Daily Archives: November 24, 2007

Megachurches Add Local Economy to Their Mission

In Anchorage early in October, the doors opened onto a soaring white canvas dome with room for a soccer field and a 400-meter track. Its prime-time hours are already rented well into 2011.

Nearby is a cold-storage facility leased to Sysco, a giant food-distribution corporation, and beside it is a warehouse serving a local contractor and another food service company.

The entrepreneur behind these businesses is the ChangePoint ministry, a 4,000-member nondenominational Christian congregation that helped develop and finance the sports dome. It has a partnership with Sysco’s landlord and owns the warehouse.

The church’s leaders say they hope to draw people to faith by publicly demonstrating their commitment to meeting their community’s economic needs.

“We want to turn people on to Jesus Christ through this process,” said Karl Clauson, who has led the church for more than eight years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches

Stehen Noll: A Letter to Delegates to the Diocese of Pittsburgh Convention

My brothers and sisters in Christ in the Diocese of Pittsburgh

Someone asked me recently if I was planning to vote at the Convention on November 2. “Not until they allow email ballots,” was my answer. But it occurred to me that I could send an electronic voice vote instead of a paper ballot.

I write to you from a distance but with a closeness of heart as you prepare for the Convention this weekend. I have been an Episcopalian since my conversion and baptism as a university student in 1966. I have been ordained since 1971 and a priest of the Diocese since 1979. I have been a theologian and educator at Trinity School for Ministry for 21 years and now in Uganda since 2000. I have been addressing the crisis in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion for the past 20 years.

I believe Bishop Jack Iker has spoken frankly and prophetically when he states there is no future in The Episcopal Church for those who hold to biblical Christianity in the Anglican tradition. In my courses on the prophets, I always taught that oracles of judgement precede oracles of hope. Such is the situation of Anglicanism today. We have incurred God’s judgement as a tradition and as a church. The responses of biblically-minded Anglicans to this crisis have been various, uncoordinated and often contradictory, which may itself be an outworking of judgement.

About ten years ago, I did some contingency planning for the American Anglican Council by projecting five scenarios for the future. Let me comment on them briefly with benefit of ten years of hindsight.

Scenario 1: Victory in turning the institution back to the biblical and historic faith. Despite strenuous efforts by the AAC and others, the Episcopal Church has set its course for the future, and we are not a part of it. Politically, we lost. There is no credible scenario now by which TEC can be reformed or revived from within.

Scenario 2: A negotiated settlement that would allow our group (call them confessors or dissidents) to live in peace or to separate with a fair distribution of property. The powers that be have ruled out this option, either out of fear that they might open the floodgates to departures or out of conviction that they don’t need to compromise, holding the legal cards in their hand.

Scenario 3: A league of confessing parishes. Parishes have been the main source of strength among confessing Episcopalians. Beginning with the First Promise movement, then with AMiA, and now with other networks aligned with overseas provinces, parishes have become the foundation of a new church. In most cases, joining these networks has cost churches and clergy their property, pensions, and some of their people. At the same time, breaking free has brought new energy for evangelism, church planting and mission.

Scenario 4: A league of confessing dioceses. The Anglican Communion Network emerged out of the AAC to unite bishops and like-minded dioceses against the powers that be. Unfortunately, this league has been whittled down to only a few. Help has come from another quarter: a network of bishops and dioceses has emerged, with connections reaching internationally into the Global South and historically back to the Reformed Episcopal Church and other groups who have been marginalized by the Episcopal Establishment over the years. This is the Common Cause Partnership.

Scenario 5: Piecemeal disintegration. Institutional death ”“ comfortably financed but death nonetheless ”“ is the future of The Episcopal Church. If the typical Anglican worldwide is a 30 year-old person of color, so the typical Episcopalian of the future will be a 70-year-old divorced priest. Those who stay in the institution to make a witness will be swallowed up and swept away like the exiles of Samaria after 722 BC.

None of the above scenarios is pleasant, humanly speaking; even the first (victory) would have been distressing in its way. As Scripture says: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant”¦. But some scenarios ”“ call them ways of obedience ”“ are hopeful; as the writer continues: “later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

I think realignment through the Common Cause Partnership offers the best amalgamation of parish and diocesan scenarios that we can ask for at present. Yes, there is danger of splintering. Yes, there are thorny issues like women’s ordination to be faced. And certainly, there is no way we shall return to “business as usual.” On the other hand, I think this movement has garnered the best leadership in the church, and above all, it has the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ that those who are faithful over a little will be entrusted with more (Matthew 25:21).

Some of my friends and former students have concluded that Anglicanism has lost its saltiness and have departed to other churches. I believe Establishment Anglicanism is dying, both nationally and internationally, but the Anglican tradition, chastened and reformed, has an ongoing witness to make. Certainly, the Anglicans in the Church of Uganda see it that way. So I plan to continue an Anglican come what may.

I serve in Uganda, but I am proud to be a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I am in awe of my bishop, who has exhibited sacrificial courage, biblical faithfulness, and practical wisdom in leading the Network and Common Cause movements. I cannot in good conscience remain a priest of The Episcopal Church much longer, but it is my hope that I may remain a priest of this diocese for years to come. Your decisions this week may enable that possibility.

May God bless and guide you in your deliberations. We shall be praying with you as you meet.

Cordially in Christ,


The Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll
Mukono, Uganda
28 October 2007

Posted in Uncategorized

Opening brief Filed with California Supreme Court by Saint James, Newport Beach

Newpoert Beach, Calif. ”“ Attorneys for St. James Anglican Church this week filed the opening brief with the California Supreme Court in the church’s property case with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and the national Episcopal Church.

The opening brief is the first step in the process that will culminate with the California Supreme Court deciding three important issues that will affect every church in California, regardless of denomination:

Issue #1: Should California courts use the “neutral principles of law” method in resolving church property disputes (followed for over a generation by courts in California and commended by the U.S. Supreme Court), or simply defer to the decisions of the church hierarchy (followed in the present case by the Fourth Appellate District, Division Three)?

Issue #2: Does California Corporations Code section 9142(c) permit a religious denomination, which does not hold title to property, to create a trust in its favor over property owned by a separate religious corporation, without the latter’s knowledge or express agreement? If so, does Corporations Code section 9142(c) violate the establishment and equal protection clauses of the United States and California Constitutions by permitting religious organizations, and only religious organizations, to create trusts over property they do not own without the express consent of the owner?

Issue #3: When a local church corporation speaks out about the actions of a religious denomination by voting to disaffiliate from it, and the denomination then challenges the validity of the disaffiliation and claims ownership of the corporation’s property, are these claims subject to early scrutiny as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (“SLAPP”)?

The next step will be for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and the national Episcopal Church to file a responsive brief. St. James will respond to their arguments in a reply brief. After the briefing of the parties is completed, others affected by the decision can file amicus briefs.

The briefing process will take at least until February 2008 to complete, perhaps longer, and then the Court will schedule oral argument.

The California Supreme Court has granted review of three similar church property cases involving All Saints’ Anglican Church, Long Beach, St. David’s, North Hollywood, and First Baptist Church, Los Lomas. Those cases are on hold pending the outcome of the St. James case. Four other cases now pending in the California Court of Appeal ”“ involving former Russian Orthodox, Assemblies of God and Episcopal churches ”“ will be directly affected by the St. James case.

Click here to read St. James’s brief

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

Church of England leaders send letter of support to Bishop Iker

Here is the full letter with the signatories.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth