are we hearing nothing from the Presiding Bishop about black on black violence in cities like Chicago? Are we always going to hear whining about white privilege or will he start speaking up on issues that touch the hearts of millions around the world and in our own backyard?

*****

The International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue (IRAD) between the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the Anglican Communion met for its historic inaugural meeting in Kochi, in the State of Kerala, India, 26 to 31 October 2015. The Co-Chairs are The Rev. Elizabeth Welch (Reformed) and The Most Rev. David Chillingworth (Anglican).

"Communion" is the theme of the first dialogue in more than 30 years between the Anglican and Reformed communions.

It is hoped that this dialogue will result in a "better understanding of each other during a time of rapid change, a better understanding of ourselves and how we may resolve disagreement better and an improved ability to concentrate on what matters most--namely, articulating the gospel of Jesus Christ today," said Iain Torrance, president emeritus of Princeton Theological Seminary and former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

The theme of this first meeting was "The Nature of Communion" and drew on the New Testament word koinonia, as it currently describes the nature of the interrelationships between churches. The perspectives on communion from the recent World Council of Churches document The Church: Towards A Common Vision played an important role in the conversation, as did presentations from a number of the participants.

"What I found so good and in a certain way a highlight was the deep desire of all of us to see the communion as a gift of God that is lived out in a very concrete way in being active in the world we live in," said Douwe Visser, the WCRC's executive secretary for theology and communion.

This first meeting, which took place 26-31 October in Kochi, Kerala, India, was hosted by the WCRC and facilitated by the Church of South India (CSI). The CSI, a member of the WCRC [and the Anglican Communion], is a union of churches from the Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian and Reformed traditions. The dialogue group was welcomed by Bishop Thomas K. Oommen (CSI deputy moderator) and D. R. Sadananda (CSI general secretary). Besides having an official delegate on the WCRC's team two local scholars from the CSI also participated in the meeting.

*****

The Bishop of Iceland Agnes Sigurðardórtti has categorically stated that there is no possible way of interpreting Icelandic law to enable Church of Iceland priests to refuse to marry couples on the grounds of their sexuality.

In a letter to the Icelandic Minister for Home Affairs Ólöf Nordal, she said that as bishop she will never put forward any proposal which has the effect of enabling discrimination of this type.

The letter was read out at the ongoing Church of Iceland Synod by Rev. Guðrún Karls Helgudóttir, the driving force behind a proposal to scrap any notion of 'freedom of conscience' for priests, i.e. the freedom to refuse to marry couples (who are otherwise eligible to marry) on the grounds of their sexuality.

In 2007, the Synod passed a resolution stating that "the freedom of clergy in these matters must be respected," but Rev. Helgudóttir feels now is the time to "take things the whole way and place no limits on human rights."

"The Church is the channel for Christ's love and celebrates life in all its diversity," concluded the Bishop's letter.

*****

VOL readers might be interested in a new book by Oxford University Press: Keeping the Vow: The Untold Story of Married Catholic Priests by D. Paul Sullins, OUP.

Following the Episcopal Church's 1976 decision to ordain women, Catholic leaders in America and Rome were approached by Episcopal clergy who opposed the decision and sought conversion as a result. The Catholics responded by establishing rules that would allow the Church to receive married convert priests as exceptions to the rule of celibacy--a decree known as the Pastoral Provision. In this fascinating book, D. Paul Sullins brings to light the untold stories of these curious creatures: married Catholic priests. Sullins explores their day-to-day lives, their journey to Catholicism, and their views on issues important to the Church. Surprisingly, he reveals, married Catholic priests are more conservative than their celibate colleagues on nearly every issue, including celibacy: they think that priests should, in general, not be allowed to marry.

Drawing on over 115 interviews with priests and their wives, as well as unprecedented access to the U.S. records of the Pastoral Provision, Keeping the Vow offers the first comprehensive look at these families and their unusual and difficult journey from Anglicanism to Catholicism. Looking to the future, Sullins speculates on what the experiences of these priests might tell us about the future of priestly celibacy.

*****

Are we slouching to oblivion? The newest survey data from Pew Research Center is now out and it confirms what your own eyes, ears and observations have already been telling you: Religion in America is a dying proposition.

Here is the overall take-away: The older are more religious than the young, who are pretty irreligious. As the religious old die off, they are replaced in the culture by an increasing number of irreligious younger people. There isn't a soul in the Western hemisphere who can be surprised at this.

The categories generally break into three major ones in these types of surveys: those born before 1946; those born between 1946 and 1986; and those born after 1986. Or in terms of age: those older than 70; those between 70 and 30; and those under 30. The only crowd with any measurable sense of religion are the older than 70 crowd. Those between 30 and 70 are barely religious. And those under 30--forget about it, statistically at least.

Here is the great precipice that the Church is now facing. Most of the adherents, most of the financial supporters, most of those who keep the Church viable are going to be dead in less than 10 years. What you have is a group paying the bills for the other group, small and indifferent as that other group may be. When they are off the scene, it will be lights out for many parishes. As these liberal priests and clergy bury their parishioners, they might as well jump in the hole themselves, for they will head back from the cemeteries and find fewer and fewer people in the pews.

And why is this? Because liberal Protestants sold out to the Social Gospel, overtly denying anything transcendent. They turned from the true Gospel to no gospel at all. They shot themselves in the foot, head and heart. It doesn't take a saint to realize that fewer children today translates into fewer adults tomorrow.

There is a bad combination brewing: a shrinking Church meeting an ever-increasing hostile culture. In 10 years, this will have accelerated to such a degree that the decline will be approaching unmanageable. And do not look to the immigrants or converts--not enough in either category, and those who do convert generally don't stick around. It won't happen with a boom or big thunderclap, and that's because it is happening right now, as we speak. We are currently slouching toward oblivion. [Source: Michael Voris of the Vortex]

*****

If you want some Christian and other thoughtful responses to Transgenderism you can read from the latest research in the blogs below:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Transgenderism on All Souls' Day By gentlemind
http://gentlemind.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/invasion-of-body-snatchers.html

Navigating the Transgender Agenda, by Ian Paul, Psephizo
http://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/navigating-the-transgender-agenda/

The New Bigots, by Brendan O Neill, Spiked
http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/the-new-bigots/17590#.VkO789LhCt8

Of Bullied Boys and Bathroom Bills, by gentlemind
http://gentlemind.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/of-bullied-boys-and-bathroom-bills.html

How Should Christians Respond to the Transgender Phenomenon, by Robert Gagnon, First things
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/09/how-should-christians-respond-to-the-transgender-phenomenon

*****

We are fast approaching that time when we ask what the future holds for VOL in 2016. Momentous decisions will be made as early as January when the Primates of the Anglican Communion meet in Canterbury, England. VOL will be there to record this occasion that could see a split in the communion.
Archbishop Justin Welby will need all his reconciliation skills to keep it altogether. There will be later meetings of the ACC and primates.

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In Christ,

David

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