Archive for September, 2011

Pope: Gay marriage, abortion threaten church values

Friday, September 30th, 2011

 

From ABC News

FREIBURG, Germany — Pope Benedict XVI called Saturday for a common front with Orthodox Christians to defend traditional church values, warning of threats posed by abortion and gay marriage.

Facing discontent within his German flock, the pope said religion must not be banished from public life and that Christian churches “are walking side by side” in the battle.

“They speak up jointly for the protection of human life from conception to natural death,” he told a meeting of Orthodox Christians on the third day of a visit to his native Germany.

“Knowing, too, the value of family and marriage, we as Christians attach great importance to defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation,” he said. “Here the common engagement of Christians, including many Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, makes a valuable contribution to building up a society equipped for the future.”

Read here

Mohler: Bible not subject to modern science

Friday, September 30th, 2011


Erin Roach assistant editor of Baptist Press

If believers allow modern science to tell them what they can theologically affirm, the logic does not end with a discussion of whether there is a historical Adam, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” Sept. 22.

“It continues throughout the entirety of the body of Christian truth. And that is a disastrous route,” Mohler said. “And frankly, you’re either going to accept [or reject] that the Bible gives us the authoritative word concerning the entirety of our understanding of things relative to who we are as human beings, what God did in creating the world and what God did for us in Christ.

“If the Bible is not the authoritative source for that and instead has to be corrected by modern science, then the Bible is just there for our manipulation, and quite frankly, the Gospel is there for constant renegotiation,” Mohler said. “It ends up being another gospel, the very thing the Apostle Paul warned against.”

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was part of a 30-minute discussion that included Daniel Harlow, a religion professor at Calvin College, on the continuing debate over the existence of a historical Adam and Eve as the first parents of all humanity and as the solitary first human pair.

Harlow argued against a literal interpretation of the creation account in Genesis, contending that the literary genre of early Genesis is divinely inspired story, not documentary history. Also, he believes Adam and Eve are not central to biblical theology.

“If Adam and Eve were central to biblical teaching, it would be a surprise to learn that they are not mentioned in the entire Old Testament after Genesis Chapter 3 and 4,” Harlow said on NPR.

“If Adam and Eve are at the heart of the Christian faith, then Jesus and the apostles missed that memo. If you read the Gospels and read the Book of Acts, which purports to give the apostolic preaching of the Gospel, Adam, Eve and the serpent are not there.

“What is central to the Christian faith is the life, the saving death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Harlow said. “So we don’t need a historical couple tricked by a talking snake for the truth claims of Christianity to be true. What we need simply is a recognition of the reality of human sinfulness, that human beings are in the grip of sin, and that we need a savior because of that.”

Mohler, in his comments, said Adam is “a very important part of how the Bible explains the Gospel. In particular, the Apostle Paul twice grounds the story of the Gospel in the linkage between Christ as the second Adam, understandable in terms of why He came and what He did for us, with reference to the first Adam.

“And the Apostle Paul, by the way, is not just telling us about biblical theology here and helping us to understand the Gospel. He is also telling us how to interpret the Old Testament,” Mohler said. “And I think it’s a very important issue here that we recognize that what’s at stake in this discussion is not just, as important as it is, the historicity of the first several chapters of Genesis or the historicity of Adam and the fall.

“Those are absolutely, I believe, vital to orthodox Christianity, but also to the question as to whether or not the apostles get to tell us how we interpret the Old Testament. And I believe that’s a very important issue.”

Mohler said the argument against the historicity of Adam did not emerge until “all of a sudden, a person said science has a privileged word to say.” Furthermore, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central fact of the Gospel story, yet there is no scientific basis for making that argument.

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Activity no guide to growth

Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Michael Kellahan
September 28th, 2011

 

How are people expected to grow as Christians? For most churches, members are encouraged to attend Sunday meetings and be part of a small group. That’s the main game. Turn up regularly on Sunday and Wednesday night and you’ll grow. We might also talk about the place of giving, serving, and witnessing. The more active someone is at church the more they’ll grow, right? If we get someone regularly to church and small group we should take that as a win, right?

Wrong. The National Church Life Survey data shows no correlation between being part of a small group and feelings of spiritual growth. These finding match that of Willow Creek Association Reveal study http://www.revealnow.com/ which showed that church activity is not a blueprint for spiritual growth.

The NCLS data showed a strong correlation between personal bible reading and prayer and spiritual growth. Humanly speaking the thing that makes the biggest difference to spiritual growth is pretty simple. Setting aside a regular time each day to read and think about God’s word, and to spend time in prayer, seems to be the power-house of spiritual life and growth.

So if we want to see spiritual growth in our churches we should really encourage personal quiet times. There are 95 days left in 2011. How could you help raise the number of people committed to regular quiet times in 2012? Here are some ideas…

  1. Pray for it now and share this vision with a few key leaders
  2. plan to use the power of the Calendar and New Years commitment to push for a big take-up in January.
  3. Research some resources to help people with quiet times – will you write them or buy someone elses? Can bible reading plans and prayer schedules be posted to the church website or emailed out to those taking it up? I’ve heard of some churches where the pastor uses bible reading notes to determine the preaching program (and not vica versa).
  4. Give quiet times a budget – plan to spend time and dollars on this
  5. Have a plan to promote quiet times. Get good testimonials from those already doing it. Explain and model it to those who have never done it. Confront the guilt and disappointment of those who’ve tried but failed before.
  6. Survey the congregation to see how many take it up. Can they be turned into ambassadors to recruit others?

These are all short term plans focused on next year. What makes a bigger difference though, is the slow personal work of those who practice quiet times year in and year out and model it to others.

University threatens to shut down Christian student groups

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

From AFA

Vanderbilt University has placed four Christian student groups on “provisional status” after a university review found them to be in non-compliance with the school’s nondiscrimination policy. If they remain in non-compliance, the student Christian groups risk being shut down.

Vanderbilt says the student organizations cannot require that leaders share the Christian groups’ beliefs, goals and values. Carried to its full extent, it means an atheist could lead a Christian group, a man a woman’s group, a Jew a Muslim group or vice versa.
Last year, an openly gay undergrad at Vanderbilt complained he was kicked out of a Christian fraternity. As a result, the school took action against five religious groups and said they violated Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination policy. All were placed on provisional status.
Among the groups threatened with shut down is the Christian Legal Society because “Each officer is expected to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at chapter meetings.” CLS President Justin Gunter said, “We come together to do things that Christians do together. Pray, and have Bible studies.”

Fourth Archbishop of the Province of South East Asia elected

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Source:  Diocese of Singapore

Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia

Archbishop-elect Bolly

Press Statement
Election of 4th Archbishop of the Province
The Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia is pleased to announce the election of the Rt. Revd. Datuk Bolly Anak. Lapok, Bishop of Kuching (which covers Sarawak and Negara Brunei Darussalam), as the 4th Archbishop of the Province. The election took place at the Extraordinary Meeting of the Synod of the Province held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah from 21 to 22 September 2011.
Archbishop-elect Bolly, who is an Iban, hails from Sri Aman, Sarawak. He received his early education at Government Secondary School, Simanggang, and then at the House of Epiphany, Kuching. He subsequently pursued his theological education at Birmingham University, United Kingdom, where he graduated with a Masters of Arts with distinction. He was made a deacon on 2 March 1975 and ordained as priest on 7 December 1975. Archbishop-elect Bolly was collated Archdeacon on 13 June 1991 and was subsequently consecrated as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Kuching on 5 September 1999. He was enthroned as the Diocesan Bishop on 15 April 2007. He is currently Chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak and a member of the Permanent Committee to Promote Understanding and Harmony Amongst Religious Adherents.

 

The Province brings together Anglican churches in Negara Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

Archbishop-elect Bolly is married to Mary Jean Baba and has 4 children.

 

Archbishop-elect Bolly is scheduled to be installed as Archbishop at St. Thomas’ Cathedral, Kuching, Sarawak on 12 February 2012.

We have all your stuff now, but we think you owe us more!

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Seriously, I think this letter is significant for what it tells us about the state of mind among TEC leaders:

1. They have no shame.

Source:  AAC Weekly Email Update
The following is from the Friday, September 23, 2011 edition of the AAC’s Weekly Email Update. Sign up for this free email.


Dear Friends in Christ,

I’d like to share with you a letter from the Bishop and Diocesan Council of The Episcopal Church’s (TEC) Diocese of the Rio Grande. But first, a little background so that you can appreciate the letter in all its fullness.

This time two years ago, approximately 80% of the parishioners of St. Mark’s on-the-Mesa (TEC) left the parish and formed Christ the King Anglican, Albuquerque, NM (Anglican Church in North America). When those parishioners left the parish, the Diocese of the Rio Grande, and the Episcopal Church, they left everything. They left the property, building, endowments, bank accounts – even paperclips and pencils. They did so in good conscience, with generosity, and with love for those who in good conscience could not leave The Episcopal Church. Based on their reading of scripture, these parishioners did not want to fight over buildings and property in civil courts. Instead, they walked away and began a new life together as Anglican followers of Jesus Christ at Christ the King Anglican Church. Not only did the new parish draw former Episcopalians, but also Christians from other denominations who wanted to worship and serve at Christ the King Anglican.

 

Fast forward two years to August 31, 2011 (about three weeks ago). The congregation’s rector, the Rev. Roger Weber, former priest at St. Mark’s, received this letter from TEC Bishop Michael Vono of the Diocese of the Rio Grande:

Bishop Michael Vono

 

August 31, 2011
Dear Father Weber,
RE: St. Mark’s on the Mesa, Albuquerque
Fair Share Obligation, Third Quarter 2009
I pray that this finds you well in the Lord! Summer is always such a gift in the ministry, a time for reflection, refreshment and anticipation for the end of the liturgical year.
On July 12 of this year, the Diocesan Council had a meeting here a [sic] Diocesan House. At that time, a group from St. Mark’s-on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque came before the Council to request forgiveness for their Fair Share obligation from the third quarter of 2009. As I am sure you are well aware, it was during this time that a good number of the clergy and congregation at St. Mark’s-on-the-Mesa left to form a new congregation, leaving the remaining members with quite a financial and emotional burden to carry. What follows is the motion as it was amended and passed that afternoon.
Motion, that the -$25,000 Fair Share obligation for St. Mark’s on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque for the third quarter of 2009 be forgiven. Moved and seconded to amend the motion by replacing it with the following: that the -$25,000 Fair Share obligation for St. Mark’s-on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque for the third quarter of 2009 be adjusted to $5,000 and that the Diocesan Council write a pastoral letter to the leadership of Christ the King Anglican Church appealing to them to cover $20,000 of the original Fair Share obligation for St. Mark’s on-the-Mesa, Albuquerque for the third quarter of 2009.

 

The amendment passed. The amended motion passed.
As you can see, it was the decision of Council to hold St. Mark’s-on-the-Mesa responsible for the entire Fair Share payment for the third quarter in 2009, requesting that the burden be split between the members that left and the members that stayed, dividing the responsibility roughly along the lines of how the congregation self-selected.
I would ask that you would prayerfully consider accepting the responsibility of paying the portion of the Fair Share that was required by the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.
If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact me here at Diocesan House, or in my absence, Mr. Fred Winter or Ms. Lisa Katz-Ricker, 505-881-0636.
Your brother in Christ,
The Right Rev’d Michael L. Vono
IX Bishop, Diocese of the Rio Grande

cc: Ms. Debi Lester
Ms. Lisa Katz-Ricker, Business Manager
Mr. Fred Winter, Assistant Treasurer
The Rev’d Canon Kathleene McNellis
The Rev’d Canon Daniel Gutierrez
The Most Rev’d Robert Duncan

 

Now as a life-long student of the Bible, I searched in vain for some scriptural basis for this request. There is none. As someone familiar with the laws governing non-profits, I am not aware of any fiduciary duty Fr. Weber or the Board/Vestry of Christ the King Anglican would have to support an organization they left. In fact, would it not be a breach of their fiduciary duties to the new parish to support an organization they left? As a practicing attorney, I can’t think of any legal principles that would support this request.

Rev. Roger Webber

But just to be safe, I called my good friend, Shelby Sharpe, who has practiced non-profit law in this region for a while. I asked him to look at this letter and here is his reply (with his permission):

“In the 25 years that I have been involved in litigation involving religious bodies, I have never seen or heard of a request that those who leave a religious organization have any continuing financial obligations to support the organization they left. I know of no passage in the Bible or legal theory that supports the request made by The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.”

 

Seriously, I think this letter is significant for what it tells us about the state of mind among TEC leaders:

1. They have no shame.
The people who left St. Mark’s-on-the-Mesa willingly surrendered their property. They literally turned the other cheek. In response, the Diocese of the Rio Grande basically said, “we have all your stuff now, but we think you owe us more.”

2. They seem to think they have authority over Anglicans who have departed.

We are not very far from Wonderland and Alice who cried “Curiouser and curiouser!” Apparently, the Bishop and the Diocesan Council felt that their decision, memorialized in their minutes, was of at least sufficient moral authority to cite in the letter, to persuade Fr. Weber and the Anglicans of Christ the King to accept their “responsibility.” Note to Bishop and Diocesan Council: it may come as a surprise to you, but Fr. Weber, the clergy and people who formed Christ the King Anglican have moved on. They are not coming back. They really meant what they said. And when the bishop addresses them as if he were the lord of the manor, the diocesan council his advisors, and these departed Anglicans as if they were permanently indentured serfs…it doesn’t go over very well.

3. They don’t seem to believe their own justification for suing Anglicans.
For years we have been hearing the mantra from TEC’s legal team that “people can leave, but churches cannot.” But now it turns out that TEC bishops and leaders don’t actually believe their own justification for suing departing Anglicans! Even when people walk away for conscience sake, they are “indebted” for God-only-knows-what-and-how long to TEC. And never mind that supporting an organization they left is a violation of their conscience. These Anglicans are still obligated; it is “their responsibility.”

To the Anglicans at Christ the King Albuquerque and to all the others who have faced veiled and unveiled intimidation from TEC: “You have joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,” (Heb 10:34) and you have come to a new place, “You have come to Mt. Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God…to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb. 12:22-24). You have come to a global fellowship of Anglicans who really believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all. You have come to a fellowship of Anglicans who believe in the power of God’s written word and the power of the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out – now and forever! Keep moving on, further up and further in. Enjoy your freedom in Christ!

Because nobody can tax it or take it away. Nobody.
Yours in Christ,

Phil+
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey
Chief Operating & Devlopment Officer, American Anglican Council

 

Letter from the South II – the point of no Return

Monday, September 26th, 2011

 

I once spent a summer holiday camping on the banks of the Zambezi river, a short distance upstream of the Victoria Falls. It is an awe-inspiring sight as thousands of tons of water cascade over the edge of the falls and thunder into the chasm beneath. A few hundred meters upstream the river is deep and placid, its cool waters enticing to the hot traveller looking for a respite from the intense African sun. Yet the unwary bather is warned by a large sign with red lettering; “DO NOT ENTER THE RIVER BEYOND THIS POINT”. A deep rumbling sound and a misty spray in the distance are the only signs that betray the proximity of the cataract. At that point anyone foolish enough to enter the water will be borne downstream by powerful undercurrents, to be carried over the edge of the chasm in a sudden surge, plummeting into the abyss and almost certain death on the rocks below.

In a similar fashion it seems there are in the spiritual lives of individuals and even churches, points of no return.  There are invisible boundaries that mark the end of God’s patience.  Beyond these,  God gives us up to our own chosen path.  Paul refers to whole cultures which are given over by God (“God gave them up…”; Romans 1:24,26,28), and explains that this is evidence of his judgement.  One example is the story of Noah building the ark to escape the coming flood. A terse phrase describes the point at which Noah, after entering the ark with the animals, seals the destiny of those outside: “…and the Lord shut him in…”.  It is the point of no return.  While Noah’s destiny of salvation is set, a destiny of judgement for those he lived among is also set.  Jesus illustrated the same point in the parable of the ten virgins – those who were ready went with the bridegroom into the marriage feast and the door was shut against those who were not ready.

It also seems to be true that as the point of no return approaches it becomes more and more difficult to stop and change course.  The scripture has many stories illustrating this truth – an example being the story of Lot’s sojourn in Sodom.  Lot was a righteous man who stood out from the wickedness of the culture in which he lived.  He even endured persecution for his stand.  Yet when the time came for him to leave Sodom, he dithered and had to be forcibly taken by the angels who were sent to rescue him.  Although he was a righteous person, there was a very real danger that he would be “swept away in the punishment of the city.”  (Genesis 19:15).  We don’t know why he hesitated, but it is not difficult to imagine the ties that bound him to life in the city. Perhaps they were economic – his home and his financial investments, perhaps sentimental – he would be leaving much loved friends.  Bonds of affection can be dangerous it seems.

It is especially tragic when a person, or church has passed the boundary, and they are not even aware of it.  This happened to Samson, commissioned to deliver Israel from the Philistines. After heroic service, he was seduced into disobedience to God’s word. When the Philistines attacked him, he awoke, confident of his great strength. But as the Bible records, “he did not know that the Lord had left him”. Finally he perished in the calamitous judgement which was visited on the Philistines.

The writer to the Hebrews speaks about ‘outraging the spirit of grace’  (Heb 10:29) by deliberately sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth; and about ‘failing to obtain the grace of God, like Esau who passed the point of no return by selling his birthright and was rejected – “finding no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears (Heb 12:17)”

Paul says the reason God gives people up is that they exchange the truth for a lie and he will even send them a strong delusion so that they may believe what is false.  Will the spiritual leaders of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, bound by financial and sentimental ties to the American Episcopal Church, be swept along with it and exchange the truth of God for a lie, the gospel of salvation for a false gospel of inclusion?  For make no mistake, God will give them up.  There are disturbing signs that we are already  in grave spiritual danger.

How else should we interpret the fact that our bishops – those entrusted with the guardianship of our faith – have invited the leader of the American Episcopal Church to address them? This is the bishop who after all  is notorious in her denial of many of the basic tenets of that faith. What message are they sending ? Are they unable to distinguish between orthodoxy and heresy ?

A church that cannot distinguish between orthodoxy and heresy is drifting downstream in very dangerous waters.

 

“He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.”  Proverbs 29:1

Dave Doveton : Vice Provost, Cathedral of St Mary the Virgin, Diocese of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.