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WILLIAMS issues warning on gay bashing...ECUSA has 2 Primates...Diocesan news

THE CHURCH’S MIGHTIEST influence is felt when she is different from the world in which she lives. Her power lies in her being different, rises with the degree in which she differs and sinks as the difference diminishes. A. W. Tozer in "The Set of the Sail"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a public warning in his Advent letter saying that there would be serious consequences for the communion if Anglicans do not heal their rift. He also issued a strong rebuke to conservatives in the worldwide Anglican Communion for the hostility of their language towards homosexuals over the consecration of an American gay bishop.

In an Advent letter to the 37 other Anglican primates around the world, Rowan Williams lays out in stark terms the depth of anger and vitriol unleashed by the gay row and calls for repentance from those who contributed to it. He also warned that ill-judged words can lead to suicide or even murder.

"The 1998 Lambeth Resolution on this subject declared plainly that the Anglican Church worldwide did not believe - because of its reading of Scripture - that it was free to say that homosexual practice could be blessed. But it also declared that violence in word or deed and prejudice against homosexual people were unacceptable and sinful behaviour for Christians. Earlier Lambeth Conference Resolutions had made the same point. Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent. We are bound to ask, with the greatest care, how we best communicate the challenge of the gospel to homosexual persons and how we may free ourselves from unreasoning fear or even hatred.”

Now the questions must be asked, why did Dr. Williams issue this pastoral concern at the beginning of Advent if he wasn't convinced that it was a communion breaking issue? Advent seems hardly the season of the year for this sort of outrage. Clearly he is deeply concerned if not running scared that when the Primates meet in February that it may well be too late, and calls for sweet reasonableness then will no longer prevail. He might also be responding to the recent CAPA bishops meeting in Lagos which again publicly condemned homosexual practice as incompatible with the gospel.

But Dr. Williams sells short the Resolution of the Lambeth Conference of 1998. That resolution is much stronger than the Archbishop says. That resolution said plainly that the Church was not free to bless homosexual practice and it commits sin against God if it does so.

And when he asks 'how do we communicate the gospel to homosexuals', the answer is, the same way we communicate it to everyone else, and the message is this: come as you are and be transformed by Jesus Christ, and that includes homosexuals. The trouble with Dr. Williams approach is that it says come as you are stay as you are, and that is NOT acceptable to millions of Global South evangelical Anglicans.

Dr. Peter Toon, Prayer Book Society prexy makes the point that the phrase "homosexual people" used by Williams is significant. He writes: "The 'gay lobby' are the ones who have sought - and largely succeeded - in having homosexuality recognised as a defining characteristic of a person, belonging to their very nature, rather than (only) as a distinct form of behaviour. This recognition has proved an effective weapon in their campaign, since it enables them to define opposition to homosexuality as "discrimination" against individuals, on a par with racial discrimination or discrimination against women."

Toon is absolutely right, and Williams talking about it only raises the temperature to boiling point with respect to the controversy over homosexuality, sin, and God. You can read what he says in his advent message and a story I have written called "The Clash of the Titans" a showdown which now seems inevitable between Dr. Williams and Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola. The games have only just begun.

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH USA now has two Primates. One is official - Frank Tracy Griswold duly elected by the American House of Bishops; the other is unofficial, but is recognized by most of the Global South and his name is the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh.

And Griswold is hopping mad about that, sources tell VirtueOnline. He is grinding his teeth trying to figure out what to do about it.

Primate Duncan was duly robed in Lagos recently by several hundred African bishops who represent the largest bloc of Anglicans in the world, while Griswold represents about 800,000 Episcopalians who are slowly dying off or leaving. From now on you can refer to the Pittsburgh bishop as "the Most Rev." or Presiding Bishop Duncan. He has earned it.

EPISCOPAL WOMEN SHAMELESSLY BARE BREASTS FOR CHARITY. The limits of inclusivity and good taste were reached this week when 14 Episcopal women aged between 55 and 80 at St. Thomas's Church in Battle Creek, Michigan bared their breasts for charity in a copy cat of the movie Calendar Girls, to raise money for breast cancer research. Calling themselves, The Belles of St. Mary's, the women bared nearly all in a photo pew op, which prompted one wag to ask, "Will the older men of St. Thomas's agree to pull down their pants for pictures for a new church calendar to raise money for those suffering from prostate cancer?" Perhaps they can call the calendar, "The Buns from Battle Creek". Mercifully and hopefully not.

If you not too squeamish you can read another story, this time Louie Crew's sick homoerotic poetry. If you don't like his rubbish, skip this one, there are more uplifting stories. And this man sits on the Episcopal Church's Executive Council right next to the Pluriform One!

MERCIFULLY POPE JOHN PAUL II, an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, came to the rescue this week with a warning against attempts to tamper with what he called "the irreplaceable" institution of marriage-based family, saying that such efforts would deeply wound society.

"Family, based on marriage, is a natural, irreplaceable institution and fundamental element of the common good of every society," the pope said. "Whoever destroys this fundamental fabric of human coexistence, by not respecting its identity and by distorting its tasks, delivers a deep wound to society and often provokes irreparable damage."

And the DIOCESE OF NEWARK this week announced that massive closures were in their future. Jack Croneberger, Newark's bishop for six years, said in his November/December column that "maybe as many as one-third" of the diocese's 114 churches, "… are struggling mightily to keep the doors open."

Nearly eight years ago Robert Stowe England, an Anglo-Catholic journalist did a survey on the state of that diocese and noted then that 15 to 20 parishes had closed. His story was titled "The Graveyard of Urban Ministry." Now, the churches in the old suburbs are dying even faster. How ironic that Jack Spong, the former Newark bishop said Christianity must change or die. Now it is obvious that it is the Diocese of Newark that must change or die. Thus, the number of parishes that failed under Spong will be dwarfed by about 40 parishes that are on the verge of closing under Cronenberger's leadership. The two combined represent about 40 percent of what was the diocese when Spong came in. The number of communicants is likely to fall to 40 percent. It should be noted that this is also the diocese of Louie Crew, which should again give you pause to realize that sodomy doesn’t play even in Newark, NJ. It is very clear that if you have no gospel to proclaim your ecclesiastical life span is very short, very short indeed, about as short as someone suffering from AIDS.

And in the DIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES, Bishop Jon Bruno this week held out an olive branch with no olives. In a move to win back three breakaway Southern California parishes and placate conservative critics internationally, he said he will observe a personal moratorium on blessing same-sex unions. However, he said his priests were free to continue officiating at homosexual ceremonies. He also said he would not, for the time being, go after Texas Bishop Maurice M. Benitez, who is standing in for the African bishops in overseeing the three breakaway parishes. But Bruno is proceeding with the civil lawsuits seeking to regain control over the parishes. This olive branch will never bear fruit, unless it is fruit loops.

At the same time, Bruno called for an international church summit in Los Angeles, including dissenting African bishops who have claimed jurisdiction over the three parishes. Uganda Archbishop Henry Orombi promptly rejected the olive branch. Quoth he, "they're all mine, baby."

In the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA, Charles Bennison decided to attack the freedom of the press and to cross Diocesan lines without permission. After telling his clergy that he wants to stop "the subpoenaing of witnesses" in Father Moyer's lawsuit against him, he unleashed seven subpoenas, including one to Virtuosity (now VirtueOnline) seeking to harass this writer for revealing some of Bennison's frauds and one to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, seeking to interfere in Bob Duncan's Diocese. You can read the full story in today's digest.

And the Dean of the Philadelphia Cathedral Richard Giles, a former Church of England Anglo-Catholic, is quoted in the Philadelphia INQUIRER in a column titled INFLUENCES: What Shapes the Minds that make the News, and said in answer to a question about his heroes from history: "Pelagius (a fifth century British theologian) for daring to take on the mighty Augustine of Hippo." Really.

He also said in answer to a question, People in my field I most Admire, "that the person I most admired in the field of theology was David Jenkins the former Bishop of Durham, England who had the courage to speak what most of his brother bishops were privately thinking and was castigated and almost broken by it." Now Jenkins hit the headlines when he publicly denied the bodily physical resurrection of Jesus and denied the virgin birth of Jesus.

And these two people are who Giles admires most! Clearly Charles Bennison, the apostate Bishop of Pennsylvania has had been a bad influence on this priest who was once staunchly Anglo-Catholic. Now we have the church of Druids and Pelagians. But of course there will be no Canon 10 proceedings against Giles by Bennison, just as there were no proceedings against the two Druid practicing priests.

BUT THIS WEEK four orthodox Primates will descend on the Church of the Good Samaritan, an evangelical parish in Paoli, PA in the DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA, the first time ever that four archbishops from the Global South have gathered in one church on the East Coast of the U.S. They are coming to launch the newly formed Anglican Relief and Development (ARD) organization that will replace monies now being rejected by the Global South from the Episcopal Relief and Development - the Episcopal Church's relief and development arm. Should be quite a show. Each archbishop will preach at four services. VirtueOnline will bring you reports, interviews and much more.

In the DIOCESE OF FLORIDA, Bishop Samuel Johnson Howard fired the Rev. Claudia B. Kalis, evangelical vicar of St. Bartholomew's Church, citing theological differences, her insubordination, and accusing her of proclaiming that he was the administrator of the "devil's cup" when publicly making known that she could not be in Eucharistic fellowship with the bishop while he remained in Eucharistic fellowship with Frank Griswold and Gene Robinson. She also refused to take Holy Communion from the bishop. You can read the full story today.

THE WINDSOR REPORT RECEPTION COMMITTEE has been announced and it is pretty well a liberal clean sweep with one or two token conservatives. The members of the Reception Reference Group are: Archbishop Peter Kwong, Primate, Hong Kong, Chair (moderate, but will come down on the side of the Global South orthodox bishops when push comes to shove), Archdeacon Jim Boyles, Provincial Secretary, Canada (very liberal) Bishop John Gladstone, Bishop of South Kerala, South India (conservative), Dr Ishmael Noko, General Secretary, Lutheran World Federation (liberal) Bishop Kenneth Price, Suffragan Bishop of Southern Ohio, USA (liberal), Bishop James Tengatenga, Bishop of Southern Malawi (conservative, but likes to hobnob with Western liberals. His boss Archbishop Bernard Malango cracks the whip, so he won't deviate too far from the line), Bishop Tito Zavala, Bishop of Chile (conservative). Staff Consultants are: Canon Gregory Cameron, ACO, Secretary (Liberal), Canon John Rees, ACC, Legal Adviser (liberal) Revd. Sarah Rowland Jones, CPSA (liberal). Watch for the liberal spin to continue…and watch the Global South bishops get even angrier at the manipulation of the Windsor Report.

THE PRESIDING BISHOP'S Christmas Message has the following lines "Christmas points the way to something sober and enduring. To celebrate Christmas is not simply to recall a past event in a stable which we see sweetly depicted on Christmas cards. To celebrate Christmas is to open ourselves to what is happening within us: in virtue of our baptism, Jesus continues to be born and grow to maturity in us. Our participation in the Incarnation, therefore, is a profound and all-demanding fact of life to be patiently and courageously lived by each one of us in the varying, and sometimes difficult, circumstances of our lives."

This is called how to turn the Incarnation into a narcissistic spiritual bowel movement. It is Griswold's mystic paganism run amock. If we "open ourselves" much further what's left of us will flow into the street. The Incarnation is GOD'S SELF DISCLOSURE, not an inward churning of our spiritual body parts with a little help of a theological enema from Frank Griswold.

ACCORDING TO DENOMINATIONAL SOURCES the Episcopal Church reports a loss of 35,988 active members in 2003 to 2,284,233, down 1.6 % from 2,320,221 in 2000. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

“We need a more active evangelism,” says the Rev. Charles Fulton, who serves the Episcopal Church as director of congregational development and as president of the Episcopal Church Building Fund. Priorities of advertising, mission funding, start-up of new congregations, and taking a fresh look at worship styles are key to achieving positive change, Fulton said in his office at the Episcopal Church Center. Thorough transformation of a congregation is often necessary for growth to occur, Fulton added, underscoring a point he makes throughout training events titled “Start Up, Start Over.”

The problem of course is the message. Really. And what sort of gospel would that be? Is it the sort of gospel the national church is proclaiming that reflects Griswold's pluriform nonsense? If so it will go the way of the Diocese of Newark, downwards, but if picks up on Albany Bishop Dan Herzog's understanding of the gospel, then there is great hope. Not a chance really, his gospel doesn’t fit the inclusive, diversity pitch that is the current cant of ECUSA. The decline will continue.

PITY THE POOR CHURCH OF ENGLAND. Pluriform sex, more women coming into the priesthood than men, increasing numbers of bloodless white males serving as priests, woman bishops for sure that will force about 1,000 Anglo-Catholic priests to make a decision whether or not they will cross the Tiber to Rome, a possible liberal replacement as the new Archbishop of York instead of the hoped for Evangelical Bishop Nazir-Ali, and this week comes word that eight bishops voted for the government’s civil partnership bill, which critics claim amounts to the legalisation of gay ‘marriage’. The Bill will now pass into the law with the support of the majority of the Bishops of the Church of England who were present at the debate in the House of Lords against the will of only two bishops, Chester and Southwell. After the debate the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement claimed that an increasing number of bishops were turning a blind eye to the blessing of same sex partnerships in church ceremonies. Martin Reynolds of the group said that the Movement were increasing their print run of liturgies for same sex unions in expectation at an increased demand next year when civil partnerships become legal. The Church of England official spokesman said that clergy were free “to pray for anyone in a private and pastoral situation”.

Ironic really. These eight bishops are quite happy to ignore the Windsor Report apparently, but Williams is quick to pick on alleged homophobes who, he says, are the real disturbers of the peace. Now you know why Griswold was quite happy to lie to his fellow Primates about ordaining and consecrating a non-celibate divorced gay man! Why should the Global South primates and bishops believe anything that white western liberal church has to say about anything; Western liberals can twist and turn the truth anyway they please because they have the money and the power. Perhaps, but not for much longer.

BAGHDAD'S ANGLICAN CHURCH is on the mend. Ransacked by looters in the chaos that followed the fall of Baghdad, the city’s Anglican chapel has two American Episcopalians and Canon Andrew White of Coventry Cathedral leading restoration efforts. Ryan Carlson, a US State Department staffer with the Iraq Reconstruction Management and Ward Scott of a civilian contractor with JTSI, Inc. in Baghdad with Canon White have initiated a fundraising appeal for St. George’s Memorial Chapel, now the largest Protestant congregation in Iraq.

“Immediately after the war we held a service of thanksgiving for the liberation of Iraq” writes Canon White. “The congregation numbered about 50, it was mainly made up of the British and US diplomats and military” and was last service where “the congregation was predominantly Western.” Today St George’s has grown to 300. “The congregation is mainly poor Christians, though we also have Muslims who attend regularly,” writes Canon White. The diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf and the British Embassy have provided over £18,000 in aid to reopen the chapel. Last week Episcopal Relief and Development donated funds to procure and install a generator, but a further £50,000 needs to be raised to complete repairs.

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