Archive for October, 2014

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Primate says 2018 Lambeth unlikely

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, walk among other bishops on their way to Lambeth Palace at the start of the 2008 Lambeth Conference.   Photo: Marites N. Sison


Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he hasn’t heard directly from the Archbishop of Canterbury whether the next Lambeth Conference will be postponed, but “it’s pretty obvious that in all likelihood it would not be in 2018 because it takes three, four, years to plan.”

Hiltz responded in an interview with the Anglican Journal to media reports that the next Lambeth Conference, for which bishops from across the Anglican Communion usually gather every 10 years and which was expected to be in 2013, would may be delayed, perhaps until 2019 or 2020.

In an interview that aired Oct. 5 in a BBC Radio 4 Sunday program, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that he was following through with a promise he made—to the primates of all provinces in the Anglican Communion when he was installed at Canterbury—to visit all primates in their home countries before consulting with them about the timing of the meeting. “The next Lambeth Conference needs to be called collegially by the primates together with real ownership of the agenda and a real sense of what we are trying to do with such a large effort, such costs,” he said. “And so when we meet as primates, which I hope [will be] with reasonable notice after the end of this trip that I have done, then we will decide together on the details, but the reality is that by then it will be too close to 2018 to have one in 2018.

Hiltz said that sort of consultation is “okay,” but noted that it is a change from the way the meeting has been called in the past. “He may want to style it so that it is the Archbishop of Canterbury in consultation with and support of the primates, but historically it is the Archbishop that convenes a Lambeth Conference, and then people decide whether they will come or not, including some primates.”

Although Welby told BBC Radio that he was “never going to say definitely,” he did say that “it would be enormously difficult simply to book a place big enough” to host the Lambeth Conference for 2018. “One of the places, the place that they’ve gone for the last few conferences, is already booked up for 2018. Two or three years is far too little [time] to arrange such a huge operation.”

Aside from such logistical challenges, Hiltz observed that the Archbishop hopes to host a Lambeth Conference that is broadly representative of the whole Anglican Communion. “The other piece that seems to be coming out of interviews he is doing in England is that his ardent hope is that we will get to a point in the Communion that when it’s called, everyone will come.”

The worldwide Anglican Communion has been divided over issues such as the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration of bishops in same-sex relationships, and in the past, some bishops have boycotted the conference in protest. Also as a part of the BBC interview, Welby said that his tour of all provinces of the Communion, which should be complete by the end of November, has shown him that the Communion is “alive and incredibly vigorous. It is noisy, argumentative, diverse, has churches in 165 countries in 37 provinces. It would be bizarre if there were not tensions in something that was so incredibly diverse.” When the Lambeth Conference is called, Welby said primates “will make up their minds at the time” whether to attend.

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ALBANY: Episcopal Bishop Says Opponents to Sexually Perverse Lifestyles Could Be Charged with Hate Crimes

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Unless something changes, I fully expect that in my lifetime, a person who stands up and speaks out against various forms of sexual relationships or lifestyles that the Bible identifies as being inappropriate or in opposition to God’s will (regardless of how loving and pastoral that concern may be shared), will be charged with committing a “hate crime”. – Bishop William Love

By David W. Virtue DD

The Episcopal Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love told delegates to the 164th Annual Diocesan Convention recently that religion, especially Christianity, is under attack in the US and throughout the world. He asked if Christians would have the courage and determination to stand up for the Christian faith and proclaim both in word and deed “God’s NOT dead”, regardless of what it might cost us in this life.

The orthodox Episcopal bishop, who has been at odds with the Episcopal Church’s liberal stand on homosexuality, especially over the ordination of gay and lesbian priests and bishops, says there are various special interest groups that are working very hard to silence any opposition to their cause. If they are allowed to continue unchallenged, the country our children and grandchildren will grow up in will be “very different” from that envisioned by our forefathers and for which countless Americans have bravely fought and died to defend and protect over the last 238 years.

Bishop Love cited a 2012 Gallup Poll where some 77% of Americans identified themselves as Christian. “If this is an accurate statistic why doesn’t our society more accurately reflect the Judeo/Christian beliefs this country was founded on? I suggest that the Christian majority has lost sight of who we are called to be and the life we are called to live as Christians. Far too often we live as if “God IS Dead!”

“According to a HUFF Post article of March 2013, “The number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is the highest it has ever been since data on the subject started being collected in the 1930’s.”

The article reports that the number of “NONES” in the 1930s was 5%; 8% by 1990; and 20% by 2013. This shows a clear shift in the U.S. population with a rapidly growing number of people who don’t identify with any religion. The number of U.S. adults under 30 with no religious affiliation is even higher at approximately 33%.

“Religion, especially Christianity, is under attack in this country and throughout the world. The question is, do we have the courage and determination to stand up for our Christian faith and proclaim both in word and deed ‘God’s NOT dead’, regardless of what it might cost us in in this life? Or will we deny our faith in Christ, living in fear and apathy, succumbing to the comfort and false security of materialism?”

Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32-33)

We may well be the only Christians some people ever meet or encounter, noted Love. The Bishop added that he was deeply moved by the movie “God’s NOT Dead” which can be seen on DVD, Blu-Ray and can be purchased here The bishop said he has viewed it three times and urged diocesan delegates to see it.

“Most of our young people — elementary age through college are being educated in schools that are bowing more and more to the ever growing secularized and often anti-Christian culture in which we live. Not only have we long passed the days of being able to have public prayer in schools, but as witness by the more than 30 legal cases which inspired the movie “God’s Not Dead” students and teachers alike are being disciplined d punished in various ways if they publicly voice their religious beliefs in school or wear jewelry or other religious symbols depicting their faith — especially Christian symbols.”

Love believes that restrictions placed by school boards and school administrators limiting religious freedoms in the schools are “overreactions or misunderstanding of what the laws governing religious freedoms actually say, the fact is they are happening at all levels.

“Far too often they are not being challenged for fear of possible retribution or simply out of apathy. For a country that was partially founded on the principles of religious freedom, what is happening today in schools and universities throughout the U.S. is almost incomprehensible.”

The bishop cited one aid in protecting students’ religious freedom is the Student Rights Handbook found at

The Episcopal Diocese of Albany is one of only a handful of orthodox dioceses still remaining in the Episcopal Church. The future of this diocese will be tested following the outcomes of the upcoming Episcopal General Convention to be held next year in Salt Lake City, Utah.


The Traditions of Men, and Being Anesthetised

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014


Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

Pardon the somewhat odd title – let me explain: While evangelical Christians can look down on other Christian groups for adding to Scripture, or twisting Scripture, or misreading Scripture, or allowing man-made traditions to trump Scripture, the sad truth is, we often can do exactly the same thing.

We all need to be on guard here. None of us have a perfect take on these things. But I continue to be amazed at how many people who have been Christians all their life and been faithful church-goers all their life seem to miss some real basics of Christianity.

As but one example, once I was sharing with a guy just a few home truths about Christian discipleship, obedience, holiness and the like. I mentioned how we need to take the warnings of Scripture seriously, and that a life of growing obedience and sanctification is the expected path of any disciple of Christ.

He responded by saying, ‘wow that’s pretty sober stuff’ (or words to that effect) – as if he had never heard that or read that his whole life. But it is just normal Christianity. It is there as plain as day in the New Testament. But we seem to view such basics as strange, unusual, and even surprising.

bible3How have we gotten to the place where the plain words of Scripture no longer mean what they are supposed to mean? How can we read them a zillion times and gloss right over them, and not pick up on their clear intent? How have we so missed out on what is so rather plainly stated?

It seems we have managed to drug ourselves, anesthetise ourselves, blind ourselves to the plain teachings of Scripture. We have bought so many traditions of men, and allowed our own culture – even our own Christian culture – to dumb us down that we can’t read a biblical text and let it speak to us as it was intended to.

Sure, we all come to Scripture with rose-coloured glasses on, or with blinders on, or with cultural baggage, etc. But the first step in correcting this is to admit that we have a big problem here, repent of this, and ask afresh the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth as we read the Word of God.

All of us are culture bound, and limited by the effects of sin. We are all finite, fallen and imperfect. And when we become Christians, we are involved in progressive sanctification. Perfection in this life eludes us. So we expect to do all things less than perfectly, including how we read Scripture.

But we cannot let that become an excuse. We need to keep praying with the biblical writers such requests as: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). Or as Paul put it in a slightly different context: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” (Ephesians 1:18).

We all need to keep praying that our spiritual eyes will be opened, and we will see what God is saying to us through his Word, and not allow all sorts of things to cloud over all this. An attitude of humility is always vital here. We do not always get it right, and we do not always read his Word correctly.

So a continuous attitude of openness and humility, with time spent on our knees in prayer, will never go astray. We can never assume we have fully arrived, or have the Bible all figured out. Sure, we have confidence and conviction of basic truths, and we are not to be in a state of perpetual doubt and vacillation.

But we also need to know that God is still leading us further as we read his Word and seek to understand it properly. I have changed various (minor) doctrinal positions over the years, and expect to keep doing so. The basics will stand, however, and should not be readily abandoned or toyed with.

We all will keep growing in our understanding, and part of that will mean jettisoning man-made teachings and understandings which we have allowed to take the place of Scripture, or be put on a par with Scripture. So I guess I should conclude this somewhat rambling piece with these words: every time we open the Bible, we need to pray for God to powerfully speak to us through his Spirit. Pray that his truth will always come forth as we read.

By the way, as an endnote to all this, I notice one type of tradition that evangelicals at least claim they have nothing to do with. We take pride in putting Scripture first, not man. We reject the idea of an infallible Pope who we must submit to or defer to. But it seems there are plenty of popes in the Protestant world as well.

All sorts of big cheese leaders are put up on a pedestal, and if anyone dares to critique them, their groupies come out in force, denouncing you. I have found that when I dare to disagree with some of these big leaders, their fans will lash out at me, as if I am attacking Jesus himself.

We have as many infallible and untouchable leaders in the evangelical world as anyone else does, and woe to those who dare to say anything critical about them, or compare them and their teachings with the Word of God. Their loyal and dedicated followers will defend these guys to the hilt, and attack those who think otherwise.

So we really need to stop pretending we are so much better than other faith traditions. We evangelicals have plenty of our own problems, including following man-made traditions over against the teachings of Scripture. And we can so easily read Scripture in a haze or a stupor, where the clear teachings get lost and perverted.

As I say, we must keep praying and stay humble. Jesus spoke so often about those who have ears but cannot hear, and about those who have eyes but cannot see. We really don’t want to be those sorts of people.

Christian Atheists?

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014


Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

Atheists of course don’t believe in God. That is to be expected. But the question is, why don’t Christians believe God anymore? Why do they profess to be followers of Christ when by their very actions and their very refusal to obey the clear teachings of Scripture they demonstrate that they are none of his?

We find this happening all the time, and it is utterly shocking. We have crystal clear teachings in Scripture which are being outright ignored or rejected or disobeyed. We have people who claim to be great Christians who have no intention whatsoever of obeying some of the clear commands of Scripture.

We seem to be so inured to what we find just in the four gospels that we glide right over them without batting an eyelash. The truths found there are just not registering. We have become far too familiar with Scripture, and its ability to impact us deeply and radically seems to be lost.

We all need to get back to our first love, and we all need to read the Bible as if for the very first time. I have recently written on this issue:

Sometimes I think that with so much biblical illiteracy out there – even among Christians – that I should just produce articles with nothing but Scripture in them. And maybe I will one day. But here I will take a large slab of Scripture and pray that it speaks to all of us the way it was intended to speak.

discipleship 2I refer to Luke 14 where Jesus speaks much about gaining disciples and real discipleship. For example, in Luke 14:15-24 we have the Parable of the Great Banquet. You know the story: When the invited guests did not show up, the man holding the banquet says ‘go out to the roads and country lanes’ and bring them in.

Then in Luke 14:25-35 Jesus speaks about the cost of discipleship. Let me offer this whole portion:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Three times here we read that those who do not do certain things cannot be a disciple of Jesus. The first has to do with family ties. Now in a culture where family was so very important, these were incredibly radical words indeed. Of course, other Scriptures make it clear that we are to love members of our own family, and love others as well.

But if family relationships get in the way of following Christ, then a choice has to be made. If serving one’s family means one cannot serve Christ, then a decision about loyalties is called for. And as some have said, our love for Christ should be so great, so supreme, that in comparison, all other loyalties may seem like hate in comparison.

So the point is not to hate our families as such, but to love God even more than anyone or anything on earth. He is always to be our first loyalty and priority. The second clear teaching about discipleship is pretty clear – but also largely neglected and ignored.

We must carry our cross if we are to be a true disciple of Jesus. Anyone back then hearing these words knew exactly what Jesus meant. The condemned man sentenced to die a cruel death on a cross was forced to carry the cross piece to his own execution. Just as Jesus carried it, so too any condemned man had to do this.

He was heading for certain death, and his life was now forfeited. It is the same with Christian discipleship: we are no longer our own, we are bought with a price, and the life we now live, we live for Christ and him alone. The Christian has no more claims to anything, and has no more rights.

He has died to self and now lives for God. That is basic Christianity 101, yet it is shocking how very few Christians even think in these terms. They think they can do what they want, call the shots, and live for self. They are even told by mega-pastors that they can have their ‘best life now’.

Well, Jesus said nothing about such selfish foolishness. He demanded the complete surrender of self and crucifixion of all desires; otherwise we cannot claim to be his follower. The third demand makes the same claims. If we are not going to give up everything for him, then we cannot be his disciple.

It is that simple. And again, this is not so much about just dumping every material good that you have. The rest of Scripture makes it clear that we are to provide for others, and especially for those of our own household. Material possessions can and should be used for Christ and his Kingdom.

But what Jesus is demanding here is the complete surrender of all that we have, including all our desires, our wants and our rights. We must be willing to give up everything. And this is far more than just stuff. It can also be our selfish desires. Indeed, some of these desires can be good in themselves, but we may be clinging on to them too tightly.

So getting back to his first demand, we may have to let go of our desire to have a family, or to get married, or to have children. We may have to abandon our desire to live somewhere, or have a certain job, or use a certain talent or gifting.

We will have to be willing to give up anything and everything for him. That is because anything we cling to and desire too greatly becomes an idol which stands between us and God. These are the conditions of being his disciple. It is radical stuff, but discipleship is a radical calling.

Yet we read a passage like this – perhaps for the hundredth time – and it comes in one ear and out the other. It has lost its radical effect on us. We read the chapter, close our Bibles, and go on living just as we always have, with all our possessions, material goods, greed, consumerism, selfishness, and focus on Number One.

We all need to let these words hit us afresh. What is it that we are clinging to that is preventing us from really following Jesus? What are the gods and idols in our life which are separating us from Jesus? What are our desires and wants which keep us from being all we are meant to be in Christ?

The call to discipleship is really all about priorities. Just what are the real priorities in our life? What do we spend most of our time on? What do we think about the most? Desire the most? Crave the most? Talk about the most? If you honestly answer these questions, you will quickly discover what your real priorities are, and if you really are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Is the Creed “the” Sufficient Standard of Orthodoxy?

Friday, October 24th, 2014

If a leader in the church agrees with the Creeds regarding the Trinity and the dual natures of Christ, then should we not accept him as a legitimate Christian teacher even though we might disagree about the nature of marriage and sexuality?

The question is an important one. It not only goes to the heart of discipleship (what does it mean to follow Jesus?) but it touches directly on some of the most heated controversies in the Anglican realm. Is it permissable to promote the ministry of men like Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Diocese of Virginia? Should we participate in Christian outreach/mission with leaders who promote same sex “marriage”? Should an orthodox seminary invite the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to preach in its chapel?

In answer to these questions, some have argued that the Nicene and Apostolic creedal formulas should stand as the primary measure of orthodoxy. Going beyond these, they argue, will create unnecessary division. If a leader professes faith in the Christ of the Creeds, who are we to deny him/her a place at the table?

There are at least two problems with that answer.

First, it is contrary to the apostolic witness. There is no evidence that the teachers against whom Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians were committing Christolological or Trinitarian errors. They were adding to the gospel of grace. Moreover, in that same letter, Paul lays down the general measure by which all teachers are to be measured and it is far more comprehensive than any Creedal formula: if anyone at all “should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed…”(Gal 1:8). The word for “accursed” is anathema. Let the one who contradicts what I have delivered to you be damned. Obviously, Paul does not consider the Galatian teachers to be “in Christ”. Paul’s measure for Christian teaching is whether or not it accords with the apostolic deposit, which, for us, has been inscripturated in the New Testament.

The apostle John affirms this principle in his second letter. There John warns against false teachers who do indeed teach an early type of Christological heresy but in the process of dealing with that particular error, he issues this broad declaration: “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.”  The the genetive “of” there probably includes teaching “about” Christ and teaching “from” Christ. The apostles (as we’ll see below) were commissioned by the Lord to teach his word, not only the word that he gave them during his earthly ministry but also the ongoing instruction he promised to reveal through them. And so John, like Paul, indicates that to “go beyond” what the apostles deliver to the Church is to stray outside the bounds of the Faith.

Apostolic teaching is the measure of orthodoxy. This measure, of course, necessarily also includes the Old Testament since the Apostles and Jesus Christ himself in many and various places affirm its absolute authority as the word of God. By this standard those leaders who teach that sexual relationships between two men or two women can in any way be blessed or solemnized are not to be considered Christian teachers or leaders but “anathema” even if they affirm the Trinity and Jesus’ dual natures.

Second, rejecting the teaching of the apostles is necessarily to repudiate the Creeds. Even if we only apply the minimal standard of the Creedal formulas, which, as I’ve shown above would be contrary to the apostolic standard, those who teach that same sex relationship may be blessed must still be counted as standing outside the Christian faith.

The first Christological declaration of the Nicene Creed is: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The first Christological declaration of the Apostle’s Creed affirms the same: “[I believe] in Jesus Christ, his [God the Father’s] only begotten Son, our Lord.”

The Lord Jesus in Mark 7:21 and Matthew 15:19 identifies “porneia” (translated “sexual immorality”) as one part of our sinful nature. As NT Wright and many others have pointed out, “porneia” in the context of first century Judaism would necessarily include homosexual sexual practice along with all the sexual sins identified in Leviticus 18.

Moreover, in both John 14:25-26 and John 16:12-15, Jesus promises to speak to his Church directly through his appointed apostles. Their teaching therefore, as I have already suggested above, is Christ’s teaching. When Peter, James, John and, yes, Paul, teach, Jesus teaches.

Finally, Nicene Creed identifies Jesus as not merely a human Lord but as God the Son. “God from God, Light from Light. Very God from Very God”. Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:16, declares that all scripture – that is an all-encompassing statement – is “God breathed”. If one professes Jesus as God then one must also recognize that the entirety of scripture, Old Testament and New Testament, is His Word.

The Creeds themselves, then, require obedience to Jesus Christ as the One Lord over all things. To profess the Creed but reject the word of God as revealed in the scriptures regarding marriage and sexuality is incoherent. It is, in fact, to reject the Lordship of Christ and to place oneself outside the bounds of Creedal Christianity.

Speaking out for Sexual Holiness is the Responsibility of all REFORM members not just the same-sex attracted

Friday, October 24th, 2014
By Julian Mann

The Council of Reform, the network of Church of England conservative evangelicals, is absolutely right to urge its members to stay out of the ‘shared conversations’ on sexuality following the Pilling Report. But the leadership needs to urge all its members and not just those who are same-sex attracted to contend for the definitive biblical teaching of the Church of England on sexual holiness.

The Council’s decision to stay out of the sexuality indaba came after the meeting of the College of Bishops in mid-September. The Bishops announced a new objective for the conversations – “to create space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another…(and) ensure that those with differing views on sexuality continue to share together a place of common baptism and faith”.

In the light of this, the Reform leadership has told the network that the indaba conversations are a ‘play fight’ followed by a ‘group hug’:

“Of course we need to ensure that our voice is heard but are the official ‘shared conversations’ the place to do this? There are 12 conversations with 60 people in each — a total of 720 individuals. These conversations will be controlled and must remain a ‘safe space’ for those expressing their views so it will be impossible to interrogate the false assumptions that are expressed by others…As the outcome of these discussions has largely been determined, we should perhaps see them as something of a ‘play fight’, which is followed by a ‘group hug’.”

The Reform leadership insists the decision to stay out “is not because we do not want to listen to the experiences of the LGBTIQ community; in fact many of our members would describe themselves as experiencing same-sex attraction”. Clearly, such members of Reform have an authoritative voice in this dispute. But because all communicant members of the Church of England should be owning its received teaching on sexual holiness, the responsibility to argue for biblical truth cannot be left to the same-sex attracted.

By God’s grace, the Church of England’s historic teaching remains clear and unequivocally biblical, as the Revd Stephen Keeble, Anglo-Catholic Vicar of St George’s, Headstone, has well expressed in an open letter to the chairman of Forward in Faith UK, Bishop Jonathan Baker.

Arguing against those who purport to “uphold the Church of England’s teaching on marriage in its canons and liturgy” and yet regard “the Church’s teaching on marriage as unrelated, in principle, to its position on same-sex relationships”, Stephen Keeble told Bishop Baker:

“This is wholly at variance with the historic and — as stated in Canon B 30 — definitive teaching of the Church of England in the Form of Solemnisation of Matrimony contained in the Book of Common Prayer which gives one of the purposes of marriage to be the avoidance of fornication by those ‘as have not the gift of continency’. Fornication — sexual intercourse outside marriage — is proscribed in Holy Scripture in both Old and New Testaments, and the teaching and discipline of the Church Catholic has always reflected this.”

In contending for the loving truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, Reform members, particularly those who teach the Bible in local churches, have a spiritual responsibility to argue for the Church of England’s biblical doctrine on God’s call to sexual holiness as courageously and faithfully as this Anglo-Catholic.

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire, UK –

Who or what defines the Anglican Communion?

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014