Archive for March, 2014

Biblical Ignorance of Anglican Politicians is no Laughing Matter

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

 

Caroline Spelman MPBy Julian Mann, Virtueonline

Satirical sneering is not the appropriate response to the abject biblical ignorance of politicians in the House of Commons who celebrated the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women priests in the Church of England. For the national Church by law established, it is a cause for penitent self-examination because these politicians have been sitting in its pews.

Introducing the celebratory debate on Thursday in Westminster Hall, the Right Honourable Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP for Meriden in the West Midlands, declared: ‘Some of the women in my constituency lack female role models within their own family-perhaps they are estranged from the grandparental generation. A female priest can provide real practical help, advice and support to young women making their first steps in motherhood without a family network around them.’

Positive male and female role models are very important in local communities but as an argument for the ordination of women, or indeed men, Mrs Spelman’s apologia for women priests displays a lamentable level of biblical literacy. The primary calling of ordained ministers in the Church of England is to proclaim the Word of God, not to spend their time trying to compensate for societal breakdown.

The Book of Common Prayer’s Ordinal is very clear on the central calling of ordained ministers. According to the Bishop’s Charge, they are ‘to be messengers, watchmen and stewards of the Lord; to teach and to premonish, to feed and to provide for the Lord’s family’. How they are to do that is also made very clear in the Ordinal. They do that by teaching and exemplifying the Holy Scriptures – ‘And seeing that you cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken of the holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same; consider how studious ye ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures’. The ordained calling of course involves the minister being a kind and loving person in their local community but it must not involve being so consumed by social work that they neglect their primary vocation to teach God’s Word.

That priority in the Ordinal faithfully reflects the Apostle Paul’s charge to his younger protegee in Christian ministry, Timothy:

Read here

Suffering and Joy: A Biblical Tandem

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

There is no way of hiding the fact that there is plenty of suffering in the world. And yet, we know that there is also much joy to be found in life. Both can be found in abundance, and such seems to be our lot in a fallen world. But what is of great interest is how often the Bible ties these two realities together.

In Scripture we find a constant association of joy with suffering, especially in the New Testament. There we find the idea that suffering might actually be a good thing, and something to rejoice about. Of course this is not what one usually finds in the teachings of much of contemporary Christianity, especially in the health and wealth gospel.

There the problem-free, the pain-free, the illness-free life is emphasised, and is seen as the source of rejoicing. To actually rejoice in problems, pain or illness is just not done in this theology. Yet this is exactly what we so often find in Scripture. The connection is made frequently, and no theology of suffering can ignore these wonderful and amazing passages.

suffering-joyOne can only list some of the more obvious examples here. The book of Philippians is an obvious place to start. Repeatedly the Epistle makes the link between suffering, hardship and affliction and joy and rejoicing. And given Paul’s distressing circumstances at the time of his writing, his words are all the more forceful. No wonder the letter is so often referred to as “the epistle of joy”.

As Frank Thielman writes, “Philippians has much to say to the church about the problem of suffering. . . . Despite all of this, indeed, because of it, Paul is filled with joy and expects the Philippians to be joyful also (1:4, 18, 25; 2:2, 17-18, 28-29; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10). The reason for this joy is not that Paul believes suffering to be good, or that people ought to force themselves to laugh at pain. Paul acknowledges the pain in his own situation and is grieved by it (2:28).”

He goes on to specifically discuss the health and wealth gospel, and then says this: “Philippians tells us that biblical Christianity cannot tolerate such simplistic answers to the evils of poverty and disease. As Paul plainly says in 3:12–14 and 20-21, Christians have not already attained all that God has in store for them.

“Indeed, they eagerly await the time when their ‘lowly bodies’ will be transformed to resemble Christ’s ‘glorious body’. In the meantime, God often works through weakness and suffering to accomplish his goals, and any form of the gospel that does not carry the stamp of the cross represents a deviation from the apostolic faith.”

Consider also Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” The first half of the passage is quite revealing. Once again a clear connection between joy and suffering is made. It speaks for itself, but the remarks of David Garland are worth recording:

“Paul’s rejoicing over his suffering jolts a worldview that values comfort and ease as the highest good. We should note that Paul does not say that he rejoices in spite of his sufferings but in them. He does not rejoice after the trials are over but during them. The apostle obviously did not view his suffering as a problem or as something to be escaped, as we moderns might. . . . Paul accepted suffering as the call of God and this call led him to look at things from a new perspective.”

First Thessalonians 1:6 is another good example of this combination: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” The two are not mutually exclusive. As Gordon Fee remarks, “Thus we find here that remarkable collocation of joy and suffering found throughout the NT.”

Romans 5:1-11 also comes to mind. In verse 3 Paul says “we also rejoice in our sufferings”, and he goes on to note the good effects of suffering on our lives. The line of thinking occurs elsewhere. As Douglas Moo comments: “Sequences of this kind, in which suffering inaugurates a chain of linked virtues, are introduced as a stimulus to face difficulties with joy in two other NT texts (1 Pet. 1:6b-7; Jas. 1:2-4).”

Commenting on this passage, E. F. Harrison says this: “Right here lies one of the distinctives of the Christian faith, in that the believer is taught to glory and rejoice in the midst of suffering rather than to sigh and submit to it as a necessary or inevitable evil.”

Paul of course simply picks up on a theme found in his master’s teaching. Mat. 5:11-12 is one such example: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The word “blessed” of course renders a term that can equally mean “happy”. As Carl F. H. Henry in his discussion on evil notes,

“The Creator has not arranged the universe for maximal creaturely happiness, least of all if happiness means unruffled ease and self-satisfied contentment. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the term ‘happy’ synonymously with ‘blessed’ in a life context that includes mourning, persecution and ‘all kinds of evil’ (Matt. 5:11).”

A question may arise at this point: is the joy associated with suffering thought of as a present reality or a future expectation, or a combination of the two? Many New Testament passages seem to contain the idea of joy as both present and future. 1 Peter 4:12-19 is a good example of the present/future dimensions of joy amidst suffering. Future reward along with present consolation are both offered as encouragement for believers undergoing trials. Comments Paul Achtemeier:

“The joy in suffering … is based in specific events (Christ’s suffering and vindication) and specific expectations (a transformed future). Hence, although suffering with Christ promised eschatological vindication and joy, that joy was already a reality for those who shared his suffering. As a result that future reality has already transformed the present reality of suffering from sorrow to joy.”

Joy in suffering is not just a New Testament theme. If space permitted, a look at how this theme plays out in the Old Testament could be explored. Just a quick comment by Walter Brueggemann will have to suffice. In his discussion on the prophetic imagination, he finds similarities between Jeremiah and Jesus and their respective ministries. He remarks,

“The riddle and insight of biblical faith is the awareness that only anguish leads to life, only grieving leads to joy, and only embraced endings permit new beginnings. . . . Jesus had understood Jeremiah. . . . Jesus’ concern was, finally, for the joy of the kingdom. That is what he promised and to that he invited people. But he was clear that the rejoicing in that future required a grieving about the present order. . . . [This implies] that those who have not cared enough to grieve will not know joy.”

Doing God’s work should always be a cause of joy. And if suffering is indeed a part of that work, then joy should be closely connected to it. Doing God’s will may well take us through difficult places. But the joy comes not from the difficult circumstances, but from the knowledge that we are walking in God’s will and that he is with us.

Dan McCartney puts it this way: “Suffering, for the Christian, is a vocation – we are called to suffer. . . . We are not, however, called to be gloomy. The joy of the gospel ought to have its way, even in our suffering.” Such may appear to be extremely paradoxical. But many of the basics of the Christian faith are paradoxical – God becoming man, greatness determined by servanthood, life coming through death, riches through poverty, etc.

The modern mind may rebel at such mysteries. And modern Christian teachings like the health and wealth gospel may be impatient with them. But they are part and parcel of the Christian faith, and should be embraced with the heart, even if the head finds them problematic.

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TEC loses again in Texas; Supreme Court denies motion for rehearing

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014
Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

TEC loses again in Texas;
Supreme Court denies motion for rehearing

The Episcopal Church and its local supporters in Fort Worth have suffered a second defeat from the Texas Supreme Court. On August 30, 2013, the high court reversed a lower-court decision that favored TEC’s claim to all church property in the Diocese of Fort Worth, which left the denomination in 2008. Today the Court denied TEC’s subsequent motion to rehear the case which now returns to the lower court for a new hearing and summary judgment based on neutral principles of law, not deference to a hierarchical church. We praise God for this very good news.

Some speculate that TEC will now seek a review of the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court as a further delaying tactic, but given past decisions on cases similar to this, it is highly unlikely that such a request would be granted. In recent appeals, the SCOTUS has left church property disputes to each state Supreme Court to decide. Moreover, the Texas Supreme Court will issue its mandate referring the case to the trial court, regardless of any such filing.

Shelby Sharpe, a member of the Diocese’s legal team, explains, “According to Blake Hawthorne, the clerk of the Court in Austin, the mandate should issue today and be received next week by the clerk of the 141st District Court here in Fort Worth. The receipt of the mandate places the case back for trial. Whether there will be a TEC appeal to the United States Supreme Court, we will find out in due course. Regardless, proceedings will resume in the 141st following receipt of the mandate. We expect a favorable outcome based on the opinions in our case and the San Angelo case. The entire legal team gives thanks to the Lord for this victory, and we thank the Supreme Court for its diligent work on this case.

“Next, we will file a motion to set aside the supersedeas bond and recover the $100,000 placed in the registry of the court over two years ago. This will also remove the monthly requirement on congregations to give financial reports to our opponents.”

The ruling comes as great encouragement to the Diocese of Fort Worth (formed in 1982) and signals a favorable outcome in the dispute with TEC over property and assets, which has been going on for the past six years.

“We are greatly relieved by the finality of the Court’s ruling,” Bishop Iker said. “TEC’s rehearing strategy has delayed us from moving on with this case by more than six months and at the cost of several thousands of dollars to oppose it. My advice is that TEC cut its losses and get on with their life without the Diocese of Fort Worth. Their litigation strategy has failed.”

Let us continue to give thanks to God for his blessings and for answered prayer.

Justin Welby makes great strides, but his greatest challenge is yet to come

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

By John Bingham, Telegraph

 

It could have been like one of those moments in a country parish where a trendy new vicar rolls up with plans to rip out the Victorian pews to make way for a drum-kit and an overhead projector. The arrival of Justin Welby, a former businessman whose brand of Christianity is marked with the zeal of the convert, as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury had the potential to ruffle more than a few feathers in the established Church.

 

Within months of his enthronement, a year ago today, he seemed on course to do just that. He had overhauled his staff, with a series of new appointments. He had persuaded rival factions to take part in something akin to drama therapy sessions to confront their differences over women bishops, and he had delivered a blistering address to the General Synod on how it needed to face up to a sexual “revolution”.

 

[…]  But now the honeymoon is long past, Archbishop Welby is preparing for what promises to be a far bigger battle for the soul of the Church both in England and in the wider Anglican Communion over an issue that has plagued it for years: its unresolved position on homosexuality. Even his admirers admit privately that in comparison with the rows over women bishops, the battle over sexuality is like “an elephant compared to the flea”.

 

Many once-vehement opponents of women bishops have recently softened their stance precisely because they are keeping their powder dry for a bigger fight to come. In just over a week, the first gay weddings will take place in England, something senior clerics said would amount to the redefinition of a timeless institution. Despite their own disagreements over the issue, the Church’s bishops have circled the wagons and last month issued a joint “pastoral statement” effectively banning gay clergy from marrying.

 

But within hours, it was clear that a handful of clerics were preparing openly to defy the ban, with little sign that the Church will stand in their way.

 

Read here

No One Dare Speak Its Name

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Stanford discriminates against traditional marriage supportersA gay couple holds hands during a rally in support of the United States Supreme Court decision on marriage rights in San Diego, California June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A student group at Stanford University asked for funds from the student government to put on an event subversive of community standards, guaranteed to provoke outrage among the establishment, and challenging of accepted mores. Was it a production of the Vagina Monologues? An evening with performance artist Karen Finley? A public hanging in effigy of the Koch Brothers? No, something far, far more disturbing:

The student government at Stanford University voted to rescind funding to a conservative student organization that was attempting to host an event in support of traditional marriage.

The event was deemed hateful by the Stanford Graduate Student Council.

The Stanford Anscombe Society had requested funding in order to host a conference geared toward the promotion of secular arguments in favor of traditional marriage. Anscombe asked for $600, according to The College Fix.

During the meeting, at which Anscombe’s request was discussed, several students insisted that merely funding the event would increase the rate of suicide among LGBT students on campus. Others claimed that gay people would no longer feel welcome at Stanford if the event proceeded.

Brianne Huntsman, a student and employee of the LGBT center on campus, told Campus Reform that she did not object to the event taking place, but rather to the idea that the student government should fund it.

“I’m so glad that GSC chose not to fund this event-because it shows the grad community (and the larger Stanford community) that Stanford is a safe space filled with people who work hard to make sure it stays that way,” she said in a statement.

Now, I know it’s incredible to think that anyone at an institution as august as Stanford would even dream of doing such a thing. As all right (or left) thinking people know, discussion of the subject of traditional marriage on the property of any elite college has been shown by the Centers for Disease Control to cause LGBTQQIIXYZ people to come down with hives, shakes, the screaming meemies, elephantiasis, schistosomiasis, cancer of the Achilles tendon, the heartbreak of psoriasis, night sweats, and an irrational obsession with bridezillas. It has therefore been prohibited in the interest of public health and accommodating the wussiest members of the QBITGIZYLXQ community.

Personally, I can’t believe that the members of the Anscombe Society could possibly be so insensitive, so gauche, so threatening toward those who are so powerless and despised. They need to be locked in a pink room and forced to undergo extensive re-education at the hands of Rosie O’Donnell, Dan Savage, and Bishop Gene Robinson. That’ll learn ‘em.

Italian singer defends song about gay man becoming straight, but says it ruined his career

Friday, March 21st, 2014

by Sofia Vazquez-Mellado, LifeSite News

Famed Italian singer Giuseppe Povia says the persecution he has suffered from homosexuals and their allies in the entertainment business following his controversial 2009 song “Luca era gay” (Luca was gay), about a man who converts from the gay lifestyle to heterosexuality, has ruined his career.

In his most recent blog entry, Povia says that since he won second prize for the song at Italy’s Sanremo festival, “Gay associations in many provinces have repeatedly invited me to apologize to the gay community,” and he has found it difficult to find work because of a whispering campaign against him by homosexuals.

“Apologize for what? For singing a song? A true story?” asks Povia, adding that he “wants to apologize for not realizing we live in a violent media, psychological, artistic and cultural dictatorship.”

“Wherever I present myself … there’s always prejudice,” continued the singer. “Povia is evil, he’s against gay people and therefore must die. … It’s not possible … there’s a cultural anesthesia and there’s nothing worse than to anesthetize the minds of human beings convincing them that they will become ‘the new thinkers.’”

“The only positive thing,” he explained, “is that the majority of people (90%) are on my side.” He laments however, that this majority “is sadly silent” but “silence doesn’t change a thing.”

Read here

Solidarity with the Anglican Church in Uganda and Nigeria

Friday, March 21st, 2014

By Chris Sugden, Evangelicals Now

Anglican churches in Nigeria and Uganda have through history stood for biblical truth and principle and been at the forefront of action for justice, peace and equality. They have transformed their societies especially the relationships of men and women. One African Anglican Archbishop told me recently: “Defenders of polygamous families have never lived in one.” The church was also at the forefront of developing democracy in African societies, often in opposition to the ruling colonial powers and their national successors. One only needs recall the late Archbishop David Gitari of Kenya.

Christian mission at its most authentic has not supported the status quo, or privileged injustice and oppressive social practices. In India Christians opposed widow burning. In Pakistan the church still leads the fight against child slavery.

The Ugandan church knows the price of opposing unjust and powerful people. Every year on June 3 the church recalls the martyrdom between 1885 and 1887 of young page boys at the court of the King of Buganda who refused to be sodomised by the king because of their Christian faith. In the 1970s Archbishop Janani Luwum paid the price for the church’s critique of Idi Amin with his life.

The recent laws concerning homosexual behaviour in Uganda and Nigeria have led to strident condemnation from some in the West. In the last week the World Bank has postponed a $90 million dollar loan to Uganda. Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have withdrawn government aid. Have they responded to Russia’s laws in a similar way? Are the poor of the world only to be helped if they agree with us?

 

The African Anglican church’s membership of the global Anglican Communion enables accountability and mutual challenge between churches. The following exchange between a Nigerian archdeacon called Paul and a visiting American Ph.D student illustrates this

“Paul had heard that some priests in the US and England are gay.  “What would these Christian brothers of yours say if I asked them how they could be homosexual, and train for ordination?”

I told him how seminary classmates of mine who are gay tell me that they believe God created them to be that way. After a few moments, he spoke again. “In every culture, there is something to be converted by the gospel. In Nigeria, it is our lying, cheating, and pervasive corruption.”

He paused again, reflective. “What is it that needs to be converted in America?” It was an honest question, asked genuinely, and I realised that it was not one to which I had ever given serious thought. I stumbled, looking for an answer. (Church Times February 21 p.36)

Rachel, who visited Kenya last October illustrates the issues Africans are facing:

‘LGBT offices funded from the West have been set up in all major cities throughout the country. It is widely believed that bright young people who are members of these groups are being funded through local tertiary education which is expensive and only generally accessible to the elite. One friend noticed that her newspaper carried a favourable article towards homosexuality every day. She felt that someone must have paid for it to be placed there as there was an article for every day in the same place, the same length for several weeks and then suddenly it stopped. “

“The media found an obscure, expelled, Kenyan Anglican priest who preaches that homosexual practice is acceptable and has received funding from the West to set up a church. He was given a large amount of sympathetic airtime on mainstream television at the same time that an international conference on upholding Biblical teaching was taking place in Nairobi (GAFCON2). This was used by the media to suggest that Christianity was unclear on the issue of homosexuality. A culture war has started in Kenya and the West has instigated it – cultural imperialism isn’t dead after all.’

The Archbishop of Uganda told me last year that parents in Uganda are very concerned to protect their young boys from being preyed upon by paedophiles. The church’s vocation is the protection of the vulnerable. As a church and nation Ugandans know far more about the victims of violence than western liberals.

A Ugandan parliamentarian has told me of their struggle to signal through the law that such preying is completely taboo. I have heard UK Parliamentarians make the same argument for the use of the law in the UK on other matters.

The Anglican churches have stood against any violence against people with same-sex attraction and behind the scenes the Ugandan Anglican church had a significant moderating influence on the bill. Without the church’s role the forces of violence against same-sex attracted people would have triumphed.

Every community establishes boundaries for what is and is not acceptable. Many in the West would agree that it is reasonable to criminalise sexual behaviour between adults and minors in order to protect the vulnerable. There are clearly issues of norms of behaviour that are promoted in schools and youth groups. Uganda, like many other countries, has taken the view that the promotion of same sex behaviour is to be regarded as criminal activity.

The western church can share its views on the wisdom of criminalising same-sex behaviour between adults without weakening their respect for and support to the Ugandan Church in it stand against violence. This is a sign of maturity in our relationships.

This concern for the wellbeing of a community, especially the vulnerable, does not degrade the rights of same-sex attracted people. Claiming that it does depends on the unproved assumption that such attraction is entirely innate. President Museveni is investigating this assumption and inviting debate on the topic. This goes completely against the mainstream view of western culture. “Gay activists” in the west think that the issue is beyond debate and vilify any attempt to raise the question. Who is being prejudiced?