Thursday, December 03, 2009

Wisdom from J.I. Packer

Three keys to real estate: Location, location, location.

Three keys to ministry: "You have three priorities: teach, teach, and teach. Evangelical churches are weaker than we realize because we don't teach the confessions and doctrine. Set new standards in teaching. Understand the word catechesis, and practice that art." - J.I. Packer

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Necessity of the Articles of Religion - Mark Thompson

The Thirty-nine Articles provide the only secure anchor for an authentic Anglican identity. This is after all the foundational doctrinal statement of the reformed church of England, drafted by the reforming bishops, endorsed by the lay members of the church in parliament, and situated as the touchstone of Anglican theology and practice ever since. Whatever other categories, principles or documents may be presented as integral to the heart of Anglicanism, the simple fact is that the Articles tell Anglicans who they are.

The Articles were never intended to be exhaustive. They are not a comprehensive systematic theology, an Anglican answer to Calvin's Institutes or Melanchthon's Loci Communes. Nevertheless, they do provide the contours of Anglican polity, Anglican practice, and the Anglican commitment to biblical doctrine. They do not claim to be the final authority — that final authority was and is Scripture itself, the word of God written (Article 20) — but they do have a subsidiary authority. Insofar as they are in fact a faithful expression of biblical truth, they rightfully test all contemporary claims to the Anglican inheritance.

One of the freshest and most exciting developments in recent Anglican theology is a return to a serious and respectful study of the Articles. A number of studies have been published in the past few years and are about to be published over the next year or so, all of which seek to expound the doctrine of the Articles as a powerful force in the renewal of Anglican identity worldwide. The Articles do not present us with a moribund theology, one bound irretrievably to discredited epistemological and ontological commitments. Here is a lively confession of trust in Christ which still has the capacity to challenge us to greater fidelity to God's self-revelation in Christ and through the inspired Scriptures. Here is an antidote to fearful, sloppy thinking. The failure of courage that has characterised so much Anglican theology in the last two centuries — as one conviction after another has been surrendered in the doomed attempt to win favour with the world around us — need not determine the future. The 39 Articles are once again the cutting edge!

However, not all references to the 39 Articles today take them seriously on their own terms. Current attempts to revive Newman's interpretation of the Articles lack integrity today just as they did in Newman's time (even he could not sustain it in the long run). Attempts to read an Arminian theology into them, when plainly this is at best anachronistic and at worst a reading of them that is determinedly 'against the grain', must also fail. The suggestion that they are an historical document locked into the debates and concerns of the sixteenth century but without any real relevance to the twenty-first, fails to account for (1) the express intent of the authors; (2) the reaffirmation of the Articles in 1662, one hundred and ten years after they were drafted, when very different circumstances prevailed. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, who at one time assented to the Articles at his own ordination, has recently stated that the differences between Rome and the Anglican Communion — even the controversial ones such women's ordination and the acceptance of homosexuality — are merely secondary matters that ought not delay continued ecumenical advance, simply reaffirms his highly intelligent muddle-headedness.

Are the Articles open to revision? In principle the answer must be 'yes', since they claim to be completely dependent for their authority on the teaching of Scripture. If it can be shown that at one point or other they contradict the teaching of Scripture, then the Articles must give way to Scripture. But the Articles must not be bent to any contemporary ecclesiastical, political or social agenda. They stand over against contemporary theologizing as a check on our hubris and idiosyncracies and as a challenge to our own blind spots. It would need an extraordinary consensus, and a clear demonstration that the changes were drawing us closer to the teaching of Scripture and not further from it, if there was any any substantial revision today.

What is more, as legal argument in the nineteenth century established beyond doubt, the Articles interpret the Book of Common Prayer and not the other way around. Liturgical practice must flow out of theological conviction, not vice versa. Some of the official pronouncements from such bodies as the highly politicised Anglican Communion Office continue to peddle the argument that our theology is derived from the Book of Common Prayer or from the Ordinal. Of course these too are our foundational documents, alongside the 39 Articles. But each of these has a particular function, and the doctrinal standard is the 39 Articles. A failure to recognise this has brought in its wake a host of problems.

The need of the moment is for the obfuscation of the establishment to be replaced by the clarity, boldness and rich edification of Anglicanism's foundational doctrinal statement. This can only result in the future health of this ailing denomination, as Christ crucified, risen and regnant takes his proper place amongst us, which will always be demonstrated by a thoroughgoing submission to the word by which he rules.

The New 'Gospel' - by Kevin DeYoung

The Gospel Old and New

Have you heard the New Gospel? It’s not been codified. It’s not owned by any one person or movement. But it is increasingly common.

The New Gospel generally has four parts to it.

It usually starts with an apology: “I’m sorry for my fellow Christians. I understand why you hate Christianity. It’s like that thing Ghandi said, ‘why can’t the Christians be more like their Christ?’ Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, and self-righteous. I know we screwed up with the Crusades, slavery, and the Witch Trials. All I can say is: I apologize. We’ve not give you a reason to believe.”

Then there is an appeal to God as love: “I know you’ve seen the preachers with the sandwich boards and bullhorns saying ‘Repent or Die.’ But I’m here to tell you God is love. Look at Jesus. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He loved unconditionally. There is so much brokenness in the world, but the good news of the Bible is that God came to live right in the middle of our brokenness. He’s a messy God and his mission is love. ‘I did not come into the world to condemn the world,’ that’s what Jesus said (John 3:17). He loved everyone, no matter who you were or what you had done. That’s what got him killed.”

The third part of the New Gospel is an invitation to join God on his mission in the world: “It’s a shame that Christians haven’t shown the world this God. But that’s what we are called to do. God’s kingdom is being established on earth. On earth! Not in some distant heaven after we die, but right here, right now. Even though we all mess up, we are God’s agents to show his love and bring this kingdom. And we don’t do that by scaring people with religious language or by forcing them into some religious mold. We do it by love. That’s the way of Jesus. That’s what it means to follow him. We love our neighbor and work for peace and justice. God wants us to become the good news for a troubled planet.”

And finally, there is a studied ambivalence about eternity: “Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in life after death. But our focus should be on what kind of life we can live right now. Will some people go to hell when they die? Who am I to say? Does God really require the right prayer or the right statement of faith to get into heaven? I don’t know, but I guess I can leave that in his hands. My job is not to judge people, but to bless. In the end, God’s amazing grace may surprise us all. That’s certainly what I hope for.”

Why So Hot?
This way of telling the good news of Christianity is very chic. It’s popular for several reasons.

1. It is partially true. God is love. The kingdom has come. Christians can be stupid. The particulars of the New Gospel are often justifiable.

2. It deals with strawmen. The bad guys are apocalyptic street preachers, Crusaders, and caricatures of an evangelical view of salvation.

3. The New Gospel leads people to believe wrong things without explicitly stating those wrong things. That is, Christians who espouse the New Gospel feel safe from criticism because they never actually said belief is unimportant, or there is no hell, or that Jesus isn’t the only way, or that God has no wrath, or that there is no need for repentance. These distortions are not explicitly stated, but the New Gospel is presented in such a way that non-believers could, and by design should, come to these conclusions. In other words, the New Gospel allows the non-Christian to hear what he wants, while still providing an out against criticism from other Christians. The preacher of the New Gospel can always say when challenged, “But I never said I don’t believe those things.”

4. It is manageable. The New Gospel meets people where they are and leaves them there. It appeals to love and helping our neighbors. And it makes the appeal in a way that repudiates any hint of judgmentalism, intolerance, or religiosity. This is bound to be popular. It tells us what we want to hear and gives us something we can do.

5. The New Gospel is inspirational. This is what makes the message so appealing to young people in particular. They get the thrill and purpose of being part of a big cause, without all the baggage of the Church’s history, doctrine, and hard edges. Who wouldn’t want to join a revolution of love?

6. The New Gospel has no offense to it. This is why the message is so attractive. The bad guys are all “out there.” This can be a problem for any of us. We are all prone to soft-pedaling the gospel, only presenting the attractive parts and failing to mention where Christ does not just comfort but also confronts. And it must confront more than the sins of others. It is far too easy to use the New Gospel as a way to differentiate yourself from all the bad Christians. This makes you look good and confirms to the non-Christians that the obstacle to their commitment lies with the hypocrisy and failure of others. There is no talk of repentance or judgment. There is no hint that Jesus was killed, not so much for his inclusive love as his outrageous Godlike claims (Matt. 26:63-66; 27:39-43). The New Gospel only talks of salvation in strictly cosmic terms. In fact, the door is left wide open to imagine that hell, if it even exists, is probably not a big threat for most people.

Why So Wrong?
It shouldn’t be hard to see what is missing in the new gospel. What’s missing is the old gospel, the one preached by the Apostles, the one defined in 1 Corinthians 15, the one summarized later in The Apostles’ Creed.

“But what you call the New Gospel is not a substitute for the old gospel. We still believe all that stuff.”

Ok, but why don’t you say it? And not just privately to your friends or on a statement of faith somewhere, but in public? You don’t have to be meaner, but you do have to be clearer. You don’t have to unload the whole truck of systematic theology on someone, but to leave the impression that hell is no big deal is so un-Jesus like (Matt. 10:26-33). And when you don’t talk about the need for faith and repentance you are very un-apostolic (Acts 2:38; 16:31).

“But we are just building bridges. We are relating to the culture first, speaking in a language they can understand, presenting the parts of the gospel that make the most sense to them. Once we have their trust and attention, then we can disciple and teach them about sin, repentance, faith and all the rest. This is only pre-evangelism.”

Yes, it’s true, we don’t have to start our conversations where we want to end up. But does the New Gospel really prime the pump for evangelism or just mislead the non-Christian into a false assurance? It’s one thing to open a door for further conversation. It’s another to make Christianity so palatable that it sounds like something the non-Christian already does. And this is assuming the best about the New Gospel, that underneath there really is a desire to get the old gospel out.

Paul’s approach with non-Christians in Athens is instructive for us (Acts 17:16-34). First, Paul is provoked that the city is so full of idols (16). His preaching is not guided by his disappointment with other Christians, but by his anger over unbelief. Next, he gets permission to speak (19-20). Paul did not berate people. He spoke to those who were willing to listen. But then look at what he does. He makes some cultural connection (22-23, 28), but from there he shows the contrast between the Athenian understanding of God and the way God really is (24-29). His message is not about a way of life, but about worshiping the true God in the right way. After that, he urges repentance (30), warns of judgment (31), and talks about Jesus’ resurrection (31).

The result is that some mocked (32). Who in the world mocks the New Gospel? There is nothing not to like. There is no scandal in a message about lame Christians, a loving God, changing the world, and how most of us are most likely not going to hell. This message will never be mocked, but Paul’s Mars Hill sermon was. And keep in mind, this teaching in Athens was only an entre into the Christian message. This was just the beginning, after which some wanted to hear him again (32). Paul said more in his opening salvo than some Christians ever dare to say. We may not be able to say everything Paul said at Athens all at once, but we certainly must not give the impression in our “pre-evangelism” that repentance, judgment, the necessity of faith, the importance of right belief, the centrality of the cross and the resurrection, the sinfulness of sin and the fallenness of man–the stuff that some suggest will be our actual evangelism–are outdated relics of a mean-spirited, hurtful Christianity.

A Final Plea
Please, please, please, if you are enamored with the New Gospel or anything like it, consider if you are really being fair with your fellow Christians in always throwing them under the bus. Consider if you are preaching like Jesus did, who called people, not first of all to a way of life, but to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). And as me and my friends consider if we lack the necessary patience and humility to speak tenderly with non-Christians, consider if your God is a lopsided cartoon God who never takes offense at sin (because sin is more than just un-neighborliness) and never pours out wrath (except for the occasional judgment against the judgmental). Consider if you are giving due attention to the cross and the Lamb of God who died there to take away the sin of the world. Consider if your explanation of the Christian message sounds anything like what we hear from the Apostles in the book of Acts when they engage the world.

This is no small issue. And it is not just a matter of emphasis. The New Gospel will not sustain the church. It cannot change the heart. And it does not save. It is crucial, therefore, that our evangelical schools, camps, conferences, publishing houses, and churches can discern the new gospel from the old.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fullness of Knowledge

After reading a book review, I decided that I really wanted to order that book. Before I ordered it, I thought, “I think I might have that book already.” After looking around, I found it. There it was. Now, I had a greater appreciation for what I had purchased some time ago, and I began to read it.

As we have been learning from the book of Colossians, the Christians were being urged to look for something that they already had, but were overlooking. The false teachers were suggesting that the ordinary church members were spiritually deficient and needed a spiritual filling. Years ago, a member of my congregation suggested to me that I needed to move beyond the Bible and preach something else! I’m not sure what he had in mind.

Paul reminds his readers that in Christ, they had already “been filled in him.” Colossians 2:10 (ESV). Further, he added that it had pleased God for all his fullness to dwell in his Son, Jesus Christ. (Col 2.9) What they were being urged to get, they already had – that is, reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ which enabled them to “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” (Col 1.13). You can’t get more than that!

The troublemakers were not denying that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but they were implying that a satisfactory spiritual life required more than a relationship with God through Christ. But, what was really needed in their lives was a greater realization of what they had already been given when they heard and responded to the gospel of grace concerning the reconciling love of Jesus Christ.

That is why Paul prays for the Christians there that they would “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, {10} so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col 1.10)

I doubt there is anyone in our church that doesn’t have bible around. Dust it off (if you need to), for you will find more treasure there than you could discover anywhere else in the universe. And each of us can pray. Just start talking to God and begin asking that you may know him better.

But you must be willing to ask, and seek and to knock that the Lord may fill you will knowledge of his will, and we also learn that the will of God corresponds exactly with the joy and happiness which God desires for all his children.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they...

The Peacemaking God

We live in a troubled world.  Just yesterday, Indonesia's Sumatra Island suffered a devastating earthquake.  Fighting continues in Iraq and Iraq.  Our mayor, Dan Sullivan, has pledged to curb the violent crime in Anchorage.  The waste of human life is enormous.  Some of us behave appallingly.  Yet we believe in a good God who as the Creator has never lost interest in the world.  He loves the world (John 3.16).  And he has a project.  God seeks to restore the world to the glory for which he created it.  Central to this strategy is Christ, his coming and his cross. 

The cross was and remains a great scandal to the unbelieving mind.  How could peace come through such a violent event?  Yet, the Bible teaches, and Christian experience confirms that peace comes through the crucified Jesus.  The word, 'atonement', first used in William Tyndale's Bible, written in the 16th century, describes how we are made one with God - through the sin bearing death of our savior.

Paul explains this in Colossians 1.19-23.  Peace in the Bible is not simply the absence of of strife or a psychological state of mind.  "The biblical concept of peace is one in which God's authority and power over his created order are seen to dominate his relations with the world, including both the material and human spheres." (Graham Cole)  In other words, peace is to be found in relationship with God through his peacemaking son, Jesus Christ. 

Therefore, peacemaking is to be one of signs of all his children as well: Matthew 5:9
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."  God has made peace with us through his son at great cost to himself, and we, as his children, are called to actively cultivate peace in all of our relationships, and that often means putting the interests of others ahead of our own. 

The concept of peace is also found in the Hebrew word, Shalom.  It means 'to enjoy living before God, to enjoy living in one's physical surroundings, to enjoy living with one's fellows, and to enjoy life with oneself."  (Nicholas Wolterstorff)


Thursday, August 27, 2009

What is an Evangelical?

by John Richardson

A Lack of Definition?

The first topic I’m going to consider in our three talks is ‘What is an evangelical?’

This is actually a question which has been around for a remarkably long time. It was considered, for example, by John Stott at the end of the second National Evangelical Anglican Congress in 1977.

But before that, Dr Martin Lloyd Jones asked the same question in a 1971 book of that title.

And more recently, in the mid-1990s, Mark Thompson, of Moore Theological College, has addressed the issue in a series of articles in The Briefing, and in a book titled, Saving the Heart, subtitle, ‘What is an evangelical?’

The sheer fact that the question has been asked so often, and that answers by such erudite contributors have apparently failed to settle the issue, forces us to acknowledge that evangelicalism is not a set of commonly-held, narrowly-defined, doctrines.

On the contrary, there are evangelicals who hold quite different doctrinal views, and who belong to entirely different denominations.

A Common Identity

Yet at the same time, there is clearly an evangelical ‘identity’. Evangelicals are able —almost intuitively —to recognize and acknowledge one another, even across denominational divides.

There are evangelical Calvinists and evangelical Arminians, evangelical Anglicans and evangelical Baptists, independent evangelicals and evangelicals who are paid-up members of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches.

It is this common identity which makes it worth attempting to achieve a definition of evangelicalism, not least to try to clarify what it is that evangelicals share together.

It is also the case that the sense of shared identity also leads to an ability to work together. It is important to understand why this is so, but it is important also to understand the points at which this shared ‘evangelical’ identity may be in tension with important denominationally-expressed doctrinal differences.

Thus I have found myself, in the past, happily working alongside individual Seventh Day Adventists on the basis of what could rightly be called a shared evangelical identity. Yet I would have to disagree with, and indeed oppose, some of the distinctive doctrines of Adventism.

A false identity

But there is, unfortunately, another reason why we must make the effort to identify evangelicalism, and that is because there are situations where the evangelical label has ceased to have any real meaning.

An obvious example would be the way that the term ‘evangelical’ is used on the Continent — where it comes much closer to meaning simply ‘Protestant’.

Again, it would certainly be a mistake to assume that everyone in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, wherever it was found, was an evangelical. But closer to home, there are painful divisions in the evangelical movement, particularly between those who use the term ‘open’ evangelical to describe themselves, and those who, in response to this, now tend to call themselves ‘conservative’ evangelicals, or by some such similar name.

There are those, and certainly they would include many open evangelicals, who argue that evangelicalism is a broader-based movement than has hitherto been assumed, and that it should embrace consciously a diversity of views, including some which previous generations might have regarded as not particularly evangelical — or even, when it comes to matters of sexuality, Christian.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that evangelicalism is more narrowly defined, and that many of those calling themselves ‘evangelical’ are not actually evangelical at all, but rather are post-evangelical liberals who just don’t realize, or admit it, yet.

A Definition

It is all very confusing, and it points us in the direction of the talks coming up, where I will try to address what is wrong with evangelicalism and what is the future for evangelicals.

But first, we ought to try to identify the nature of evangelicalism, bearing in mind the historical importance of evangelicalism.

We might remind, ourselves, for example, of the huge impact of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship in the twentieth century, both in these islands, and abroad, bearing in mind that its full and proper title was the Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions.

Self-confessed evangelical Christianity is a distinct, and therefore a distinguishable, movement. What, then, distinguishes it?

The Priority of Evangelism

I have hinted that the answer does not lie in doctrinal definitions — these come later, rather as the historic creeds appear later in the life of the church.

Rather, evangelicalism must be understood first by praxis — by action — and the defining action of evangelicalism is, crucially, evangelism.

But since evangelism is itself a somewhat-debased word, I would define what I mean by this as follows:

Evangelicals are those who have as a first priority, in their own lives and in the life of their churches and organizations, the desire and aim to see other people become Christians.

Notice, it is not their sole priority, nor is it necessarily their top priority. Some would say their top priority is to worship God or to live for him. Many would add that serving others or changing the world are also crucial to their understanding of the Christian life.

However, insofar as they are evangelicals, all would agree that the most important thing they can achieve for another person is to see that person become a Christian. And that shapes the evangelical understanding of the Christian life.

Thus God is served —or ‘worshipped’ in the proper sense —by our engaging in the work we see exemplified in Jesus himself, of seeking and saving the lost. We live for God when, like the first disciples, we become ‘fishers of men’. We serve others when we bring them the good news of salvation. We change the world when people are brought to know Christ as Saviour and to serve him as Lord.

This is the heart of evangelicalism, and it precedes any more specific confessional statements we might want to make.

The Individual and Evangelicalism

A very important feature of evangelicalism, however, is that salvation is an individual matter. The crowd may ask, “Brethren, what must we do to be saved?” The evangelistic response, however, is addressed to the individual: “Repent and be baptized, each one of you.”

The ‘we’, here, may all be repenting at the same time, we may all get baptized together. But for this to happen, each one must repent individually, each one must get baptized, and each one must certainly live for Christ.

Indeed, it is this focus on the individual which is one of the outstanding features of Christianity which features in the evangelical understanding.

Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” is addressed to the disciples collectively. But Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ,” is given by him individually, and it has been revealed to him personally by the Father.

In this, of course, the New Testament is only picking up an Old Testament emphasis. “The soul who sins shall die,” says Ezekiel (18:20), and similarly the sinner who turns from his wickedness shall live.

We are not condemned for the sins of another, but by the same token, we are not saved by the faith of another — whether it be our friends, our family or our community. Salvation, the evangelical believes, comes in personal doses, and so the evangelical cannot rest until the individual is saved.

Sticking to the knitting

It is this understanding of salvation and the Christian life which determines whether a person or a church or an organization can properly be called ‘evangelical’.

To the extent that it is a priority, to that extent we have evangelicalism. To the extent that other things begin to take priority, to that extent we have a decline from evangelicalism.

The first lesson of understanding what it means to be evangelical is that we must ‘stick to the knitting’. It is also important to see that we do not remain evangelical by adhering to evangelical doctrines. Being evangelical is about what you are and how you live on that basis.

Evangelical ‘spirituality’

In that sense, then, evangelicalism is a ‘spirituality’, but the evangelical would immediately want to say that it is a spirituality which arises from without, not from within.

The evangelical has not arrived at evangelicalism by searching out or trying out different approaches to God. Paradoxically, people do not become evangelicals by deciding to become evangelicals. Nor do evangelicals preach ‘evangelicalism’ to others.

Rather, it is the common experience of evangelicals that they are what they are as a result of becoming Christians. They do not look back to the point at which they received a set of evangelical doctrines, but to the point at which they received Christ as Saviour and Lord.

And where there are those who are not conscious of a particular moment of conversion, nevertheless, they will also be conscious that it is their relationship with God, in and through Christ as Saviour and Lord, which gives shape to their spiritual life and which is something they wish to share with others.

When the evangelical is able to articulate this, then, they will say that it is the work of the Holy Spirit which has given them their spirituality, by his operation within them. The words of Isaiah, quoted in Romans 10:20 would very much fit their experience: “I was found by those who did not seek me.”

The evangelical message

We see the nature of evangelical spirituality also in the way that evangelicals seek to bring others into their own evangelical experience —for what they do not do is preach the experience.

They may well be driven by the experience, they may well speak about the experience, they may even tell others they may have the same experience, but the message is not “This is how to have this experience,” but rather, “Repent and believe, and you shall be saved.”

Incidentally, we may say that where the message does become, “Do this to have this experience,” here too we have a departure from evangelicalism, which will show up subsequently in the life of the individual or the organization or movement.

The evangelical message to the non-Christian is not “You are missing out on life,” but, “You are facing judgement and damnation.”

Evangelical theology

And it is here that we begin to see that evangelicalism does, indeed, have a systematic theological heart, even though it is not itself a full-blown system of theology.

Indeed, the message of evangelism is a microcosm of a consistent systematic theology, even though it may be expressed in a number of ways.

In Norman Warren’s classic tract, Journey into Life, for example, first published in 1964, we read this summary of what it takes to become a Christian:

Something to admit
That you have sinned in the sight of God. [...]

Something to believe
That Jesus Christ died on the cross bearing all the guilt and penalty of your sin.

Something to consider
[...] Every part of your life, work, friendships, time, money must all come under [Jesus’] control.

Something to do
Accept Jesus Christ into your life to be your Lord to control you, your Saviour to cleanse you, your Friend to guide and be with you.

But then compare this with the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians (written about ad 54),

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures ...

There are differences in the detail, yet clearly we are in the same theological territory. And the key features are these: sin, from which we need to be saved, Christ, who saves us from our sins through his death, a new life, exemplified by Christ being raised from the dead, and faith as a resolve to believe in and live by the truth of what has been said about sin, Christ and salvation.

In fact, it would be fair to say that evangelical theology is an expansion of these key points, as Paul puts it ‘according to the Scriptures’.

‘Fellow’ Evangelicals

Thus, when we say we believe that Christ died for our sins ‘according to the Scriptures’ we mean that we look to the Bible, to tell us what sin is, to explain why Jesus needed to die for it, and indeed to tell us who Jesus was and is, why his death was both necessary and effective, and what exactly it achieved for us.

Evangelical theology thus has a position on Scripture. Notice, however, that being an evangelical does equate to a view on Scripture. That is why we sometimes get confused over the issue of evangelical fellowship.

To be a scriptural conservative does not make you an evangelical.

At the same time, however, merely wanting to ‘spread the faith’ does not make you an evangelical —otherwise we would have to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses are ‘fellow evangelicals’, since they, too, want to see people converted so that they can be saved.

We are not evangelicals just because we want to see other people come round to our point of view. There is some content to the notion of becoming a Christian, specifically as regards who Christ is and what his death has achieved, which is defined for us, not by us.

Nevertheless, where we find that the desire to proclaim Christ so that others may believe in him and be saved is given priority in engagement with the world and with those who do not know Christ, there we find fellow evangelicals and evangelical fellowship.


And yet, at the same time it is true that evangelical fellowship is always fragile. Historically, evangelical unity easily, and it has to be said, repeatedly, gives way to evangelical disunity.

This is enough to tell us that there is also something amiss with evangelicalism. And in my second talk I intend to examine what that is and to make some suggestions as to how it may be put right.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

More on Ministry

What ministry is about 3

Tony Payne

By Tony Payne

The story so far: Col Marshall and I are just about to publish a book called The Trellis and the Vine. The final chapter contains ten propositions about church life and ministry that summarize the general argument of the book. I'm running a version of these ten propositions up the flagpole to see what the Sola Panel community makes of them.

So far, we've had:

  1. Our goal is to make disciples not church members.
  2. Churches tend towards institutionalism as sparks fly upward.

Proposition 3 is about the heart of disciple-making.

3. The heart of disciple-making is prayerful speaking of God's word.

The word ‘disciple’ means above all else ‘learner’ or ‘pupil’. And this is how one becomes a disciple and grows as one—by hearing and learning the word of Christ, the gospel, and having its truth applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The essence of ‘vine work’ is the prayerful, Spirit-backed speaking of the message of the Bible by one person to another (or to more than one). Various structures, activities, events and programmes can provide a context in which this prayerful speaking can take place, but without the speaking and the prayer, it is all trellis and no vine.

This prayerful, Spirit-dependent speaking is not limited to preaching sermons or sharing the gospel with non-Christian friends (which are the two contexts that often spring most readily to mind). Nor does it always take place with a Bible open (although it often does). It happens whenever we direct someone (Christian or not-yet-Christian) to the truth about God in Jesus Christ, as it is revealed in the Scriptures. It can take place in casual conversation, or in reading a Bible passage one-to-one. It can be in the short note we write to encourage a flagging Christian or in the phone call we make to a grieving friend. In whatever context or by whatever means it happens, the goal is to help someone become a disciple of Jesus Christ, or to grow as one.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Excellent Series on Theology

Lionel Windsor

Lionel Windsor

Today we're continuing the series on biblical word power. This time we will seek to use what we have learned about the meaning of some important biblical words, so that we can come to grips with a very significant story told by Jesus.


To recap our key biblical definitions:

Righteousness = being in line with a standard.

Righteousness of a defendant = being in line with a legal and/or moral standard.

To justify = to declare that a person is indeed righteous (usually in a forensic context, i.e. a law court).

Atonement = dealing with any obstacle to a relationship, especially between God and human beings.

Two kinds of prayer in the temple

We'll get to Jesus' parable in a moment. But first let's go back to Solomon, the man who built the temple in Jerusalem about 1,000 years before Jesus. Solomon prayed a very significant prayer at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:14-42, see also 1 Kings 8:22-53).

Solomon begins by acknowledging that God truly dwells in heaven. Yet God has graciously put his presence in this particular temple and particularly listens to people who pray in that place (2 Chronicles 6:18-21).

What kinds of prayers does Solomon envisage will be prayed in the temple?

The first kind of prayer is a prayer for justification of individuals. The temple acts as God's heavenly law court on earth. At the temple, people can pray to God in heaven and ask for justification. Because God is a righteous judge, he justifies the righteous, and condemns wicked sinners (2 Chronicles 6:22-23).

The second kind of prayer is a prayer for atonement. The temple is the key place where the obstacles to the relationship between people and God (i.e. the people's sin and God's wrath) are dealt with. When sinful people pray and ask for atonement, God grants atonement. Atonement can take place both for Israel as a whole (2 Chronicles 6:24-40) and for individuals (e.g. 2 Chronicles 6:29).

Two men who go up to the temple to pray

Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) is a parable about two men who go up to the temple to pray (Luke 18:10)—clearly Jesus wants us to remember the two kinds of prayer that Solomon spoke about at the dedication of the temple (see above).

One of the men, the Pharisee, prays a prayer for justification (Luke 18:10-12). The Pharisee states that he, unlike others, is in line with certain moral and legal standards (Luke 18:11-12). That is, he states the case for his own righteousness before the heavenly court. Clearly, he is expecting that God in heaven will justify him (i.e. acknowledge that he is indeed righteous).

The other man, the tax collector, prays the other kind of temple-prayer—a prayer for atonement. It is a simple, humble prayer:

God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13b)

(NB The word he uses is the technical word for atonement, often used in the temple-context in the Old Testament).

Yet there is a surprising twist. The Pharisee, who pleads his case for his own righteousness, is not justified—i.e. God does not declare that he is righteous. But the tax-collector, the sinner, who simply asks for atonement, is justified. The man who is expecting justification on the basis of his righteousness, doesn't get it. But the man who asks for atonement receives both atonement and justification before God!

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:14)

What's happening here? If we look back at the start of the parable, we get a clue. The issue Jesus is dealing with is “self-righteousness”. Jesus is telling the parable to people who were confident that they were righteous on the basis of themselves (Luke 18:9).

The implication is that there is another basis for justification, other than our own moral or legal righteousness! Somehow, God, in his heavenly lawcourt, can look at a sinner who has asked for atonement, and declare that this sinner is indeed righteous. But that same God in that same heavenly lawcourt can look at another man who claims to be righteous (i.e. in line with legal and moral standards), and yet not make the declaration that he is righteous at all!

Justification and atonement

What is happening? It is a radical concept. Jesus in this parable brings together the two activities of the temple: justification and atonement. Indeed, Jesus is claiming that justification happens through atonement!

This teaching about justification isn't unique to Jesus. We can see the same idea in other parts of the Bible. For example, in Isaiah's prophecy, the sin-bearing atoning sacrifice of the Servant brings justification to many (Isaiah 53:11). The apostle Paul also brings justification and atonement together, claiming that a person is justified because Jesus Christ was presented as an atonement (Romans 3:25-26).

Plumbing the depths

How can this be? How can God declare that a sinner, who is clearly not in line with God's moral standards, is in indeed in line with his standards? Next time we'll explore this idea in more depth, seeing how this question is wonderfully resolved.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Tony Payne on Ministry

Proposition 2 is about the inevitable drift of churches towards institutionalism.

2. Churches tend towards institutionalism as sparks fly upward.

Churches inevitably drift towards institutionalism and secularization. The focus shifts from the vine (the making of disciples through the prayerful ministry of the Word) to the trellis (the programmes and structures that support and enable that work). There is a gradual change of emphasis from seeing people grow as disciples towards organizing and maintaining activities and programmes. Pastors easily start to think about their congregation mostly in structural and corporate terms. They fret about getting people into groups, building numbers at various programmes, putting on events for people to come to, and so on. They stop thinking and praying about people and where each one is up to in gospel growth, and focus instead on driving a range of group activities attendance at which (we assume) will equal growth in discipleship. The congregation likewise come to equate ‘involvement’ and ‘ministry’ with participation in the various structures and events of church life.

But going to groups and activities doesn't generate growth in discipleship any more than going to hear the Sermon on the Mount made you a disciple of Jesus. A ‘trellis’ of appropriate size and quality is necessary for the growth of any ‘vine’. But managing, maintaining and improving the trellis easily takes over from vine work.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Goals of Ministry by Tony Payne

So here's the first of ten propositions about Christian ministry:

1. The goal is to make disciples, not church members.

The measure of how ministry is progressing in your church or fellowship, and the way to evaluate whether you are making progress, is not attendance on Sunday, signed up members, people in small groups, or the size of our budget (as important and valuable as all these things are!). The real test is how successfully you are making disciples who make other disciples. Are we seeing people converted from being dead in their transgressions to being alive in Christ? And once converted, are we seeing them followed-up and established as mature disciples of Jesus? And as they become established, are we training them in knowledge, godliness and skills so that they will in turn make disciples of others?

This is the Great Commission—the making of disciples who obey all that Christ has taught, including the command to make disciples. And this is the touchstone of our faithfulness to Christ's mission in the world, and the sign of a healthy church: whether or not it is making genuine disciple-making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Richard Kew on Recent Convention

We have been back in the States for the last three weeks but will be returning to our ministry in Cambridge, England tomorrow. This means we have been around for the razzmatazz that went with the launch of the Anglican Church of North America, and now for the spectacle of the General Convention. Having been present at most General Conventions since the last Anaheim convention in 1985, I am glad I am not there. I have to say that what looks to be happening is a sad, sad spectacle, and from the deluge of words coming out of Anaheim it is evident that the Convention is in little mood to take seriously historic Christianity, or to honor the worldwide Anglican Communion.

As a bishop friend said to me in a personal email from Anaheim a day or two ago, the trend seems to be for TEC to become a stand-alone American denomination rather than part of the worldwide church. Clearly, the presence and advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a few days meant little or nothing to the majority of the House of Deputies. As the same episcopal friend also said, those who are for inclusion do not seem to realize that for a large chunk of us that means exclusion -- although we certainly have no desire to be excluded from catholic Christianity through the Communion.

This whole exercise is not about sexuality or sexual behavior, but is fundamentally about what we believe the Christian faith to mean and be about. When it comes down to it, it is about our attitude toward Jesus as God's Son, the nature of the Trinity, divine revelation, Christian obedience, and holiness of life. The cavalier attitude of the Presiding Bishop to the creeds and their recitation is evidence that she considers the likes of me as pedantic has-beens rather than those who are on the cutting edge -- but the cutting edge of what?

Yet the truth really is, as you look around the world, that those who are pushing this worn out postmodern melange and calling it Christian are increasingly the has-beens. They seem to have tied themselves to the coat tails of the last dribblings of the least attractive side of the Enlightenment, and it is entirely likely that they will disappear down the drain with them. I say this as an Episcopalian who lives in England and now functions as part of the church under great pressure.

The church in England is wrestling to adapt to an altogether more secular and hostile climate than exists in most of the USA, and what is interesting, I don't see postmodern Christianity standing up very well in such an environment. It is a limp and aging rag. The creative scholarship, for example, is coming from a far more theologically orthodox direction (as can be seen from the recent awarding of the Michael Ramsey Prize for theological writing to Richard Bauckham for his extraordinary challenge to scholarship in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses). Healthy progressive liberal and theologically to-the-left congregations are few and far between, while it the theologically more conservative who are creatively evangelistic that have become the majority of stronger centers of the faith.

This isn't to say that the English church doesn't have a belly-load of problems and challenges, some of which it is refusing to address; but it is illustrative that so-called progressive faith is not flourishing well in an environment which affirms and celebrates many of the values and attitudes it endorses. Picking over concrete evidence from Britain and asking what this might mean for the Episcopal Church of the USA, one can only confess that it does not auger well on this side of the ocean. Looking at the hard statistics about the health of the Episcopal Church that have been coming out of Anaheim, the best interpretation of them is that the church is in serious decline -- if not free fall, and those who say otherwise are clearly in denial with their ostrich necks firmly stuck down holes.

All this is happening in the midst of the deepest recession in living memory, and one that promises to impact us for a very long time to come. Looking at the dire financial state of the Episcopal Church after the Great Depression might be a valuable exercise to help us grasp what the circumstances of denomination, dioceses, and congregations could well be like when the world eventually pulls out of this dive. Money is the mother's milk of ministry, and there are huge problems if there is none, or little or none.

The churches in England that are healthiest are those who approach their Christian witness in a missional manner: which means trying to ask and answer how we take the gospel message and enable it to speak in an environment where the church a bit of a joke -- or worse. Some of them are making whopping mistakes, but at least they are trying! The intelligensia in Britain will generally take every opportunity to denigrate religious people of all flavors, the Church of England in particular. There is little or no social or intellectual kudos to be gained from being a believer in England, and the bulk of the general population doesn't have the vaguest notion of what the Christian faith is all about. There are too many uncanny parallels to the 1st Century.

Yet, there are Anglican churches (and varieties of others) that are packed to the doors. There are some fascinatingly creative experiments being undertaken. The theologically orthodox seminaries are the ones enrolling the majority of new students. The House of Bishops is becoming increasingly orthodox (although they may not want to label themselves that way), and so on, and so on. The end product will ultimately be a church that looks very different from the one we have now, and it is likely to be one that the older folks (like myself) will have our struggles with. But what is more important: our understanding of the right way to express the faith and decline, or a whole new generation being renewed and revived by God to take the message to their lost and floundering contemporaries?

As a priest of the Episcopal Church I honor my ordination vows and I stand with those who stand with the historic, catholic, and evangelical formularies of the faith. I recite the creeds with conviction, I believe Scripture is God's Word written, and I cannot and will not walk away from what is happening.

At the beginning of this decade I was part of the 2020 Task Force that posited ideas and plans for the doubling of the Episcopal Church in the first two decades of the 21st Century. The reverse has happened because that agenda was dumped by 2003 in favor of what Paul might describe as 'another gospel.' I suspect that if the Episcopal Church is half the size it was in 2000 by 2020 it will be a miracle if the present course continues to be followed.

This is a tragedy of monumental proportions, but it does not prevent us from standing firm alongside Augustine, Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Hooker, Janani Luwum, Festo Kivengere and many other selfless women and men who have gone before us in the faith. Error disrupts and does damage, but in the economy of a God who is truth it does not ultimately win the day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Katherine Jefferts-Schori and the Apostle Paul

From Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Shori:

‘The crisis of this moment has several parts… The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being.’

‘because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.’

(Romans 10:9-10)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From Neal Michell

As many in the Episcopal/Anglican world know, The Episcopal Church just completed its 76th General Convention in Anaheim, California. So, what are the medium-term prospects for the Episcopal Church in light of the decisions recently make by that General Convention?

Okay, let’s take a deep breath. Inhale deeply. . . exhale deeply. . . Here’s my take. First, the positives, and then the negatives.

1. Missions. First, on a positive note, it was evident that The Episcopal Church as a whole and as a sum of its parts is involved in lots of missionary endeavors throughout the world. All the resolutions concerning World Mission were considered with deep respect and generally found easy passage. This church has come a long way from the 1980’s and 1990’s when the World Mission Department of the Presiding Bishop’s office was in such disarray and serious attempts were made to cease sending missionaries from TEC to other parts of the world. Similarly, it is clear that those present at this General Convention value TEC’s membership and participation in the life of the Anglican Communion.

2. Diversity is a Value. The decisions of General Convention also evidence that TEC wants to be a church of more than the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant of the last two centuries in which men dominated the leadership ranks of the church. Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, homosexual persons, and women obviously played prominent roles at various levels of the church. On the positive side, it is a good thing to be in a church that attracts gay and lesbian persons. TEC is attempting to be more inclusive of people who formerly felt alienated from the church. (The downside of this is that as a whole, TEC churches offer acceptance only and not any sense of healing or deeper wholeness. A further downside of this desire to include in positions of leadership people from these formerly marginalized groups is that in several elections, candidates who were more experienced and had a more proven record of service to the church were cast aside in favor of these formerly marginalized people with less experience.)

3. Strategic Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministries. One glance at the Strategic plan put forward by the Hispanic and Latino Ministries shows that they get it.

Well, that’s about it for the positives. The rest looks pretty grim—and, by the way, it’s not all about sex. Let’s get sex out of the way first, because TEC has more problems than just the conflict over sexuality.

1. Widening Gap Between TEC and the Anglican Communion. The most commented on actions coming out of the Anaheim General Convention has to do with the declarations that discernment for all levels of ordained ministry is open to gay and lesbian persons. Although many have and will argue—specifically, the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies—that the moratorium on consenting to the election of a bishop in a same sex union has not been repealed, both the rationale given for the proposed legislation, and the floor debate accompanying said legislation (“D025”) reveals that the intent of the General Convention legislation was to hold the self-restraint as called for in 2006 (“B033”) as no longer binding on the bishops. It must be added that the abrogation of B033 was stated gently, respectfully, and graciously, but the intent of both houses of Deputies and Bishops was to abrogate B033. To interpret D025 otherwise stretches the bounds of credulity. The result at the Communion level will be that the rift between TEC and the vast majority of the Anglican Communion (save for Canada and a number of individual dioceses) has now widened even more considerably, and the likelihood of some form of Communion discipline of TEC is increased.

The Episcopal Church through General Convention also authorized the development of liturgical resources for the blessing of same sex unions to be presented to the 2012 General Convention (C061). Those who want TEC to remain a “constituent member of the Anglican Communion” will argue that no official rites were thereby authorized; it is equally clear through the floor debate on C061 as well as the statement in C056 that “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church.” Again, signal that TEC would move forward on the blessing of same sex unions wase given gently, respectfully, and graciously, but the intent was to move TEC beyond the constraints of the second moratorium requested by the primates in the Windsor Report family of requests. (There is one other problem facing TEC that comes from the sexuality decisions of General Convention in Anaheim. We will deal with that issue later in section 5 below.

However, the problems in TEC expressed through the decisions of General Convention in Anaheim run deeper than the sexuality issues.

2. Financial Shortfall. It was obvious to all those in attendance at the General Convention in Anaheim that The Episcopal Church as an organization is facing tremendous financial difficulties. Although the economy in general was publicly cited as the reason for the financial problems, it was clear through a review of the contributing dioceses the printed materials that the departure of four dioceses and the disaffection of a number of dioceses also contributed significantly to the shortfall. According to notes distributed to the Bishops and deputies, at least 68 out of 109 dioceses failed in 2008 to pay to TEC the amount requested for the support of the program and structure of TEC. Many good and positive ministries are being given less support or provided no support at all. When the budget was passed, it was also announced that some thirty jobs at “815” would be eliminated within the year.

3. Fair Cuts versus Strategic Cuts. The cuts proposed in the budget for TEC were intended to be “fair” and “across the board.” Sounds fair and reasonable, right? Ah, but that’s the problem. They were not strategic. Any organization experiencing decline should be strategic in its budget allocation. There was no talk of strategy—except a proposal to take money from the strategic planning line item and use it to provide a second part-time assistant for the President of the House of Deputies.

4. Lack of Overall Strategic Direction. Even apart from the lack of strategic allocation of resources in the triennial budget, it is clear that TEC also lacks strategic direction at the highest levels of leadership in TEC. Cuts in Communications were made without consultation of either the Standing Commission on Communications or the Board of Episcopal Life. In addition, the staff and organization of the Presiding Bishop has been in disarray for the past three years and continues to this day. Positions have been eliminated, some staff members have been reassigned, with the result that areas of responsibility have fallen through the cracks in a seemingly disorganized reorganization. Seemingly strategic staff positions of three years ago and even one year ago were eliminated with little dissent.

Clearly, a denominational structure that served 3.6 million members that now serves 2.2 million members has to be reorganized. However, the decisions made at General Convention fails to show whether the leadership is really acknowledging that changed reality.

5. Impact of Liberal vs. Conservative Balance of Power. Most votes concerning issues of sexuality generally passed by similar margins: 70% to 30% in favor of what would be labeled the liberal position. (The one exception was the resolution calling on people in The Episcopal Church to work for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act: it passed by only 55% to 45% in the House of Deputies and was defeated in the House of Bishops). TEC has lost 10% of its average Sunday attendance since 2003 (the year when the bishop of New Hampshire was consecrated). At a time when TEC is in significant decline due to conservatives leaving the denomination, the decisions to allow partnered gays to serve as bishops and to bless same sex unions—while it may bring some people into Episcopal churches—the overall effect will be to cause more theologically and culturally conservative people to leave TEC and will make TEC an even less attractive church for other theologically and culturally conservative people to consider joining.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

General Convention 09

Thoughts About the General Convention:

The recently completed General Convention provided neither shock nor surprise to those who have been following developments in recent years. However, after this convention, the die has been cast. The restraints that were acknowledged and practiced (not by all) in the Episcopal Church in the selection of bishops (no partnered same-sex bishops) and the blessing of same-sex unions (not permitted) after GC 2006, have been effectively removed. All baptized of whatever sexual orientation or practice (so long, of course, as their relationships are faithful and monogamous), have access to ordination in all orders of the church.

Further, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music was charged with collecting and developing “theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships…”

This all flies in the face of the teaching of the Bible, 2000 years of catholic understanding and practice, the pleas of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the present and acknowledged teaching of the Anglican Communion on the nature of marriage between one man and one woman.

Amazingly, the teaching of the now forgotten Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 which states, (The Lambeth Conference) “in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage” is not mentioned at all!

As one friend commented to his congregation, the Episcopal Church is no longer “limping with two different opinions.” (see 1 Kings 18.21)

Since 2003 All Saints' has distanced itself from the National Church and from the diocese of Alaska by receiving pastoral oversight from Bishop Terry Buckle of the Yukon (Canada), and by redirecting giving away from the diocese and National Church to other Christian ministries. We also linked with the Anglican Communion Network (now, a part of the ACNA – Anglican Church in North America), and most recently we signed the Jerusalem Statement and have identified with the Fellowship Of Confessing Anglicans, a very exciting development which was launched in London several weeks ago.

I think it is important that while we have rightly protested the approval of immoral behavior in our church, that we also make it known that all are welcome to our church. “Come unto me all who labor and are heaven laden,” are words we need to be reminded of. And as people hear of Christ, and learn of the salvation he has purchased through his death on the cross, turn to him as their Savior and Lord, and receive pardon and power to live as Christ’s servants, lives will change, and the standards that God has set will become the very way we will want to live our lives.

From Reform on Fellowship of Confessing Evangelicals

How will the newly-launched Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) help us in the work of the gospel? At one level not at all. It is up to us and those with whom we share ministry in our congregations to evangelise locally, to pray for friends and neighbours, to think creatively about how to impact our communities, to open up the Bible to others and to show God’s love by the way we live. But at another level its influence could be substantial. It provides a means of support between partners in the gospel so that faithful Anglicans who are struggling to hold firm, whether it be in Scotland, Canada, or the USA, can know they have prayerful companions over here. It can articulate the mission of the church in clear terms. It may be able to help with problems of episcopal oversight - particularly if the Church of England has difficulties accommodating new church plants. Most importantly, it presents the Jerusalem Declaration to the Church of England – as to others in the British Isles – as a renewing reminder of the gospel to which we adhere...More here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

From the Anglican Communion Institute

Written by: The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc.
Friday, July 17th, 2009

In a joint letter sent today to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the President of its House of Deputies, the presiding officers of General Convention acknowledged that that body cannot speak for the whole church in crucial matters affecting the life of the Anglican Communion:

Some are concerned that the adoption of Resolution D025 has effectively repealed Resolution B033. That is not the case. This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025. Some within our Church may understand Resolution D025 to give Standing Committees (made up of elected clergy and laity) and Bishops with jurisdiction more latitude in consenting to Episcopal elections. Others, in light of Resolution B033, will not. (Emphasis added.)

This letter thus makes it clear that Resolution D025 releases bishops and standing committees from any commitment and assurances previously given to observe the moratorium on episcopal elections that has been endorsed by all four of the Communion’s Instruments and now implemented in the Communion by vote of the Anglican Consultative Council. Indeed, the official “Explanation” to the final text of D025, which states that it “provides clarification in light of the Windsor Report,” removes any doubt concerning this fact:

Our relationships in the Anglican Communion have been tested by the question of the ordination to the episcopate of individuals living in a same-sex partnership. Resolution D-039 of the 73rd General Convention, in 2000, acknowledged that the membership of the Episcopal Church includes persons living in same-sex relationships; established an expectation that “such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God”; and further denounced “promiscuity, exploitation, and abusiveness in the relationships of any of our members.” Three years later, the 74th General Convention reaffirmed this expectation. These standards thus provide guidance for access to the discernment process for ordination to the episcopate. (Emphasis added.)

This is a categorical repudiation of the communion-wide moratorium on the election to the episcopate of anyone living in a same sex partnership. Bishops and dioceses are neither asked nor expected to observe such a moratorium. They are encouraged instead to observe “standards” recognizing same-sex partnerships as reflecting “holy love.” As conceded by today’s letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, some bishops and dioceses will respect the moratorium; others will not. And those that do respect the Communion teaching will do so only because they reject the “guidance” provided by General Convention “standards.”

This explicit recognition that some bishops and dioceses will conform to Communion teaching while others will not requires that the Communion now look to individual dioceses and parishes for communion commitments. The General Convention has decided it cannot speak with one voice in committing to the Communion’s moratoria. The Communion has no choice but to acknowledge those who are ready, willing and able to make these commitments.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A note to Michael Burke, the head of the Alaska delegation to GC 09


We appreciate your enthusiasm, your hard work and your reports while at the GC.

However, this comment stood out.

"There will, of course, be those at the extremes who cannot abide by any compromise or comprehension that permits legitimacy for those viewpoints they disagree with ...and we hold them in our love and prayers as well, as they seek a different path to be faithful to the Lord as they understand his will and Word."

It seems that those who continue to hold the faith 'once for all delivered to the saints' are now relegated to the status of 'extreme.' Further, while I do not deny the "legitimacy" of other view points, such points of view can be very wrong, both theologically and pastorally - which I judge to be the case.

The PB's opening address concerning the 'heresy' of individual salvation was uninformed and frankly embarrassing, and this wasn't lost on even some sympathetic observers.

I can only speak for myself; however, I find myself more alienated from TEC than ever before.

Jim Basinger

Slip Sliding Away

A Letter to Rowan: Slip Sliding Away ...

from BabyBlueOnline by BabyBlue

So Bonnie Anderson and Katharine Jefferts Schori
have written a letter explaining things to Rowan Williams, which is quite contrary to what was actually said in debates on the floor of both the House of Deputies and House of Bishops.

Let's just recall what D025 actually says:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.

What Schori and Anderson attempt to maintain - despite the rejoicing going on in the progressive quarters of this church here at General Convention - that they are just acknowledging "certain realities of our common life." Then they assert "Nothing in the Resolution goes beyond what has already been provided under our Constitution and Canons for many years." Well, that's a stretch because the Constitution and Canons call for affirmation of the following by all ordained persons:

I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church. Declaration." (Article III)

Earlier, the Constitution declares that the Episcopal Church is committed to "upholding
and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. " (Preamble of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church).

Resolution D025 (as does C056) do not conform with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church which recognize the authority and teaching on scripture which is quite clear about what is considered holy living. The Faith and Order set forth in the Book of Common Prayer only recognizes matrimony between a man and woman as being holy living.

The Windsor Report recognized that and those facts on the ground have not changed. That The Episcopal Church is now not only admitting that this type of behavior has been welcomed, it has promoted it as a tool for bringing new members into the church (with disastrous results). The Spirit is doing a new thing, they say - either that is true or it is not. The Episcopal Church is rejoicing that it is true and they are no longer to pretend otherwise.

The word-smithing in this letter reflects the duplicity of the doublethink of the leadership of this General Convention. On one hand they want to explain to Rowan Williams the "complex and deliberative nature of our legislative process" and then on the other hand wants to explain that B033 is not repealed, it's just now read in light of D025 (and D056 which is on its way) - which in fact, repeals B033 as deputy after deputy after deputy after bishop after bishop after bishop said! Who do they think they are fooling? The Archbishop of Canterbury? Do they think he's that stupid?

They write this letter even before the passage of C056 which makes it abundantly clear that B033 is done, finished - as deputy after deputy after deputy attested. Nice timing, there, ladies.

Did Bonnie Anderson ever say anything to the House of Deputies to clarify their thinking - no, a thousand times no. She sat in silence as deputy after deputy after deputy repudiated B033.

Did the Presiding Bishop ever say anything in the public sessions to clarify the resolutions from what bishop after bishop after bishop said it was, both B025 and D056, did she ever say anything that even hints at what she attempts to say in this letter to Rowan? No. No, no, no.

The letter is sanctimonious and self-congratulatory and never quotes the Windsor Report or Lambeth 1.10 or the Dar es Salaam Communique or even B033 not even once. They attempt to pull the wool over Canterbury's eyes by saying, well, it's not what it really looks like because, well, we just hope (wink wink) that the Episcopal leadership will "continue to exercise prayerful discernment in making such decisions, mindful and appreciative of our relationships in the Anglican Communion." No, no, no, no - a thousand times no. Bishop after bishop after bishop after deputy after deputy after deputy saw this resolution and the one that follows it as liberation from B033 and the Windsor Report and Lambeth 1.10 (except for the bits they like and quote). They changed the wording in Title IV so that the word "Communion" now means "the Episcopal Church" - not the Communion, not the Anglican Communion.

Make no mistake about it - the intent here is to dare the Rowan Williams to say anything - for if he does, if he dares, the Episcopal Church stands ready to declare itself a victim, even as it slashes $24 million from its budget and sends staffers packing. There's nothing wrong, no, really.

If that's no enough, we have Bishop Schori writing to the "Anglican Primates" attaching a copy of the letter to Rowan Williams, writing:


15 July 2009

Dear Brothers in Christ,

My heart was filled with joy at seeing so many of you here last week at the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church meeting in Anaheim, California. It is important to me that we continue to find ways to communicate with one another directly about our different cultural and ecclesial contexts, and thereby prevent any misunderstandings.

For this reason, I am sending you a copy of a letter addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and co-signed by myself and the President of our House of Deputies. It outlines in some detail Resolution D025, which was adopted at this Convention, explaining both what this resolution means and what it does not mean. With so much misinformation circulating through the press and other sources, it is crucial to me that I provide the Archbishop and all of you with accurate information. To this end, I am also attaching a copy of Resolution D025, so that you may read it in its entirety for yourself.

As the attached letter notes, some people have been concerned that the adoption of D025 has effectively repealed the 2006 General Convention Resolution B033. Let me stress that this is not the case. Rather, we understand D025 to be more descriptive than prescriptive in nature, acknowledging the realities we face in various parts of our own Church while reaffirming our ongoing commitment on all levels to our relationships within the Anglican Communion.

I would welcome any questions or feedback you might have, and reiterate yet again my profound appreciation and joy at having so many of you with us as we gathered as a Church to worship, fellowship, and deliberate together. May God continue to bless your ministries and strengthen our bonds of affection.

Your servant in Christ,


One again, she attempts to take the victim platform - stating "With so much misinformation circulating through the press and other sources, it is crucial to me that I provide the Archbishop and all of you with accurate information." She and Bonnie Anderson did not dare to say what's written in these letters publicly here at General Convention for they must have anticipated the (understandable) outrage from the Integrity-aligned folks that would have been deafening. This is a bald face lie and she couldn't say it publicly, writing these letters to the leadership as though they will believe her. In fact, during the key points of debating D025, not one Anglican leader was sitting at the three tables set aside for them in the House of Bishop. Not one. They were gone, gone, gone.

They are now playing showtunes on the floor of the House of Deputies as we await the announcement followed by "Slip Sliding Away."

Slip sliding away, slip sliding away
You know the nearer your destination,
the more you slip sliding away
Oh God only knows, God makes his plan
The information's unavailable to the mortal man
Were workin' our jobs, collect our pay
Believe were gliding down the highway,
when in fact were slip sliding away
Slip sliding away, slip sliding away
You know the nearer your destination,
the more you slip sliding away

Rowan Williams said he didn't speak on coded language when he was here. But these resolutions are filled with coded language and it's clear that if Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson are writing three-page-letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury they are severely worried. That they couldn't say their own worries to their own houses says more about the duplicity of their actions - and clarifies to all that The Episcopal Church has set its sights on slip sliding away into the sunset.