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Will it be "I" or the imago dei? * West cannot Survive without Re-energized Christian Faith * Three CofE Cathedrals Capitulate to World's Values * TEC and Giving * Welby to give evidence in sadistic boy bashing * More questions on Ravi Zacharias * More

Will it be "I" or the imago dei? * West cannot Survive without Re-energized Christian Faith * Three CofE Cathedrals Capitulate to World's Values * TEC and Giving * Welby to give evidence in sadistic boy bashing * More questions on Ravi Zacharias * Meghan Markle wanted Dalai Lama not Curry to Preach Sermon at Wedding * Australian Diocese to Test Same Sex Marriage Ban

Love and law. Love is not the finish of the law (in the sense that it dispenses with it); love is the fulfilment of the law (in the sense that it obeys it). What the New Testament says about the law and love is not 'if you love you can break the law', but 'if you love you will keep it'. --- John R.W. Stott

'The hardening of the progressive line, and the shift from political manifesto to dogmatic creed, are not unrelated to this trend. On abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender issues, the progressives have steadily evolved--first demanding acceptance, then accommodation, then positive affirmation.... The culture of death [and LGBTQ immorality] will accept no truce; only unconditional surrender will do.' --- Ed Condon, canon lawyer and DC bureau chief for Catholic News Agency

The truth is, we were never homosexual. We struggled with homosexual confusion, but were from conception, heterosexual in design. Neither the brokenness of our life, the slowness of our healing, nor the fallenness of everything around us can change that. The seed of heterosexuality may be damaged or un-nurtured, but it has always been there. --- David Kyle Foster

The rush to consign Epstein to hell is interesting, since many Americans no longer believe in a place of eternal damnation -- a trend seen in polls in recent decades. --- Terry Mattingly

Something has gone terribly wrong. One third of the world call themselves 'Christians', but a significant proportion of them are missing. Many of them are missing from our churches. Many others are present, but are missing out on the joy of truly knowing and following Christ. Something has to change! Mission to nominal Christians is too often missing from the agenda of the global church and its leaders. ---
The Lausanne Rome 2018 Statement on Nominal Christianity

Religious observance without moral obedience cannot save --- Philip Graham Ryken

Love is supreme. Knowledge is vital, faith indispensable, religious experience necessary, and service essential, but Paul gives precedence to love. Love is the greatest thing in the world. For 'God is love' in his innermost being. Father, Son and Spirit are eternally united to each other in self-giving love. So he who is love, and has set his love upon us, calls us to love him and others in return. 'We love because he first loved us' (1 Jn. 4:19). Love is the principal, the paramount, the pre-eminent, the distinguishing characteristic of the people of God. Nothing can dislodge or replace it. Love is supreme. --- John R.W. Stott

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
August 16, 2019

THE CHURCH is going to have to learn afresh how to live in the midst of a pagan culture, one which has the power to corrupt all Christian belief. So writes David F. Wells, Distinguished Senior Research Professor, at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.

Baptist theologian Al Moehler, in an article The Transgender Revolution's Radical Redefinition of Self and Safety: Where Did it Come From?says that when massive change is taking place in a society, the vocabulary changes with it. Sometimes new words emerge. Oftentimes old words are redefined. They're redeployed, sometimes contorted beyond their meaning, sometimes broadened beyond anything a previous generation could have imagined.

That's what's happening with the word "safe" right now, and it's made very clear in an article that ran at USA Today. Kristin Lam is the reporter. The headline: "More than 7,000 Americans have gender X IDs, a victory for transgender rights. Is that a safety risk too?" That's the headline, ending with that question, "Is it a safety risk too?" A safety risk? What might that mean?

Well, if you go back to the major use of the word "safe" or "safety" in generations past, it has had to do with physical safety, with health and wellbeing. It has to do with avoiding disease or avoiding injury. Safety as applied to others might even be translated into something like your local city's department of public safety, which would certainly include, most importantly, the police department; the police department is for the most part concerned about keeping a society safe from criminal activity and law breaking.

What is happening is a radical notion of the self that is emerging. The individual in North America who defined it most appropriately was Charles Taylor, the Canadian philosopher, who in the late 1980s published a book entitled Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. That word "identity" is central. The idea here is that the self, the individual, now bears a responsibility to discover within and to construct without an identity.

And then you have the rise of modern psychology and psychiatry. You can't have the modern notion of the individual and of the self without the rise of modern psychiatry and psychology and the looming influence of figures such as Sigmund Freud. But Freud's is simply the most important of the names on this list that contributed to the modern idea of the self as project, and it has so infected our society that most people simply take it as a norm. They simply take it as a given. The reality is that our identity is our concern. It is our right to declare. It is our own responsibility as a personal project.

Dr. Wells put his finger on the cultural shift when he writes, "We have moved from thinking about ourselves in terms of human nature (and in Christian terms in the imago Dei) -- what is common to all who are human --to thinking in terms of the self. Today, the self is that center in each person where gender, sexual orientation, and biography come together in a unique combination. My self is unique to me. Therefore, life is about becoming authentic to who I am. And it follows that if every self is different in some measure, there are no moral norms that are applicable to everyone in the same way. Moral norms therefore are replaced by values --that is, by what is important to and for me and people legitimately have different moral values. This is the path that the acute relativism of our time has taken.

*****

Closely allied to this, is an article by Greg Sheridan of The Spectator, who cogently argues that the West cannot survive without a re-energized belief in Christianity. Most British people seem to take it on faith that to have faith is stupid, he writes. While things are not this bad in the U.S., we cannot ignore the fact that a generation of Nones, Millennials and Generations X and Y are growing up with little or no faith input into their lives.

"There is no faster way to get yourself classed as dim than by admitting that you hold religious belief, especially Christian belief. Anti-Catholicism used to be the anti-Semitism of intellectuals; now Catholics get no special attention. All believing Christians are regarded as stupid, eccentric or malevolent.

"Some conservatives will make the case for the social usefulness of Christian values. The conservative asks: if society prospered with these traditions and customs, is it really wise to throw them away without a moment's hesitation?

"That is just what the West is doing, especially the Anglophone West. Britain, Australia and even the God-fearing United States are becoming atheist societies. Britain is more atheist than Australia, which is more atheist than the US, but the trend of radically declining belief is undeniable in all three."

This is historically new. As Nicky Gumbel from Holy Trinity Brompton recently pointed out, there have been periods of very low religious practice in Britain -- the middle of the 18th century, for example -- and other western societies, but never before of wholesale atheist belief (atheism is a faith like any other, only less reasonable).

*****

TEC AND GIVING. The Living Church produced a report on diocesan progress in their stewardship. They noted that The Episcopal Church is highly dependent on contributions from its dioceses, just as dioceses are highly dependent on their churches, and churches are highly dependent on their members. Some dioceses are paying more; some are paying less. They based their analysis on 103 domestic dioceses. You can read the full report here: https://livingchurch.org/

They note that overall the story is positive, as the number of domestic dioceses in compliance has grown sharply. The Rev. Mally Lloyd, who chairs the finance committee of the Executive Council, told TLC that in 2013, TEC was asking each diocese to contribute 19% of their revenue, but only 44 dioceses were doing so. The "ask" has since been reduced in stages to 15%, and more than 90 dioceses are expected to comply for 2019.

What the report did not say is that fewer people are giving more, because there are no new converts coming forward to cover the bills. It's those white privileged males and females that are keeping the coffers filled. They did note that a significant number of conservative parishes are telling their diocesan bishops that they don't want their money to go to the national church because of its stand on homosexual marriage. I have made the point repeatedly that the people in the pews are far more conservative than their priests and bishops, and they are willing to stay in TEC because of friendships and the graveyards that await them. They did note that the Diocese of Pennsylvania took a major financial hit under Bishop Charles Bennison who left the diocese in disgrace, for covering his brother's sexual assault of a woman. Also, the Diocese of Colorado took a major financial hit when former Bishop Rob O'Neill spent $3 million in legal fees going after the Rev. Don Armstrong for daring to leave TEC and its apostate theology. The new bishop, a woman, vows she will raise the funds next year.

The report said the 2015 General Convention adopted a carrot-and-stick approach to assessments -- gradual reductions in the rate of assessment, combined with a penalty for noncompliance. The penalty is that beginning this year, dioceses that do not either meet the assessment or obtain a waiver will be ineligible to receive grants or loans from The Episcopal Church in the following year. Any exceptions would have to be approved by Executive Council.

How serious is this penalty? That will vary from diocese to diocese, depending on their inclination to apply for loans or grants. To gussy it all up, TEC provided about $5.5 million in grants and loans, to dioceses, individual churches and organizations. This includes $3.9 million in block grants, primarily to financially dependent dioceses. The remainder includes scholarships and grants for campus ministries, church planting, anti-poverty efforts, seminaries, rural churches and other programs.

That focus may shift as soon as specific grant applications are denied in 2020. Barnes said his staff will determine which dioceses have paid the requisite 15% when they close their books for the year at the end of January. The Executive Council, which must approve most grants and loans, will meet in mid-February.

*****

Archbishop Justin Welby is still enmeshed in the beating boys' scandal and will "give evidence" as an investigation begins into Church camps where boys were sadistically beaten at Church of England holiday camps. Before his ordination, Welby had served as a "dormitory officer" at evangelical camps where John Smyth QC carried out beatings of boys and young men. The church announced an independent review into the assaults carried out by Smyth in the 1970s and 1980s. The investigation will try to establish which Church staff knew about the abuse, whether they responded appropriately and whether the attacks could have been prevented.

*****

Did Ravi Zacharias Invent the tale of his Father attending his first doctoral ceremony? It appears so. In his autobiography, Walking from East to West, and in his other writings, Zacharias tells a touching story about how his once-hostile father proudly attended the ceremony at which Ravi received his first honorary doctorate. Ravi also tells us that so proud was the elder Oscar Zacharias, that he purchased the robe Ravi wore that day. Ravi has repeated the story widely in his writings and lectures.

The problem is that Oscar Zacharias died in 1979 and Ravi did not receive his first doctorate until May of 1980. The 1979 date comes from several of Ravi's published writings. The 1980 date has been confirmed by Houghton College.
It is, of course, possible, that Ravi has mis-remembered the year of his father's death. This would be an easy error to rectify. Unfortunately, his ministry has refused several requests to clarify the date of the death of Oscar Zacharias. VOL reached out to his publisher, but did not get a response back.

*****

Meghan Markle reportedly wanted the Dalai Lama to deliver the sermon at her wedding, but it was "vetoed" by Archbishop Justin Welby. Michael Curry was the fall back choice. Meghan's love of meditation, which has since been passed to Harry, and her affinity for quoting the Dalai Lama in her former career as an actress, is thought to be contributing factors to her inclination to consider the invitation.

According to Daily Mail, Welby is said to have vetoed the idea due to the Dalai Lama not being a Christian. After sharing his sentiments regarding the matter, Welby then told Harry and Meghan that they should instead have American bishop Michael Curry, who serves as the head of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., give a speech at the royal wedding. This suggestion came even though neither Meghan nor Harry had previously met Curry.

*****

As growing dissatisfaction with the Church of England grows and Welby's prevarication on sexuality issues heightens, more and more parish priests are leaving the church. The latest person to do so is the Vicar of Fowey, the Rev. Philip de Grey-Warter, who is also Priest-in-Charge of Golant, in the diocese of Truro. He is stepping down after 17 years to plant a new church community under the auspices of GAFCON. He said he had "wrestled" with the decision since December, when the House of Bishops issued guidance on using the liturgy for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith to mark a person's gender transition (News, 14 December 2018).

"We have been very clear that we are making this move in conscience and not telling anyone else what they ought to do," he said. "We hope some people will come and plant with us, and there will be others who continue in the parish church. We want to ensure good relationships are maintained."

*****

Three Anglican cathedrals have set out to increase both their appeal to the public and to get more people into the building. One has chosen a gin festival, another has built a mini golf course over the flagstones where pilgrims have knelt in prayer since the 7th century, and one has built a helter skelter at the heart of the building.

Pretty predictably, there have been two sets of responses. One group has hailed these as imaginative initiatives which will catch the imagination of the public, and make the buildings seem a little more relevant to people who otherwise would not give the faith of the cathedral a second thought; and the other group has protested that the cathedral authorities have misunderstood the purpose of the buildings and their relationship with the public.

In every generation the Church faces a live or die challenge. Convert or be converted, writes Bishop Gavin Ashenden. Either act as an agency for people to encounter the Living God and be forgiven, turned and transformed; or fit into the unforgiving contours of a society that is driven by other forces, other appetites, and smear over their agenda a patina of spirituality that confers a thin covering of political and cultural legitimacy.

You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/convert-or-be-converted

You can also read a story about all this by Andrew Symes here: https://virtueonline.org/cathedral-gimmicks-illustrate-spiritually-blind-britain-and-mute-church

*****

The Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan elected the Rev. Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, 64, rector of Advent Church, Taipei, as its sixth bishop on Aug. 3, 2019, at a special election convention held at St. James' Episcopal Church, Taichung. He was one of three nominees. Chang was elected on the second ballot. Nine clergy votes and 19 lay votes were necessary for election on that ballot; Chang received 11 clergy votes and 28 lay votes.

*****

An Australian Anglican bishop vows to test church ban on same-sex marriage, reports TLC. The Diocese of Wangaratta, in rural Southeastern Australia, will vote on allowing same-sex marriage at its August 30-31 synod, with the full support of its bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Parkes. Parkes, who will retire from his ministry after the synod concludes. He told the Australian Broadcasting Company that he believes the change has wide support in the diocese. He said he is also prepared to officiate at same-sex marriages himself and to be disciplined by the Anglican Church of Australia for his convictions.

Parkes has been a vocal supporter of same-sex marriages for several years. Last summer's Wangaratta diocesan synod voted to commend the preparation of rites by the bishop for blessing same-sex civil unions. In 2012 and 2013, the Diocese of Perth voted to call for legal acknowledgement of same-sex marriages, but the resolutions were vetoed both times by then-Archbishop Roger Herft.

The Anglican Church of Australia reaffirmed its commitment to a traditional understanding of marriage at its last General Synod, in 2017, resolving that "the doctrine of our church, in line with traditional Christian teaching, is that marriage is an exclusive and lifelong union of a man and a woman."

*****

In Hong Kong, the Sheng Kung Hui House of Bishops issued a pastoral letter in light of the "Extradition Bill" (2019) which has sparked a series of marches and spread conflicts as clashes between the police and civilians have grown more acute and tension has permeated the city, causing anxiety and pain.

"We think that when Christians respond to political or public issues, we should remember that we are all members of God's family, even if we hold different opinions. We might stand on opposite sides, and feel animosity or even hatred towards those with different views. When this happens, we have to be extremely careful, because our hearts might have fallen into the control of the "evil one". We need to remember that benevolent thoughts come from God while wicked intentions originate in the "evil one," Satan. In these times, we all need to pray to God for mercy and forgive one another."

There was no condemnation of Chinese Communist authorities trying to wipe out pro-democracy forces in HK, just an anemic response, a sort of 'why can't we all just get along'. But then again, Anglicans in Hong Kong have sided with the Three Self Movement which is the government-controlled Protestant movement on Mainland China and these leaders certainly don't want to upset that political and ecclesial apple cart for fear of retribution!

*****

In the Diocese of Huron, some parishioners at some churches thought that they would be allowed to have a "secret ballot" to vote and decide yes or no on the same-sex weddings in their particular parish (about three weeks ago this was the thought}, now the latest is that the individual parishioner can speak to the minister and give the parishioner's viewpoint and yes or no decision for SSM or not. Therefore, there will be no "secret" ballot in those churches. All this follows the failed passage of the marriage resolution at Synod recently. Local option allows dioceses to act independently and defiantly of the resolution. Many are doing so.

*****

Presidential candidate and Episcopalian Pete Buttigieg has hired the Rev. Shawna Foster as his faith-outreach director. Foster, is a 35-year-old Unitarian Universalist pastor. She has a lot in common with Buttigieg: Both are millennials, LGBT people and military veterans. These days belief wise there is not much between them. To be an Episcopalian you can pretty believe what you want and say the creed. In other words, Foster is to the theological left of Mayor Pete, if that is indeed possible.

*****

VirtueOnline has begun a crowdfunding campaign to not only gain funding to keep VOL afloat, but also to grow as a brand. We want you to stay engaged with what we report on. Our new version of VirtueOnline 2.0 will include more reports, a better website to read on, better branding and essentially more news about everything Anglican. Our drive is to reach $40,000. We hope you will join with us to keep the Anglican Communion's foremost orthodox Anglican Communion News Service alive and coming into your email. For more stories go to www.virtueonline.org You can follow VOL on FACEBOOK here: https://www.facebook.com/virtueonline

All Blessings,

David

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