Archive for May, 2010

ATLANTA: AAC Leader says Anglican Communion ship is Leaderless

Monday, May 31st, 2010

by David C. Anderson
May 28th, 2010

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

We note the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion, and are most interested to see how and when Section 4 will actually be implemented. We will write more about the implications of this letter after having had some time for reflection. At first reading, it appears that in an hour when the Anglican Church globally needs sound, clear and orthodox leadership at the top, the captain of the Anglican Communion seems to be below decks preoccupied with lesser things, and neither the wheel nor the reef charts are being minded.

As we approach this Sunday we are reminded of one of the key beliefs – and mysteries – of the Christian faith: the Holy Trinity.

In the United States, this is also Memorial Day weekend. It commemorates the U.S. men and women who have given their life in service while in the military. It began as a way to honor Union soldiers of the American War Between the States, but was expanded after the first and second world wars and is now inclusive of all those who have given their life in military service.

It is also a time when we can honor those still alive who have served their country, and us, by serving in the military. I travel using the Atlanta airport as my home base, and there is an active group called the USO which welcomes troops in uniform, either leaving or returning from overseas deployment. To see 20 to 40 military people in uniform, carrying their heavy rucksacks, suddenly greeted by a crowd cheering and clapping, and to watch the expressions of happiness come across the faces of the uniformed travelers is very heart-warming.

Moving from the military battle front to the Anglican church battles, I was recently sent some comments by one of The Episcopal Church’s very liberal retired bishops. Bishop Walter Righter, the retired bishop of Iowa, quoted a portion of an article by Fr. James Stockton of Austin, Texas, published in the April 2010 issue of the Covenant Journal, where the priest opines, “It is, I think, a given that the proposed ‘Anglican Covenant’ is the fruit of a bad tree. It derives from the envy of a small number of emerging world primates and the homophobia of some influential North Americans.” Bishop Righter quotes this and agrees, saying, “That, I think, must be acknowledged by persons who are engaged in serious attempts at reconciliation.”

The difficulties in the Anglican Communion are compounded by the belief of liberal revisionists such as Bishop Righter and others that the driving force behind the “emerging world” Primates is envy, or as others have even alleged, ignorance, and additionally that the orthodox Anglican leaders in North America are homophobic. The inference is that if we could just get over our alleged homophobia, then things could be negotiated. Bishop Righter scores his point by emphasizing that Fr. Stockton’s assertions have to be acknowledged as truths before anyone can engage in serious work on reconciliation. Clearly it would be equally easy for many of us on the receiving end of Righter’s comment to respond with an assessment of Righter’s moral, ethical, or theological motives and state of being. To do so, however, would be equally unhelpful. I am more and more aware as I grow older that it is very difficult to accurately determine a person’s true motive or state of being, so I will simply observe that I think Bishop Righter is very wrong, and his assertions impact his own credibility.

The “emerging world” Primates, and in particular the Primates of Africa, are, with perhaps only a few exceptions, deeply committed to the faith brought forward to us by the apostles and saints, and brought to sub-Saharan Africa and the far East in many cases by missionaries from Europe only a few centuries ago.

Christianity has been in Africa since the earliest days in Egypt, Ethiopia, and North Africa, and our Western European Christianity owes much to early church leaders from that region. Zeal for the Gospel as received is very much the motive and driving force among most of the Primates in Africa. The driving force in North America that pushes the orthodox Anglicans forward is a similar zeal for the Gospel, and a desire to have the structure of the church uphold and honor Gospel teaching, and to be free of imposed restraints on the propagation of this Gospel. A theologically orthodox Anglican body is needed to be able to correctly define sin and virtue based on Holy Scripture, frame the catechesis such that the true faith is passed on to others and the Gospel accurately brought to those still in spiritual darkness, and see that transformational conversion is not only hoped for but realized.

May God have mercy on our leadership, where they are orthodox, give them vision, strength and courage, where they are in error, correct them and bring them to repentance and restoration, and in all things continue to establish the Church in fidelity to the truth, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Faithfully in Christ,


The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson,
Sr. President and CEO, American Anglican Council

Archbishop of Canterbury Wrist Slaps Episcopal Church over Homosexual Consecration

Monday, May 31st, 2010

PB Jefferts Schori dodges ecclesiastical bullet in Williams’ Pentecost Message

News analysis

By David Virtue
May 30, 2010

In a move designed to sting but not seriously hurt The Episcopal Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a mild wrist slap against the sexual innovations of TEC’s leadership while insisting that border crossing is of equal concern for the Anglican Communion’s global primates.

Following the consecration of the Rev. Mary Glasspool, an avowed lesbian priest, to TEC’s episcopacy last week in Los Angeles, the ABC, in his Pentecost Day message, urged a diminished role for the Episcopal Church.

In the five-page statement, the archbishop stated provinces, such as the Episcopal Church or national and regional churches that have broken agreed-upon “promises”, such as homosexual ordinations and border crossing, should step down from participating in interfaith dialogues.

A Zen Buddhist Approach to the Anglican Crisis

Monday, May 31st, 2010

by Brian McGregor-Foxcroft
Special to Virtueonline
May 30, 2010

This is a cautionary tale. It’s one that’s been told many times before, but rarely, if ever, listened to. It might even be appropriate to begin it with: Once Upon A Time, for there is an element of fairly tale about it, except that it lacks a happy ending. It’s a tale that is applicable on both sides of the North American border, and is now playing itself out in the Anglican Communion in the most bizarre ways imaginable.

My story begins with an Anglican Diocese located in the upper left hand corner of the North American map, in place called British Columbia. To be more precise, the actual location is on Vancouver Island, in the Diocese of British Columbia.

This is not just any old Anglican Diocese; this is a diocese with some pedigree in Anglican circles, as a visit to its lovely gothic-style cathedral in Victoria demonstrates. There one will find direct connections to Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, London in its furnishings and commemorative plaques.

The mother church in England showed great interest in the founding of this diocese, and a great deal of money and moral support from the old country was used to help build it. Indeed, the diocese, which includes the whole of Vancouver Island, and some of the smaller outlying islands, boasts some of the loveliest little parish churches in Canada. Tragically, some of these beautiful little churches are facing closure due to diminishing numbers.

The diocese was established in 1859, and it initially encompassed the whole of the geographical province of British Columba. Its first bishop was the godly George Hills, a graduate of Durham University. In 1859, with funding chiefly provided by the Baroness Angela Burdett-Couttes, the consecration of Hills as bishop of the new diocese took place in Westminster Abbey.

One of the co-consecrating bishops on that day was Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, the third son of the famous Evangelical social reformer William Wilberforce. Hills was a dedicated and ambitious missionary bishop, with a single-minded ambition to build his new diocese, and only later, when his wife’s health began to fail, did he retire and return to England. But by then he had built a strong and lasting legacy for the Anglican folk of Canada’s western most settlement.

An early newspaper account of Hills and his work observed: “He could create enthusiasm in his workers and draw out their strong affection. This was partly due to his fine presence, his magnificent voice and his rare power of conversation, but chiefly to his wonderful energy, his great gifts of organization, and his unwavering faith that if a work was God’s He would make it grow in His own time” ( I draw everyone’s attention to the last part of that statement, for it is in stark contrast to what follows.

After Hills the diocese enjoyed a number of able and gifted leaders, and had in its service some very orthodox and gifted clergy. Hills had set a pattern of high churchmanship in the diocese which was still fairly strident into the early 1980s. There was, of course, a liberal element in the diocese, but it was not strong enough in its leadership to have an impact.

The change, when it did come, came not from inside the diocese, but was imposed from the national level, with the successive elections of more and more liberal primates, starting with Ted Scott in the 1970s down to the present day.

These new men were bent on promoting a more progressive agenda, and the ordination of women was at the top of their list. Voices of protest in the Diocese of British Columbia were very loud, and indeed, the diocese initially led the charge against such innovations. Unfortunately, as the old guard slid into retirement, the new men, led by more liberally progressive bishops and clergy took control of the diocese’s agenda.

From that point onward the conservatives were forced to fight a rear-guard action, which finally fizzled out with the quite recent resignations of the diocese’s more conservative clergy; some of whom took their entire congregations with them.

The Diocese of British Columbia is shrinking at an exponential rate. It currently lists its membership on paper at about 13,000 people, in about 55 parishes (less now, since the announced closure of approximately one quarter to one third of them).

The diocese has been bleeding members for the last couple of decades, and this has become a flood with several of its more conservative and financially solvent parishes defecting to other Anglican-style jurisdictions. Money issues are pressing in upon the diocese, which has forced the bishop to cut services, parishes, and staff levels.

Two fixtures which fell victim to the cuts were the British Columbia Diocesan Post, which lost its full-time paid editor, and the Reverend Dr. Gary Nicolosi, the special Congregational Development Officer that the diocese hired to help it find solutions to its woes. One would think that with such stark and unmistakable handwriting on the wall, the bishop, clergy, and people would be down on their knees petitioning God to sort them out and save them.

But no, this has not been the response. Instead, what found its way to my mailbox was one of the most incredible issues of the British Columbia Diocesan Post I have ever seen. I did a double take, rubbed my eyes, looked at the headlines again, read the items, and still couldn’t believe what I was reading.

The diocese is in crisis mode, and the national Anglican Church is collapsing under the weight of its own liberal agenda, and what does the May, 2010 issue of the British Columbia Diocesan Post dish up? On the front page the headline reads: “Weary of wondering about Diocesan Transformation? Reach for some poetry to transform your weariness.”

This is followed by several pages of poetry, written, presumably, by members of the diocese. But that was just the appetizer. The main dish came in the form of Dr. Gary Nicolosi’s article entitled, “A Case for Open Communion,” in which he argues for a more open and inclusive use of the communion table, and in support of which he invokes the ghost of the colonial pastor, Solomon Stoddard (1643-1729), who was the creator and initiator of the Halfway Covenant (1662), and was the grandfather of the great colonial theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards.

For those not familiar with colonial church history, Stoddard’s Halfway Covenant was created in response to declining church membership in New England. In those days one had to be a baptized member of the church, and be able to give a personal account of salvation to receive Holy Communion.

But the descendents of early New England Puritan settlers seemed less inclined to be baptized or sign on to creedal formulae, and many felt that the profession of conversion was an unnecessary thing; therefore, they were not permitted full membership in the church. The open observance of sincere religion was waning, therefore a more liberal and open approach had to be taken to bolster church attendance.

The Halfway Covenant was proposed as a solution. But the more conservative and orthodox Congregational ministers, like Jonathan Edwards and the New Light movement, to which he belonged, were against such innovations; for such moves, they felt, left the church vulnerable to impure doctrines and practices.

To make a long story short, the Halfway Covenant was initiated by many New England Congregationalists, and this led to a theological war, and a church split, which left the Unitarians in a position to capitalize on and win the day. Unitarian theologians point to the initiation of Halfway Covenant in the colonial church as the defining moment in their denomination’s history.

For it freed them from creeds, confessions, and the rigid orthopraxy of orthodox Christianity. Under the current Unitarian Universalist system any and all persons, regardless of whether they believe or disbelieve are welcome to full membership in the church. Who dares to say that history doesn’t repeat itself (Ecclesiastes 1:9)?

Where is God in all of this? Where is the simple and honest faith of a Bishop Hills, who believed that, ” … if a work was God’s He would make it grow in His own time?” What we are left with is not prayer, repentance, and faithful waiting upon the Lord, but poetry and an open communion table, where everyone can gather together, Zen-like, in a huge circle and contemplate their belly buttons. It looks to me like full blown Unitarianism has finally arrived in the Diocese of British Columbia.

—–Brian McGregor-Foxcroft is a layman, a graduate of Regent College, Vancouver, and a former member of the Diocese of British Columbia.

Anglican Primate urges Nigeria to withdraw from the UN

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Sunday Trust magazine Sunday sermon
SUNDAY, 30 MAY 2010 06:23

The Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, last Thursday called on Nigeria to quit the UN, over the latter’s support for homosexuality.

Okoh said that it was regrettable that the UN was currently using human rights bodies and non-governmental organisations to ensure the entrenchment of homosexuality globally. The cleric made the call in Lagos at a reception held for him by the Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos.

“If the UN has made itself an agent for the propagation of homosexuality globally, then it is time for us (Nigeria) to pull out of the organisation.

“This is because the UN has no right to determine for or impose moral standards on us (Nigeria). Let us stand firm and refuse to be bought over by the West,’’ he said.

Okoh promised to continue the fight against homosexuality and urge the Anglican Church to support him.

The primate reminded adherents that God had put them in this part of the world in an age where the world was continuing its rebellion against God.

He warned that the world’s rebellion against God, which started in the Garden of Eden, would culminate in the appearance of the anti-Christ and the eventual end of this age.

The cleric also called on the Lagos Ecclesiastical Province to support his administration, saying without grassroots contributions, his administration could not achieve its planned reforms.

In his welcome speech, the Archbishop, Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos, Most Rev. Ephraim Ademowo, said the choice of Okoh as the Primate of the Anglican Church was divinely ordained. He described him as a fearless preacher, astute administrator and a charismatic leader which the Anglican Church in Nigeria needed at this time.

The archbishop called on the primate to support the work Lagos Anglicans was doing at the Ajayi Crowther University, by inviting international donor agencies to support its development. (NAN)

What does Rowan’s letter mean in actual terms?

Monday, May 31st, 2010

My conclusion : Gladiators 1 Christians 0

Mark Harris has an excellent (and extremely prompt!) answer to this question:

Here is a list of those on the Anglican Communion Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. Those highlighted in red [David: and italicised] would be reduced to consultant status (whatever that means) under the moratoria rule the Archbishop speaks of in his letter.

The Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, Primate of Burundi and Chair of Commission
The Rt Revd Dr Georges Titre Ande, Congo
The Ven. Professor Dapo Asaju, Nigeria
The Revd Canon Professor Paul Avis, England
The Rt Revd Philip D Baji, Tanzania
The Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut, World Council of Churches
The Rt Revd Howard Gregory, West Indies
The Revd Dr Katherine Grieb, Episcopal Church (USA)
The Revd Canon Clement Janda, Sudan
The Revd Sarah Rowland Jones, Southern Africa
The Revd Dr Edison Muhindo Kalengyo, Uganda
The Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
The Revd Canon Dr Charlotte Methuen, England
The Revd Dr Simon Oliver, Wales/England
The Rt Revd Professor Stephen Pickard, Australia
Dr Andrew Pierce, Ireland
The Revd Canon Dr Michael Nai Chiu Poon, South East Asia
The Revd Dr Jeremiah Guen Seok Yang, Korea
The Rt Revd Tito Zavala, Bishop of Chile, Southern Cone
The Revd Joanna Udal, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs The Revd Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Director for Unity, Faith and Order
Mr Neil Vigers, of the Anglican Communion Office.

I am not sure of the status of SE Asia and Tanzania. I am sure this will be further corrected.

So, in a nutshell, TEC would be asked to stand down one member and the orthodox would lose 3. Somehow I don’t think this is going to please the Global South. Furthermore, I find it very hard to believe that Rowan did not know this before writing the letter – you draw the obvious conclusion from that.

Doctrine Matters

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Chapter 2: Doctrine and the Bible

by Donald Allister

read chapter 1

Living apart: a sad state of affairs

The Bible is important, relevant, alive, and worth spending time on; doctrine is unimportant, irrelevant, dead, and worth avoiding: that’s how many Christians think or feel. In recent years there has been a return to the Bible right across the churches, but not a return to doctrine. The Bible is seen as having something to say; doctrine is not.

Given the way that doctrine has often been presented, such an attitude is hardly surprising. It is normal for books on doctrine to be full of long words and difficult concepts which don’t seem to come from scripture or to have any practical use. Doctrine has become the preserve of academics. It is something that those training for the ministry have to study, but it doesn’t seem to help them with their Bible study or make them better ministers.

I believe that doctrine does matter; it is important, relevant, alive, and worth spending time on. And in the same breath I want to say that doctrine and the Bible belong together in the life and mission of the church. Neither should exist without the other, and if either doctrine or the Bible is taken on its own there will be problems. In fact, it is because doctrine and the Bible have been divorced (or at least separated) that we have so many problems in seeing the relevance of doctrine and in understanding what the Bible has to say.

Doctrine is an essential tool, given by God, to help us read, understand, explain, proclaim and obey the Bible. Without it we can do none of those things properly. Without it the Bible becomes just a collection of inspired stories and sayings, instead of being a unified and integrated whole, one book, the word of God.

That’s why doctrine is important, and why I’m excited about it. That’s why I want to see a healthy marriage between doctrine and the Bible. As long as the separation continues the children (that is churches, Christians, and all they are meant to be and do) will continue to suffer harm. Most will gravitate to one parent, some to the other, and all will lose out.

But isn’t this a big claim for man-made doctrine, setting it alongside God’s word as an equal, or at least a partner? And isn’t it running the Bible down, to say that God’s word needs human doctrine to explain it to us? Am I not really denying a great Reformation principle, that scripture alone contains all we need for salvation? Those are important questions. I hope that by the end of this chapter you’ll be convinced that what I’m arguing for is biblical and right.

So how does this marriage of the Bible and doctrine work out? How does their partnership help the people of God and advance the kingdom?

The Bible was written over a period of at least a thousand years, by several dozen human authors. God was behind it all, and all of it is his word, but equally each part of it was written in a different style and for different reasons. God, his word, and his opinions don’t change; but equally, each part of the Bible was written to a different group of people, a different human situation, a different set of problems.

Christian doctrine is the human work of systematising, putting into order, the teachings of the Bible. The Bible is like the open countryside, full of many lovely wild flowers, shrubs, grasses, different terrains and habitats. Doctrine is like a cultivated garden, where many terrains, habitats and plants have been organised by people. Nobody denies that the countryside is ‘the real thing’; but neither does anyone deny that a well-planned garden helps the appreciation, enjoyment, study, growth and sometimes even the survival, of plant and animal life. A good garden is not a betrayal of the countryside, or a substitute for it, but its servant, friend and partner. That is how doctrine relates to the Bible.

Of course the wild countryside existed long before man-made gardens (at least in our fallen world), and the countryside doesn’t need gardens; but in a fallen world we need gardens to appreciate the countryside. Similarly, the Bible doesn’t need doctrine; but we need it if we are to get out of the Bible all that it has for us.

Three in one: doctrine to the rescue

It’s time for an example of the way that doctrine helps us understand God’s word. I’ll take one of the most misunderstood and off-putting areas of doctrine, but also one of the most important: the doctrine of the Trinity.

Many Christians keep Trinity Sunday and have a suspicion that it is important, but they’d run a mile if asked to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. Many are happy to sing hymns or choruses with a strongly trinitarian structure and approach to God, but would never try to defend the doctrine – or even the need for a doctrine – of the Trinity. The problem is compounded by the fact that trinitarian doctrine is tied up with theological controversies dating back fifteen or sixteen hundred years.

Right through the Bible, God is spoken of in many different ways. At the beginning we are told that he created, that his Spirit brooded (or was hovering) over the waters, and that he spoke. Elsewhere in the Old Testament we find occasions when he speaks, is seen, appears (sometimes in human form), is described as having feelings, hands and feet, a voice and a back – but also as being unknowable, unapproachable, as not having a body and as not to be turned into images. He is a father, but like a mother; a friend, but an enemy; like us, but wholly different from us; our maker, lawgiver, judge and destroyer, but also our teacher, guide, helper and saviour. The list could go on: it’s awe-inspiring, but confusing.

The New Testament offers more of the same. God is a consuming fire, a terrible judge, a fearful enemy, totally alien. But he’s also one who loves us, cares for us, became a man and died for us, offers us himself, his friendship, his forgiveness and his strength. It’s hardly surprising that books about God can be heavy, difficult and daunting. It’s hardly surprising that Christian attempts to explain and proclaim what God is like have sometimes been more confusing than helpful.


Fans of the Thirty-nine Articles

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

May 21st, 2010 Posted in Theology |

The Revd John RichardsonBy John Richardson

While you’re here, why not join my Facebook group, Fans of the Thirty-nine Articles?

“A group for members of the Church of England, and the worldwide Anglican Communion, who think the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion published in 1562 are a great summary of the core doctrines which reformed the Church of England then and which ought to be at the foundation of its teaching and preaching today.”