Archive for January, 2017

Caught between the bishops and the deep blue sea

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

ACSAby Gavin Mitchell, Anglican Mainstream SA

The Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa, now known as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), is one of the provinces of the Anglican Communion that claims to walk the tightrope of the ‘middle path’ in the doctrinal and moral wars of the modern Communion.

ACSA believes that its hero status, from the leading role that it had in the anti-apartheid movement, gives it the new role in championing the indabas (discussions) which some see as essential to the future of Anglicanism. In reality, this means pressure from many bishops and lay leaders for ‘continuous conversations’ until sufficient minds are changed (for a Synod vote) to the new pan-sexual morality. If they can achieve this while convincing people in the pews that nothing is really changing and after all ‘this is what Jesus would want us to do’, all the better.

Evangelicals marginalised

Where does this leave the Bible-believing evangelicals in ACSA? Evangelicals have never really held sway in this province, where history is rooted in the many Anglo Catholic missions of the later 19th century, and which has developed into a very strong hierarchy-centered church. This has suited many in the pews, conferring the status of an Episcopal church over many non-episcopal denominations. Thus there is little demand for sound doctrine as long as the bishop wears a mitre and the liturgy is impressive. All these developments have marginalised the views of evangelicals.

Pockets of churches and clergy around the province identify as evangelical, many with a charismatic strand, with perhaps one or two soundly evangelical bishops. This makes their position precarious. In a number of recent incidents, with or without canonical procedure, evangelical clergy have lost licenses and had to leave the province and, in one case that I am aware of, the country. These have all centred around doctrinal issues and the moral teachings of the church: asking the ‘wrong’ questions can result in severe censure. A few churches like the strong St John’s Wynberg are not really part of the province and can continue in safety. They have not, however, taken the lead which their constitutional independence would make easy.

Upholding the ancient faith

Since the mid-1990s, concerned evangelicals have met hoping to ensure a space in this province, resulting in a small fellowship and support for clergy and churches that come under pressure. While the province has always claimed that the canons remain unchanged and that there are no sanctioned services for blessing same sex relationships, reports have been verified of such blessings and many questions remain about the sexuality of some clergy. The difficulty for evangelicals has been the lack of any declared battleground – such as the Robinson affair in the USA.

Proposed (though never actually accepted) guidelines for pastoral care of people in same sex relationships, were published in 2011. The care suggested was little short of sanctioning sin. This provided the first opportunity for a clear response, which was made by Anglican Mainstream SA. The issue simmered until the Synod of 2016, when a motion was brought by the Diocese of Saldanha Bay for blessing same sex relationships and ordaining men and women in such relationships. This motion was defeated by a very narrow margin in the House of Clergy. For evangelicals this has been cold comfort, since the Archbishop wept publicly when the result was announced and promised that the matter would return in 2019. He was devastated by the hurt which the vote caused to people in same sex relationships, but made no mention that the ancient faith had been upheld, albeit narrowly.

Decisive action?

Is the crisis only delayed or has the time perhaps come for decisive action? This small constituency feels isolated and unable to speak the gospel clearly. Sin cannot be named. Can there be a call to repentance in this atmosphere? Many believe that bold clear alliances should be formed, across diocesan boundaries and with the orthodox bishops that are on the bench. The examples of AMiE and GafconUK have been encouraging as to what could be done, while others hope for some lifeline from ACNA, or from an orthodox Anglican province in Africa.

The situation of evangelicals in this province is precarious. Please pray for guidance. We are open to all help, advice and support from our brothers and sisters in the wider Communion, where perhaps the evangelical wing has a safer and stronger position.

Reof the Reformation: Apologising for all the wrong things!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

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The Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a joint statement last week apologising for its “lasting damage”. Wilberforce Director Dr. Joe Boot highlights that their apology is unclear, focuses on the wrong things, and even suggests a “policy of closer union with Rome”. “In this 500th anniversaryof the Reformation, because the love of Christ constrains us, let us pray for the courage and conviction of our forebears to stand for truth so that the gospel may be advanced”, he says.
During the past few days many Christians have been participating in January’s annual season of prayer for Christian unity – an important theme for intercession among all believers. In view of this, last week the two most senior bishops of the Church of England (the Archbishops of Canterbury and York), a Protestant and Reformed denomination, took the opportunity in a joint statement to highlight that 2017 also marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. So far, so good!

To refresh your memory, on October 31st 1517, Martin Luther nailed up his 95 Theses at Wittenberg, protesting many of the practices of the Church of Rome. This brave act precipitated a massive and unforeseen cultural and political upheaval, whilst launching a critical renewal of gospel-centred church life across the continent. The subsequent schism in the church led to the translation of Scripture into the vernacular of the peoples of Europe, massive developments in literacy, education, printing, industry, economic prosperity and political liberty. But above all it heralded the repristination of scriptural faith.

In Britain this spiritual awakening assisted the multifarious emergence of the Church of England and forged the Puritan, evangelical movement through disciples of John Calvin like John Knox, eventually shaping the British Empire and Commonwealth with the liberties familiar to us in the English-speaking world – not to mention the Puritan founding of the United States. Moreover, the Reformation laid the groundwork for the greatest mass-movement of Christian missionary activity across the globe that has ever been seen in history, a movement that continues to this day! It seems clear, then, that there is much here to thank God for and celebrate. It is surely right to mark the historic 500th anniversary of this God-ordained elucidation and expansion of the faith.

The immediate context of the Reformation is obviously important for honest efforts at seeking to understand it. Because the late medieval church had brokered for itself a stronghold over princes and emperors in Europe – employing the implicit dogmas of the universal episcopacy of the Pope, the supremacy of the Church’s spiritual authority over secular authority, and the infusion of grace by the seven sacraments – to challenge it as a corrupted purveyor of a distorted gospel in the manner of the reformers was not merely a ‘theological’ act (in a narrow sense) but an inescapably ‘political’ act. The nature of the relationship that the institutional church sustained to political authority made this unavoidably the case. Rome held to the idea of a universal sovereign church institution, with the right to anoint and depose emperors. As far as Rome was concerned, there was one ‘Corpus Christianum’ with a spiritual and temporal head (Pope and Emperor). The idea of national sovereign states and independent churches had hardly cropped up at all in recent centuries. To reform the church was therefore to reform socio-cultural and political life.

Consequently, as with any great socio-political transition, the period of the Reformation was a ‘mixed bag.’ It presaged a tumultuous period attended by some deeply disturbing persecutions and conflicts between emerging Protestant and Catholic states and peoples. Monasteries and abbeys were seized, and in the conflicts many people lost their lives as states and nations lined up on different sides of the politico-religious divide. Yet we must also be mindful that we do not have a ‘God’s eye view’ on history. Many of the motivations and attitudes that prevailed five hundred years ago are not easily accessible to us, and as a consequence the events of the period following the early moments of Reformation are not easy for us to adequately understand.

Of course this great historical upheaval is long since over. No Christian that I know, Protestant or Roman Catholic, is in any danger of slipping into the violent errors or turpitude of some of those caught up in the cultural turmoil of sixteenth-century Europe. Granted, we Christians still have abiding and significant differences regarding certain aspects of the faith and how it is to be expressed, but today, amidst the modern protracted assault of secularism and paganism against the Christian faith, more unites the orthodox Protestant and Roman Christian than divides us as we face a belligerent, common foe. There are many matters upon which we are able to come together in common cause (i.e. beginning and end of life issues, marriage and human sexuality, religious freedom and liberties etc.), whilst respectfully maintaining important distinctives and engaging in robust debate about them.

So despite the admittedly complex and at times tragic fallout of the Reformation period, one would think that the leaders of the largest Protestant church family in the world, with its wonderful heritage in Reformed faith – global Anglicanism – would be highlighting and celebrating the great blessings of the Reformation at this opportune moment. Indeed the 500th anniversary of this biblical reform movement is surely a golden opportunity to encourage the Protestant church to remain true to the Lord Jesus, to Scripture, to justification by faith in Christ alone, by His grace alone, and to the earnest preaching of a biblical gospel in a time of great ecclesiastical and cultural apostasy. After all, the Reformation sought as its core objective to ground authority in matters of the faith upon the testimony of Holy Scripture exclusively.

Joe quote

But alas, the leading Protestant bishop’s pulpit once again makes an uncertain sound. [1] Whilst rather diffidently acknowledging a few blessings to which the Reformation “contributed” (like the availability of the Bible to people in their own language and the preaching of a gospel of grace), the admonishment proceeding from York and Canterbury is most decidedly at pains to highlight an allegedly “lasting damage” the Reformation has apparently done to the unity of the church; supposedly in “defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love.” And yet no mention is made at all about the evils and corruption against which Luther, Calvin and other reformers vigorously protested for the sake of the gospel and Christ’s church. This purposeful obfuscation leads the bishops to their primary exhortation to Protestant Christians, “repent of our part in perpetuating divisions.”

In addition, the heart of the message of the Reformation is simplistically and radically diluted by the Most Reverend Primates Welby and Sentamu to a call for “simple trust in Jesus Christ” – a phrase that seems to take on a wearisome vapidity when issuing from the evasive and compromised corridors of Canterbury. Such a theological reductionism seems as empty of meaningful content as the endless and pointless apologies we have heard from Archbishop Welby for everything from offending women campaigners in the church because of resistance to women’s ordination, to the church’s alleged persecution of sexual revolutionaries – the LGBTQ community! Now, the message for this season to the church on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is again ‘repent.’ In short, apologise and ask yourself the ‘hard questions’ about how this ‘repentance’ needs to be worked out amidst the church’s present divisions.

Exactly what this call to repent means in this context is not at all clear, and the ambiguity of their statement is surely deliberate. Are we being called upon to ‘repent’ of the actions of our centuries-dead forefathers – as if such a thing were not the height of arrogant presumption, or even possible and permissible from a scriptural standpoint (Ezek. 18:20)? Are we to repent of the existence of the Church of England and other Protestant denominations? This would be odd indeed, since that would mean repenting of the continuing office Archbishop Welby holds for Queen Elizabeth II, the political freedoms the Reformation brought us, and the spread of the gospel throughout the world via numerous Protestant church communities, families and presbyteries?

Are Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and others being blamed by the Primates for causing the disunity of the church? It seems to be implied but not quite asserted. Or are the Archbishops declaring the magisterial reformers’ actions sinful, and if so, is continuing to uphold reformational principles actually perpetuating division and thereby something to be repented of? One could easily get that impression.

Nonetheless it seems highly unlikely that these clerical admonitions to ‘repent’ really herald a policy of closer union with Rome. If that were the case then the senior bishops have thoroughly undermined their own cause. By ordaining women priests and bishops, being uncritical of contraception and shamefully hand-waving regarding abortion, not to mention taking an increasingly affirming stance toward homosexual behavior, the Church of England has buried any hope of stronger ties between Canterbury and Rome. In fact, clergy and laity within the Church of England have fled to Roman Catholicism on account of these very issues. Seen from this perspective it is the actions of Welby and his predecessors that have been greatly destructive of Christian unity in the truth.

Rather, in light of the current and highly acrimonious conflict in global Anglicanism regarding human sexuality, it seems far more plausible to read this joint statement as an opportunistic and abstruse lecture. In the course of such a lecture, evangelicals in the communion (the faithful children of the Reformation) might be called upon to repent of the ‘divisions’ they are causing today (like their forefathers) by resisting the corruption of the church and her teaching – in this instance by the powerful LGBTQ lobbyists, both lay and clerical. But, the actual meaning remains shrouded in the obscurity of equivocality and plausible deniability!

In these instances what is not being candidly communicated is often most revealing. What is clear, then, is that the statement offers no ringing endorsement of the Reformation; no affirmation of the great Solas that recovered, enriched and then enlivened the church’s gospel fidelity and missionary zeal in the centuries that followed; no celebration of the freedom of conscience, speech and religion that tracked in its wake. There is no overt celebration of the life of faith that thrives in the children of the Reformation today, and there is no call to cultivate the same reformational spirit of standing on the truth of the Word of God in the face of power and opposition – a message that Christians so desperately need to hear in this generation.

The unity that Christ envisions for his church in his high priestly prayer in John 17 is a unity in the truth, “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Nowhere does Scripture teach that the ideal condition of Christ’s church is an institutional ‘unity’ under one global episcopacy. The calling is for unity in the truth. The whole chapter of John 17 concerns our preservation in the truth of the Word of God as his people.

As children of the Reformation we must never forget that what the reformers were doing was ‘pro-testing.’ That is, they were testifying for something, not simply against something – that is what the word Protestant means. They were testifying for the catholicity of the faith in terms of the gospel of Christ as revealed in his Word. They were not leaving the church; they were standing up for her with courage and conviction. They were obeying the injunction of St. Jude to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

In this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, because the love of Christ constrains us, let us pray for the courage and conviction of our forebears to stand for truth so that the gospel may be advanced and his people may be one in their witness. Let the bishops apologise all they will – here we stand, we can do no other!

Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil Bishop Orders Priests to Recant and Return to IEAB  

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
Dissident Priests vow to fight homosexual marriage
Church is failing in the fight against poverty, while focusing too much on homosexuality debate, they say

By David W. Virtue, DD
www.virtueonline.org
January 30, 2017

The ultra-liberal Bishop of the Diocese of Recife, João Câncio Peixoto Filho, has ordered a group of dissident clerics (male and female), who signed a petition known as the IEAB Alliance of Anglican Communities, to withdraw their names, remove their site from the social networks and make individual documents reaffirming their vows of ordination and an affirmation to remain in the IEAB, regardless of the resolutions taken by the next Synod of the Brazilian Anglican Episcopal Church.

He has given them ten days to return to the Church.

(For the record this action should not be confused with the Anglican Church-Diocese of Recife under its Bishop Miguel Uchoa, which broke away from the IEAB over homosexual practice deemed incompatible with Lambeth resolution 1:10 and is now under the GAFCON/FCA as of March 2016.)

The seven clergy ask how the call to dialogue over the canon for Christian marriage and the acceptance of homosexual marriage which they oppose, is being interpreted as “rebellion” and “schismatic” and that their movement should be “crushed.”

“There are many laymen and laypeople who are not accustomed to militancy, the elderly and the elderly are far from the new media, or who do not feel safe because they fear expressing themselves; But it is they who built our IEAB; Their voice, being less exposed or heard, has less value? The vertical imposition of a decision, instead of shepherding, will never be the way for us to walk as one herd.”

The clergy say that the Alliance Anglican Communities of AECB is not a divisive, separatist or schismatic movement. “On the contrary, this alliance intends to be a space for a serious, mature and accurate reflection of relevant themes that have significant theological implications for our communities and members, from the understanding of clergymen, clergy, laity and laity who share a common view on different themes, but always with caution and pastoral sense, in the spirit of diversity and comprehensibility that have historically characterized Anglicanism.”

They argue that the resolution on homosexuality Lambeth 1998, categorically referred to this sexual practice as “incompatible with Scripture “. To impose homosexuality threatens the integrity of Anglicanism itself, undermining it from within.

The clergy blasted the bishop and asked him, “Why do you not devote the same enthusiasm to spreading the ministries of evangelization and service in our parishes? Why do we not reflect on the legal reorganization of our Diocese and the reaffirmation of the rites? Why not commit ourselves to the reconstruction and reactivation of our seminary and the discovery of new vocations? Why not react with the same energy against the great problems that threaten our city, such as indiscriminate violence against women? Why is not there a coordinated reaction against absolute poverty in our backlands and on the outskirts of cities with the same force as the focus of extending the marriage rite to homosexual couples, jeopardizing the greater value of Church unity.

Why do not we react with the same outrage against the constant and systematic destruction of our ecosystem, which compromises life for future generations?”

The group cited Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said “the Church is failing in the fight against poverty, getting involved too much in the homosexuality debate.”

They said the sensus fidelium in the IEAB should not be in the direction of approving the rite of marriage to homosexual couples, because the “sensus” is found in the absolute majority of the Anglican provinces and in almost all the Christian Churches in the world.

The clergy cited Bishop Sebastião Armando Gameleira Soares, who wrote in a letter to the House of IEAB Bishops in December saying, “the current sensus fidelium in the World Communion should be a reference for each member of the same communion, since it is not just a “federation” of Churches, but a “communion,” which is more biblically and theologically deeper and with far more demanding links than mere institutional organization. Therefore we understand that is why at the last Primates’ Meeting, they criticized the Church in the United States for its unilateral decision to extend the rite of marriage to homosexual couples”.

The Alliance members questioned what the biblical, theological, legal and/or institutional foundation that supported a violation of the fundamental and institutional rights and guarantees of clerics and lay people? “What sacrilegiousness did such clergymen and laypeople practice to the point of being banished from expressing their reasons and counter-arguments on any subject? What institutional threat represents this communion of ideas and thoughts represented by the Covenant, based on Scripture, faith, reason and Anglican doctrine? What capital sin do we commit to the institution of an Anglican version of the Inquisition, in order to restrict our rights of thought and action?”

They said that the practice of freedom of speech and “tolerance” which the Anglican Church proclaims as a goal to be pursued is at the heart of one’s Anglican principles and priestly vows.

“The Alliance of Anglican Communities of the IEAB is not an attack, but rather a sign of deep trust in our Theology, our Diocese and our Province, which we do not intend to separate or combat.”
The clerics also said that the Alliance of Anglican Communities of the IEAB was not a clandestine and spurious association, a religious sect or a secret organization with vows and secret codes that cannot be revealed or deny the basic doctrines of the Christian and Anglican faith or oppose Sacred vows signed by us clerics at the time of our ordination, even though such a conduct would not only damage our Church’s tradition, theology and norms, but above all violate our consciences and our commitments to the vocation and faith we embrace. “Our votes have never been broken.”

They criticized the bishop’s arbitrary and authoritarian determination to demand of his clergy what is not even required of children is astonishing. The explicit determination in the ordinance clearly confronts the freedom of conscience and thought of the clergy, as well as underestimating the capacity for discernment and intellection of each and every one.
It is true that we are still far from being what Christ and Christianity ask for, but would we blindly accept any determination of the Synod and remain in the IEAB even though the conclave’s decisions may have defiled Brazilian law, the tradition of the church, our faith, our consciences or our Christian principles?

Rev. Sergio Andrade
Revda. Giselle Gomes
Rev. Felix Filho
Rev. Ron Wescley
Rev. Elias Leoncio
Rev. Jorge de Oliveira Junior
Minister lay Elinaldo Almeida

Is schism a sin when the justification and motive is the maintenance of holiness?

Friday, January 20th, 2017
Church of England

Archbishops call on Queen to repent of being Supreme Governor of the Church of England

They might have mentioned justification by faith, since that sola was (and remains) fairly central to Protestant theology and its understanding of salvation, but we’ll assume it’s parked in “amongst much else”. Rather than rejoice in the light from old times, Justin Welby and John Sentamu seek to highlight a different righteousness:

Many will also remember the lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love. Those turbulent years saw Christian people pitted against each other, such that many suffered persecution and even death at the hands of others claiming to know the same Lord…

Remembering the Reformation should also lead us to repent of our part in perpetuating divisions…

We can quibble over the propitiatory efficacy of vicarious apologies for the sins and crimes of our forefathers. Some people are gladdened by the contrition expressed by today’s leaders for centuries-old grievances; others think it absurd to apologise, or even presume to apologise, for the thoughts, attitudes and actions of those for which we are by no means responsible, and quite possibly can’t even begin to understand. Can a 21st-century archbishop really exhort his postmodern flock to repent of the sins of his episcopal predecessors and their modern and medieval herds and legions? Is there any worth in the RSPCA apologising to animal rights activists for the domestication of the horse? Can Welby and Sentamu pass judgment on the conscience of Cranmer? Their gesture may have political purpose and the benefits of compassion, but can it ever be soteriological? Can we really repent of the divisions and schisms initiated and caused by others in their own complex and convoluted times and situations?

We can park that question there, because the archbishops aren’t quite doing that. Or are they? Are they blaming Luther for the lasting damage he caused to Church unity, and asking his Protestant progeny to repent of being Lutheran and Protestant? Are they rebuking him for defying the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love? Are they saying that it was a all just a sad and tragic mistake?

It isn’t entirely clear, except that the archbishops apportion no blame at all to the corruption and evil in the medieval Church against which Luther was driven to protest. Might not Protestants protest that the Church that called itself Catholic had ceased to be in any sense holy, catholic, compassionate or salvific? And so, in accordance with Scripture, coming out of her was necessary for the welfare of the body and the salvation of the soul: “..the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith” (Article XIX, to which the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York subscribe).

It was not for nothing that the Reformers hurled ‘Antichrist’ at the Pope. Yes, there were fractious European nationalisms and feudal competitions, not to mention contemporaneous economic pressures, urgent scholarly enquiries and restless social movements. The Reformation was a melting pot of convergent murky forces and contiguous muddled minds. But (and it’s quite an important ‘But’) the religious element of the Reformation was its essence, and it became one of the greatest movements of the Spirit of God since the Apostles walked the earth. If the schism was not of God, it was certainly greatly used by God and much good came of it.

Much bad, too, of course. Even our righteous deeds are filthy rags.

But times have changed: bad popes and corrupt princes have come and gone, and all those Protestant lenses tinged with the patina of bias or bigotry continue to blur our vision only if we refuse to see face to face. For Archbishop Justin and Archbishop John, in the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, it is clearly time to move away from rigid distinctives and to focus on what unites us:

Remembering the Reformation should bring us back to what the Reformers wanted to put at the centre of every person’s life, which is a simple trust in Jesus Christ. This year is a time to renew our faith in Christ and in Him alone.

That’s an interesting sola, and one from which no child of the Reformation would demur. But what ecumenical rapprochment, let alone unity, can or should there be with those who insist it is Christ and..? At what point does Christ and become a false gospel? At what point to does Christ and become ‘another Jesus‘ (2Cor 11:4)?

That isn’t to say there is no common ground and there are no common causes by which and for which Christian denominations may not gather for fellowship or unite to oppose. The doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the bodily Resurrection and the literal Second Coming are all sufficient to determine the truth of faith. There really is no controversialist urge to maintain an ecclesial party line just to buttress history and tradition. Where we are concerned with the gospel and salvation, we are concerned with loving Christ.

The Queen loves Christ. It is not possible to listen to her Christmas Day broadcasts and not be left with an overwhelming sense of her humility, adoration and devotion to the Son of God; almost a yearning to unburden her shoulders and lay down her crown at the feet of the King of Kings, and place her government upon his shoulder. It is plain also that she loves the nation state of which she is Head, and the church of which she is Supreme Governor. The United Kingdom and the Church of England are separate and distinct: the United Kingdom is separate from the Continent of Europe; the Church of England distinct from the Church of Rome. In her very offices of church and state, the Queen embodies political and historic division, and she perpetuates ecclesial and theological schism. Why should she repent of this, as her archbishops exhort, when it is her sovereign duty and divine vocation to lead, uphold and sustain both? Consider her Coronation Oath:

Archbishop: Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

Queen: All this I promise to do.

Are Dr Welby and Dr Sentamu asking the Queen to repent of her sacred oath? They appear to be, for their statement is concerned not merely with the unholy burnings, hangings, drawings and quarterings of the past, but with those who perpetuate division into the present, which the Queen is sworn to do. And she is sworn to do this because the Reformation in England was an act of the State of which she is now Head; a parliamentary transaction sustained by the consent of the people over whom she reigns. How can the Queen repent of her part in perpetuating division without handing over her church to the Bishop of Rome (who, constitutionally, hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England [Art. XXXVII])?

The word the archbishops chose was ‘repent’, which is rather distinct from political apology, personal sorrow or corporate contrition. It is a concept which has its origins in the Old Testament, where the creature first turned his back on the Creator. It is the recognition of the true state of affairs, sorrow for it and a turning back to God with a resolve to do His will. To repent is to turn away from disobedience; to engage in the rebellion no more. If one is to repent sincerely of the sin of adultery, one must not only be sorry for the sin, but promise also to cease living in the adulterous relationship. How may one repent of a thing and yet carry on doing it wilfully and purposely?

The only way, surely, is to be persuaded either that it is not such a bad thing, or to believe that the punishment will not be so austere as to justify cessation of the indulgence. And so.. cursory confession.. trivial penance.. no real repentance.

Is schism a sin when the justification and motive is the maintenance of holiness? Ecumenism may be the reconciling work of the Holy Spirit in renewing the life of the corporate councils of the Church, but are individual Christians really called to repent of their part in sustaining their churches as vehicles of truth, morality and the salvific vision? Is communion with God and man dependent on a simplistic view of good and right, such that all division becomes grave sin which must be repented of?

Surely the Queen’s personal faith trusts in the promises of God by which she is united to Christ. Surely her witness to this living faith moves beyond historical knowledge and ecclesial structures: she believes Christ was born for her personally, and has accomplished for her the work of salvation. She is sure and certain of this: her trust is in Christ, not some assent to an abstract set of doctrines. She needs nothing and no-one else. In her humility and truth she walks, talks and eats with Christians of all denominations, radiating grace, life and salvation. She infuses the Church of England and inspires the Church in England. Pray, what does she have to repent of?

“Christians to embrace all religions rather than spread the gospel in any way”

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Second Cathedral Embroiled In Muslim Prayer Controversy

Gloucester Cathedral has provoked controversy by hosting an event featuring the Islamic call to prayer, as well as Buddhist chanting, Rasta drumming, and a Pagan rock band in an event just days after a Scottish cathedral was criticised by hosting Muslim prayers denying the divinity of Jesus Christ.

The ‘Faith’ exhibition by artist Russell Haine, held inside the Christian monument, features 37 portraits of individuals from different belief systems, including Zoroastrians, Druids, Witches, Pagans, and Baha’i, as well as all the major world religions.

The Islamic call to prayer which states that Muhammed is Allah’s prophet, a teaching incompatible with Christianity was performed at the launch of the exhibition, by local Imam Hassan of Masjid-e-Noor Mosque.

Reverend Ruth Fitter, vicar of St. Paul and Stephen Church, who helped arrange the event, said the call was “absolutely beautiful” and encouraged Christians to embrace all religions rather than spread the gospel in any way.

“We live in a world that is becoming more and more polarised by people who claim to have the truth. No one has any proof of God – that’s what faith is about,” she told Gloucestershire Live.

“I happen to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who came to dwell with me and save me from my sins. That doesn’t mean I expect others to change their faith or believe wholeheartedly.

“It does mean, however, that I hope they will offer me the same respect as I seek to offer them. And let’s face it there is a significant shortage of love between people in our world. We need all that we can get.

“My parish is made up of such an eclectic diverse population and is, therefore, a beautiful image of God’s creation in my view. Every single person is made in his image and loved by Him.

“At the end of the day, we really make God very small if we think he cares about us fighting the corner for Him. Don’t you think He can do that for himself?”

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However, when a video of the Islamic call to prayer was shared on the Cathedral’s Facebook page, not everyone agreed with the vicar, and the post was deleted after it attracted a number of negative comments.

One post, written by Isabel Farmer, said: “It’s wonderful to be multicultural, but faith is set apart. We are never to worship other Gods in a house built for our saviour.

“My ancestors built this cathedral and to allow a practising Muslim pray to another God is insanely naive. What did you think it would do? Encourage them to convert?

“This is why England is on the down slide. Culture and Race have nothing to do with the first commandment as God made all races and he cares about souls only.

“Stand firm Christians. Bring people to the faith by telling them the truth. God is the same yesterday, today, forever, so stop with the multicultural appeal and open a history book and a Bible for yourself.”

The controversy follows an incident at Glasgow Cathedral last week when a verse from Quran was read out denying the divinity of Christ during a so-called “multi-faith” event.

The Queen’s chaplain spoke out against the event, insisting the cathedral should apologise to Christians “suffering dreadful persecution at the hands of Muslims”.

Does God Call Me to Belong to a Local Church where the Word of God is not being Taught?

Friday, January 20th, 2017

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“Does God call me to belong to a local church where the Word of God is not being taught?” That was one of the questions I have often been asked. I hope to have an occasional series looking at these kind of questions.

To some the answer  to this particular question is so obvious that they think even the question is daft.   But life is not as simple as all that.  Imagine that you live in a small village or town where there is a local church.   It’s not heretical in the sense that its official creed is orthodox and the minister or pastor does not really preach against it.  You want to be a wsearch-2itness.  You want to be able to invite your neighbours, your friends and your family who live in the area to the church.  You want to participate in community life, help with the parent and toddlers, be part of the churches social witness.   If you go to an out-of-town church then all that seems to be negated.  Surely it is better to hang in and try to be salt and light within the church?  As a friend once argued, the local church is a great boat to fish in.

I have enormous sympathy with that point of view and furthermore I don’t want to be a kind of sectarian or denominational Christian who is only going to go to a church where every t is crossed and every i dotted to my taste.  I once preached in a church in the US, where I met a couple who told me that had travelled over 1500 miles to come to it because it was ‘the only church in the US where the gospel was faithfully preached’!  They were wrong.     I am not here talking about denominations, liturgical styles or secondary issues.    Even though I am not a Baptist if there was a local Baptist church where the Word of God was faithfully preached then I would not particularly care if it was Baptist.   However what about the situation where that is not the case?

Let me give some concrete examples.   One woman queried whether she should continue to go to a local church which didn’t preach the gospel, or one further away which did. She was asked, ‘could you take your friends and family to the local church and be confident they would hear the Good News?”. Her answer was ‘absolutely not’. To which the response was then ‘thats a no-brainer’. If you can’t invite your friends and family to the church because you are not sure if they will hear the gospel, then what are you doing in that church?

Another friend in Edinburgh told me that he was going to go to his nearest church, a large Church of Scotland, ‘to be a witness’.  With a membership of 1,000 and an attendance of 200 it was traditionally ‘liberal’.  So he went and was given permission to have an evening service/bible study to which about 20 people came.  After three years he left Edinburgh and moved into a small town in the middle of Scotland.  I asked him which church he was going to and he responded the local small Baptist church.  I was a bit cheeky and asked him why he did not go to the much larger C of S where he could be a witness.  His response said it all – he was exhausted after three years of doing that and needed his own soul to be fed.

I have great admiration for those who stick it out in roles as Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, elders and members in congregations where they struggle with the lack of teaching and the general spiritual climate….however I think the two stories above and many others perhaps illustrate why there is time for a rethink.

Let me put it this way – what is the great need in Scotland?  What is the number one priority for the Church?  Surely it is that there is a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord. People don’t know the Bible.  They don’t know the Word of Life.  They don’t know the Word that brings them Christ.  They don’t primarily need playgroups, art festivals and foodbanks.  Please note I am not decrying these things – they should spring from the preaching and believing of the Word, but they should not replace it.    Here is the search-1crucial thing – just going to church is not a witness in the eyes of the general public.  The Church is to be the witness.   The Church is not the Good News.  The Church is to believe and proclaim the Good News.   Likewise the church is not a boat to fish in but rather a boat to fish from.  If the boat is sinking then why would we bring people on board?

Furthermore it’s not just that we need to bring the good news as a church, we also need to be fed ourselves.  One of the reasons our witness is so weak is that we ourselves have become so spiritually anemic.   If are not fed we will starve.  And how does the Lord feed us.  Yes – we can get internet sermons, podcasts, books and we can read the Word of God for ourselves.     But we normally need more.   And I don’t believe that ‘more’ is provided by a couple of special conferences in the year.  We dont’ get filled up at that event no matter how special it is.  We need the regular manna of the Word of God being proclaimed on the Lords Day as we gather together with his people and collectively listen, confess, pray and respond.    To me one of the greatest tricks of the devil has been to convince the Lords people that we don’t need the Lord’s Day and the preaching, praise and prayers of the Church.  A consumerist individualistic mindset coupled with a shallow theology and to be frank, a lack of passion and love for Christ, means that, whilst we are happy to seek for and claim extraordinary miracles, we despise and neglect the ordinary means of grace.

When I was a child I remembering travelling 45 minutes each way (twice!) to go to church. What I loved was getting fish and chips on the way home, but one thing that taught me was that my parents really thought that church was important.  Not just church in general but the kind of church we went to.  Of course that can be because of tradition, or a narrow-minded legalism , or just because we can’t get on with anyone in any of the local churches – and I am not defending or advocating that.

This is not about denigrating other churches or some kind of inter-church competition – God forbid! Its far more serious than that. It’s not about denominations or styles. It’s about the Gospel. Its about Jesus Christ. Its about hearing the Word of God.  If the local Church of Scotland preached the Word of God and were free to do so without the interference of Presbytery or Assembly I would go to them as well.  And if the local Free Church was though on paper orthodox, but in reality asleep/dead, I would not go to that. We need  to be very careful before we claim that a situation is dead, or indeed that we don’t ignore the reality if it is!

Let me put it another way.  We can travel many miles to get to our favourite football team, to hear our favourite band, or eat at our favourite restaurant.  Why then do we insist that the only church we can go to is the one within five minutes of our house?     Yes I would go to the local restaurant if it served good food – but if it served poison or rubbish I wouldn’t support it out of some misplaced loyalty, I would go where I could get decent food.  Do I love my stomach more than my soul?    If a restaurant announced that it search-3believed in serving the best food and then when I went in found that the advert was not met by the reality, I wouldn’t go there either.   Far too often I find that churches use the term ‘evangelical’ and yet they feed their people a minimalist diet which does not spiritually connect or satisfy.  It’s not the label, its what’s inside that counts.

It is necessary to offer one more caveat.   I am not talking here about people who church hop according to personal taste or who are so spiritually immature that they are looking for the perfect church (Spurgeon’s rejoinder to one woman who was living the Met to look for the perfect church, still stands “when you find it, madam, don’t join it you will only spoil it!).  I’m not talking about those who want to go to the latest ‘in’ church or the one that is aimed for their particular demographic/age/style.  That is the curse of the modern church – we have created an apartheid church culture where churches aim for particular demographic/social/ethnic groups rather than seeking to be the Church of Christ proclaiming the Word of Christ to all.   I am just simply answering the question whether we should stay in a church where the Word of God is not proclaimed.   To me it is clear that we should not.

I don’t say this because I want people to come to St Peters from other churches or from all around Dundee and beyond.  It gives me great sorrow that people have to come to us on an occasional Sunday because their local church does not feed them the Word of God. I have no desire to see St Peters being built up at the expense of other biblical churches. We want to see the whole Church of Christ grow. But where the Word of God is not being proclaimed can it really be said that there is a church of Christ?  My aim is to plant biblical churches all over the place…in every community.

Maybe its time for believers to just leave the liberal, traditional, legalistic or eccentric churches and get on with being the Church of Jesus Christ, the pillar and foundation of the truth, wherever we are.  If a local Church does not proclaim the Gospel in all its fullness then not only will it die, it deserves to die.  Let the dead bury their dead.  Let us get on with proclaiming the Word of Life to all without fear nor favour.Lets forget the traditional models that we are clinging on to, or the modernist unbiblical concepts of church.  Lets not give in and become ‘churchless Christians’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one!).    Lets avoid spiritual prostitution, even if we call it ‘witness’.  Lets be bold, follow Christ and be his beautiful bride!

Isaiah 8:20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

ACC Secretary General’s Blast at GAFCON Clarifies Difference

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

ACC Secretary General’s Blast at GAFCON Clarifies Difference
Did Josiah Idowu-Fearon do orthodox Anglicans a favor?

COMMENTARY

By David W. Virtue, DD
www.virtueonline.org

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office Dr. Josiah Idowu-Fearon may have inadvertently done the Anglican Communion a huge favor; by denouncing GAFCON in no uncertain terms, he has clarified forever that two communions now informally exist side by side and that no bridge can be built that will connect them.

His rip against former Sydney archbishop Peter Jensen and GAFCON general secretary was not only a betrayal of a friendship, but a repudiation of ‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints.’

Fearon not only betrayed what GAFCON stands for, but also what his one-time boss, Nigerian archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the chairman of GAFCON, stands for. Fearon tore down walls of faith and friendship that will not soon be healed, and he did it to appease his western paymasters who foot the bill for the Anglican Communion office in London.

He sold the faith down the pansexual river to satisfy U.S. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who will undoubtedly reward him for his faithfulness with a continued money flow into ACO coffers. Thirty pieces of silver with inflation is now $1.2 million.

Fearon has been at odds with not one but two archbishops of Nigeria. He first came up against Archbishop Peter Akinola when he was Archbishop of Kaduna and now, more importantly, against Archbishop Nicholas Okoh. His rant at Anglican churches in Africa as “despotic” and “ineffective”, is the final straw. He further burned bridges by saying that provinces in Africa are the cause of “disagreement even hatred” in the Communion.

He said much of the hatred came from the Southern hemisphere and pointed the finger at Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen and then went on to say GAFCON is not a movement of the Holy Spirit because it is divisive. Really.

If you believe it is possible to commit ecclesiastical and spiritual suicide in one interview, then Fearon proved it could be done. Not even his predecessors — Kenneth Kearon and John L. Peterson — who were liberal to the core, were that outspoken. They preferred to work more clandestinely, behind the scenes, to undermine the Global South. Kearon had the bad habit of taking away cell phones from the African archbishops so they could not communicate with each other when they met once at Kanuga.

The ACC leader took the gloves off and ripped GAFCON and Archbishop Okoh in no uncertain terms.

He did tell one truth however, he said he said there was “no way” of finding agreement. “It’s not possible,” he said. The alternative to finding a way to live together was to allow separate “splinter groups”.

Except it is the Western pansexualists who have caused the “splinter”, not GAFCON or the Global South. By its actions in ordaining a known sodomite to the episcopacy, it shattered the communion’s unity forever, and TEC’s refusal to repent makes it totally impossible for GAFCON ever to do business again with both TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. In time, it might well be the Church of England.

Fearon said he had come across “hatred, vilification and character assassination” by African leaders. Really. Then what about the vilification by Episcopal Church leaders like bishops John Chane, John Shelby Spong, Frank Griswold and Jefferts-Schori in their repeated scornfulness of Africans as being “primitive” in their theology. These Western Anglican leaders loathed and despised African, and any other Global South leaders who refused to get on board with their theological worldview that they propound and force feed with money on vulnerable African leaders. And they do this even though their own provinces are slowly withering and dying and will, within two decades, no longer be around.

It is the height of hubris and stupidity for Fearon to hitch his star to the West, and one can only imagine he is doing it for the money and his own pension because he knows the truth as he has been on both sides of the equation

Fearon said that not all African Christians were against same sex. “We need to hear from those who subscribe to same sex and those who don’t. Not everybody is against same sex.”

The truth is not even the most liberal Anglican province in Africa — the Anglican Church of Southern Africa — has come out in favor of same-sex blessings. On Sept. 30, 2016, they rejected a proposal to allow “prayers of blessing” to be offered for people in same-sex civil unions under South African law. The vote was taken by the church’s Provincial Synod, its top legislative body, on a proposal by the Diocese of Saldanha Bay, which stretches from the northern suburbs of Cape Town to the Namibian border.

There is no doubt in my mind that some African leaders have been bought by TEC money to roll over, but they are a small minority and they do not speak for the vast majority of Anglicans in Africa who are solid on marriage and homosexual practice.

That has not stopped Fearon wanting his cake and eating it. He said he was wholly committed to Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference which sets a traditional line on sexuality. He described it as a “benchmark” of Anglican teaching. He said the next Lambeth Conference will take place in 2020.

“I am conservative – I’ve always been conservative”, he opined, and said he wanted to address the issue from the perspective of Jesus Himself; “What is the Lord doing in his Church?”

In light of his present statements, that is a flat out lie. The Law of Non-Contradiction makes it impossible for him to say this and hold contrary views at the same time. A first year philosophy student could tear this apart.

Fearon ripped GAFCON of being a breakaway movement, even though it bills itself as a global family of authentic Anglicans standing together to retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion.

There is nothing remotely “breakaway” about GAFCON. Nothing. It is a movement to retain the faith against its theological and cultural despisers like Curry and now, Fearon himself.

Is it any wonder that GAFCON chairman, Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, warned in his recent Advent pastoral letter that the Anglican Church is at risk of “sleepwalking into fatal compromise.” That’s strong language and Fearon should heed it.

Doubling down on this, Okoh says that GAFCON is among several groups supporting the orthodox Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) as well as GAFCON — UK. Now that should be a wake-up call both to Fearon and ABC Justin Welby.

Idowu-Fearon is playing fictional games with himself when he says he a “messenger” and “ambassador”. He’s neither. What he has done is clarify, perhaps forever, that two communions now exist side by side; one will grow and the other over time will shrink and die. TEC, the ACoC and C of E all have less than one million practicing members. That’s no bigger than some dioceses in Nigeria.

Archbishop Okoh has said he has no intention of pulling out of the Anglican Communion, and the reason is now obvious — he doesn’t have to. He and GAFCON own the communion. It is theirs. More than 80 percent of Anglicans are orthodox in faith and morals and most either belong to GAFCON or are sympathetic to it. There is no reason for them to leave when their patience will ultimately prevail. When GAFCON gathers in Jerusalem in 2018, it will be hard for Welby to ignore the elephant standing inside Lambeth Palace gates waiting to shoot him a trunk full of water. Hot ecclesiastical air it won’t be.

The bigger question now is what the Archbishop of Canterbury will do. We wait with bated breath.