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TEC parish dies; an ACNA parish is born * Prayer Book Society to hold Theological Conference * Former Church of England Priest banned for 10-Years * Bell-Ringers silent for first time in 600 Years * Egyptian Primate Denies Task Force Appointment

Unfailing love. The ground of the joy of believers is that God's *unfailing love surrounds* them. Human joy arises from God's love ... John R.W. Stott

"We've been selling a lot of churches...I think we have sold eight or nine churhes in the last couple of years. The diocese makes an effort to sell church buildings to local historical societies or the municipalities in which they are located before putting them on the open market." --- Jim Sweeny Diocese of Quebec archivist

You will find it is not possible for a vivid memory of Jesus Christ and an unclean thought or a mean and treacherous desire to be in your mind at the same time. --- William Temple

We walk to heaven backwards --- John Henry Newman

Remember that Christianity is not, first and foremost, a religion; it is first and foremost a revelation. It comes before us chiefly not with a declaration of feelings we are to cultivate, or thoughts we are to develop; it comes before us, first and foremost, with the announcement of what God is, as He is proved in what he has done. --- William Temple

Dear Brothers and Sisters
December 30, 2016

If you doubt the growth of the ACNA, why and how they are doing it right, then reflect on this from members of St. Mary of Bethany Anglican Parish in Nashville, Tenn. They threw a Christmas party for the fifth straight year at the Stonebrook apartment complex, which has a large immigrant and refugee population, according to Jeanette Veile. They collected presents for 500 children, who also received a candy cane and a picture with Santa Claus (actually, Veile's husband, Bob).

The evangelical Anglican church was planted two years ago in the South Nashville neighborhood -- in part because of the involvement the Veiles and other founding members had with refugees in the area, she said. The church rents an apartment in Stonebrook for the summer lunch program she started after seeing the need as an ESL teacher in a neighborhood school, and weekly meetings of its sister church, Burmese Worship Fellowship, as well as other events.

"It's the heart of Jesus. It's what Jesus does," Veile said. "We're not there just to evangelize or to convert."

The reaction to the sermon series and giving initiative at Parkview has been overwhelmingly positive, Kollbocker said, though he added, "I think it rocks any Western, suburban, white Christian's world when you begin to talk about Jesus in ways other than ... white Jesus with the long, flowing hair we see in the classic pictures that depict him."

Some are wrestling with "some of the misinformation and some of the fear" surrounding refugees, he said.


And then there's a story (in today's digest) of an Episcopal parish in Gainesville, Florida that died and an ACNA parish that was born out of the ashes of that dying TEC church.

No one wanted to admit or concede that its day was done and the parish would have to close. But close it did, and the dwindling congregation at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Gainsville, threw in the towel and called it quits, handing their keys over to the Episcopal Diocese of Florida and its bishop, Samuel Johnson Howard.

VOL first covered this story in 2006 when the parish split from the Episcopal Church over the confirmation of V. Gene Robinson as the first publicly proclaimed homosexual ordained to the episcopacy in TEC and it was downhill from there.

At that time, we reported that the Rev. Alex Farmer had resigned as rector of St. Michael's and he and his members would begin a new ministry, Servants of Christ Anglican Church, that would meet at a Vineyard Christian Fellowship, down the road, at 5 p.m. Sunday. Today that Anglican parish has 200 and growing, living proof that at the end of the day, the gospel always wins.


Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, issued a passionate call for religious freedom in a pre-Christmas 'Thought for the Day'.

The persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, "had disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930s", which led to the holocaust. "That nearly 70 years later we should still be seeing such persecution is beyond belief," he said.

On his BBC Radio 4 Today program 'Thought for the Day', he said he had been inspired when he attended the consecration of St Thomas' Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in London recently.

"Here were a people persecuted for their religion in their own country but finding refuge in another land and freedom to practice their faith. It is an example to inspire us all this Christmas time," he said.

The Prince of Wales referred to the oppression of Christianity in Syria and Iraq, as well as attacks on Yazidis, Jews, Ahmadis, Baha'is and other minority faiths in the Middle East. He described a recent meeting with a Jesuit priest from Syria who described mass kidnappings of Christians. He repeated the Jesuit's warning that there could be no Christians left in Iraq in five years.


The Dean of York has been dubbed "Vicious Viv, after Christmas bells remained silent at York Minster for the first time since the 14th century.

A group of angry parishioners have called it scandal and raised 18,000 signatures saying that Dean Vivienne Faull's silencing of the bell ringers came following unsubstantiated accusation that a bell-ringer was accused of sexual assault. A row led to the bell-ringing group being dismissed in October. No charges have been laid at the person. The Dean rode roughshod over the facts and ended the bell-ringers' jobs. Now the bell ringers and supporters are calling for the removal of the Dean of York.

You can read Dr. Jules Gomes' fine interview with a campaigner trying to get rid of the Dean.


A story by George Conger, an Episcopal priest, concerning the appointment of the Very Rev. Samy Shehata to a Task Force proposed by the ACC general secretary Josiah Idouw-Fearon and the Archbishop of Canterbury is wrong, mischievous and deceitful, Egyptian Archbishop Mouneer Anis told VOL.

In a skype call with VOL, Dr. Anis blasted the article which appeared on Anglican Ink a personal Anglican blog of Conger, saying that Shehata, a professor at the Alexandria School of Theology was never going to take the job and had been pegged to take a bishopric in North Africa as part of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt. (The diocese is seeking provincial status).

"I was troubled and disappointed by what was published by Rev. George Conger of Anglican Ink because what was written was not accurate. In regards to the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Diocese of Egypt in its struggle with the Protestant Church Association who are trying to bring the Anglican Church under its umbrella. Archbishop Justin Welby has been so supportive to me and to our Diocese on this issue. I am so grateful to him for his great support and for writing to our President in this regards to the recognition of our Church in Egypt."

The other misunderstanding was regarding the participation of Dean Samy Shehata in the Taskforce of the Anglican Communion. Dean Samy is going to be the Area Bishop of North Africa in addition to his responsibilities as the Dean of Alexandria and the Dean of the Alexandria School of Theology. You can read the full story in today's digest.


THE PRAYER BOOK SOCIETY will hold a Theological Conference on February 16-18, 2017, in Savannah, Georgia, to mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The event will take place in partnership with the Elliott House of Studies at St. John's Church.

Entitled Anglicanism: Catholic and Reformed this is an opportunity to revisit the Anglican legacy of the Reformation, its distinctive history and future within Catholic Christianity. Among the speakers are Dr. Oliver O'Donovan, Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Edinburgh and previously of Oxford, together with his wife, Dr. Joan O' Donovan, and the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell, the former Bishop of Europe. The conference is open to all, clergy and lay, and you can register online at http://anglicanism-2017.bpt.me

For further information about the PBS CONFERENCE 2017 16-18th February
Anglicanism Catholic and Reformed Revisiting the Reformation Legacy
1517-2017 St John's Church, Savannah GA (with special rates at The DeSoto Hilton and Marriott Courtyard) go to anglicanway.org or pbsusa.org. To register (with an early booking discount) please visit: http://anglicanism-2017.brownpapertickets.com


Christmas killings continue in Nigeria in spite of Boko Haram 'defeat' claims.

Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria's President declared, two days before Christmas, that Boko Haram has been defeated and the jihadists cleared from their stronghold in Sambisa Forest in Maiduguri, Borno State.

But at least 12 people were killed in attacks by Islamic militants in the last 48 hours by Boko Haram and Fulani Islamic Jihadists.

At least 10 people were killed in an overnight attack in Goska village, a predominantly Christian community, in Kaninkon Chiefdom of Jema'a in Kaduna State, despite a 24 hour curfew. Two suicide bomber were also killed early Monday morning in an attempt to attack a market in Maiduguri.

The Rev. Emmanuel Ubandoma, a pastor in Kafanchan Anglican Diocese, told Global Christian News that, "it was rumored a few days before the attack that the Fulani Islamic herdsmen had sent a message, a Jihad requirement, "that they will attack the community. Most people did not worry much because there is a curfew in place and it was expected that the soldiers and security would intervene if there was any attack, but the Fulani came and surrounded and attacked Goska village. The attack started at dusk and went throughout the night to early Christmas morning" Ubandoma said.


There is still no deal on Christ Church Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Cathedral restoration deal missed a deadline. Most of the cathedral was felled by an earthquake that rocked the city and its environs.

Central city landowners and developers are frustrated at further delays on a deal to restore the Christ Church Cathedral. An agreement to restore the quake-damaged cathedral in central Christchurch was not made before Christmas.

The Government and Anglican property trustees were unable to agree on the terms of a deal that would see the cathedral in central Christchurch restored, Stuff understands.

The talks may have faltered because the Government this week changed the terms of the deal, it is understood.

A spokeswoman for Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Minister Gerry Brownlee, said the Government contribution to cathedral restoration had not altered.

"The Crown contribution has not changed," she said.

A statement from the Anglican diocese said Bishop Victoria Matthews was "greatly saddened" a deal could not be reached this year "given the tireless work of the Cathedral Working Group and Church Property Trustees and staff".


Three retired Bishops of the Anglican Church of Nigeria in Awka have renewed the battle against continued sustenance of the Osu caste system in parts of Igbo land, with an official letter to all the governors, speakers of the Houses of Assembly and other notable personalities in the area to implement without delay, the 1956 Eastern Nigeria law banning the obnoxious system in the area.

The clerics in the forefront of the battle are Raphael Okafor, former Bishop of Ihiala Diocese; Anthony Nkwoka, former Bishop of Niger West and Samuel Chukuka, former Bishop of Isiukwuato/Umunneochi of Abia State.

The Osu caste system was an ancient practice in Igbo land that discriminated against a group of persons allegedly dedicated to deities and the stigma was naturally transferred to generations yet unborn.

Operating under the aegis of Total Liberation Crusaders, the Bishops, who said membership of the crusaders also included notable legal practitioners, high court judges and other professionals who were equally concerned that the Osu caste system was still in vogue and denying people their fundamental human rights in many parts of Igbo land, warned that there must be an end to the obnoxious practice.

The bishops said: "We are worried that generations, who know nothing about these cultural and idolatrous practices are today suffering from the stigma, whether their forefathers willingly or unwillingly became Osu. It is wicked and very unfortunate.

"Moreover, the Osu caste system is antiquated and had been outlawed since 1956."


A Church of England parish has banned a woman from a vicar's job on 'biblical' grounds. The TELEGRAPH reports that Holy Trinity Church in Wallington in south west London will now issue a job advert that specifically excludes female clerics from seeking the job.

The Church of England said such a move was rare but not unique. A spokesman said that because vicars and priests are 'postholders' rather than employees, the church does not fall foul of equal opportunities laws.

The decision to bar women from the £25,000 a year job was taken after a vote by Holy Trinity's parochial church council.

At our recent open evening we explained the parish church council's view that the position of the overall leader (vicar) should be male for biblical reasons, says the Holy Trinity Church announcement.

The announcement made in the parish newsletter handed out to the congregation stated: "At our recent open evening we explained the parish church council's view that the position of the overall leader (vicar) should be male for biblical reasons. Thank you to all those who shared their questions, views and points.


The subject of Women's Ordination is in continuous theological debate and this week we have published an excellent paper on the subject by Alice Linsley, who was an Episcopal priest but gave it up when she delved deeply into the Old and New Testament scriptures and into church history.

Her piece, Anglicans and the Historic Priesthood, is must reading for waverers. http://www.virtueonline.org/anglicans-and-historic-priesthood


A former Church of England priest was handed a 10-year ban from the Anglican church after a tribunal found him guilty of losing his temper and displaying anger on occasion. At no time was there a hint of adultery, sodomy, or doctrinal denial by the priest.

The principal findings against Gomes by the tribunal chairman, Geoffrey Tattersall, QC, was that Dr. Gomes had an 'over-inflated view of his own self-importance' and dealt with people with 'little or no compassion or pastoral concern'.

The former Bishop of Sodor and Man, Robert Paterson, and a tribunal he set up, imposed a 10-year ban on the Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes from exercising ministry in the Church of England and anywhere in the world, according to the Manx Independent.

However, a senior official in the Church of England told VOL that the bishop has no authority and the tribunal cannot exercise any jurisdiction outside England. "It has none beyond these shores," he said.

Dr. Gomes, an immigrant priest, said the findings were "patently false." Each church in the Anglican Communion is independent and operates under its own jurisdiction with its own legal system and discipline. A ban on Dr. Gomes' ministry cannot apply anywhere except in the Church of England.

Furthermore, it would appear that the sentence seemed extraordinarily disproportionate - double the penalty normally given to a priest caught in adultery. The tribunal's document awarding the penalty, said Gomes' behavior had been 'entirely inappropriate', by giving a radio interview describing the Bishop as vindictive and likening the Church of England's approach to dealing with disciplinary issues to Shariah law.

You can read the full story in today's digest.


Trump dominated the news in 2016, but was not Religion Newsmaker of the Year.

Columnist Terry Mattingly said that while Donald Trump's crusade to win the White House was the top story of 2016, journalists in the Religion News Association saluted the brash billionaire's opponents by giving their top honor to the Muslim parents who made headlines by denouncing him.

Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parents of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq, shared the Religion Newsmaker of the Year honor. The Khans made a dramatic Democratic National Convention appearance to proclaim that Trump's proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the country would be unconstitutional.

The RNA description of the annual poll's No. 1 story stressed that Trump received "strong support from white Christians, especially evangelicals. ... Many were alarmed by his vilifying Muslims and illegal immigrants and his backing from white supremacists. GOP keeps majorities in Congress."

The No. 2 story continued: "Post-election assaults and vandalism target Muslims and other minorities. Some assailants cite Donald Trump's victory as validation. Critics denounce the appointment of Stephen Bannon as White House strategist over his ties to white supremacists." News related to Trump appeared in three other RNA Top 10 stories.


The Anglican Church of Burundi will plant 10 million trees in five years to mark special occasions like confirmations, baptisms and weddings. It is an increasingly popular practice in many areas of southern and central Africa, after it was suggested and promoted by young Green Anglicans. But the Province of Burundi is going a step further and is looking to plant one tree for every one of the 10 million-strong population of the country. The church hopes to reach its "One Person, One Tree" goal within the next five years.

The move is designed to protect and maintain forests and improve the environment. A report last week showed how the planting of trees on a hillside provides security for refugees living on a hillside in Rutana. The treeshave transformed environment not only for the Tanzanian refugees who have made the area their home, but also for wildlife, including monkeys and partridges. In addition to providing shelter for housing, the trees help to prevent flooding and have resulted in new sources of clean drinking water and improved agricultural yields.


One wonders why the death, in Milan, of an ISIS follower has not prompted Episcopal Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, to declare that Christians must do more to embrace how Islam shows us the true Christ and how we must commit to stop shooting the dusky messengers of One People, One Faith, One Planet, One Government under Allah. God has clearly changed his mind about exclusive faith, and we must move for tolerance through inclusive diversity.


2017 is upon us and we still have not reached a minimal goal of $150,000 to cover our costs for this coming year. I hope you will consider supporting our budget as we go into 2017. I have travelled extensively this past year and we have had some extraordinary expenses. Funds are low. Would you partner with VOL to give us a working budget for 2017? To keep these digests coming into your e-mail box each week is time consuming. Our work is encouraged by your giving. It helps us believe that all we do is worthwhile. Our hard-working team of reporters and commentators feel the encouragement when you give. Thousands of you go each day to VOL's extensive website and archives, but few seem willing to support us. Please think what VOL means to you and how much work has poured into every digest of stories you receive from no other source and send us a tax-deductible gift. We would be very grateful.

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