Archive for June, 2013

Sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Service to celebrate the Sixtieth Anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen’s Coronation, 1953

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

 

‘And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all’ (Mark 10:44)

A nation watched. It was the first time the whole nation had watched anything as it happened. But this they saw. Pomp and ceremony on a rainy, June day, wrapped in time and custom – very British. At its beginning was a moment of deepest meaning we have all almost forgotten. The figure at the centre of events, the new Queen, goes alone, not to the Coronation Chair, but past it: to kneel at the altar in prayer. Before her on the High Altar the words “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and Christ.”

We do not know what was prayed. Her Majesty knelt at the beginning of a path of demanding devotion and utter self-sacrifice, a path she did not choose, yet to which she was called by God. Today we celebrate sixty years since that moment, sixty years of commitment.

There was a trumpet fanfare as today as the Queen arrived with her supporters, but let us resist the splendour of the spectacle for a moment, and focus on what was meant: “Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.”

And following her giving of allegiance to God, others – especially, with such equal and dedicated commitment, the Duke of Edinburgh – pledged their allegiance to her.

And here, in the grace and providence of God, is the model of liberty and authority which our country enjoys. Liberty is only real when it exists under authority. Liberty under authority  begins, as the Book of Common Prayer puts it, with our duty to God, “whose service is perfect freedom”.

We live in a hierarchy of liberty under authority that ascends to God’s limitless love. As we see in the life of Jesus, with God justice and mercy are perfectly joined, wisdom is unlimited, generosity is unstinting, and love pours out to the whole world in an overwhelming embrace that is offered universally and abundantly.

A nation that crowns its head of state with such a model of liberty under authority expresses commitment to the same glorious values for itself.

Read here

DOUGLAS, GA: St. Andrews parishioners leave Episcopal Church with dignity and grace

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Church re-establishes as St. Andrews Anglican Church

By Mary Ann Mueller and David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org

Trinity Sunday was a day of new beginnings for members of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. The day was a long time in coming. The slow but steady theological erosion of The Episcopal Church proved a bridge too far for this orthodox parish and its priest Fr. Curtis Mears.

On Pentecost Sunday, a super majority – well over 90 percent – of the membership of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church decided the time had come to leave the Episcopal Church fold for greener spiritual pastures. On that day, parishioners heard that their rector, the Rev. Curtis Mears had resigned as Episcopal rector of their church. All but two of the vestry members, as well as the junior and senior wardens, followed their priest’s lead by relinquishing their Episcopal leadership positions. As one parishioner told VOL, “It was not so much as leaving something behind, but rather going forward towards a greater good.”

One week later, on Trinity Sunday, the newly displaced former Episcopal parishioners re-established themselves as an Anglican congregation forming loose ties with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and taking the name St. Andrew’s Anglican Church to honor their historic roots. The new Anglican members celebrated their first Service of Holy Communion at a small vacant Roman Catholic Church located within walking distance of their former church property, graciously provided by church authorities.

The issues behind the break at St. Andrew’s had been quietly simmering since the turn of the Millennium. The election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop along with her heretical and skewered theology fueled the already smoldering fires of spiritual conflict with The Episcopal Church’s stated theological positions bringing into sharp focus the differences between orthodox Anglican theology and newly stated modern liberal Episcopal positions on sexuality and theology.

St. Andrew’s Church organist Gray McKinnon remembers that the discussion to leave The Episcopal Church first started decades before under the rectorship of Fr. William H. Littleton, who has since retired from the Episcopal priesthood following years of faithful ministry. The conversation continued under Fr. Joseph Daly who in 2010 handed the spiritual baton over to Fr. Mears. The “Son of Nashotah House” brought the deepening theological debate to fruition resulting in St. Andrew’s parishioners leaving The Episcopal Church.

St. Andrew’s, a broad church with Anglo-Catholic leanings, grew substantially under Fr. Mears’ spiritual leadership. In February, a Diocese of Georgia publication, “From the Field”, focused on the Douglas congregation’s growth revealing a 37% uptick far outstripping the 3.3% population increase resulting in ASA figures climbing from 59 to 81. The diocesan article, written by Canon to the Ordinary Frank Logue, acknowledged that the church’s exceptional growth was Fr. Mears who brought back the 1928 Book of Common Prayer as its liturgical standard of worship.

“It can be said that to succeed, one must compromise. But for the Church, this would mean that we also compromise our faithfulness. I believe a faithful priest cannot and must not compromise his duty to proclaim the Gospel and work for reconciliation,” Fr. Mears wrote in his January parish website letter. “Likewise, for a faithful Christian, there is no room to compromise with regard to our duty which is to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.”

SEVEN POINTS OF DISAGREEMENT

St. Andrew’s parishioners identified seven specific points of contention between themselves and the liberal theological position of The Episcopal Church expressed by the Episcopal Presiding Bishop in what they described as her distorted nature-based spirituality. The seven specific points on which they could no longer compromise are: Jesus is the only way to God the Father; Jesus is the Son of God; the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ actually took place; the Bible is a reliable guide for all human conduct; Christians should evangelize; the Church is the Body of Christ; and the creeds (Apostles and Nicene) summarize historic Christian doctrines based on the Bible.

“The liberal agenda of TEC has exceeded our toleration,” McKinnon explained. “We felt for us to grow and become a light in our community we had to take the step forward.”

An on-going conversation to make a change had been taking place since the beginning of the year. Many things had to be worked out before the parishioners could finally step out in faith. A worship facility had to be secured. Then, even the most rudimentary items had to be assembled since the departing Episcopalians had decided to leave behind Bibles, prayer books, as well as the building.

The exiting Episcopalians saw the writing on the wall, having observed what happened to Christ Church–Savannah by the ecclesiastical authorities of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and its bishop Scott Benhase. Christ Church is the grandmother church and great-grandmother church of Episcopal churches in the Peach State which saw evangelist Charles Wesley preach there. Christ Church was originally founded in 1733. Late last year, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the long established Savannah church edifice was held in trust for the larger national church and the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, not with the realigning Anglicans. The priest and parish knew the Dennis Canon ruling would apply to them and thus they sought a graceful exit to further their mission in Coffee County, Georgia.

McKinnon explained that several St. Andrews’ members decided that they could no longer financially contribute to the Douglas Episcopal congregation for fear that their tithes and offering would be used to support the liberal agenda of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the national church based in New York. Income to the church dropped dramatically by half. The church could no longer meet its diocesan apportionment and still pay its own day-to-day bills. The Diocese of Georgia understood the church’s financial situation.

Several years earlier the Anglican Society of Coffee County was formed in the anticipation of an eventual theological parting of the ways with The Episcopal Church. Those, who in good conscience could no longer economically support St. Andrew’s, built up the Society’s coffers providing a financial cushion should the congregation ever feel the need to move on. That day had finally come.

“We formed an Anglican Society years ago, but it was just inactive,” explained Holly Lott, who is a lifelong member of St. Andrew’s. She left behind all her fond memories as she stepped out with the rest of the congregation to form St. Andrew’s Anglican of Douglas.

Once the Episcopalians made the heart wrenching decision to leave The Episcopal Church and walk away from their building – which holds cherished memories of baptisms, confirmations, weddings, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter celebrations – events happened quickly.

All the church’s documents and papers were carefully put in order; the keys were dutifully turned over to the Diocese. The departure was timed to coincide with the local high school graduation and the beginning of the summer school vacation so that St. Andrew’s after school program would not be disrupted by the changes.

ST. PAUL’S CATHOLIC CHURCH

Many man hours of work had to take place Pentecost week to whip the Old St. Paul’s Catholic Church into shape in time to celebrate Trinity Sunday as an Anglican house of worship. The quaint white Catholic Church had stood empty for seven years. The Catholics left nothing behind when they outgrew their Ward Street location and built a new edifice located several miles away on Highway 441 South. The Anglicans had to find everything – prayer books, altar, Eucharistic vessels and linens, organ, pews, vestments, and a tabernacle. A processional cross and torches could not be procured in time for the Trinity Sunday worship.

St. Paul’s Catholic Church and their pastor Fr. Nicholas Mansell have warmly welcomed Fr. Mears and his parishioner. In the parish’s Sunday bulletin, the Catholic priest welcomed the Anglican congregation to the Old St. Paul’s location.

“We give a warm and hearty welcome to the newly forming Anglican Community in Douglas,” Fr. Mansell wrote. “Fr. Curtis Mears, former Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and members of St. Andrew’s have formed a new congregation and will use our old church on Ward Street. They begin worship there this Sunday, Trinity Sunday. Let us pray for them in this new endeavor.”

St. Andrew’s nearest ecclesial neighbor, the First Baptist Church, also welcomed the Anglicans to the neighborhood. The pastor offered the use of his chapel should the Anglicans not be able to prepare Old St. Paul’s in time for Sunday worship. However, the Catholics and Anglicans worked together to prepare Old St. Paul’s with the Anglicans focusing on the sanctuary and the Catholics working on the parish hall.

A special unexpected visitor to their first liturgical celebration at Old St. Paul’s was ACNA Bishop Neil Lebhar of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese with whom the congregation is in active conversation about formally affiliating with ACNA. It is expected that the paperwork will eventually be submitted, but official membership cannot take place until the next synodical meeting in the fall. Until then, the bishop is taking them under his protective wing.

Bishop Lebhar is pleased with what he saw in south central Georgia. He met an enthusiastically upbeat and committed transplanting Anglican congregation focused on spreading the Gospel in Douglas and Coffee County. The bishop concelebrated the Service of Holy Communion with Fr. Mears, but did not preach. He was basically a special Sunday visitor, giving them his blessing. He later enjoyed refreshments with the priest and parishioners.

It was standing room only Sunday when 107 souls worshipped at the new St. Andrew’s location in the smaller wooden Catholic Church. Old St. Paul’s can comfortably seat 100.

“We went from Sunday at St. Andrew Episcopal to Sunday at St. Andrew’s Anglican,” Lott reported. “It was the most beautiful service ever. We knew we were at home.”

EPISCOPAL BISHOP SCOTT BENHASE REACTS

While the transition has gone smoothly, it has not been without wrinkles. Following the priest and his congregation’s graceful departure from the South Coffee Avenue location, Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase fired off a letter to those who remained charging that Fr. Mears had been less than honest with him about his intensions while defending The Episcopal Church’s stance on “lesser issues such as human sexuality;” claiming that an “unnecessary crisis has been manufactured at St Andrew’s;” and informing the remaining congregation that Trinity Sunday’s service would be conducted by Canon Logue using Rite II from the 1979 Prayer book.

Canon Logue also circulated a communiqué charging that when the St. Andrew’s parishioners departed they took with them a refrigerator that was erroneously believed to belong to the church. It has since been confirmed that the appliance was merely on loan to the Episcopal congregation and the misunderstanding was cleared up.

As with most spiritual divorces from The Episcopal Church, there was a degree of frustration, confusion, hurt feelings, sorrow, suffering, painful rumors and innuendos on all sides. Canon Logue wrote that “rumors fly faster than the speed of accuracy” while Fr. Mears is determined to move beyond that.

“I have been deeply touched by the out flow of love and support from our faithful family, our community and the many faithful disciples who have kept us in prayer,” said Fr. Mears who is moving forward with his parish. “I pray you will understand that at this time, it is most important for me and this church family to focus on our Lord and seeking His will for what lies ahead.”

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

The New Ottoman Empire

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Siege_of_Constantinople

 

Lest we forget, this past Wednesday was the 560th anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople.

 

The U.S. Helps Reconstruct the Ottoman Empire

by Robert E. Kaplan

Since the mid-1990s the United States has intervened militarily in several internal armed conflicts in Europe and the Middle East: bombing Serbs and Serbia in support of Izetbegovic’s Moslem Regime in Bosnia in 1995, bombing Serbs and Serbia in support of KLA Moslems of Kosovo in 1999, bombing Libya’s Gaddafi regime in support of rebels in 2010. Each intervention was justified to Americans as motivated by humanitarian concerns: to protect Bosnian Moslems from genocidal Serbs, to protect Kosovo Moslems from genocidal Serbs, and to protect Libyans from their murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Other reasons for these interventions were also offered: to gain for the United States a strategic foothold in the Balkans, to defeat communism in Yugoslavia, to demonstrate to the world’s Moslems that the United States is not anti-Moslem, to redefine the role of NATO in the post-Cold War era, among others.

Each of these United States military interventions occurred in an area that had been part of the Ottoman Empire. In each, a secular regime was ultimately replaced by an Islamist one favoring sharia law and the creation of a world-wide Caliphate. The countries that experienced the “Arab Spring” of the 2010s without the help of American military intervention, Tunisia and Egypt, had also been part of the Ottoman Empire, and also ended up with Islamist regimes.

 

The full text here.

Bishops under pressure to abstain in gay marriage vote

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

By John Bingham, Telegraph

 

Bishops are facing intense pressure from inside the Church of England not to use their votes in the House of Lords to block gay marriage, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

 

Despite vocal opposition from the Church to the Government’s plans to allow same-sex couples to marry, it is understood that senior officials have personally urged bishops to stay away from this week’s vote.

 

They fear that a large bloc of clerics turning up to vote down the bill could rebound on the Church, reopening questions over the right of bishops to sit in the Lords and even raise the prospect of disestablishment.

 

They have also told bishops privately that they are convinced the bill, which includes legal “locks” to prevent clergy being forced to carry out same-sex weddings against their beliefs, is the “best” they could hope to achieve.

 

It comes amid warnings of a “dangerous” constitutional stand-off between the Commons and the Lords if peers vote to reject the bill, which has already received strong backing from MPs.

 

Peers will begin two days of debates on the bill today with a vote on Tuesday.

 

Writing in The Daily Telegraph Viscount Astor, the stepfather of David Cameron’s wife Samantha, argues that blocking the bill in the upper chamber could threaten the future position of the House of Lords itself.

 

Meanwhile an alliance of independent church leaders has issued a strongly worded call to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, not only to vote against the bill himself but to press other bishops to do so.

 

In a letter to be handed in to Lambeth Palace this morning, 30 leaders of independent churches, including a string of so-called “black majority” churches, warn that the church of England faces a “defining point” over the issue of same-sex marriage.

 

Read here

No Truth Without Love, No Love Without Truth: The Church’s Great Challenge

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

161063333The church’s engagement with the culture involves a host of issues, controversies, and decisions–but no issue defines our current cultural crisis as clearly as homosexuality. Some churches and denominations have capitulated to the demands of the homosexual rights movement, and now accept homosexuality as a fully valid lifestyle.

Other denominations are tottering on the brink, and without a massive conservative resistance, they are almost certain to abandon biblical truth and bless what the Bible condemns. Within a few short years, a major dividing line has become evident–with those churches endorsing homosexuality on one side, and those stubbornly resisting the cultural tide on the other.

The homosexual rights movement understands that the evangelical church is one of the last resistance movements committed to a biblical morality. Because of this, the movement has adopted a strategy of isolating Christian opposition, and forcing change through political action and cultural pressure.

Can we count on evangelicals to remain steadfastly biblical on this issue? Not hardly. Scientific surveys and informal observation reveal that we have experienced a significant loss of conviction among youth and young adults. No moral revolution can succeed without shaping and changing the minds of young people and children.

Inevitably, the schools have become crucial battlegrounds for the culture war. The Christian worldview has been undermined by pervasive curricula that teach moral relativism, reduce moral commandments to personal values, and promote homosexuality as a legitimate and attractive lifestyle option.

Our churches must teach the basics of biblical morality to Christians who will otherwise never know that the Bible prescribes a model for sexual relationships. Young people must be told the truth about homosexuality–and taught to esteem marriage as God’s intention for human sexual relatedness.

The times demand Christian courage. These days, courage means that preachers and Christian leaders must set an agenda for biblical confrontation, and not shrink from dealing with the full range of issues related to homosexuality. We must talk about what the Bible teaches about gender–what it means to be a man or a woman. We must talk about God’s gift of sex and the covenant of marriage. And we must talk honestly about what homosexuality is, and why God has condemned this sin as an abomination in His sight.

Courage is far too rare in many Christian circles. This explains the surrender of so many denominations, seminaries, and churches to the homosexual agenda. But no surrender on this issue would have been possible, if the authority of Scripture had not already been undermined. And yet, even as courage is required, the times call for another Christian virtue as well–compassion.

The tragic fact is that every congregation is almost certain to include persons struggling with homosexual desire or even involved in homosexual acts. Outside the walls of the church, homosexuals are waiting to see if the Christian church has anything more to say, after we declare that homosexuality is a sin. Liberal churches have redefined compassion to mean that the church changes its message to meet modern demands.

They argue that to tell a homosexual he is a sinner is uncompassionate and intolerant. This is like arguing that a physician is intolerant because he tells a patient she has cancer. But, in the culture of political correctness, this argument holds a powerful attraction. Biblical Christians know that compassion requires telling the truth, and refusing to call sin something sinless. To hide or deny the sinfulness of sin is to lie, and there is no compassion in such a deadly deception.

True compassion demands speaking the truth in love–and there is the problem. Far too often, our courage is more evident than our compassion. In far too many cases, the options seem reduced to these–liberal churches preaching love without truth, and conservative churches preaching truth without love.

Evangelical Christians must ask ourselves some very hard questions, but the hardest may be this: Why is it that we have been so ineffective in reaching persons trapped in this particular pattern of sin? The Gospel is for sinners–and for homosexual sinners just as much as for heterosexual sinners. As Paul explained to the Corinthian church, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” [1 Corinthians 5:11].

I believe that we are failing the test of compassion. If the first requirement of compassion is that we tell the truth, the second requirement must surely be that we reach out to homosexuals with the Gospel. This means that we must develop caring ministries to make that concern concrete, and learn how to help homosexuals escape the powerful bonds of that sin–even as we help others to escape their own bonds by grace.

If we are really a Gospel people; if we really love homosexuals as other sinners; then we must reach out to them with a sincerity that makes that love tangible. We have not even approached that requirement until we are ready to say to homosexuals, “We want you to know the fullness of God’s plan for you, to know the forgiveness of sins and the mercy of God, to receive the salvation that comes by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to know the healing God works in sinners saved by grace, and to join us as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, living out our obedience and growing in grace together.”

Such were some of you . . . The church is not a place where sinners are welcomed to remain in their sin. To the contrary, it is the Body of Christ, made up of sinners transformed by grace. Not one of us deserves to be accepted within the beloved. It is all of grace, and each one of us has come out of sin.

We sin if we call homosexuality something other than sin. We also sin if we act as if this sin cannot be forgiven. We cannot settle for truth without love nor love without truth. The Gospel settles the issue once and for all. This great moral crisis is a Gospel crisis.

The genuine Body of Christ will reveal itself by courageous compassion, and compassionate courage. We will see this realized only when men and women freed by God’s grace from bondage to homosexuality feel free to stand up in our churches and declare their testimony–and when we are ready to welcome them as fellow disciples. Millions of hurting people are waiting to see if we mean what we preach.

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

Faith leaders demand gay marriage rethink

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

by James Kirkup, Telegraph

Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders have signed a letter to the Prime Minister, pleading with him to abandon the legislation, which will be debated in the House of Lords next week. Allowing couples of the same sex to marry will cause “injustice and unfairness”, the signatories said, accusing Mr Cameron of rushing the legislation through Parliament to prevent proper scrutiny.

The letter was signed by leaders of several Christian denominations, including Bishop Michael Hill, the Anglican Bishop of Bristol and Archbishop Bernard Longley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham. Other Christian signatories include Bishop Angaelos of Britain’s Coptic Orthodox Church

Among the leading Muslims signing the letter is Sir Iqbal Sacranie, a former head of the Muslim Council of Britain

Other signatories include: Rabbi Natan Levy, an adviser to the Board of Deputies of British Jews; Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, a Sikh community leader; and John Beard, a prominent Buddhist.

The proposed law would “create a two-tier form of marriage”, they wrote. In same-sex marriages, “the importance of consummation, procreation and the welfare of children, as well as issues such as adultery have been ignored.” That, the signatories said, “devalues the meaning of marriage itself”.

Mr Cameron has argued that allowing gay people to marry will address a fundamental injustice and strengthen society. The proposals have already split the Conservative Party, as half of its MPs opposed the legislation in the Commons last month.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bishop compares opponents of gay marriage to slave owners. It’s not just insulting but historically wrong

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

 

By Tim Stanley, Telegraph

 

May the Lord preserve us from liberal Anglican bishops. This week the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, wrote a letter that was published in this newspaper explaining why gay marriage is a good and Christian thing. His argument is that theology evolves along with society, that “sometimes Christians have … to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience.” As proof of the evolution of morality he cites the example of slavery: “before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation.” And this error of historical understanding is a very revealing one.

 

 

As Fr Lucie-Smith points out in the Catholic Herald, Christians prior to Wilberforce were not universally sold on slavery (I’m guessing Christian slaves were especially unconvinced). The Catholic priest says that Bishop Nicholas’ letter,

 

…will come as major news to Pope Pius II who condemned slavery as a great crime and who died in 1464. The same is true of Popes Paul III, Urban VIII, and Benedict XIV, all of whom long predated the English reformer, not to mention the founders and members of the Mercedarian and Trinitarian Orders, which were dedicated to the redemption of slaves.

 

Of course, there were Christians who used Biblical literalism to justify racism (the curse of Ham) or to give slavery the false ring of paternalism (some US slave holders insisted that it was kinder than capitalism). But the Catholic tradition rightly saw it as a sin. To Aquinas it was a perversion of natural law, replacing reason with coercion and denying rational souls access to equal justice. Protestants could be a lot more pro (Calvin saw no need for abolition and regarded obedience to masters as a sign of visible sainthood), but many campaigned for an end to slavery long before Wilberforce was born. In colonial America, emancipation was promoted as early as 1718 by William Southeby, an influential Quaker in Philadelphia.

 

 

Bishop Nicholas is not a fool, so why did he choose to misrepresent Christian history in this way?