Archive for December, 2010

Between the Boy and the Bridge — A Haunting Question

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

I am haunted by the one question that seems so obvious and clear in the account of Tyler Clementi’s tragic death. In those days of crushing anguish, humiliation, and confusion, was there no one who could have stood between that boy and that bridge?

By all accounts Tyler Clementi was an 18-year-old young man who was excited to be a freshman in college, gifted as a violinist, and looking forward to the future. All that changed last week when he walked out onto the massive George Washington Bridge that connects New York with New Jersey and jumped 200 feet to his death.

The last few days of Tyler Clementi’s life were a cauldron of confusions. Over the course of three days, he learned that his roommate at Rutgers University, also age 18, had surreptitiously turned a webcam toward his bed, filming him in a romantic encounter with another male student. The roommate employed social media to inform friends of the event, turning what Tyler Clementi assumed was a private moment into a devastating public disclosure.

It is now clear that Tyler was crushed, confused, and angry. He posted thoughts about how he might respond on the Web and finally wrote this on his Facebook page: “Jumping off gw bridge sorry.”

In September, no less than three additional teenagers committed suicide, and these are believed also to be connected to disclosures or struggles with homosexuality. As Geoff Mulvihill and Samantha Henry of the Associated Press report:

Clementi’s death was part of a string of suicides last month involving youngsters who were believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying. Fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas hanged himself in a barn in Greensburg, Ind. Asher Brown, 13, shot himself in the head in Houston. And 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, Calif. hanged himself from a tree in his back yard.

That is four teenagers in just one month. And look at those ages. Two were only 13, one was 15, and Tyler Clementi was 18. That is four dead boys in the space of one horrible month, and all were struggling with sexual identity.

The gay rights movement was fast to claim that Tyler Clementi was a victim of gay bullying. While the motive of his roommate and accomplices is not known, the undeniable result was that Tyler was exposed before the world through the power of social media — in this case a very dangerous power indeed.

He was humiliated, angry, and horribly confused. His confusion is evident in his Internet musings, in which he swings in mood from outright indignation to the reflection that, other than this incident, his roommate was basically decent.

Somewhere in the midst of his heartbreak and confusion, Tyler decided to end his life. He posted his announcement on his Facebook page and headed for the George Washington Bridge. There, he ended his short life with a long plunge into the Hudson River.

Reading the news accounts of Tyler’s final days and final act is truly horrifying. He was betrayed by classmates and exposed to the world. At the age of 18, it was simply too much for him to bear. A young man who probably never considered suicide in the past, and who might never have considered it again in the future, felt himself pushed on that day beyond his emotional limits, so he pushed himself off the bridge.

Tyler joined Billy, Seth, and Asher as tragic evidence of the dangerous intersection of sexual confusion, hateful classmates, and the wide-open world of social media. These boys simply ran out of the emotional ability to face life, crushed by the burden of secrets and the bullying of their peers.

The homosexual community will argue that these boys were oppressed by the fact that so many believe that homosexuality is sinful. They respond with calls for the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality. Their logic is easy to understand. If the stigma attached to homosexuality were to disappear, persons who are convinced that they are homosexual in sexual orientation, along with those who are confused, would be free from bullying, the threat of exposure, and injury to their parents and loved ones.

Of course, Christians committed to biblical truth will recognize this as a demand to lie to sinners about their sin. The church cannot change its understanding of the sinfulness of homosexual acts unless it willfully disobeys the Scripture and rejects the authority of the Bible to reveal the truth about sin and sinfulness.

In other words, the believing church cannot surrender to the demand that we disobey and reject biblical truth. That much is clear. We cannot lie to persons about the sinfulness of their sin, nor comfort them with falsehood about their moral accountability before God. The rush of the liberal churches and denominations to normalize homosexuality is now a hallmark of their disobedience to the Bible.

But this is not the end of the matter, and we know it. When gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are wrong. Our concern about the sinfulness of homosexuality is not rooted in fear, but in faithfulness to the Bible — and faithfulness means telling the truth.

Yet, when gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear. We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own.

What if Tyler Clementi had been in your church? Would he have heard biblical truth presented in a context of humble truth-telling and gospel urgency, or would he have heard irresponsible slander, sarcastic jabs, and moralistic self-congratulation? What about Asher and Billy and Seth?

The teenage years are hard enough to navigate. Most boys do not struggle with homosexuality, but there is not a teenage boy alive who does not struggle with sexual confusion. There is no deacon, preacher, or pew-sitter who went through male adolescence unscathed and without sin. There is not a human being who reaches school age who would not be humiliated by a well-placed webcam. And yet these boys — along with girls facing similar struggles — imagine themselves to be alone in their confusion and helpless in their anguish.

Was there no one to step between Tyler Clementi and that bridge? Was there no friend, classmate, or trusted adult who had the courage and compassion to reach into his life and offer hope? Was there no one who could tell him that the anguish of his moment would not last for his lifetime? Was there no one to put into perspective the fact that people who did not love him had taken advantage of him, but that the many who did love him would love him no less?

We can only look at this news account and grieve. As Christians, we just have to wonder. Was there no believer to befriend Tyler and, without loving his homosexuality, love him? The homosexual community insists that to love someone is to love their sexual orientation. We know this to be a lie. But no one who loves me should love nor rationalize my sin. The church must be the people who speak honestly about sin because we have first learned by God’s grace to speak honestly of our own.

Something has gone horribly wrong when four young boys take their lives in the space of one month, and a society just goes on with its business. There are grieving parents and loved ones who will never get over that month, and there were four young men who did not survive it.

There are Tylers and Ashers and Billys and Seths all around us. They are in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our churches . . . and in our homes. They, like us, desperately need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to know the grace of God toward sinners. They, like us, need to know the mercy of God extended to sinners through Christ Jesus. They, like us, need to repent of their sins and learn by grace how to grow into faithfulness. They, like us, need to know that they are loved if they are going to trust Christians to tell them about Jesus.

Even long before they may hear or respond to the gospel, they need to know that they are loved and cherished for who they are. They need to know that we stand between them and those who would harm them. They need to know that we know how to love sinners because we have been loved despite our own sin.

I am haunted by the one question that seems so obvious and clear in the account of Tyler Clementi’s tragic death. In those days of crushing anguish, humiliation, and confusion, was there no one who could have stood between that boy and that bridge?

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at mail@albertmohler.com. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler.

Churches halt decline, new research shows

Monday, December 20th, 2010


Posted in Church of England, Roman Catholicism |

by Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Telegraph

New congregations are being formed to take over old redundant church buildings or to provide more youth-friendly services, helping church membership numbers to rise.
The figures, to be published this week by Christian Research, also reveal that the Roman Catholic Church is continuing to enjoy a rise in attendance at Mass, that the number of Pentecostal worshippers is increasing rapidly and that Baptist churches are also enjoying a resurgence.
Church leaders said the study – the first of its kind for three years – showed that reports of Christianity’s demise in the UK were premature.
Previous studies by Christian Research have shown a steady decline in Anglican congregations, a trend which would have led to as many as one in five churches becoming redundant by 2030.
However, between 2007 and 2008, the total number of Anglican congregations in the UK rose from 18,198 to 18,208 – the first increase for ten years.

Human Exceptionalism: We Need Transcendence, Not Atheism

Monday, December 20th, 2010
Wesley J. Smith

This isn’t a blog about religion, but among its many threads, we do discuss what it means to be human.  And part of that is the yearning for transcendence.

In the past, we have discussed what I call the coup d’ culture that seeks to replace Judeo/Christian moral philosophy and its focus on the unique importance of the individual, with a new value system to govern society, consisting of utilitarianism, hedonism, and scientism/environmental quasi-religiosity. Usually, with our intense focus on bioethics and all, we focus on utilitarian (implicit and explicit) tendencies. With Octomom (as one example) we come to hedonism.  Global warming hysteria (not the same as climate science)  is an example of the scientism/earth religion counter (or supplement) to theistic faith (as in Al Gore).

Brave New World was one of the most important novels ever written because Huxley so accurately predicted the flow of culture we are seeing today.  But his BNW minions didn’t believe in anything.  They had become, in a sense, automotons–with promiscuity and soma replacing richly lived lives.  I think he got that wrong.  Humans are incapable of not believing.

It is in this context that I bring to your attention an interesting column on Psychology Today’s Ethics for Everyone blog by  Michael Austin.  The post is in response to an assertion by Nigel Barber that atheism will replace religion.  Austin says it will never happen because human beings need transcendence.  From his post “Why Atheism Can’t Replace Religion:”

However, for many people, religion is not merely a way to deal with fear, uncertainty, and emotional difficulties. In my experience, many people follow a particular religious way of life because they believe that it is true. The problem with a market-based analysis of the future of religion, as well as the market-based practices present in many contemporary religious communities, is that religion at its best is not a consumer product. Rather, at its best religious faith calls for sacrifice, unselfishness, love, and a willingness to remove oneself from the center of the universe, so to speak.

Yup.  Religion is one of the things that distinguishes human beings from every other life form in the universe (along with philosophy, ethics, etc.)  Once we fulfill basic biological needs, we search for meaning.

Beyond that, religion offers transcendence: It is also unclear how atheism is positioned to replace religion, in the following way. Atheism is the belief that God does not exist. But this, in and of itself, cannot form the foundation for a way of life. Only by forming and practicing positive beliefs and values can one build a coherent and meaningful life. So if something is to replace religion, it will not be atheism. Perhaps some form of secular humanism will accomplish this task. But here we run into another problem, namely, that human beings long for transcendence of some sort, as shown by the presence and prevalence of religious belief throughout cultures across time.

But surely, in our materialistic age, we can find a replacement.  Not really:

Barber claims that sports can replace religion. In one sense, I think he is right. The loyalty, community-identification, and limited transcendence of the experiences related to sports do fuflill many of the functions of religion for many people. However–and I am a passionate sports fan and participant–at the end of the day sports are incapable of doing the work needed to provide sufficient meaning, transcendence, and fulfillment in life.

Or to put it another way: The Giants won the world series this year!  Gee, that and $2.00 will buy you a cup of Starbuck’s coffee.

Austin is quite right.  A big part of our exceptional natures is the need to believe.  We yearn for faith, we yearn for a proper philosophy, we desire to be part of something more important and bigger than ourselves that can’t be measured, folded, spindled, or mutilated.

St. Paul wrote, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  People hunger for it.  The faith they adopt might not be in a theistic God, Jesus, Allah, or Krishna.  But the desire for faith will not be replaced with pure non belief (hello,  John Lennon).   It might be the techno-religions of transhumanism, a scientism of radical environmentalism, embracing the living Gaia, an inchoate New Age spiritualism that offers the hope for an  immaterial hereafter without moralism about individual behavior, or perhaps, a Utopian materialism that faithfully believes that if it can just drive “God” out of the human heart we can create a perfect world. (Just to name a few.)

We are exceptional, and one of the unique moral differences between us and animals is our search for Truth and Ultimate Meaning (in whatever form).  Richard Dawkins to the contrary notwithstanding, for most people, atheism simply can’t carry that load.

A Report from the Field

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

By The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey, J.D.

phil study
Canon Ashey

Chief Operating and Development Officer



Dear Friends in Christ,

Over the last few weeks I have been traveling, visiting rectors, associate clergy and other leaders in Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama to share about the work of the American Anglican Council. I’ve been blessed and encouraged to see and hear firsthand what God is doing through our affiliated congregations and chapters. While on the road, I have also been blessed to continue to work with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Governance Task Force and to work with a group seeking to form a new ACNA diocese.

Let me share just a few observations from my travels:

1. In the Anglican realignment in North America, governance structures continue to serve mission

The ACNA Governance Task Force gathered again to review our Constitution and Canons, now that we have had some time to “live into them” since their ratification in Bedford, Texas, in June of 2009. We reviewed the realignment of North American Anglicanism in the light of Acts 15 – like the Gentile Christians, we too are a movement “outside” the existing recognized structures of the “synagogue.” Like the Gentiles, we have been approached by certain leaders and asked to conform our governance to the laws of the institution in order to be properly recognized as brothers and sisters in Christ. (In our case, it is Canterbury and its party asking us to be “circumcised” by the “purported” schedule of requirements for a new Anglican Province, administered by the Anglican Consultative Council rather than by the Primates). We are, like those Gentile converts, a church planting movement with a very missionary structure and without many established buildings.

We noted that in Acts 15, the Jerusalem Council, in the words of John Stott, “secured a double victory – a victory of truth in confirming the gospel of grace, and a victory of love in preserving the fellowship by sensitive concessions to conscientious Jewish scruples.” (The Message of Acts (IVP: Downers Grove, IL, 1990), p. 257). Applying these principles, we reviewed our Constitution and Canons, reaffirming the principles of Biblical essentials, minimalism and subsidiarity that shaped them. We reaffirmed our fundamental declarations, including the gospel of grace. We made adjustments where needed to serve both the fundamental declarations and the mission of the church, just as the Jerusalem Council did for the missionary movement among the Gentiles. We reaffirmed the principle of conforming our governance to the governance structures of other Anglican provinces, especially those who provided us with pastoral oversight during our exodus from TEC. In this way, we are also preserving the fellowship by sensitive concessions to fellow confessing Anglicans worldwide. Of necessity, a number of issues regarding the preparation, licensing and transfer of clergy must be referred to the College of Bishops. With the Archbishop, they will continue to address these issues and the manner in which they order their life together for the welfare of the mission of the Church.

The work of the Governance Task Force will now be reported to the Executive Committee for review, and then to Provincial Council in June of 2011, where any changes will be voted on, and if approved, forwarded for final ratification by the Provincial Assembly in 2012.

2. Mission is reaching out closer to home

I was pleased to meet with the Washington DC chapter of the American Anglican Council, and to give a briefing on the new Title IV revisions of TEC’s canons on ecclesiastical discipline, the theology behind them, and how that theology is being reinforced at the highest levels of the Anglican Communion. That’s the bad news. But the good news is the Chapter’s response to the call for focusing on local outreach that will address the needs of people closer to home. I am pleased to announce that the Washington DC chapter of the AAC is launching a ministry, based at Christ Church, Accokeek, MD, that will help counsel the unemployed in the DC-Maryland area. You can read the press release here.

Everywhere I visited, I heard wonderful stories of local churches reaching out to those in need in their own communities and circles of relationships – a Sunday afternoon service and ministry to the homeless at Truro in Fairfax, a preschool for disadvantaged and low income children at Christ Church Montgomery, and letters of love and witness from the children of All Saints Dale City to construction workers, posted throughout the new facility they are building. Anglicans everywhere are beginning to recover our tradition of “incarnational ministry” to the local community. Such ministry is a base camp for evangelism and community transformation, and is one of the four benchmarks we have identified for healthy and growing Great Commission Anglican churches in our Sure Foundation Project.

3. New facilities built for mission

I was blessed to be taken on guided tours of the new facilities for All Saints Dale City in Virginia, and Christ Church Montgomery in Alabama. Both of these facilities are shaped by a focus on mission. All Saints Dale City includes expanded space for prayer ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry, conferences and spacious grounds for outdoor events for the local community. Christ Church Montgomery also has expanded space for ministry to families, children and youth. As a result, they are already experiencing the addition of new families from the surrounding neighborhoods. At a time when we often hear discouraging news of litigation and loss of buildings, it is a tremendous encouragement to see what God can do through faithful Anglicans who will persevere, give generously, and shape their new buildings around mission!

4. A hunger for a culture of leadership

In discussions with bishops, rectors, clergy and other leaders, I heard time and again the cry for a culture of leadership – where everyone is discovering their passion or vocation for ministry (whether full-time or not), where everyone is discovering their spiritual gifts for ministry, and where the church is doing a better job recognizing gifted and entrepreneurial lay leaders and raising them up as church planters for the coming harvest.

Because it is God’s passion and priority, it is the passion and priority of the American Anglican Council to help raise up and develop faithful leaders to fulfill the Great Commission. It was a pleasure to share the resources we are launching to develop such faithful leaders – The Clergy Leadership Training Institute – scheduled for February 22-25, 2011 in Asheville, NC, with Dr. Leighton Ford. We will begin a process of developing faithful leaders for Great Commission Anglican Churches by focusing on the personal spiritual life of the leader, a life of attentiveness to God’s direction. We will also begin to equip leaders in how to deal with the inevitable challenge of church conflict in ways that are healthy for both the leader and the congregation. We are focusing on a first cohort group of 20 clergy and church planters, with plans to have subsequent CLTI’s running in 2012. We aim to reach younger clergy (with many years ministry ahead, regardless of their age), and to provide ongoing small group support with individual and group coaching as needed. You can find out more information on our website if you are interested in attending.

I hope you will join me in giving thanks to God for the signs of his blessing and reformation of Anglicanism in North America! And if the Lord leads you to do so, please donate to the AAC’s Clergy Leadership Training Institute, Sure Foundation project, or general operating fund.

Yours in Christ,
Phil+

Manhood in the Church

Friday, December 17th, 2010

By the Rev. John C. Stults
http://emchomeblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/manhood-in-the-church/

GK Chesterton purportedly said that most men in his day were reduced to Victorian lapdogs when it came to Christianity. Little has changed. Today, men are supposed to be ‘nice’ in church; quiet, compliant, seen only and seldom if ever heard. When this sense of unfittedness is coupled with the fairly pervasive depiction of Christ as a simpering, sweetish man with manicured hands, his hair parted neatly down the middle and his beard immaculately trimmed, there is small wonder that men are uncomfortable and therefore unwilling to be Churchmen.

Further, I know I’m not the only man who is uncomfortable with the concept that I’m a bride of Christ. I really don’t want to be anyone’s bride and I recoil at the thought of a Christ who would demand that of me. Leon Podles offers a theory of how Western Christian piety was feminized in the 12th and 13th centuries. Part of that feminization was the invitation of “the individual believer to picture himself or herself (rather than the Church as a whole) as the bride of Christ. ‘Bridal Mysticism’ was enthusiastically adopted by devout women, and left an enduring stamp on Western Christianity.” (Quoted from the article “Why Orthodox Men Love Church” by Frederikca Matthewes-Green).

There is no argument being made here that men shouldn’t be civilized. Men desperately need the civilizing influence of women or else they become feral. But men need to remain men and there has been too much of an effort to feminize men rather than civilize them. Men like things that give them mystery, danger, adventure, and discipline. They need to know they have what it takes. They need to know that God made them men for a reason and that they are indeed a vital and absolutely necessary part of Christianity. The modern, antiseptic, non-smoking Church has done its best to erase from its understanding that Christ was a carpenter in an age that didn’t have power tools or deodorant.

Jesus was meek at times and wild at times. He was gentle at times and harsh at times. Meekness, however, is defined as ‘strength under control.’ He was meek to his persecutors. He who had legions of angels at his command allowed himself to be crucified for the good of mankind. He was wild when he overturned the money changers’ tables and drove them out of the temple with a whip. He was wild when he challenged the Jewish religious leaders for their hypocrisy. He was gentle, as men should be, but the gentleness came from immense strength. He who “suffered the little children to come to him” was also He who stilled the storm. He was harsh when he let it be known that a man might have to leave his father, mother, sisters, spouse, or even children for His sake. He was a Man with a mission and he carried out that mission. He was a Man of discipline and purpose. Men need to know that about their Christ. They need to realize that He was the manliest Man of them all and they are enjoined by Christ’s example to be as manly as possible.

I’m not convinced that a Church service should be a test of physical endurance as some believe, but I am convinced that men must develope spiritual endurance. Men must bend their wills to the lordship of Christ as their Lord and Master. They must develop the discipline to be Churchmen and study to be men of the Church they profess allegiance to. Where is the masculine influence in the Western Church, that strong, purposeful presence of men going about their Lord and Master’s business? Men need marching orders and comradeship as they wage war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. They need the discipline of ordered ranks and the sound of clashing arms; the life of Christian soldiers, not murkily-conceived brides of Christ.

If this isn’t underway in your church already, you may be asking yourselves about where to begin. Men, remain men and learn (if you haven’t already) to rejoice in your Christian manhood. Begin by service projects, barbeques and laughter, shooting, hunting, fishing, rebuilding cars and trucks. Enjoy the wonders of torque and recoil and perhaps a good cigar. Our Book of Common Prayer tells us “it is meet, right, and our bounden duty, at all times and in all places, to give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.”

Anglicanism (also known as Western Orthodoxy by some) can provide men with a Church (and a church) where they can be men appropriately, enjoying the gift of masculinity in the sight of God where He would be welcome to join in the fun. Serious conversations will occur about the true nature of Christ. Men speak to each other on deep levels when they’re busy with some project or pursuit. Their minds are busiest when their hands are busy. Once men come to the realization that God enjoys their manhood in the church, identity and gratitude follow, which engenders the desire for service. Men want the discipline of service born out of gratitude.

So, men, form your group at your church and start your engines. Spend time together in a common, enjoyable pursuit (I suppose that golf might count) with the understanding that you’re doing this to discover the Christ who enjoys manly fellowship and yourselves as Christian men. It will be a great adventure and it will require that you be men like never before.

—-Father John C. Stults serves at St. Francis Anglican Church in Austin Texas

Christmas for the Ages

Friday, December 17th, 2010

A World Without Prayer

By Jay Haug
Special to Virtueonline
www.virtueonline.org

“At that time, men began to call on the name of the Lord.” Gen. 4:26b

These words fairly leapt out at me from the page as I read them recently. I had not registered their presence in the Bible before. They describe a time in the early days of man’s creation when a great cataclysm had broken upon the world. Before the fall, man had dwelt securely with God in the garden provided for him.

Man’s relationship with God was one of implicit intimacy, where God “walked in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8) and where God spoke directly to Adam and Eve. (Gen 3:9-13).

But after the fall, man’s life became deeply troubled. Strife, murder, back-breaking work and troubles in child-birth and child-rearing became the norm, not the exception. Literature en mass from Milton’s Paradise Lost to the present have described man’s experience “after the fall.”

This is the world in which we now live. However, it is not the world to which we are headed. Even now the world “groans” (Romans 8:22-23) because we can see the new world that is coming, though we do not yet possess it. The gap between promise and possession is real.

The greatest and most enduring reality after the fall was Adam and Eve’s loss of intimacy with God. The garden was the place they had lived with God. Now a “flaming sword” (Gen. 3:24) barred their return to that place of divine-human contact. They had to learn to cope in their new world outside the garden. Now you would think that prayer would have been their instinctive response to their plight. But no. We read that no one prayed. No one.

Whether it was just too hard to pray, whether they were overwhelmed by unworthiness or prayer had not even occurred to them, we do not know. What we do know is that years went by. In fact, decades went by before anyone prayed. Genesis tells us that it was not until Adam and Eve’s grandson Enosh was born that “men began to call on the name of the Lord.” (4:26) Perhaps the new hope delivered with the birth of a grandchild was the catalyst to bring the first family back into relationship with God. The Scripture hints but does not tell us plainly.

There have been times of prayerlessness that have swept the west throughout history. We can think of Anglican rationalism settling over the dusty churches of England after the Enlightenment, or the rampant alcoholism of pre-Great Awakening America that gripped the country in the wake of Puritan decline, where it was said that half of America’s 12 year old boys were alcoholics. The half-century assault on prayer in public schools certainly does not help our children to become people of prayer. The list goes on. People experience prayerless seasons for countless reasons.

What then drives a family, people, a country and a culture back to prayer? Trouble certainly does and our country is as troubled now as it has been during my adult life-time. But trouble can pass and with it the needs that drove us to prayer. No, there is a greater motivator for prayer than even trouble. It is hope. Perhaps Adam and Eve felt renewed hope that their grandchild Enosh might live in a better world and this hope drove them to prayer. But even this kind of hope based in family legacy is not enough. The world our descendents occupy may not be better and may be worse. History oscillates and there are no guarantees.

No, what drives us to prayer is the belief that our relationship with God makes all the difference, both in this world and the next. When those first humans began to pray they did so with the belief that “all was not lost.” They had to deal with the world as it is, while at the same time believing that God had not abandoned them. But the “eternal hope” had not yet been purchased for the ancients.

We have far greater reason to pray. Our legacy and treasure is surpassingly great, a promise unimaginable to Adam and Eve. It is nothing less than the truth that through the cross and resurrection we are a people of destiny, participants in the building of a “new heaven and a new earth.” (Rev. 21:1) This is the “eternal hope” expressed so well in Romans 5:1-5 and Romans 8:22-25. Prayer is redemption believed and applied, expressed in hope. It is the one thing a prayerless world needs most. Our message is simple. There may be no way back to the garden but there is a much better way forward to a promised, permanent yet unimaginable destiny. As Bishop Martyn Minns put it. “We are all lost. We are all loved. We will all be transformed.” Now that is something to pray about.

*****

Christmas for the Ages

By Jay Haug
Special to Virtueonline
www.virtueonline.org
December 8, 2010

Darkness seeps into our bones
Deep in winter.
In the midst of cold
We await the warmth of God’s tiny light
Struggling to be born

A new beginning for the ages
A baby, no, a man for all time
Against all odds
Against the decline of human history
Against the darkness seeking his demise.

Then suddenly, He is born. Christ is born today
Collapsing every Christmas in human history
In our lives and memory
Into this Christmas, this eternal now
Asking entrance once again.

Today he comes in stillness and night
Bearing unseen gifts of grace and truth, what we need, but dare not ask.
Many will never unwrap them nor have eyes to behold.
But some unexpectedly, suddenly, like the shepherds of old
Will see the glory all around and worship at his feet.

He asks: Give me your gift, your darkness, your unreachable place of pain.
Conflicted memories of Christmases past?
Rejection, isolation, broken dreams, vain wishes?
Never mind. He comes to take these and more, to redeem it all, And will.

The human soul cries out: Can he do it for me?
He did. He has. He will… and he gives new life, the greatest gift of all.
But be still. Be quiet. He comes again in the vacant spaces of our souls
Seeking Bethlehem’s birth in us
Again.

—Jay Haug is a member of Redeemer Anglican Church in Jacksonville, Florida. He is a former Episcopal priest, radio talk show host and current financial advisor. He and his wife of 31 years, Claudia, live in Ponte Vedra Beach and are parents to three grown children.

Who destroyed or damaged the Dialogue?

Friday, December 17th, 2010


By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org

According to Britain’s ambassador to the Vatican, he warned that the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism pushed relations between the churches to their lowest point in 150 years. It puts Archbishop Rowan Williams in an “impossible position”.

Francis Campbell also feared a backlash against UK Catholics after the offer to those opposed to women bishops. His fears are detailed in the latest US embassy cables released by Wikileaks.

The comments were made after Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams met Vatican officials last year.

Not so, says the Rt. Rev. John H. Rodgers, a former TEC priest, seminary president and now a bishop with the Anglican Mission in the Americas.

In an e-mail to Virtueonline, Rodgers wrote, “Actually the damage took place on Rome’s part in the 16th Century when Trent codified the theological rejection of the biblical doctrines of grace clearly held by Anglicans and then made theological repentance seemingly impossible in the 19th Century by Rome’s declaring itself infallible and by adding the Marian dogmas as binding. Everything subsequent has been attempting to deal with those fateful actions.

“The damage is not one-sided. In many Provinces Anglicans have moved away from the Anglican affirmation of the biblical Gospel found so well stated in the Anglican Formularies. The Anglican Communion is amorphous and lacks both a clear commitment to the Formularies and needs a primatial Council with the authority to discipline wayward Provinces and Dioceses.

“For Anglicans the cure is ‘ad fontes’ theologically (Jerusalem Declaration with its embrace of the Anglican Formularies) and the reformation of the Anglican Communion into the form of a Council with proper discipline. It is for Rome to tell us what their way forward could and ought to be.”

Has the Pope’s response to the Anglican request to return home, for that is what it seems to this writer, “damaged” anything? The truth of the matter is ARCIC talks, which have gone on for more than 40 years, have achieved little or nothing. Ecumenical dialogue has been essentially destroyed by the impossibility of agreement over many teachings and practices in the Anglican world that are clearly apostate.

Rome and Canterbury have been separated by serious doctrinal issues for more than 500 years. Despite all the best efforts of ecumenists, those doctrinal bridges have never been crossed.

The authority of scripture verses papal authority, the nature of the sacraments, Mary, the nature of the church and other doctrines make it clear the Reformation is still very much alive.

END