Daily Archives: June 27, 2008

Dale Buss on a Megadevelopment in the World of Megachurches

Religion, like marketing, has its funnel. And many evangelical megachurches have spent the past quarter-century focusing on the rim, attempting to get spiritual “seekers” just to sample a service — and hoping that they will at some point join the faith. These churches have grown by staying away from hard-core biblical teaching and instead have lured the curious with slick multimedia presentations and skits, sermons with the cultural relevance of “Saturday Night Live,” and maybe an iced cappuccino for the trip home.

But now the leading exponent of this approach, Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, has plunged its Sunday-morning services much deeper into the faith funnel. More music is provided for worship, not just ambience; and more messages target “mature” believers, not just new ones. One recent sermon challenged listeners to publicly show their commitment as Christians, an appeal that would have seemed strange a year ago. For a business owner, that might mean talking about Christ with employees, it was suggested; for a teenager, it might involve risking status with peers.

“We can start at the top of the hour saying, ‘Here’s the deal,’ and get right at it — as opposed to having to demonstrate the fact that we’re conversant with the culture,” explained William Hybels, Willow Creek’s founding and senior pastor.

Also now, Sunday-morning visitors are more likely to be greeted than to be allowed to slouch in anonymity. On Memorial Day weekend, for example, Mr. Hybels invited those who were struggling with some life circumstance to stand up where they were. Then believers nearby placed hands on them while Pastor Hybels prayed.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry

Marketplace–When churches cross the tax line

Churches usually don’t have to pay property taxes. The IRS consider a house of worship a nonprofit cause. But some congregations don’t meet in church buildings these days. So, guess what? The IRS is reexamining this. Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Matt Kennedy–GAFCON: Dawn in Jerusalem

No one here, whether communion conservative or federal, wants the week to end with an innocuous communiqué and, I think, there is a very good chance that that danger has been averted…Creating a new global structure based on this paradigm, is, at this point, the consensus hope, the common ground. Some sort of articulation of this New Paradigm is where I think the communiqué will eventually settle. I am a fed-con but not a separatist. I am federal because do not think that any historic see is essential to Anglicanism and would be willing to break ties to Canterbury if necessary. At the same time I think there is still hope for the Communion as a whole. That hope, however, does not rest within the present structures of Communion. It rests here in Jerusalem. If a disciplined, ordered, faithful, global body is birthed here (or at least conceived), bounded by a firm corporate confessional commitment and governed by conciliar adjudication, then, though Canterbury dithers and fails, global Anglicanism does indeed have hope and a future.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

Virginia Judge Rules in Favor of Cana Parishes

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

Faithful in Pews Might Not Be Voters in November

If Christian conservatives stay on the sidelines during the fall campaign, presidential hopeful John McCain probably stays in the Senate.

Christian conservatives provided much of the on-the-ground, door-to-door activity for President Bush’s 2004 re-election in Ohio and in other swing states. Without them, the less organized and lower-profile McCain campaign is likely to struggle to replicate Bush’s success. And so far, there’s been scant sign that the Republican nominee-in-waiting is making inroads among these fervent believers.

“I don’t know that McCain’s campaign realizes they cannot win without evangelicals,” said David Domke, a professor of communication at the University of Washington who studies religion and politics. “What you see with McCain is just a real struggle to find his footing with evangelicals.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

Telegraph: Orthodox Anglicans feel betrayed by church structure

Orthodox Anglicans who are creating a new movement at a breakaway summit in Jerusalem have said they feel “betrayal and abandonment” at the current church structure.

The 1,000 conservatives at the Gafcon conference say they feel “profound sadness” that the worldwide Anglican Communion has been driven to the brink of schism by liberals in America and Canada departing from traditional church teaching, particularly over sexuality.

They are working on a statement which shows how they think the church must proceed, which involves faithfulness to the Scripture and an end to “innovations” such as the ordination of homosexual clergy.

They are also developing a “church within a church” which will cater for Anglicans who do not want to be under the leadership of liberal bishops.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

Church times–Dr Nazir-Ali: ”˜Inculturation has limits’

THE most liberal-sounding speaker at GAFCON by the end of Tuesday was the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

Dr Nazir-Ali surprised participants on Tuesday by speaking up for inculturation, change, and diversity. But each of these had its limits, he said. The gospel had to be adapted to different cultures, but “capitulation to culture” must be avoided; change and development must be principled; diversity had to be legitimate.

He made few explicit references to existing Anglican polity, beyond saying that the things that bound it together ”” the Lambeth Quadrilateral, the Instruments of Communion, and “English good manners” ”” had not proved strong enough to hold it together.

His desire was for a conciliar Church. “We have to have councils that are authoritative, that can make decisions that stick. In the last few years, I’ve been frustrated by decision after decision after decision that have not stuck, and we cannot have this in the future for a healthy Church.”

He also wanted the Church to be clear “that we are a confessing Church. Some people have the mistaken idea that Anglicans can believe anything.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

CNN's Electoral Map: Two states shift to Obama

“Toss-up” states Minnesota and Wisconsin were re-designated to “Lean-Obama” Friday, giving the presumptive Democratic nominee another 20 electoral votes in CNN’s current estimate. The Illinois senator now has 231 electoral votes ”” 39 shy of winning the nomination.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

American Bishops Join in Shaping Communion Renewal Movement

GAFCON is the first pan-Anglican congress that is African-led and internationally funded, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria told participants earlier this week.

Archbishop Akinola said that $5 million to cover the costs of the June 22-29 conference had been raised in five months, with $2.4 million coming from the Church of Nigeria. Two individuals contributed the bulk of the Nigerian funding, he said, providing enough to pay the costs of the American bishops of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary outreach of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, to attend the gathering.

Bishop-elect AkinTunde Popoola, the Church of Nigeria’s press spokesman, told The Living Church the Nigerian donations were given anonymously, but he confirmed that the donors are Nigerian nationals resident in the country, and were not American supporters of CANA.

“Nigeria has been self-supporting” in its obligations within the Anglican Communion, Bishop-elect Popoola said. He noted that CANA had been granted a dispensation from Nigerian canon law requiring dioceses to contribute to the support of the national church. “CANA does not pay a dime to Nigeria,” he said.

The final costs of the conference will be released on Friday, conference treasurer Hugh Pratt said. He said that GAFCON appeared on track to be a financial success. Given the short time to prepare for the conference, Mr. Pratt said, the financial stability of the gathering was evidence of God’s hand at work.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Bishops

As foreclosures rise, more pets left homeless

Maybe it is because we have so many pets and our youngest daughter has a special love of animals, but this one really got to me–watch it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

ACLU Might File Suit To End Lunch Prayer

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to sue the U.S. Naval Academy unless it abolishes its daily lunchtime prayer, saying that some midshipmen have felt pressured to participate.

In a letter to the Naval Academy, Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, said it was “long past time” for the academy to discontinue the tradition. She said the practice violates midshipmen’s freedom to practice religion as their conscience leads them.

The Naval Academy rejected the ACLU’s request that the prayer be eliminated.

“The academy does not intend to change its practice of offering midshipmen an opportunity for prayer or devotional thought during noon meal announcements,” the university said in a statement. It said that some form of prayer has been offered for midshipmen at meals since the school’s founding, in 1845, and that it is “consistent with other practices throughout the Navy.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture

U.S. Stocks Tumble, Sending Dow to Worst June Since Depression

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index plunged 38.82, or 2.9 percent, to 1,283.15, its biggest drop in three weeks. The Dow decreased 358.41, or 3 percent, to 11,453.42, its lowest since September 2006. The Nasdaq Composite Index sank 79.89, or 3.3 percent, to 2,321.37, its worst loss since January. Almost nine stocks fell for each that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

“Most investors are going to sit on the sidelines until they’re more certain the sharks have left the waters and it’s safe to go back in,” said Bruce McCain, the Cleveland-based head of investment strategy at Key Private Bank, which oversees about $30 billion. “The write-offs have been far worse than anyone would have imagined.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Stock Market

Bishop Robert Forsyth: The Pointy End of GAFCON

GAFCON consists of Anglicans from very different churchmanship and theological and liturgical styles.

And yet already some common themes are emerging.

There is a common horror of the extent that some churches in the Communion have wandered from not simply Anglican, but Christian truth and discipline.

There is the conviction that GAFCON must not be a conference, but the beginning of something that will continue on. And that whatever ”˜this’ is that continues, it will aim to renew and restore Anglican churches throughout the world to Biblical and apostolic goals.

There is a common enthusiasm for the central authority of Scripture in our churches, and the classic Anglican formularies like the Articles of Religion and the Creeds.

And, most wonderfully, there is a refusal to countenance bitterness of spirit or self-righteousness in relation to the rest of the Communion. I think that we are aware of the great danger that faces every reform and renewal movement in the church, of becoming factious and self-serving, judgmental. I pray that the tone of this conference will be the tone of the movement is emerging, whatever form it takes.

Tomorrow (Friday) the first draft of the crucial conference will be released for discussion.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

An Ecclesiastical Trial Update from the Standing Committee of Pennsylvania

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has received the news of Bishop Bennison’s conviction and shares in the grief of the victims and all whose lives have been impacted by these events. Our prayers and thoughts are with those affected by the trial and now the verdict. We pray for healing for all. The canonical process is long and far from over. The Standing Committee will be continuing its responsibilities as the Ecclesiastical Authority in the diocese until the matter is finally concluded.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Episcopal bishop found guilty in cover-up of brother's assaults

An Episcopal bishop was found guilty by a church panel of covering up his brother’s assaults of a teenage girl in the 1970s.

Charles E. Bennison Jr., 64, was convicted of two counts of engaging in conduct unbecoming of a member of the clergy, according to his attorneys and the church verdict, dated Tuesday and released Thursday. He could be reprimanded, suspended or ousted from the church.

“We are proud of the Episcopal Church for holding Bishop Bennison accountable, and for using an open and transparent process that allowed the truth to come to light,” church attorney Lawrence White said in a statement Thursday.

It was not immediately clear when the sentence would be handed down for Bennison, bishop of the nation’s fifth-largest Episcopal diocese. The special Court for the Trial of a Bishop must wait at least 30 days before handing down a sentence, and Bennison’s attorneys said they will request a hearing before sentencing.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania