Archive for September, 2014

Feminist hocus pocus from the Harry Potter girl. Gender is malleable

Friday, September 26th, 2014

By Laura Perrins, Conservative Woman:

Goodness is there no end to Emma Watson’s talents? She has taken time out of her career to save men from themselves. Yes, all 24 years of her. She gave a speech at the UN – she is UN Women Goodwill Ambassador – to tell us all, that despite reality, gender is a “spectrum.” Something tells me she minored in that ever-popular subject ‘gender studies’ while at Brown University.

Ms Watson believes that feminism – for some strange reason – now has reputation for being ‘anti-men.’ How could that be? Is it because feminist Queen Jessica Valenti likes to ‘bathe in male tears?’ Is it because terms such a ‘campus rape culture,’ now so widespread in the US, implicate all men in the heinous crimes of a few? Is it because feminists have told fathers for the last 30 years that they are surplus to requirements? Perhaps so.

Ms Watson is unhappy that her ‘father’s role as a parent (is) being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s.’

Why is Ms Watson surprised by this when feminist Overlord Harriet Harman co-authored a 1990 IPPR report “The Family Way” which stated “it cannot be assumed that men are bound to be an asset to family life or that the presence of fathers in families is necessarily a means to social cohesion”. Why are we surprised that fathers have been diminished when some view them as ‘sperm donors’ and nothing more. This is why feminists are seen as anti-men – because all the prominent ones that decide social policy are.

Read here

 

Stay-at-home mothers ‘have the most worthwhile lives’

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Official ‘well-being’ index shows those who do not work because they are caring for children or loved-ones have strongest belief that their life is ‘worthwhile’

Talking to and cuddling your children regularly helps their development, says Laura Perrins

Those who do not work to care for children or loved-ones have strongest sense their lives are ‘worthwhile’

By , Social Affairs Editor

Mothers who have put their career aside to care for their children have a stronger sense that their lives are “worthwhile” than the rest of society, official figures suggest.

New findings from the UK’s national “well-being” index show that those classed as economically inactive because they are caring for a family or home are also among the happiest people in Britain.

The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, also show that people across the UK have got progressively happier, less anxious and more satisfied with their lives in the past year.

The improvement is thought to be linked to the economic recovery and falling unemployment – even if people are not necessarily better off than a year ago.

The ONS said the improvement appeared to be linked to optimism and improvements in people’s personal situations even though typical household incomes are lower in real terms.

The latest figures also suggest that the 70s are the golden decade of life, with the highest proportion of people rating their personal happiness at the top of the scale.

Meanwhile, they confirm Northern Ireland as the happiest place in the UK topping the national league tables both on a regional and local level.

Four of the five happiest local authority areas in the UK are located in the province – Antrim, Fermanagh, Omagh and Dungannon – with Babergh in Suffolk the only place in mainland Britain making it into the top five.

As part of a programme backed by David Cameron to measure the nation’s well-being, people were asked to rate their lives on a scale of nought to 10.

They were asked to do this in relation to four separate questions: how satisfied they are with their lives overall; whether they feel that what they do is worthwhile; how happy they were the previous day and how anxious they were the previous day.

The average rating for life satisfaction across the UK was 7.5 out of 10 – up 0.06 points on last year while the typical rating for feeling worthwhile also edged upwards to 7.7.

Average scores for how happy people felt the previous day also rose steadily to 7.4 while anxiety ratings fell to 2.9 on average.

The ONS also analysed the findings on the basis of personal characteristics such as people’s marital status, health, or employment situation.

When the results are broken down by work status pensioners emerged as the happiest overall, with a rating of 7.73 out of 10, but students and stay-at-home mothers or carers also scored noticeably higher than average.

But when responses to the question on how “worthwhile” people consider what they do in life to be were analysed, those looking after home or family emerged well ahead of other groups, scoring 8.03 out of 10 on average.

Overall 83 per cent of full-time parents and carers rated their sense of worth as high or very high.

Laura Perrin, a barrister turned full-time mother who campaigns from the group Mothers At Home Matter said the figures showed that government policies designed to encourage more parents to work full time could be doing more harm than good.

“This just goes to show that the idea that we are all at home depressed and unhappy looking after our own children – which a lot of politicians would like to believe – is simply wrong,” she said.

“It is clearly a worthwhile vocation, should you choose to do it.”

The group campaigns for greater recognition of marriage and traditional family life in the tax system. It argues that the Coalition’s childcare tax breaks for couples in which both parents work, penalises families in which one parent has given up work to care for the children.

“David Cameron has set his face against the more traditional set-up with a mother at home caring for her children but his own figures show that not only are they happy but they recognise their lives are worthwhile,” she said.

“They are not only making their own family happy but also making a contribution to society as a whole.

“They should stop their constant campaign against the more traditional set-up”.

Dawn Snape, co-author of the report, said the consistently high happiness and life satisfaction ratings from people in Northern Ireland could not be explained in purely economic terms.

“Aren’t they great?” she said.

“They’re a real conundrum for us.

“Unemployment is high yet they really buck the trend – at the moment we don’t know the answer to this.

“It may be down to social connectivity, a great sense of community, maybe it is down to how life is going there now compared with 15 years ago.”

“It is not clear to us yet, we need to do more (research). But it seems quite consistent that people in Northern Ireland rate their wellbeing at a very high level. They have a positive outlook.”

The Unraveling of the Anglican Communion

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Anglican Curmudgeon

For some time now — ever since ECUSA’s unilateral decision to consecrate V. Gene Robinson as a bishop — the Anglican Communion has been unraveling, but since it was such a loosely based agglomeration of churches to begin with, hardly no one has noticed. And yet, there were warnings aplenty.

From the October 2003 statement of the Primates who gathered specially in London before the consecration scheduled for November:

If [V. Gene Robinson’s] consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level …

From the Windsor Report of a year later:

In terms of the wider Communion, and our wider relationships with a number of key ecumenical partners, the consecration [of V. Gene Robinson] has had very prejudicial consequences. In our view, those involved did not pay due regard, in the way they might and, in our view, should have done, to the wider implications of the decisions they were making and the actions they were taking….

There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart.

From the statement issued by the Primates meeting at Dromantine in February 2005:

Whilst there remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion, the underlying reality of our communion in God the Holy Trinity is obscured, and the effectiveness of our common mission severely hindered.

From the statement issued by the Primates meeting at Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) in February 2007:

The response of The Episcopal Church to the requests made at Dromantine has not persuaded this meeting that we are yet in a position to recognise that The Episcopal Church has mended its broken relationships… We are deeply concerned that so great has been the estrangement between some of the faithful and The Episcopal Church that this has led to recrimination, hostility and even to disputes in the civil courts….

The strained attempts by the collected Primates to hold on to unity took two directions after the Tanzania gathering: on the one hand, they placed their hopes in a new Anglican Covenant; and on the other, they tried to establish arrangements for alternative pastoral oversight within the divided churches of Canada and the United States. Both attempts came to naught.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was unable and unwilling to do what was necessary to save either of the two initiatives. Consequently, the bishops of ECUSA (who received their invitations to Lambeth as though nothing had happened) had no motivation to change course. Indeed, the latter were only too willing to see the Primates’ efforts fail, without their having to do anything overt to torpedo them. And Lambeth itself was both a collegial dud (thanks to the imposed but phony indaba gimmick) and a financial disaster.

By 2008 the hostility and disputes inside ECUSA spilled over into the uncanonical depositions of four orthodox bishops — three of them diocesan (+Schofield, +Duncan and +Iker). The lawsuits picked up in earnest, and largely remain unabated to this day. These blatantly illegal actions by the new Presiding Bishop of ECUSA directly brought about the formation of what in time became the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). The division of ECUSA was now formal — even if most of those whose actions had led to it refused to recognize what had happened.

Dr. Williams’ dithering over Lambeth, ECUSA’s thumbing its nose at him over pastoral oversight, and its continued actions against dissident bishops and clergy, greatly widened the fractures in the Anglican Communion. Over three hundred bishops from African denominations refused to attend Lambeth, and a number of the Global South primates announced GAFCON’s first gathering, timed to take place before Lambeth 2008 even convened. The division within the Anglican Communion was now formal, even though again most refused to recognize what was happening.

After the events of 2008 within ECUSA, there was no longer any reason for the revisionists in ECUSA to hold back in the slightest. The 2009 refusal by bishops in ECUSA to honor a moratorium on further confirmations to the episcopate of priests in same-sex partnerships wrote finis to the career of Dr. Rowan Williams as the Archbishop of Canterbury. He had made a personal plea to General Convention not to proceed with the approval of the elections of two lesbian-partnered women to the episcopate, which that body spurned (one could say: contemptuously).

The broken Communion limped along, with all pretenses of unity ringing hollow. The seventh and last meeting of the Primates was a total failure to heal the splits within the Communion in January 2011. The paper on the “purpose of the Primates Meeting” adopted at its conclusion now reads rather plaintively in light of the widening fissures. The new Archbishop has not even bothered to try to resurrect the body, which is now irrevocably sundered.

General Convention 2012 completed the dismantling of the Windsor Report by formally (and again, uncanonically) licensing bishops to authorize same-sex blessings within their jurisdictions. Rowan Williams resigned as Archbishop as of the end of the year. His replacement, while listening to the alienated primates, has been unable to reverse the causes of their alienation, and indeed, has only added to them with the recent moves by the Church of England to authorize same-sex (but theoretically celibate) partnerships between clergy.

In short, the Windsor Report’s much-touted “Instruments of Unity” have failed to fulfill their calling. The Lambeth Conference, after the precedent set in 2008, has no further Communion-wide purpose, and the Church of England will probably not agree to finance it again. The Archbishop of Canterbury has lost all his stature within the Communion, and is now having trouble even keeping the Church of England together. The Primates Meeting is dead. And the crevasses that have opened wide in the Communion have rendered the Anglican Consultative Council into a meaningless gathering for futile debates and pursuits — much like Jonathan Swift’s Academy of Lagado.

From 2003 to 2013 — it took just ten years for ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada to unravel the Anglican Communion. Which fact goes to show how loosely knit it was in the first place: the rebellion against papal authority which began the movement replaced that authority with the English monarchy — but its Erastianism could not be imposed upon the branches which the Church began to found in other countries. Those branches came to view themselves as autonomous, and none more so than the Americans, who had to fight the English for their freedom.

Yes, Americans had to fight the English, but not for their religious freedom as Anglicans. England instead fully cooperated in establishing apostolic succession in the branch that would bring about the Communion’s unraveling, just 225 years later. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York who ordained the first American bishops did so on the latter’s promise that “We are unanimous and explicit in assuring your Lordships, that we neither have departed, nor propose to depart from the doctrines of your Church. . . .” (see this post for more details).

So much for promises. ECUSA is now part of only one-fourth of a Communion, while the vast majority of persons who call themselves “Anglicans” are part of the other three-quarters. The Archbishop of Canterbury has cast his lot with ECUSA, as have those denominations which depend on ECUSA for financial support.

Money, however, cannot a Communion make. Instead, as ECUSA’s wealth grew exponentially from the 19th to the 20th century, we must now conclude that with greater wealth came greater  irresponsibility — just as it did with all the great and wealthy families of the world. Money, indeed, has unmade a Communion.

Meanwhile, ECUSA continues blithely along, acting as though nothing of moment has happened.

And of course, since in its own collective mind it is not responsible for anything, then of course nothing has happened.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

AC Grayling’s call to abolish RE in schools is dangerously ignorant

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

 

AC Grayling’s call to abolish RE in schools is dangerously ignorant

 

A couple of weeks ago I was in a conversation with a BBC producer discussing faith schools and their admissions policies. We talked about the possibility of my appearance on BBC1′s Sunday Morning Live to debate the subject.

In the end it didn’t happen, but I wish I’d had the chance to take on the British Humanist Association’s chief executive, Andrew Copson, as he repeatedly made claims that there was factual evidence that faith schools select wealthy pupils by the backdoor, are divisive and basically have nothing good to offer. He didn’t mention that the ‘factual evidence’ was drawn from the BHA’s own research which only suggests that these might be the case if you join a few dots and squint a bit.

Faith-school bashing continues to be a popular pastime for the BHA and their friends but given that they employ someone full-time to campaign for their abolition,  it’s not entirely surprising; they’ve got to do something to keep themselves busy after all. It also doesn’t help that the Accord Coalition, which includes the BHA alongside the NUT and ATL teachers’ unions, campaigns against faith school admission policies with the support of an eclectic bunch of religious individuals.

“Look!” they say, “It’s not just humanists who don’t like faith schools; there are plenty of religious  leaders who have a problem with them too.” Even though the majority of these ‘leaders’ represent a miniscule number of people. Still, it adds enough credence to their message for the media to take notice and sow a few more seeds of doubt as to whether faith schools should be allowed to carry on as they are despite their continuing success and popularity.

The Accord Coalition might want to dump admission policies based on belief and collective worship, but they do at least admit that Religious Education serves a useful purpose. Apparently not all of their public supporters agree with this, though. The Philosopher AC Grayling, who has been referred to as the ‘Fifth Horseman of New Atheism’, may have his face on the Accord website, but he has written a stinging attack in this week’s Times Education Supplement on not just faith schools but the entire subject of RE, which he sees as being no more than a sad and pathetic branch of philosophy.

AC Grayling is a clever man who has held a number of high-profile positions and now appears to want to take over the role of arch-antagonist-towards-all-things-religious from Richard Dawkins. He has plenty of form when it comes to this matter, having described religious indoctrination of small children as “child abuse” in the past. In his five-page feature that will be sitting on the coffee tables of staff rooms across the country right now, he continues the dogged bombardment, setting out to undermine Religious Education legitimacy as a subject within the school curriculum. He writes:

Suppose that instead of RE, schools taught the history of humanity’s attempts to make sense of itself and the world around it. In this system, it would be seen that religions are just part – and truth be told, a rather primitive part – of a much larger and more complex adventure of thought…

Placing religion in this much larger context dramatically changes how it is viewed by students. How would our schoolchildren react to the Christian story, for example, if they knew that it was an iteration of commonplace tales abounding in Egyptian and Greek mythology? One could show how every feature of the Christian story is lifted from earlier mythologies.

Moreover, the “answers to the deepest questions in life” offered by religions are often very bad ones, and it needs to be made clear that much better answers exist in the secular traditions of thought.

RE should be replaced with a far more general history of ideas, in which the various beliefs of the world are merely one strand. Knowing something about religions is good; it is often remarked that otherwise one could not make sense of paintings in a public art gallery, and this is true.

Religion is organised superstition, and setting an example for children to respect superstition is wrong… The stories are silly, the promises vague and the concepts largely undefined.

Grayling is right when he says that philosophy should be an established part of children’s education, but his view of religion as a feeble-minded strand of it exposes how little he understands about the nature of religion. If all religions were like Buddhism, which requires no belief in the supernatural, then he might have a point. But reducing religious faith to a set of ideas and fairytales that can be fully explained away at a purely rational level completely misunderstands what it means to believe in the existence of a God or gods. Grayling reveals that his atheistic mind is unable to make sense of this and it leaves him little option but to dismiss it all, lock, stock and barrel. To him, religion is little more than an outdated curiosity.

Perhaps AC Grayling could do with a gentle reminder that, as an atheist, he is in a small minority in this country and even more so globally. Atheists make up 2 per cent of the world’s population and the non-religious another 16 per cent. That leaves 5.9 billion supposedly deluded people he and his comrades in atheism have to convince that religion is of no real significance.

It would be an interesting experiment to put Grayling’s proposals into practice and allow him to do the teaching. Would he be able to teach all aspects of philosophy and a neutered version of religion in a way that genuinely allowed pupils to make up their own minds entirely without prejudice? Given his inability to give the New Testament account of Jesus’ life a fair hearing, would he be able to find a way to impart to his students what he has been unable to do himself?

Grayling, in his own disgust, appears to have missed a basic truth. As soon as you begin to teach children, you start to impart your values and understanding of the world on to them. Encouraging independent thinking is not the same as passing on knowledge, and this is always under the control of the teacher. If the whole concept of God is a load of rubbish, then Grayling may potentially have a point about child abuse, but if God is real in any form, then surely Grayling’s staunch atheistic approach is actually the one that is potentially more abusive to children.

We are painfully aware in these times that religious belief can lead to suffering, division and bloodshed. But it is also capable of producing far more good than evil. Deliberately reducing a generation’s already-slender grasp of religion and belief is not going to do anything to increase community cohesion in our multicultural society or make sense of the role of religion in the politics and conflicts we are witnessing daily further afield. Ignorance is certainly not bliss in this case.

Religious Education is far from perfect as it stands. The Church of England revealed last week that more than half of its primary schools are delivering poor quality RE lessons which give pupils little more than a “superficial” grounding in the subject. This serious failure to deliver acceptable levels of understanding is not going to be fixed by abandonment. Instead, there needs to be a move away from the observation and study of religious paraphernalia to the understanding of core theologies and the impact of faith on the lives of individuals and groups.

AC Grayling’s views on this matter are both blinkered and dangerously ignorant. Those who oversee the delivery of Religious Education would do well to look elsewhere for wise advice on the subject’s future.

Chairman’s September Pastoral Letter

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

 

 

To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friendsBP Eliud

from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya

and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council

September 23, 2014

‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who if of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the heart of the contrite.’ Isaiah 57:15

My dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in the precious name of our Risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

Here in Nairobi, we have just concluded our Divine Conference. We have enjoyed four wonderful days of fellowship, worship and teaching as hundreds of people have been drawn daily to hear God’s Word at All Saints Cathedral. We have come to the Lord in repentance and we have experienced the truth of the great promise we have in Isaiah 57:15, that the God who dwells in the splendour of holiness also dwells with the contrite and lowly. God has indeed drawn near. He has saved the lost, brought back the wanderers, lifted our burdens and given us a new joy in Jesus the Son of God, in whom all His promises are fulfilled.

Many of us were also present last October for GAFCON 2013 and I have encouraged people to think of the Divine Conference as  ‘Continuing GAFCON’. In the Nairobi Commitment and Communiqué, we stated our intention to become much more than a big conference every five years.  As long as the Great Commission is at risk through the promotion and toleration of false teaching and immorality in the Anglican Communion, we must have ‘Continuing GAFCON’.

Our Divine Conference reflected the partnership we have with other Confessing Anglicans as we welcomed international guests and speakers from other nations, including Uganda, the UK and the Anglican Church of North America. My brother Archbishop Stanley Ntagali reminded us that true unity comes when Christ is at the centre of the Church and urged us to see that ‘GAFCON is a revival movement to revive the Anglican Communion’.

We were also delighted to receive greetings from Archbishop Foley Beach through his special representative, Canon Alan Hawkins, and a mission team of church planters from the Anglican Church of North America’s Greenhouse Movement came alongside parishes in Nairobi and joined us for the conference. All Saints Cathedral and Greenhouse have now committed to reciprocal mission visits and I rejoice to see the GAFCON vision for faithful global mission being put into practice in this very practical way between the great cities of Nairobi and Chicago. I hope this will be the first of many similar initiatives.

In the twenty first century, it is becoming clear that we must see the once missionary nations of the West as now themselves mission fields. The fact that the United Kingdom came close to breaking up last week is a symptom of the disintegration that follows when a once common Christian faith has been lost and I want to appreciate the work of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) who are sharing with other mission minded Anglicans in England as they meet for the ‘ReNew’ Conference this week.

AMiE is authorised by the GAFCON Primates to work within and, where necessary, outside the structures of the Church of England as a missionary society. In my message of greeting to the conference I said ‘We understand the challenges that faithful Anglicans face in England.  At GAFCON 2013 here in Nairobi we recognised that the focus of the struggle for biblical faithfulness has shifted from North America to England. The temptation to dilute the message of Jesus Christ and compromise with the surrounding culture is strong, so it is vital for the gospel in England, and also for the world, that you continue as a beacon to the revealed truth of the Scriptures. The salvation of people from hell is at stake. So nothing could be more important.’

As Chairman of GAFCON I give thanks to God as I see brothers an sisters in Christ round the world standing firm and partnering together to make known the good news of our Lord Jesus in season and out of season.

Finally, let us not forget those who are suffering. The terrible barbarities of ISIL have focussed our minds on the evil that has befallen many believers in the Middle East and those facing similar threats in other parts of the world.  Let us be steadfast in prayer for them and trust God that the ancient Churches of their lands will, by God’s grace and power, rise from the ashes. And may their suffering strengthen our resolve to be faithful soldiers and servants of Jesus Christ wherever we are, knowing that nothing can separate is from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Posted September 25, 2014

THE CALIPHATE AND THE CALIPH

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund

When ISIS changed its name in June from “the Islamic State ofIraq and the Levant” (ISIL, or the Arabic acronym ISIS) to simply “the Islamic State”, this was a shift of enormous theological and eschatological significance.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The Islamic State, or Caliphate (khilafa in Arabic) as the group has proclaimed, denotes the early Islamic state under Muhammad’s first successors, the Caliphs. It is considered by Muslims to be the God-ordained ideal form of Islamic government under which a pious head of state rules the whole Muslim community (umma) under Islamic law (sharia). This is viewed as the golden age of Islam, to be re-created whenever possible. The term is sometimes extended to all Islamic states with caliphs at their heads (the last being the Ottoman Caliphate abolished in 1924). It symbolises the unity of the Muslim umma, even when this does not match reality. All contemporary Islamist movements are dedicated to restoring the Caliphate.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, declared himself Caliph on 29 June 2014, claiming therefore to be the leader of all Muslims on earth. He says he is a sayyid, that is, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, thereby fulfilling one of the original Sunni requirements for the Caliph to be from Muhammad’s tribe.

RELIGIOUS MOTIVES AND THEOLOGICAL JUSTIFICATION

Much of Islamic theology is derived not from the Quran but from traditions (hadith) recording the words and deeds of Muhammad (his sunna), which are seen as a pattern for all Muslims to follow.

A helpful letter by British imams and Muslim leaders appeared in The Independentnewspaper yesterday, in which they urged ISIS to release British aid worker Alan Henning and expressed horror and revulsion at the recent murder of another British aid worker, David Haines. They wrote that “the senseless kidnapping, murder and now the despicable threats to Mr Henning at the hands of so-called “Muslims” cannot be justified anywhere in the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions).” The Islamic State, however, can quote selected Islamic source texts from the Quran and hadith or sunna to justify what it is doing.

As we have seen, the Islamic State’s main immediate purpose is to establish a radical Islamist Sunni Caliphate across the Middle East. After that its stated targets are Rome and Spain. Rome is apparently used as a symbolic centre of Christianity, while Spain has been “unfinished business” for Muslims ever since they finally lost control of it in the late 15th century. As one hadith says:

 Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.’ And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah. – Sahih al-Bukhari (Vol. 1, Book 8, No. 387)

Another hadith states:

the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah (Sahih Muslim Book 1, No. 30)

The Islamic State takes these hadiths as meaning that it should wage jihad until everyone on earth makes the Islamic declaration of faith, the shahada: “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.

The Islamic State has gained worldwide attention for carrying out executions, amputations, crucifixions and lashings in public squares. The bodies are left on display for several days as a warning. The group finds a theological justification for these acts in the Quran. For example:

The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land. – Q 5:36 (A. Yusuf Ali’s translation)

On Friday 18 July 2014 the Islamic State gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay the jizya tax (the traditional Islamic tax payable by non-Muslims, indicative of their subjugated and inferior status in an Islamic state), leave Mosul, or be killed. To concentrate the Christians’ minds, Islamic State fighters sprayed the Arabic letter “Noon” (ﻦ) on the believers’ homes to mark them out as targets. This is the first letter of the Arabic word for “Nazarenes” i.e. Christians.

On their way out of the town 1,500 families of Mosul’s Christian population were robbed at the Islamic State checkpoints. This also followed a Quranic command.

Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth (even if they are) of the People of the Book [i.e. Jews and Christians] until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued. – Q: 9:29 (A. Yusuf Ali’s translation)

THE END TIMES AND THE FINAL BATTLE

The Islamic State’s flag is black with the shahada written upon it in white. The colour of the flag is in line with an End-Times prophecy in Islam. One hadith says:

 When you see that black flags have appeared from Khorasan then join them. Because Allah’s Khalifa Mahdi will be among them. (Musnad Ahmed, vol. 8, No. 2427)

The hadiths speak of a black-flagged army that will rise out of Khorasan (which is modern-day Afghanistan) and that will be led by the Mahdi (an Islamic End-Times messiah figure) who brings with him the restored Caliphate. By using the black banner and proclaiming a Caliphate, the Islamic State is making itself the fulfilment of these End-Times prophecies.

Another important eschatological point that frames the deeds of the Islamic State is the belief among some Muslims that the Islamic Age will only last for a little over 1,400 years. Some Islamic scholars have calculated 1,500 years or even 1,900 years, but for those who use the 1,400+ figure, the end of the world is likely to take place very soon. According to the Islamic Calendar (a lunar calendar of 354 days per year, starting in 622 AD), it is already the year 1435. One hadith says:

People will gather around the Mahdi in the fourteen hundreds, (Risalat Khuraj Al-Mahdi, p. 108)

and another:

Count two or three decades after 1400 Hijri. At that time, the Mahdi emerges…(Qalda bin Zayd bin Baraka, Asma Masalik Li Ayyam Al-Mahdi: Malik Li Kul Al-Dunya Bi Amr Allah El-Malik, p. 216)

The Islamic State sees itself in this light, playing a key role in the End Times in fulfilment of many prophecies, when all the enemies of Islam (particularly Christians) will be defeated. Even the name of its magazine, Dabiq, reflects this. The Islamic State is preparing for what it calls “the war of the cross”, an apocalyptic confrontation with the West. The group’s priority is to defend the “Prince of the Faithful”, their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Its fighters are reported to be in a state of euphoria because they are finally going to get the opportunity to fight “the alliance of tyrants”. Their main aim is to “remain steadfast as long as possible” in the face of what they recognise to be superior Western weaponry. They are aiming for a “strategy of resistance that the Crusaders have no capacity for,” apparently meaning that simply to survive the assault of an alliance of 40 states without being utterly defeated would indicate the action of a divine power on their side. “If we survive, Muslims around the world will understand that the continuous stories and hadiths prophesied of us as masters of the end time Caliphate according to the prophetic methodology,” skyped one Syria-based Islamic State fighter.

WORLDWIDE SUPPORT

ISIS militants
ISIS militants

According to Al-Jazeera, the Islamic State now has over 50,000 fighters in Syria, with a further 30,000 in Iraq. Many other militant Islamist organisations around the world have pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State. Boko Haram, the Islamist group in West Africa, has voiced its support for the Islamic State and its Caliph. When Boko Haram took control of the Nigerian town of Gwoza its leader declared, “Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brothers in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate.” It has been noted that Boko Haram is working with the Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab to unite with the Islamic State.

The terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah, which has cells in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, has also expressed its support for the Islamic State and its operations in Syria and Iraq. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which is believed to operate from Algeria through Mauritania, MaliNigerLibya and Chad, has pledged allegiance to the group, and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which operates in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, has also declared its support. Philippines separatist Islamist groups in Mindanao, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf, have also pledged their loyalty to the Islamic State.

There have also been reports of Chinese Uyghur Muslim women and girls being used as sex slaves / wives of the Islamic State combatants. It is estimated that there may be as many as 100 Chinese Muslims fighting for the Islamic State.

Islamic State supporters in Spain have launched a social media campaign aimed at generating support for the group across the Iberian Peninsula. The campaign shows historic Muslim palaces across Spain with slogans such as “Long Live the Islamic State” and a video in which a jihadist says:

I say to the entire world as a warning: We are living under the Islamic flag, the Islamic caliphate. We will die for it until we liberate those occupied lands, from Jakarta to Andalusia. And I declare: Spain is the land of our forefathers and we are going to take it back with the power of Allah.

Support for the Islamic State is also spreading in the Balkans, which until the 19th century was still under Islamic control. Forty militants were arrested in Kosovo in August on suspicion of maintaining close links with the Islamic State. It has been noted that Albanian is one of the primary languages into which the Islamic State proclamations are translated, the others being English, French, Russian and Turkish.

In the UK leaflets have been handed out in London calling British Muslims to join the Islamic State and support its Caliph. The flag of the Islamic State has also been flown in at least one London council estate. In Vienna Islamic State supporters have started selling fan merchandise online. There have also been suggestions that the Islamic State may attack the United States of America from Mexico by crossing over the border.

EXPECTING CHRIST TO FIGHT ON THEIR SIDE

It is likely that all the Islamic State’s members and supporters around the world are united in seeing the group as the fulfilment of countless prophecies in the Quran and hadith. They will be anticipating that the whole complex drama of Islamic eschatology will shortly be played out, including the return of Isa (the Quranic word for Jesus). Although fighting against “Crusaders” and the cross, i.e. against Christians, is a key aspect of the Islamic State’s ideology, its militants will expect Christ to fight on their side. For Islam predicts that when Isa returns it will be as a Muslim, who will destroy all signs of Christianity and convert all Christians to Islam, so that there will be no more crosses or payment of jiyza. A hadith says:

Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: By Him in Whose hand is my life, the son of Mary (may peace be upon him) will soon descend among you as a just judge. He will break crosses, kill swine and abolish Jizya and the wealth will pour forth to such an extent that no one will accept it. (Sahih Muslim, Book 1, No. 287)

The reference to killing pigs (swine) in this hadith is often taken to be a reference to killing pagans. Other hadiths refer to the killing of Jews, who will be betrayed into the hand of Muslims by every inanimate object behind which they may have hidden. For example:

Abdullah b. ‘Umar reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him)  said: The Jews will fight against you and you will gain victory over them  until the stone would say: Muslim, here is a Jew behind me; kill him. (Sahih Muslim Book 41, No. 6984)

Having converted all the Christians and killed the Jews and pagans, there will be no-one but Muslims left in the world. The Islamic State expects to play a major part in accomplishing this End Times vision.

How to Lead a Comeback Church

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

 

Phil Ashey

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

Martin Luther once wrote, “For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.” Luther wrote this to emphasize the challenges and obstacles God’s people will face just because of who we are in Christ, and what we are trying to do– to advance God’s Kingdom at the expense of his adversary, Satan. It’s nothing less than the truth Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12-13 that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places….”

 

I find that Biblical perspective both illuminating and convicting when I think of the struggles and conflicts we face in the Anglican Communion, the Anglican realignment in North America, our dioceses and local churches– and in the cauldron of leading change in the local church. Wherever we are serving and whatever we are seeing, it is helpful to avoid personalizing the conflict. It is essential to recognize the spiritual dimension in change, challenge and conflict.  It’s true that if the church is God’s ordained instrument to save the world, it must be the target of the adversary, the devil, at every level. With that recognition, we realize that we are not going to win this conflict alone by workshops, conferences, sharing best practices and strategic planning. These are helpful tools to be sure, and they put practical “feet” on the things we need to do to turn our churches around.  But if the conflict is spiritual we need to use the spiritual means God has given us to overcome the wiles of the adversary (see 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5).

 

Prayer is at the top of that list. I remember a point in my own ministry when I was leading a large staff with a large budget in a resource sized congregation and multiplying programs like rabbits. One day, I inadvertently scheduled five simultaneous meetings for the next Saturday morning and needed to attend each one. This quintuple-booking was a wakeup call that I was burning out and though I was doing many good things, it was not God’s best. More than one Saint and father has recognized that the real enemy of God’s best is what seems good– not what is obviously evil or sinful. That epiphany drove me to my knees in recognition of my own burnout and desperate need for The Lord. I prayed, I sought spiritual direction.  I went on retreat. I practiced some great Christian disciplines like self-examination, journaling and confession.

 

I also heard The Lord say to me in that wonderful, still, small voice I have come to recognize following the storm, “Have you tried ministry the way that I did it?”  ”You mean, LORD, in a small group, with 12 men, as you did– discipling them on the road?  People will think I am dedicating too much of my time to too few people! People will think it’s a waste of resources in this big church.”  Jesus said, “try it and see if anyone has ever improved on it.”  So I tried it.  It became a turning point in my life and ministry as I gathered, invested intensive time with and discipled 10 men– most of whom went on to become clergy and lay leaders within what is now the Anglican Church in North America. Now they are multiplying ministry as they lead churches and disciple others.

 

lifecycle-3

Participants in AAC church revitalization workshops learn about the life-cycle of a Church and how to “jump the curve” that leads to the death of ministry.

So it’s refreshing to read that, according to “Comeback Churches: How 300 churches turned around and yours can too” (Stetzer and Dodson, 2007), prayer is one of the top three decisive factors in turning churches around from recline, decline and death to new life, new vision, new ministry and new growth.  And the same is true for their leaders.  The other two factors are evangelism and preaching Jesus Christ. This comes from Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson’s interview of over 300 churches and leaders all across North America.

 

I find that remarkably encouraging, don’t you?  Because it’s exactly what we find in the New Testament, in the Bible, in Acts 2:42-47:  ”They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… and the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  This is the formula that defeated Satan, and continues to defeat him, from the birth of the church at Pentecost to this present day.

 

This morning I’m writing from Seattle where I am with the bishop and people of the Diocese of Cascadia for their annual Synod.  The American Anglican Council has been invited to share with them how to build congregations up in evangelism, discipleship and mission. Like every diocese I’ve encountered across North America, they are facing spiritual challenges, changes and conflict as they seek to be “comeback churches” reaching people with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.  We have lots of resources and experience to share– but the most important resource is the Bible and the lessons it teaches us about the power of prayer, Jesus-focused preaching and evangelism that comes out of people who are becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

 

And at the end of the day, aren’t those among the three decisive reasons each of us has become a part of this great, global movement of Anglicans returning to our Biblical roots and apostolic experience?  Please pray for the work of the American Anglican Council today, and the Diocese of Cascadia, as we return to those roots.

 

Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey
Chief Executive Officer
American Anglican Council