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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The New Evangelization?

By The Very Rev. Dr. Donald P. Richmond the past number of years increased attention has been given to evangelization. Originally rooted in the Roman Catholic Church, other denominations have also sought to re-present the gospel of Christ in ways that are far more comprehensible to modern / postmodern culture. Anglicans have also sought to re-form the ancient faith in ways that are far more palatable or pertinent.

These efforts are not entirely bad, although many are manifestly misguided. Just the other day I was reviewing a jurisdictional publication whose newest energies targeted building "Celtic" communities. Before this, and continuing, the renewal of worship (worship with "relevance") has been emphasized. Similarly, although striking a different note, the Inaugural Assembly of ACNA featured Dr. Rick Warren and his "missional" approach.

Other examples abound. Almost everyone today seeks to jump on the "missional" bandwagon, obviously overlooking at least three fundamental issues: (1) Evangelism is not a new idea, it is a gospel imperative, (2) Programs do not accomplish the purpose of God, and (3) By emphasizing programs above prayer we place the cart before the horse.

When reading about such efforts, and many others like them, I am often reminded of Hebrews 6:3 where the anonymous author tells us that we must do these things, but it is well past the time when we should have grown up and moved on (Hebrews 5: 12 - 6: 3). And it is indeed well past the time that we should have moved on by moving back into the patterns - priorities, principles and practices - that God has revealed.

In my opinion, our misconstrued "missional" emphasis is simply "elementary" teaching that has been long neglected. What Christian does not know that the Great Commandment and Great Commission are our priorities in life, priorities given by God and quite natural to those who are genuinely "alive in Christ?"

In order to move on we must return to our biblical and theological foundations. These are very briefly noted in Acts 2: 42. On the day of Pentecost, and shortly thereafter, the church was built upon four priorities: Apostolic Teaching, Prayer, Fellowship, and the Breaking of Bread. Each of these will be briefly commented upon.


Recent efforts to return to full orbed catechetical instruction and formation among North American Anglicans are commendable. Our Prayer Book, in both its structure and substance, is a catechetical masterpiece that is firmly rooted in apostolic teaching. It is to this apostolic teaching (centered in Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit) we must become and remain faithful. Programs do not build the church, the Paraclete does. Strategies do not enlarge our borders, the Scriptures and Spirit do. More often than not programs and strategies are shallow human substitutes for biblical fidelity, theological integrity, prolonged waiting and patient prayer. Bibles, not busy-ness or business, build churches.


The primitive church was built upon prayer. Prayerfully waiting upon the Spirit, and being enflamed for service, the early church proclaimed the "good news" of Jesus Christ both efficiently and effectively. They had no program beyond "waiting on God."

Their strategy was decisively spiritual. When the Spirit spoke, they spoke. Where the Spirit moved, they moved.

Anglicans are rooted in prayer, or at least should be. We practice what has been called (I believe by the late Rev. Dr. Robert Crouse) "Prayer Book Spirituality." If we are not people of prayer, we are not truly Anglicans. If we are not people of prayer, there may be cause to question whether we are even Christians. If we build houses apart from sustained supplication we build upon a Babel foundation. "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it."

As such, I believe that it is imperative that we Anglicans return to our Book of Common Prayer, to free prayer, to ejaculatory prayer, to sustained prayer, to warfare prayer, to prayer that sweats blood. In order to build churches we must build ourselves. It is my challenge to every Anglican, especially clergy, to return to our Daily Offices and an hour a day of simply waiting upon God. No prayer, no power. No Spirit, no success.


Community is critical to effective gospel communication. We come from and are made for community. In my soon to be released article, "Orange County or New Testament Evangelism?," I write: "We have our small groups, our cell groups, our fellowship groups, our accountability groups, our gregarious groupings of genteel gropers who so desperately want to "feel" good. And these are not entirely bad, but they are barely a beginning. What we really need, however, is deep fellowship. Fellowship is far more radical and far more personal. Fellowship is found when we practice commonality, community, and communalism..." (Daily Press, 2013). Are Anglicans truly building fellowships or are we simply hankering after Celtic, Benedictine, Saddleback, or other forms of well-meaning but often ill-informed substitutes? I truly "get" these efforts. I am myself Benedictine and believe that St. Benedict's Rulehas a great deal to teach us. I have been associated with a monastic community for almost a quarter of a century, and this association has enriched my life. I value George G. Hunter's The Celtic Way of Evangelism. I "see" the need for creating fellowship. But, in spite of "getting" and "seeing" this need, I often baulk at how we conceive and seek to create these communities. Any community building without the caritas of commonality and communalism is ill-conceived.


Any informed reader will note that these four focuses, culminating in the Breaking of Bread, suggest that we must truly become liturgical communities, Eucharistic communities. Although much could and has been said about this topic, suffice it to say that a liturgical and Eucharistic community lives its lifeafter the Service of Worship has ended and the Benediction has been given. The Breaking Bread community that builds the church is the broken hearted community that limps through life along with and among others.

The Breaking Bread community does not seek to artificially create effective means of evangelism because, when liturgy and Eucharist are lived, it naturally emerges. In such a community, the Liturgy of the Word becomes the proclamation of the Gospel, the Liturgy of the Sacrament becomes the promulgation of sacrificial living, the Anamnesis becomes the radical re-presentation of life giving incarnation and the Epiclesis becomes the center point for ministry in, through and by the Holy Spirit. In short, this type of community becomes and behaves as the "altar of the world." The so called "New Evangelization" and our "missional" emphasis is nothing new. It is, in fact, ancient. It is biblical, spiritual, mandated by God and an imperative placed on every believer. But we must build God's way, not our own. 

The Very Reverend Doctor Donald P. Richmond, a Priest-Oblate with the Reformed Episcopal Church and Order of Saint Benedict, is a widely published author, poet, and monastic cartoonist.

Special to Virtueonline 
December 29, 2102

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Happy and Blessed Christmas to All

Adoration of the Children, Gerard van Honthorst, 1620
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

The Christmas Pageant at Redeemer Parish, 2012

Joseph (Josh Minshall) and Mary (Grace Kenny) with the baby Jesus process out to end the Christmas Pageant on Sunday, December 23, 2012.  It was just one part of a wonderful celebration of our first Christmas as the Anglican Parish of Christ the Redeemer in the South Hills

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Archbishop Stanley and Mama Beatrice - John Macdonald amd me seated nearby

I have returned from my short but satisfying trip to Uganda for the enthronement of Bishop Stanley Ntagali as Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda.  story here  (includes a link at the end of the story to the text of Abp Duncan's sermon given at the enthonement service)  I left Pittsburgh fro NYC and then Amsterdam.  At Schiphol airport in Amsterdam Friday morning I met up with Trinity professor John Macdonald and then Archbishop Bob and Nara Duncan, bishops John (and Meg) Guernsey, Bill Thompson and Neil Lebhar.  Arriving in Entebbe at midnight on Friday after almost 20 hours in the air, we collapsed into our living quarters at the Namirembe guest house in Kampala.  Saturday was a down day in which I delivered the new laptop computer and the suitcase of clergy shirts and vestments to Archbishop Stanley's able American assistant, the Rev Alison Barfoot, Throughout the day I chatted most of the time with new Bishop of the Horn of Africa and former TSM prof Grant LeMarquand, John Macdonald, John and Meg Guernsay, Neil Lebahr and Bill Thompson.  It was great to swap church stories, recount the road to realignment and laugh and have fun. John Macdonald, Deb Carr, SAMS missionary Janine LeGrand, who is working in Masindi Uganda, and I had a nice dinner at an Indian restaurant in Kampala.  

St Paul's Cathedral, Namirembe Hill Saturday AM before service
Saturday was followed by a full day on Sunday for the enthronement activities.  Sunday began with arrival at St Paul's Cathedral on Namirembe Hill at 8:45 AM.  The service began one hour later and lasted 4.5 hours yet it was never boring.  There were at least 8 Archbishops/Primates or their representatives, about 40 Ugandan bishops, 5 ACNA/CANA bishops and a handful of English and other African bishops in the procession.  The were no TEC bishops vested or other TEC clergy introduced during the service.  The Primus of Scotland David Chillingworth was a surprise visitor-- he being the leader of a more liberal Anglican Church.   It was good for him to hear the other side (non TEC) of the current situation.  
President of Uganda Museveni addressing congregation 
The service included addresses by the outgoing Archbishop and charismatic leader Henry Luke Orombi, the new Archbishop, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and President Museveni of Uganda; the sermon by our own Archbishop Duncan and at least 50 introductions including the Rev "Debbie" Carr of SAMS. I never have heard a better, more heartfelt sermon from my bishop -- and I have heard many before!   A highlight was Abp Duncan leading the congregation of 3,000 in the singing of the anthem of the East African Revival praise chorus Tukutendereza Yesu. listen here

(l to r) ACNA bishops Neil Lebhar, John Guernsey and Bill Thompson 

Former Archbishops Nkoyoyo and Orombi flank newly enthroned Archbishop Ntagali 
Outside of the Cathedral after the service - Identified are Abp Stanley Mama Beatrice, the Roman Catholic Cardinal and Orthodox Metropolitan of Kampala, Abp of York John Sentamu, ACNA Abp Bob Duncan, Primus of Scotland David Chillingworth, former Abps Nkoyoyo and Orombi, Bp of the Horn of Africa Grant Lemarquand, CANA Bp Martin Minns, ACNA Bp Neil Lebhar and others 
A wonderful luncheon reception followed with traditional African music and dancers --- and more speeches. During the reception I introduced myself to the new bishop of Masindi-Kitara diocese George Kasangaki.  Bishop Stanley had made me an honorary Canon of St Mathew's Cathedral in Masindi so it was good to meet and greet my new "boss".  I also spent some time with a friend of our former assistant bishop Henry Scriven, the new Bishop of Winchester and the former director of CMS, Tim Dakin and I greeted old friend Bishop Wilson Turumanya and his wife Sayuni.  I first met Wilson some 30 years ago during our time at All Saints Aliquippa.  Gale and I visited Wilson in his home in Hoima Uganda during our time there in 2005.  Most of the almost 100 international visitors were invited for a twilight dinner reception on the lawn of the Archbishop's palace complete with some awesome African praise music.  During dinner I sat with Bishop John Ruchyhana of Rwanda and his wife Harriet.  They were students with me at Trinity School for Ministry.  The long day ended at about 10:30 that evening.  

Processing out - John Macdonald and I observe 

Monday we drove out to Mukono to see Uganda Christian University and after a very well done presentation by the Vice Chancellor, the Rev Dr John Senyoni, toured the campus --- especially impressive was the new library and new science building.  When Trinity professor Stephen Noll assumed the role of Vice Chancellor in 2001 there were about 250 students -- today there are over 12,000.  How's that for growth!

Main Administration Building at Uganda Christian University 
We returned in enough time to pack, check out and drive to the airport for dinner and departure.  Our dinner with the 8-10 of us that traveled to Uganda on he same flight plus Alison Barfoot and her assistant Susan Morris was a wonderful time of reflection, satisfaction and thanksgiving.   Thus ended my time in Uganda.  The 20 hours of travel back to Pittsburgh completed my endeavor.  Thanks be to God and to you for it all.  

Note:  All pictures (except the photo of UCU) courtesy of the Rev Canon Dr Alison Barfoot, Assistant for International Affairs to the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let Your Church Be All About the One Stray Sheep This Christmas

by Rick Warren

As you know, people will show up at your church for Christmas that won’t show up any other time during the year. Here are three ways to help them see the importance of Christmas –

Remind them that they need a rescuer. Sheep who are lost can’t save themselves. If a sheep’s rescue is completely dependent upon itself, he’s a lost cause. He needs a rescuer. People do too. Lost in the pretty Christmas cards, festive parties and frantic gift-buying is the fact that Christmas is, first and foremost, a rescue mission. The Bible says humanity is enslaved to sin. Those without a relationship with Jesus desperately need Him to rescue them from that sin. Without Jesus, they truly have no hope.

Help them see what Jesus says about their deepest needs.  When people show up at your church this Christmas they’re coming with many needs. Many have been crushed by the world around them. They’ve lost marriages, children, jobs—and hope. Only Jesus can recover what they’ve lost. Like the coin that the woman lost in Luke 15, they can’t help themselves—and often they don’t really know they’re lost. But like the woman in the story, their Heavenly Father is searching unceasingly for them.

Connect them with their Heavenly Father. Like the prodigal son, we all need to be connected to our Heavenly Father. Many of the unchurched who will visit your church this Christmas won’t believe God will accept them for who they are. The truth is, no matter what they’ve done, who they’ve hurt or how they’ve been treated, God loves them immensely. He loves them enough to send His Son so He can have a relationship with them.

Jesus loved lost people. He loved spending time with them. He went to their parties. From the Gospels it is obvious that Jesus enjoyed being with seekers far more than being with religious leaders. He was called the “friend of sinners.” (Luke 7:34)

Take the cue from the Good Shepherd in Luke 15 and let your church be all about the one stray sheep this Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Perseverance of the Saints

By R C Sproul 

Writing to the Philippians, Paul says, “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end” (Phil. 1:6). Therein is the promise of God that what He starts in our souls, He intends to finish. So the old axiom in Reformed theology about the perseverance of the saints is this: If you have it—that is, if you have genuine faith and are in a state of saving grace—you will never lose it. If you lose it, you never had it.

We know that many people make professions of faith, then turn away and repudiate or recant those professions. The Apostle John notes that there were those who left the company of the disciples, and he says of them, “Those who went out from us were never really with us” (1 John 2:19). Of course, they were with the disciples in terms of outward appearances before they departed. They had made an outward profession of faith, and Jesus makes it clear that it is possible for a person to do this even when he doesn’t possess what he’s professing. Jesus says, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8). Jesus even warns at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that at the last day, many will come to Him, saying: “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this in your name? Didn’t we do that in your name?” He will send them away, saying: “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). He will not say: “I knew you for a season and then you went sour and betrayed Me. No, you neverwere part of My invisible church.” The whole purpose of God’s election is to bring His people safely to heaven; therefore, what He starts He promises to finish. He not only initiates the Christian life, but the Holy Spirit is with us as the sanctifier, the convictor, and the helper to ensure our preservation.


I want to stress that this endurance in the faith does not rest on our strength. Even after we’re regenerated, we still lapse into sin, even serious sin. We say that it is possible for a Christian to experience a very serious fall, we talk about backsliding, we talk about moral lapses, and so on. I can’t think of any sin, other than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that a truly converted Christian is not capable of committing.

We look, for example, at the model of David in the Old Testament. David was surely a man after God’s own heart. He was certainly a regenerate man. He had the Spirit of God in Him. He had a profound and passionate love for the things of God. Yet this man not only committed adultery but also was involved in a conspiracy to have his lover’s husband killed in war—which was really conspiracy to murder. That’s serious business. Even though we see the serious level of repentance to which David was brought as a result of the words of the prophet Nathan to him, the point is that David fell, and he fell seriously.

The apostle Paul warns us against having a puffed-up view of our own spiritual strength. He says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). We do fall into very serious activities. The Apostle Peter, even after being forewarned, rejected Christ, swearing that he never knew Him—a public betrayal of Jesus. He committed treason against His Lord. When he was being warned of this eventuality, Peter said it would never happen. Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan would have you and sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, so that when you turn, strengthen the brothers” (Luke 22:31).Peter fell, but he returned. He was restored. His fall was for a season. That’s why we say that true Christians can have radical and serious falls but never total and final falls from grace.

I think this little catchphrase, perseverance of the saints, is dangerously misleading. It suggests that the perseverance is something that we do, perhaps in and of ourselves. I believe that saints do persevere in faith, and that those who have been effectually called by God and have been reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit endure to the end. However, they persevere not because they are so diligent in making use of the mercies of God. The only reason we can give why any of us continue on in the faith is because we have been preserved. So I prefer the term the preservation of the saints, because the process by which we are kept in a state of grace is something that is accomplished by God. My confidence in my preservation is not in my ability to persevere. My confidence rests in the power of Christ to sustain me with His grace and by the power of His intercession. He is going to bring us safely home.

From here 

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Song from the `Burgh!

Our take on a long-standing Pittsburgh classic, originally performed live on-air nearly 20 years ago by Johnny Angel and the Halos.
Directed by Luke Clavey
Yinz better watch aht
Yinz better not cry
Yinz better not paht
I’ll tell Yinz hows come
Santa Claus is goin’ Dahntahn
He’s makin’ a list
He’s checkin’ it aht
He’s gonna find aht who’s nebby n’at
Santa Claus is goin’ Dahntahn
He sees you when your sleepin’
He sees you in your house
He knows if your bein’ a jag off n’at
Or loungin’ on your couch
Yinz better watch aht
Yinz better not cry
Yinz better not paht
I’ll tell Yinz hows come
Santa Claus is goin’ Dahntahn
Santa’s goin’ to the Super Bowl…
Yinz better watch aht
Yinz better not cry
Yinz better not paht
I’ll tell Yinz hows come
Santa Claus is goin’ Dahntahn
He’s sees you on the Norside
Easliberty ‘n Sahside, too
He don’t want you to be ascared
Just do what you’re aposed to do
Yinz better watch aht
Yinz better not cry
Yinz better not paht
I’ll tell yinz hows come…
Santa Claus is goin’ Dahntahn

Sunday, December 2, 2012

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Limited Atonement

by R C Sproul

I think that of all the five points of Calvinism, limited atonement is the most controversial, and the one that engenders perhaps the most confusion and consternation. This doctrine is chiefly concerned about the original purpose, plan, or design of God in sending Christ into the world to die on the cross. Was it the Father’s intent to send His Son to die on the cross to make salvation possible for everyone, but with the possibility that His death would be effective for no one? That is, did God simply send Christ to the cross to make salvation possible, or did God, from all eternity, have a plan of salvation by which, according to the riches of His grace and His eternal election, He designed the atonement to ensure the salvation of His people? Was the atonement limited in its original design?

I prefer not to use the term limited atonement because it is misleading. I rather speak of definite redemption or definite atonement, which communicates that God the Father designed the work of redemption specifically with a view to providing salvation for the elect, and that Christ died for His sheep and laid down His life for those the Father had given to Him.


One of the texts that we often hear used as an objection against the idea of a definite atonement is 2 Peter 3:8–9: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The immediate antecedent of the word any in this passage is the word us, and I think it’s perfectly clear that Peter is saying that God is not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us should come to salvation. He’s not speaking of all mankind indiscriminately; the us is a reference to the believing people to whom Peter is speaking. I don’t think we want to believe in a God who sends Christ to die on the cross and then crosses His fingers, hoping that someone will take advantage of that atoning death. Our view of God is different. Our view is that the redemption of specific sinners was an eternal plan of God, and this plan and design was perfectly conceived and perfectly executed so that the will of God to save His people is accomplished by the atoning work of Christ.

This does not mean that a limit is placed on the value or the merit of the atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s traditional to say that the atoning work of Christ is sufficient for all. That is, its meritorious value is sufficient to cover the sins of all people, and certainly anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus Christ will receive the full measure of the benefits of that atonement. It is also important to understand that the gospel is to be preached universally. This is another controversial point, because on the one hand the gospel is offered universally to all who are within earshot of the preaching of it, but it’s not universally offered in the sense that it’s offered to anyone without any conditions. It’s offered to anyone who believes. It’s offered to anyone who repents. Obviously the merit of the atonement of Christ is given to all who believe and to all who repent of their sins.

 From here

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Irresistible Grace

By R C Sproul

In historic Reformation thought, the notion is this: regeneration precedes faith. We also believe that regeneration is monergistic. Now that’s a three-dollar word. It means essentially that the divine operation called rebirth or regeneration is the work of God alone. An erg is a unit of labor, a unit of work. The word energy comes from that idea. The prefix mono- means “one.” So monergism means “one working.” It means that the work of regeneration in the human heart is something that God does by His power alone—not by 50 percent His power and 50 percent man’s power, or even 99 percent His power and 1 percent man’s power. It is 100 percent the work of God. He, and He alone, has the power to change the disposition of the soul and the human heart to bring us to faith.

In addition, when He exercises this grace in the soul, He brings about the effect that He intends to bring about. When God created you, He brought you into existence. You didn’t help Him. It was His sovereign work that brought you to life biologically. Likewise, it is His work, and His alone, that brings you into the state of rebirth and of renewed creation. Hence, we call this irresistible grace. It’s grace that works. It’s grace that brings about what God wants it to bring about. If, indeed, we are dead in sins and trespasses, if, indeed, our wills are held captive by the lusts of our flesh and we need to be liberated from our flesh in order to be saved, then in the final analysis, salvation must be something that God does in us and for us, not something that we in any way do for ourselves.


However, the idea of irresistibility conjures up the idea that one cannot possibly offer any resistance to the grace of God. However, the history of the human race is the history of relentless resistance to the sweetness of the grace of God. Irresistible grace does not mean that God’s grace is incapable of being resisted. Indeed, we are capable of resisting God’s grace, and we do resist it. The idea is that God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it. It is not that the Holy Spirit drags people kicking and screaming to Christ against their wills. The Holy Spirit changes the inclination and disposition of our wills, so that whereas we were previously unwilling to embrace Christ, now we are willing, and more than willing. Indeed, we aren’t dragged to Christ, we run to Christ, and we embrace Him joyfully because the Spirit has changed our hearts. They are no longer hearts of stone that are impervious to the commands of God and to the invitations of the gospel. God melts the hardness of our hearts when He makes us new creatures. The Holy Spirit resurrects us from spiritual death, so that we come to Christ because we want to come to Christ. The reason we want to come to Christ is because God has already done a work of grace in our souls. 

Without that work, we would never have any desire to come to Christ. That’s why we say that regeneration precedes faith.

I have a little bit of a problem using the term irresistible grace, not because I don’t believe this classical doctrine, but because it is misleading to many people. Therefore, I prefer the term effectual grace, because the irresistible grace of God effects what God intends it to effect.

From here

Saturday, December 1, 2012

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election

By R C Sproul

The Reformed view of election, known as unconditional election, means that God does not foresee an action or condition on our part that induces Him to save us. Rather, election rests on God’s sovereign decision to save whomever He is pleased to save.

In the book of Romans, we find a discussion of this difficult concept. Romans 9:10–13 reads: “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Here the Apostle Paul is giving his exposition of the doctrine of election. He deals with it significantly in Romans 8, but here he illustrates his teaching of the doctrine of election by going back into the past of the Jewish people and looking at the circumstances surrounding the birth of twins—Jacob and Esau. In the ancient world, it was customary for the firstborn son to receive the inheritance or the patriarchal blessing. However, in the case of these twins, God reversed the process and gave the blessing not to the elder but to the younger. The point that the Apostle labors here is that God not only makes this decision prior to the twins’ births, He does it without a view to anything they would do, either good or evil, so that the purposes of God might stand. Therefore, our salvation does not rest on us; it rests solely on the gracious, sovereign decision of God.


This doesn’t mean that God will save people whether they come to faith or not. There are conditions that God decrees for salvation, not the least of which is putting one’s personal trust in Christ. However, that is a condition for justification, and the doctrine of election is something else. When we’re talking about unconditional election, we’re talking in a very narrow confine of the doctrine of election itself.

So, then, on what basis does God elect to save certain people? Is it on the basis of some foreseen reaction, response, or activity of the elect? Many people who have a doctrine of election or predestination look at it this way. They believe that in eternity past God looked down through the corridors of time and He knew in advance who would say yes to the offer of the gospel and who would say no. On the basis of this prior knowledge of those who will meet the condition for salvation—that is, expressing faith or belief in Christ—He elects to save them. This is conditional election, which means that God distributes His electing grace on the basis of some foreseen condition that human beings meet themselves.

Unconditional election is another term that I think can be a bit misleading, so I prefer to use the term sovereign election. If God chooses sovereignly to bestow His grace on some sinners and withhold His grace from other sinners, is there any violation of justice in this? Do those who do not receive this gift receive something they do not deserve? Of course not. If God allows these sinners to perish, is He treating them unjustly? Of course not. One group receives grace; the other receives justice. No one receives injustice. Paul anticipates this protest: “Is there injustice on God’s part?” (Rom. 9:14a). He answers it with the most emphatic response he can muster. I prefer the translation, “God forbid” (v. 14b). Then he goes on to amplify this response: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (v. 15). Here the Apostle is reminding his reader of what Moses declared centuries before; namely, that it is God’s divine right to execute clemency when and where He desires. He says from the beginning, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” It is not on those who meet some conditions, but on those whom He is pleased to bestow the benefit.

From here

Thursday, November 29, 2012

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Total Depravity

By R C Sproul 

The doctrine of total depravity reflects the Reformed viewpoint of original sin. That term—original sin—is often misunderstood in the popular arena. Some people assume that the term original sin must refer to the first sin—the original transgression that we’ve all copied in many different ways in our own lives, that is, the first sin of Adam and Eve. But that’s not what original sin has referred to historically in the church. Rather, the doctrine of original sin defines the consequences to the human race because of that first sin.


Virtually every church historically that has a creed or a confession has agreed that something very serious happened to the human race as a result of the first sin—that first sin resulted in original sin. That is, as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, the entire human race fell, and our nature as human beings since the fall has been influenced by the power of evil. As David declared in the Old Testament, “Oh, God, I was born in sin, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). He was not saying that it was sinful for his mother to have borne children; neither was he saying that he had done something evil by being born. Rather, he was acknowledging the human condition of fallenness—that condition that was part of the experience of his parents, a condition that he himself brought into this world. Therefore, original sin has to do with the fallen nature of mankind. The idea is that we are not sinners because we sin, but that we sin because we are sinners.

In the Reformed tradition, total depravity does not mean utter depravity. We often use the term total as a synonym for utter or for completely, so the notion of total depravity conjures up the idea that every human being is as bad as that person could possibly be. You might think of an archfiend of history such as Adolf Hitler and say there was absolutely no redeeming virtue in the man, but I suspect that he had some affection for his mother. As wicked as Hitler was, we can still conceive of ways in which he could have been even more wicked than he actually was. So the idea of total in total depravity doesn’t mean that all human beings re as wicked as they can possibly be. It means that the fall was so serious that it affects the whole person. The fallenness that captures and grips our human nature affects our bodies; that’s why we become ill and die. It affects our minds and our thinking; we still have the capacity to think, but the Bible says the mind has become darkened and weakened. The will of man is no longer in its pristine state of moral power. The will, according to the New Testament, is now in bondage. We are enslaved to the evil impulses and desires of our hearts. The body, the mind, the will, the spirit—indeed, the whole person—have been infected by the power of sin.

I like to replace the term total depravity with my favorite designation, which is radical corruption. Ironically, the word radical has its roots in the Latin word for “root,” which is radix, and it can be translated root or core. The term radical has to do with something that permeates to the core of a thing. It’s not something that is tangential or superficial, lying on the surface. The Reformed view is that the effects of the fall extend or penetrate to the core of our being. Even the English word core actually comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart.” That is, our sin is something that comes from our hearts. In biblical terms, that means it’s from the core or very center of our existence.

So what is required for us to be conformed to the image of Christ is not simply some small adjustments or behavioral modifications, but nothing less than renovation from the inside. We need to be regenerated, to be made over again, to be quickened by the power of the Spirit. The only way in which a person can escape this radical situation is by the Holy Spirit’s changing the core, the heart. However, even that change does not instantly vanquish sin. The complete elimination of sin awaits our glorification in heaven.

From here

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Established Churches and Inward Drift

By Thom S. Rainer

All organizations tend to lose their focus and forget their original purposes over time. I call this almost imperceptible movement “inward drift.” The attitude becomes one of protecting the way we’ve always done it rather than looking back to the original purposes and reasons for existence. Numbers of stagecoach businesses failed, for example, because they thought their primary purpose was to make stagecoaches rather than to provide reasonable and rapid transportation.

The primary dangers with inward drift are twofold. First and foremost, the organization can forget the very reason it was created. Second, the drift is often imperceptible. Many organizations don’t realize there is a problem until it’s too late.

When Inward Drift Comes to Church

Local congregations are not immune from inward drift. To the contrary, the vast majority of churches in North America are likely in crisis because of the negative impact of inward drift.

Some of the labeling of congregations is unfortunate. Particularly, when we speak of “traditional churches” or “contemporary churches,” we rarely come to consensus on a clear definition. My son, Sam Rainer, popularized the term “established churches,” a term I prefer to use today. An established church is simply a church that has been in existence for a few years and is thus susceptible to inward drift. Indeed most any church three years or older will likely begin to experience some of the symptoms of inward drift.

When an organization such as a for-profit business begins to experience inward drift, it will change or die within relative short order. The marketplace will not buy its goods or services if the company doesn’t address the needs and the hearts of the consumers.

An established church, however, can exist for years and even decades with inward drift. The church may not be making disciples. It may not be reaching the community and the nations with the gospel. But it continues to exist more as a religious social club than a true New Testament church. Its members and constituents are willing to fund the congregation since it meets their perceived needs and desires.

Signs of Inward Drift in Established Churches

The signs of inward drift in an established church are clear even though the members don’t often recognize them:

Most of the ministries and programs are focused on meeting the desires and needs of the members.

The budget of the congregation is directed primarily at funding the projects and even comforts of the members.

Conflict in the congregation is not uncommon since members are more concerned about getting their perceived needs and desires met.

There is little to no focus on evangelism, reaching out to the community, and getting the gospel to the nations.

Leadership is weak and reticent to address the problems, because that leadership emphasis could disrupt the status quo.

Addressing the Issue of Inward Drift in the Church

I recently drove through my hometown. I lived in the same house and the same town for my first eighteen years of life. But it had been more than a decade since I visited the town. I was shocked. Businesses on the main street were closed. Some were boarded.

Many of the homes I knew and loved had deteriorated greatly. The major industries had exited and left large vacant buildings. It was almost a ghost town.

Someone who had never left the town, though, told me that things were really going well there. They were serious when they said it had not changed much since I left. For me, the change was stark and shocking. For him, it was slow and imperceptible. When we fail to see the deterioration that is taking place, we will not see the need to make changes to reverse the course.

Such is the crisis in many of our established churches today. And it is that imperceptible inward drift that often makes it so difficult to lead a congregation toward healthy change. In my post this coming Saturday, I will address some of the possible steps to lead an established church toward change without destroying it in the process. I hope you will join me then.

From  here 

Monday, November 26, 2012

TULIP and Reformed Theology: An Introduction

From  R C Sproul 

Just a few years before the Pilgrims landed on the shores of New England in the Mayflower, a controversy erupted in the Netherlands and spread throughout Europe and then around the world. 

It began within the theological faculty of a Dutch institution that was committed to Calvinistic teaching. Some of the professors there began to have second thoughts about issues relating to the doctrines of election and predestination. As this theological controversy spread across the country, it upset the church and theologians of the day. Finally, a synod was convened. Issues were squared away and the views of certain people were rejected, including those of a man by the name of Jacobus Arminius.

The group that led the movement against orthodox Reformed theology was called the Remonstrants. They were called the Remonstrants because they were remonstrating or protesting against certain doctrines within their own theological heritage. There were basically five doctrines that were the core of the controversy. As a result of this debate, these five core theological issues became known in subsequent generations as the “five points of Calvinism.” They are now known through the very popular acrostic TULIP, which is a clever way to sum up the five articles that were in dispute. The five points, as they are stated in order to form the acrostic TULIP, are: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.

I mention this historical event because it would be a serious mistake to understand the essence of Reformed theology simply in light of these five doctrines—the Reformed faith involves many other elements of theological and ecclesiastical confession. However, these are the five controversial points of Reformed theology, and they are the ones that are popularly seen as distinctive to this particular confession. Over the next five posts, we are going to spend some time looking at these five points of Calvinism as they are spelled out in the acrostic TULIP.

From here

The Rev Harold Lewis Rector of Calvary Church Pittsburgh Retires

When the Rev. Harold T. Lewis became rector of the mostly white and wealthy Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside in 1996, the city was reeling from racial turmoil, and Father Lewis, who is African-American, was expected to be a leader in addressing social injustice.

But circumstances have led him to retire as a renowned advocate for Episcopal canon law.

Five years before the 2008 schism in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, he filed a lawsuit to stop anyone from taking property out of the Episcopal Church.

"If you had asked me when I was ordained ... if I would ever sue my bishop, I would have said you were crazy," said Father Lewis, 65, who retired Sunday.

Read it all:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What I've Come to Understand and Believe

I surrendered my life to Christ in 1981 in the context of attending an Episcopal Church.  Fortunately it was pastored by a deeply committed evangelical and spirit-filled priest Christopher Leighton and his equally committed evangelical assistant Larry Hill. see here and here.   My wife and I came to Christ and became equally committed to evangelical Christianity with a charismatic strain.  It served us well. 

During my subsequent ministry as Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, as Director of Administration and Finance at the South American Missionary Society (SAMS) and as a student at Trinity School for Ministry my evangelicalism grew in depth and understanding.   Raised as a 1950s mainline Methodist and later involved in the “decision theology” of American style evangelism, I leaned toward Arminianism as opposed to reformed theology (Calvinism). 

After graduation from TSM, ordination and some time as a parish pastor, I was exposed to the radical grace and the difference between law and grace as promulgated by then Trinity Dean Paul Zahl.  Paul had me read On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde.  Reading it was eye-opening and like fresh water for a thirsty soul.   It renewed my belief in salvation through grace alone by faith alone, and the atoning work of Christ on the cross,

Further, I began to realize I was really a reformed Anglican, convinced by the teachings of the continental reformers Luther and Calvin and Anglican reformers such Cramer, Latimer, and  Ridley, and Anglican evangelicals such as Ussher, Lightfoot, Moule, Ryle, Stott and Packer.  Although I have great respect for John Wesley as an evangelist, I cannot buy the cooperative aspect of Wesleyanism.   For me it’s all God --- he doesn’t need our help.     
Lately I have been listening and reading the works of present day reformed preachers and teachers R C Sproul, John MacArthur, John Piper and Tim Keller.  They have cemented my beliefs in reformed theology. 

For the next while I will be reposting a series of six short articles by R C Sproul posted on his blog Tabletalk about the essence of reformed theology through the lens of TULIP.  It succinctly explains what I have come to understand and believe.                         

Christ the King Sunday

Today we celebrated Christ the King Sunday at Christ the Redeemer.  Our preacher was Christopher P. Leighton the second rector of our former parish St. David’s and now rector of St. Paul’s Darien CT.   At our eight o’clock service we sang music themed for the occasion, the old Fisherfolk tune “Jesus is Our King” and hymns “Come Thou Almighty King” and “Crown Him With Many Crowns” yet to break up the theme a bit "O Christ the Same Through All Our Story's Pages" to the familiar Irish tune Londonderry Air (Danny Boy) was offered as an anthem by David Ball during communion. 

During the Adult Ed hour Christopher and Janet and Gale and I shared of our history together at All Saints’ Aliquippa from an evangelistic perspective and Christopher and Janet shared about their evangelistic outreach to the neighboring community of Norwalk CT.  Christopher shared about their planting of 10 “Anglican mission stations” (outside of TEC) scattered throughout the state of Connecticut.  St. Paul’s has also brought litigation in the state courts to determine the legality of the imposed trust of the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon in Connecticut.   This is because St. Paul’s property is valued at $12 million and the Diocese of Connecticut and TEC is not going to willingly relinquish a claim to it and in favor of their congregation.    

At the 10:30 service at the end of his sermon Christopher made an appeal for those who would like to surrender to Christ the King to stand –the whole congregation stood.  He then asked those who’ve done this for the first time to raise their hands and five did so.  Praise God!  It will be our job to follow up these commitments and we surely will.   All in all it was a great Sunday. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Day 2012

Thanksgiving at the Anglican Parish of Christ the Redeemer in the South Hills
 The Anglican Yinzer wishes you a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving.
We all have much to be thankful for. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Churches

Yesterday afternoon Don Bushyager and I attended the gathering of 75 or so folks at True Anglican Church in Monongahela for a Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the opening of their new church building on East Main Street.  In addition to Don and me, Anglican clergy from Brownsville and Uniontown attended as well as the Church of Christ, Methodist,  and two Baptist clergy from Monongahela.  It was a pleasant surprise to see old friends and erstwhile Anglicans, Darrin and Trish Ford, from Donora among other guests from the community.   

The Holy Spirit was present and active!  We listened to readings from Holy Scripture, prayed and sang a combination of staid Anglican hymns like "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus", old gospel hymns like "It is Well"  and "His Eye in on the Sparrow" and renewal choruses from the 1980s like "Glorify Thy Name" and "Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place".  And the Rector, John Fierro, preached with fire in his belly!   The service was a real testimony to the hard work and commitment to the gospel by the people of the former St Paul’s Church who left everything behind and moved into the former Italian Social Club.  It was also evident this came to pass in large part because of  John's 14 years of faithfully preaching the gospel and lovingly caring for the people in his charge.  Church leadership guru, John Maxwell, in an oft quoted phrase sums up John's ministry in the Mon Valley,  "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  John cares and his people care for him and they follow his leadership.  

As we drove through Monongahela on West Main Street we passed by St Paul’s Episcopal Church.  The sign in front proclaimed: “Open to All  -  Closed to No One”.   This seems to be the meme of the congregations occupying former Anglican properties.  For example, our former electronic sign at St David’s often flashes:  “St David’s Warmly Welcomes All”.   They seem to be suggesting that the Anglican parishes somehow don't welcome everyone to their churches and now somehow the newly occupying Episcopalians have corrected that alleged deficiency.  

Last Saturday Bishop Mark Lawrence in his speech to the Special Convention of the  Diocese of South Carolina explained this mistaken perspective quite clearly:  “But I must say this again and again. This has never been about who is welcome or not welcome in our church.  Its about what we shall tell them about Jesus Christ, his mercy, his grace and his truth – it is about, what we shall tell them when they come and what we shall share when we go out.”

Just sayin',  DDW

Saturday, November 17, 2012

SC Special Convention Overwhelmingly Affirms Departure from TEC

Worth Reading the Entire Address - DDW+

The following address was given by the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, XIV Bishop of South Carolina, at St. Philip's Church, Charleston, on Saturday, November 17. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith….”  Hebrews 12:1—2a

When this Diocese last met in a convention at St. Philip’s, it was September 16h, 2006.  I was one of three candidates for the XIV Bishop of South Carolina.  In my opening address the week before, I spoke these words to the assembled clergy and laity:  “We meet this morning in this lovely city of Charleston.  Inside the walls of this great old historic edifice—we can only hope the wisdom of the years might seep into our minds that we might rightly appreciate the present, and more importantly imagine an even greater future for tomorrow.”  I purposely referenced the past, present and future in this opening sentence.  So too we meet here today, our hands reaching back to bring the rich heritage of the past with us and with our feet firmly placed in the present—and with our hearts seeking God’s grace for an even greater future for tomorrow we are facing reality as it is, not as it was nor as we wish it were, but as it is.  Before, however, turning our minds to consider the future, I need to say word about what in recent years we have come through.  For since that day on September16th this Diocese and I have passed through two consent processes for Bishop, and two Disciplinary Board procedures for Abandonment of the Communion of The Episcopal Church—the last without our even knowing it and while we were seeking a peaceable way through this crisis.    I have not done the research but I suppose two consent processes and two disciplinary board procedures is and may well remain unique in the annuals of the Episcopal Church.  You may remember that during that stormy first consent process I stated that:  “I have lashed myself to the mast of Jesus Christ and will ride out this storm wherever the ship of faith will take me.”  Well it brought me two years later here to the marshes and cypress swamps of the Low Country.  Where many of your relatives landed centuries before—some searching for wealth and others herded like cattle in the hulls of ships.   During these past years I have grown to love this land, set down roots in your history and, even more to our purpose, become one with you in a common allegiance to Jesus Christ, his Gospel, and his Church.  

Consequently, I trust you will understand that I have strived in these past five years, contrary to what some may believe or assert, to keep us from this day; from what I have referred to in numerous deanery and parish gatherings as the Valley of Decision.  There is little need to rehearse the events that have brought us to this moment other than to say—it is a convergence of Theology, Morality, and Church Polity that has led to our collision with the leadership of the Episcopal Church.  I hope most of our delegates and clergy who have heard me address these matters know in their hearts and minds that this is no attempt to build gated communities around our churches as some have piously suggested or to keep the hungry seeking hearts of a needy world from our doors.  Rather, let the doors of our churches be open not only that seekers may come in but more importantly so we may go out to engage the unbelieving with the hope of the gospel and serve our communities, disdaining any tendency to stand daintily aloof in self-righteousness.    Indeed, let us greet every visitor at our porch with Christ and while some of our members stand at open doors to welcome, still others will go out as our Lord has directed into the highways and byways of the world—across seas and across the street—with the Good News of a loving Father, a crucified-yet-living Savior and a community of wounded-healers learning, however falteringly, to walk in step with His Spirit.   Let not God’s feast go unattended.  This is our calling and our mission. 

But I must say this again and again. This has never been about who is welcome or not welcome in our church.  Its about what we shall tell them about Jesus Christ, his mercy, his   grace and his truth – it is about , what we shall tell them when they come and what we shall share when we go out.

We have spent far too many hours and days and years in a dubious and fruitless resistance to the relentless path of the Episcopal Church.  And while some of us still struggle in grief at what has happened and where these extraordinary days have brought us, I believe it is time to turn the page.  The leaders of the Episcopal Church have made their positions known—our theological and creedal commitments regarding the trustworthiness of Scripture, the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ, and other precious truths, while tolerated, are just opinions among others; our understanding of human nature, the given-ness of gender as male and female, woven by God into the natural and created order, is now declared by canon law to be unacceptable; our understanding of marriage as proclaimed in the Book of Common Prayer “established by God in creation” and espoused by Anglicans around the world hangs precariously in the life of the Episcopal Church by a thin and fraying thread; and our understanding of the church’s polity, which until the legal strategy of the present Presiding Bishop’s litigation team framed their legal arguments, was a widely held and respected position in this church . Now to hold it and express it is tantamount to misconduct or worse to act upon it – is ruled as abandonment of this church.  While one might wish the theological and moral concerns were on center stage, it is the Disciplinary Board for Bishops misuse of the church’s polity that has finally left us no place to stand within the Episcopal Church.  So be it.  They have spoken. We have acted.  We have withdrawn from that Church that we along with six other dioceses help to organize centuries ago.

While I have strived to keep us from this Valley of Decision, having walked so long in its gloom myself—once forced to decide—my allegiances are firm.     The doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them and the solemn declaration “that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary for salvation” cannot be surrendered.   Nor can we embrace the new revisions to the doctrine, discipline and worship so wrongly adopted.  Whether we could or could not have stayed longer, or continued to resist in the face of these recent innovations need not detain us further.  An unconstitutional process has weighed us in a faulty canonical balance and found us wanting.    The Presiding Bishop’s legal team having entered with coy excuses and without canonical authority into this diocese some three or more years ago, now emerges from the shadows, stepping boldly into the light of day.  We must of course address them and their actions; but should they look to reconciliation and not litigation, changing from their prior practice of speaking peace, peace while waging canonical and legal war, we shall meet with them in openness to seek new and creative solutions.  Yet let this be known, they will not detract us from Christ’s mission.  We move on.  Those who are not with us, you may go in peace; your properties intact.  Those who have yet to decide we give you what time you need.  Persuasion is almost always the preferable policy, not coercion. By God’s grace we will bear you no ill.   We have many friends among the bishops, priests and laity of the Episcopal Church, and we wish you well. Furthermore, I bear no ill toward the Episcopal Church.  She has been the incubator for an Anglican Christianity where God placed me many years ago. Rich is her heritage and regal her beauty.  When I have quarreled with her it has been a lover’s quarrel.  For many of the precious gifts she has received from prior generations she has not maintained.  And she has left no place for many of us to maintain them either.  So I say free from malice and with abiding charity we must turn the page.  And I say this as well:  to all who will continue with us:  “Let us rend our hearts and not our garments.”  Let us be careful not to poison the waters of our communities with our differences with the Episcopal Church.  Rarely have the spiritually hungry, the seeker, the unconverted or the unchurched been won for Jesus Christ through church conflicts, denominational discord, or ecclesiastical excesses.  If we are to have the aroma of Christ we must live in his grace with faith, hope, and charity.  The apostle has described it well the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness (long-suffering) and self control. Therefore, we cannot allow either personally or corporately any root of bitterness, resentment, un-forgiveness, anger or fear to take us like untied and forgotten buoys in an outgoing tide, burying our hearts and mission in some muddy marsh or to float adrift in some backwater slough.  No, we shall turn the page with hearts wide open and love abounding for the chief of sinners – which is always us. We shall move on.  Actually, let me state it more accurately.  We have moved on.  With the Standing Committee’s resolution of disassociation the fact is accomplished:  legally and canonically.  The resolutions before you this day are affirmations of that fact.   You have only to decide if that is your will and your emotions will follow.

Following Christ the Pioneer and Perfecter of our Future

So turning the page let us take a brief look at this next chapter of the Diocese of South Carolina.  We shall need, of course, the promises and exhortations of the apostolic word.   I began this address with verses from the Letter to the Hebrews.  After surveying in the 11th Chapter of his letter the luminaries of past generations who walked by faith and not by sight—Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David and many lesser known men and women— the writer turns the page for his readers to the present and the future.  Surrounded by these witnesses or martyrs from the past these early Christians must take their place in this great narrative of salvation history.  Shedding themselves of every hindrance and clinging sins and (may I suggest perhaps things they cannot take with them) they are to press on looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of their faith.  And so must we.    

Challenges and Opportunities within the Diocese:  Much speculation has arisen now that we are out of the Episcopal Church as to where the Diocese of South Carolina is going?  I have repeatedly said at gatherings around the diocese that this question has not been a topic of serious discussion among the changing members of the Standing Committee over the years, or for that matter among the deans, or within the Council.  It needs to be state again that our time has been taken up with keeping the diocese protected, while being intact and in the Episcopal Church.  And knowing that should push come to shove we would need to be prepared for numerous contingencies, we put in place various protections.  These are now profoundly helpful:  we have a pension plan for clergy and laity; insurance possibilities for our congregations; a diocesan health insurance program.  These do not allay every sacrifice or concern by any means, but they do at least fill a void that would otherwise be unnerving and almost unmanageable for many of our clergy and congregations.   Yet work remains to be done in these areas, and will be done in a timely manner.  Our challenges in this new landscape are many.  Some rather small, and others quite enormous—but so are the advantages. 

Having chosen to persuade rather than coerce we have a great meeting place—the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ!  He is the one who opens the great doors or closes them.  You may recall that the risen and glorified Christ spoke to the Philadelphian church in the Revelation of St. John the Divine: “Look, behold I set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”   I believe he has opened a door for us as well.  We know how to do mission.  We know how to preach the gospel; to make disciples; to share our faith with others; to do effective youth ministry; hold on to the essential doctrines of Christ while being innovative in reaching emerging generations; We know how to plant and grow congregations.  Do we have much to learn?  You bet. Will we learn it?  We will.   I ask you to imagine if this might be true  - that perhaps the greatest congregations in this Diocese of South Carolina have yet to be grown - maybe they haven’t even been planted. Some of us are getting long in the tooth and need to learn from and make way for younger leaders.   As for me I realize how quickly it has happened:  those words of the Psalmist that once caused me to think of retired priests and elder statesmen I now apply to myself: “O God, you have taught me since I was young, /and to this day I tell of your wonderful works. /And now that I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, /till I make known your strength to this generation and your power to all who are to come.”  (Psalm 71:17-18)   When did that come to be about me and not someone else? The LORD spoke to Servant-Israel regarding her witness to the world saying:  “Behold, I do a new thing—before it breaks forth I tell you of it.”  It is a time for the old to dream dreams and the young to see visions.  If we can combine prudence and dynamism we can get somewhere.   So even while we keep the richness of a residential seminary clergy track, we need to explore new ways of preparing young men and women and even middle-age ones for ministry; especially those who know how to travel light.  It is a new day and new ways of proclaiming the old truths need to be adopted.

I stated at our recent Clergy Conference that I hoped we will maintain a comprehensive Anglicanism.  Should we lose an African-American congregation we shall look at planting another.  If we lose an Anglo-Catholic parish we will pray for what God will have us do; there are those from whom we can learn from here in this area.  As for multi-racial congregations surely that is a gift whose time has come - or perhaps is past time.  Imagine what this Diocese of South Carolina can accomplish for the Kingdom of God and the Gospel if so much of our common life is no longer siphoned off in a resistance movement.  What can our diocesan and deanery gatherings become when our focus is first and foremost on our ministry at home and Christ’s mission in the world?  If we can move beyond our parish silos and into relationships that foster mutual growth and mission a new day of possibilities awaits us.  I will be calling together a task force to link stronger parishes with congregations and missions in the diocese that may suffer the loss of members due to this departure from the Episcopal Church.  If a smaller parish has lost 10, 20 or 30 percent of its membership it may not be able to afford a full time priest.  So while continuing to keep the door ajar for disaffected parishioners to return,  we need to find ways to enable that congregation to continue to support their rector or vicar; and not merely in order to keep ply wood from the windows but in order to reach their community for Christ and to grow his Church.  That is what it is about. Let’s get on with it. This will be one of our first priorities.  We also need to re-configure some of our deaneries.  Some are functioning well and others are almost defunct in offering little if any real support for clergy or for drafting cooperative work for ministry and mission.  There is room for exciting developments and opportunities here.

Let me turn to the challenges and opportunities in North American Anglicanism for a minute:  South Carolina has been and continues to be a microcosm of North American Anglicanism—with all that is good and vital, and all that is most troubling.  In an address at the Mere Anglicanism Conference last January I noted that there were some six overlapping jurisdictions within the boundaries of our diocese all making claims one way or another to being Anglican.   With the exception of this Diocese of South Carolina, the oldest of these Churches is the Reformed Episcopal Church.  There are many REC congregations throughout South Carolina.  They reach a good number of people with a vital faith and a strong Anglican tradition.  They have a goodly heritage and a seminary just up the road in Summerville.  Then there’s the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) which has until recently been the mother church of their movement at Pawleys Island.  Recently the All Saints’ Pawleys Island congregation voted to associate with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).  But AMiA has still other congregations scattered across the Low Country—some with bishops and some with rectors.  Then, just this year ACNA ordained a former rector of this diocese, The Right Reverend Steve Wood, of St. Andrew’s Mt. Pleasant as the first bishop of their new Diocese of the Carolinas, which includes North and South Carolina.  St. Andrew’s offers dynamic ministry and many within this diocese have kept bridges of relationships with these brothers and sisters in Christ and for this I give thanks. There are other Anglican bodies as well, some of whose bishops I know and some I do not.  As I have stated before this is all rather un-Anglican!  All these bishops overlapping one another - but to reflect on a more positive note we ought to at least to acknowledge that South Carolina may well be the most “Anglicanized” turf in North America!  Everybody’s talking about Anglicans. You know what happens when everyone’s talking about Baptists? They grow churches. Everyone’s’ talking about Anglicans. It’s our moment!

All this might be what lies behind the question often raised at the deanery and parish forums I’ve been addressing—“Bishop, with whom will we affiliate?”  My answer has been quite simply, “For now—no one.”  As any wise pastor will tell you, if you been in a troubling, painful or dysfunctional relationship for a long period of time and then the marriage or relationship ends, you would be wise not to jump right away into the first one that comes along and tie the knot.  You’d be wise take your time.  Nevertheless, I hope we can work with and for a greater unity among the Anglican Churches within our local region and also within North America.  We have many friends and bonds of affection that unite us and along with this—a common mission, Christ’s Mission and unity will deeply assist it. A century ago a son of this diocese, William Porcher DuBose, wrote these helpful words:  “The question, How to restore and conserve Unity must go back to a prior one,--What is the Unity in question?  Let us recall and repeat  in our Lord’s own words:  ‘I will not leave you orphans; yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but ye shall see me; because I live, ye shall live also.’….If then, in all our differences we are thus able to concentrate and agree upon the one necessity of being in Christ and of being one in Him, we must not despair of some ultimate Way to it.  If we will cultivate and prepare the disposition, the will, and the purpose—God will make the Way….let us, I say, once begin on that line, and the differences that do not eliminate themselves will be turned into the higher service of deepening, broadening, and heightening the resultant Unity.”  To this end I will appoint a task force to begin contacting, praying and working with these other Anglican bodies as they are willing and as God gives us the grace we will together seek a greater Anglican Unity within South Carolina or at least within our jurisdiction.    

I recall some other challenging words from the past. Those sardonic and haunting words of William Reed Huntington, whose genius over a century ago shaped the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral:  “If our whole ambition as Anglicans in America be to continue a small, but eminently respectable body of Christians, and to offer refuge to people of refinement and sensibility, who are shocked by the irreverences they are apt to encounter elsewhere; in a word, if we care to be only a countercheck and not a force in society then let us say as much in plain terms, and frankly renounce any claim to Catholicity.  We have only, in such a case, to wrap the robe of our dignity about us, and walk quietly along in a seclusion no one will take much trouble to disturb.  Thus may we be a Church in name and a sect in deed.”  I mention these cutting words for two reasons.  I believe we need to work in two directions at the same time.  First we need to allow ourselves to draw near to the throbbing needs of the world around us.  And while maintaining the four pillars of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, we need to creatively engage our culture not with the tired arguments of the past, answering questions no one is asking, but answering those questions in the sorrowing and aspiring heart of our society.

Some years ago after the General Convention  2009 I went with a group of conservative Bishops to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury. But not wanting to put all my eggs in one basket, I also made an appointment with the Bishop of London. His offices are near St. Paul’s Cathedral, and not wanting to be late for an appointment with the Bishop of London I got there a little early. Since it was raining as it often is in England, I took cover under the portico of the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. If you’ve been there you know it is a conjunction of many streets coming in various directions. I watched the bustling crowd. I watched the people coming and going - cars and taxis and buses  - the heartbeat of a city. And I thought to myself, “How did it happen that I’m spending all my time with these ecclesiastical problems and meetings when for most of my life my heart has been to engage the culture with the Good News of Jesus Christ?” We cannot let this happen. Christ said to go out into the hurting world. When Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail he didn’t mean the church would stand in Alamo-like fashion against the world beating down at the doors of the church, he meant his disciples would go out where people were shackled behind prison doors of pain and suffering, broken relationships, addictions, hopelessness and that these gates of hell will not stand against God’s people. That’s our call. Because it’s Christ’s call.

Finally, I turn to our place in The worldwide Anglican Communion.  Our vision since 2009 has been to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age: Helping by God’s grace to help shape emerging Anglicanism in the 21st Century. Just this week I mentioned in my recent Open Letter to the Diocese that we have heard from Archbishops, Presiding Bishops, and diocesan bishops from Kenya to Singapore, England to Egypt, Ireland to the Indian Ocean, Canada to Australia.  They, represent the overwhelmingly vast majority of members of the Anglican Communion and they consider me as a faithful Anglican Bishop in good standing and they consider this diocese as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Ah friends, this has got to comfort us as we await further guidance from God regarding future affiliation. And we need to continue conversation with the Provinces and Dioceses with whom we have missional relationships.  Just yesterday I received emails from bishops in Egypt, North Africa and Ethiopia assuring us of their prayers.  I thought my gosh if those in such hard-pressed environments should take an interest and intercede on our behalf is humbling. I woke this morning to see an email from Ireland, from Bishop Clarke saying we are in his prayers.   We are not alone.  Greater are those with us than any who may be against us. 

Nevertheless, this I assure you, there shall be lengthy and thorough conversation among the clergy of this diocese—our bishops, priests, and deacons—and our lay leaders before any decision will be presented before this Convention that would ask you to associate with any Province.   I remind you of an historical fact—this diocese existed after the American Revolution for four years before it helped to fully form the Protestant Episcopal Church in these United States and before that organization was completed.  It was a fifth year before this diocese ratified that relationship at our Diocesan Convention in 1790.  So for now and the foreseeable future, having withdrawn from our association with the Episcopal Church, we remain an extra-provincial Diocese within the larger Anglican Communion; buttressed by the knowledge we are recognized as a legitimate diocese by the vast majority of Anglicans around the world.  Truly, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. 

What then in conclusion?  Having turned the page, having gazed however briefly at the next chapter, the path begins to open up before us, “… let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Founder and Perfecter of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” These resolutions you will soon have before you are first and foremost a way for you to affirm the action of disaffiliation which the Standing Committee has legally and canonically taken.  Many of you have already decided in your heart and mind how you will vote.  Others will need more time.   But I invite you for just a moment to stand on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral at the heart of the bustling city with the needs of the world, or if you prefer stand at the corner of Meeting and Broad here in Charleston or outside the Walmart in Goose Creek or Moncks Corner, or sit in a vestry meeting after having been a Rotary luncheon in Florence and lean yourself into a throbbing and hurting world. Ask yourself how long do I want to spend my time, my energy and my soul in a resistance movement that has proven so fruitless. Is it not time to get on with a ministry of Jesus Christ to a broken world? So in keeping with your understanding of God’s Word, the historic teachings of Christ’s Church, and the leading of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ call to make Disciples, it is time to take stock of what you think, and in harmony with your heart and conscience to act.  May God guide us all.  

“Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.”  Jude24