Category : * Anglican – Episcopal

News and Commentary about the Anglican Communion

For his Feast Day (1)–(CMS) Samuel Ajayi Crowther: the unsung hero

It is time to tell again the long-neglected story of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, writes Gareth Sturdy.

If you know the name, it probably resounds as that of a hero. Such heroes, unacknowledged in their own time and then ignored by their immediate successors, end up being the Really Important Ones. Their stature is so great that it is missed entirely up-close, gets larger the more distant you are from it, and can only been seen in its true glory from space.

If the name is unknown to you, then you are the victim of a cover-up. How else can you have missed one of the most important Africans of the modern era?

It is an opportune moment to reassess Crowther in the light of new understanding. A light that glares at the cover up and reveals a significance greater than that so far ascribed to him by even his most loyal champions.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of Nigeria

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Samuel Ajayi Crowther

Almighty God, who didst rescue Samuel Ajayi Crowther from slavery, sent him to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to his people in Nigeria, and made him the first bishop from the people of West Africa: Grant that those who follow in his steps may reap what he has sown and find abundant help for the harvest; through him who took upon himself the form of a slave that we might be free, the same Jesus Christ; who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Church of Nigeria, Spirituality/Prayer

(Telegraph) One in ten members of clergy victims of violence as anti-Christian hate crimes rises

One in ten members of the Church of England clergy has been the victim of violent behaviour in the last two years, a government-funded survey has found.

The same proportion say they are experiencing more anti-Christian hate crime than they did two years ago.

The survey also found that more than two-thirds have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse and one in five has experienced threatening behaviour over the last two years.

The findings, released on Friday, also showed that clergy who have suffered violence are more likely to find their work “more challenging” than they did previously.

The research was carried out by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, with £5,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, amid fears that increasing secularisation, the declining status of clergy and abuse scandals may be impacting on the way clergy are treated.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Thomas Becket

O God, our strength and our salvation, who didst call thy servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of thy people and a defender of thy Church: Keep thy household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Spirituality/Prayer

The Gafcon General Secretary Peter Jensen’s Christmas Message

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Christmas, Christology, GAFCON, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(Christian Post) Fulani Militia “bigger threat than Boko Haram” – Archbishop Kwashi

The Bishop of Jos, Anglican Communion and in-coming General Secretary , Global Anglican Future Conference, GAFCON, the most Rev Benjamin Argak Kwashi, has described the Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen militias who have ravaged towns and villages, killing mostly women and children, in the predominantly Christians central region of Nigeria, as “a bigger threat” than Boko Haram Islamic terrorist Jihadi sect.

“Boko Haram operates in the northeast and scantily moves into other areas, but the Fulani herdsmen are widespread. They’re everywhere now. So the Fulani are a bigger threat,” Kwashi said.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

Jeff Miller’s Christmas Sermon for 2018–“Will You Miss Christmas This Year?”

You may download it there or listen to it directly there from Saint Philip’s, Charleston, South Carolina. Watch for a very interesting WWII reference toward the end.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Christmas, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The 2018 Christmas sermon from the Bishop of Sheffield

Some of you will have seen where I’m going with this, I suppose. There was a time, and maybe you can say the same, when the story I carried around in my head, and with which I interpreted the world, excluded God. The result was that when I was granted the occasional glimpse of God’s presence, I used to squeeze that data into the existing framework: ‘Obviously it’s not God. The genuine article is not possible. It must be a look-alike, or a sound-alike, or a feel-alike’. And I dare say I’m not the only here for whom conversion meant, in effect, abandoning an old story which had ceased to be adequate, which no longer did justice to my growing experience, in favour of a different outlook, one which made more satisfying sense, sense not just of the existence of God, but of myself in relation to God.

Well, I don’t know how far you identify with that. But the Gospel reading this evening suggests that that process, or some process like it, is not just a common one, but an inevitable one where God is concerned — inevitable because a relationship with God is not something within our grasp. It’s not easy for creatures like us, who dwell in time and space, to know an eternal and infinite Creator. It’s not easy for sinners like us to know the Holy One. Or (to use the terminology of our Gospel reading), it’s not easy for us to hear the Word of God.

Repeatedly in our reading there are little indicators that if we are to know God, we are utterly dependent on what Christian tradition calls ‘grace’: we rely on God’s initiative, his gift, his unmerited favour towards us. Listen again to these words: The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world. It had to because almost by definition, it is beyond our capacity to enlighten ourselves: enlightenment always does come to us. Though the true light came into the world, the world did not recognise him, because this enlightening Word is almost always contrary to human expectation. But to those who did receive him (since the true light is always something that to be received), he gave power (because this power is always a gift), to become children of God (because a relationship with God is not our natural state, it is always something // into which we must enter). This true light, the Word of God, became flesh, says John, and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2018 Christmas Sermon

I have a friend, also called Justin – Archbishop Vardi of south Sudan, a country where there have been two and a half million refugees since the war started in December 2013. There the Government and opposition groups have been brought together in Christ and a ceasefire is holding.

It is learned by worship, like the Kings and shepherds. It is learned stumblingly, beginning with no more than a doubt filled, questioning opening to God who says to us and to the whole world, through this baby, “here I am”. We reply in the same way, knowing almost nothing except we are not fit or ready for Jesus, and we reply, “and here I am too”.

To follow Jesus is not through compulsion, for he has expressed God’s language of love by being a baby, so vulnerable and weak, so easily overlooked.

To follow Jesus is not to become dull and tedious, for in him is light and life more than anywhere else in all eternity. The very heavens shake with the music of his birth.

In him is love spoken and reliable.

In Him is a new language that transforms us and all around us, God’s language of love.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christmas, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

Bp Mark Lawrence: Open the Door—it’s Christmas

And, there was of course, the Shepherds. I confess they always interest me at Christmas. They represent the seekers for whom I have a message. The first Shepherds came to the stable barn in Bethlehem seeking the Baby Jesus because an Angel’s words brought them. Perhaps someone reading this message is like some Bedouin shepherd drawn by an angel of inner need. One young, raw-boned, hardy and handsome. Another winded, toothless, crusty and smelling too much of wine. To such as them, I am commissioned to bring message of hope and promise: “For to you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Not to nameless and faceless multitudes—but to you. Every child knows there is a world of difference between gifts under the tree and a gift given to her.

Some years ago a story appeared in the newspaper of a two-year-old boy named Steven Selfridge. Six dogs ravaged him three months before Christmas. He spent several months in a hospital trauma unit. The night before he would undergo another marathon plastic surgery he made his way to a paper fireplace where stockings hung and a voice bellowed—“Ho! Ho! Ho! Christmas is coming Steven and I’ll have gifts for you.” The voice was that of Steven’s surgeon playing Santa. The gift the doctor had in mind was a reconstructed face. That was good news to read—but not nearly so good of news for me as it was for Steven and his parents. There is a difference between generic good news and good news to you. Jesus Christ is God’s indescribable gift, wondrously wrapped, mysteriously and personally delivered.

You may not need reconstructive surgery but perhaps you need a new heart. Jesus said that sin and evil dwell in our hearts. The kind of reconstructed heart each of us needs only a Savior can bring. The prophets of Israel promised such a day when God would deal once-and-for-all with that which is our biggest problem: the human heart. We are after all a riddle to ourselves and to others; “God’s problem children” in need a Savior.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Christmas, Christology, Theology

(ACNS) Primate of South Sudan plans New Year’s Eve peace march and prayer service

The Archbishop of South Sudan, Justin Badi Arama, is calling on Christians in the country to take part in a peace march and prayer service on New Year’s Eve. Archbishop Justin’s vision is for 10,000 Christians to take part in the march, which will set off from Buluk Field in Juba at 9.00 am EAT (6.00 am GMT) on 31 December. They will take part in a mile-long march to All Saint’s Cathedral, where a prayer service will be held, “asking God for real peace in our nation in 2019.”

There is renewed hope for peace in South Sudan since the warring parties signed a peace agreement in Khartoum at the end of August. But many Anglicans remain in exile in neighbouring countries – many of them in Uganda. Archbishop Justin has played a significant role in the peace negotiations and is working to ensure that “peace on paper becomes peace on the ground”.

The Episcopal Church of South Sudan facilitated the inter-communities Peace Conference between Jubek and Terkeka states, , which successfully concluded this week. “I urge all the South Sudanese communities to embrace the same spirit so that we live in harmony”, Archbishop Justin said afterwards. Last month, the Archbishop met with President Salva Kiir to pray for peace….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --South Sudan, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Violence

(Church Times) Archbishop Ntahoturi to leave Rome after sexual misconduct allegation

The director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, has resigned. It has emerged that he was suspended last week over an allegation of sexual misconduct.

A statement from the Centre’s governors, published on its website on Friday, said:

”The Governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome have accepted the resignation of its Director Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi following his suspension last week over an allegation of sexual misconduct. The Governors are now taking urgent steps to appoint an interim director, who will also act as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Burundi, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology

(Gafcon) The Bishop of Ahoada, Clement Ekpeye, has been abducted

Bishop Clement was abducted from his home by gunmen on Tuesday 18th December at about 7pm (6pm GMT)
The gunmen stormed the Bishop’s Court residence.
Deputy Superintendent Nnamdi Omoni of Rivers State Police said that officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad are leading the search for Bishop Clement.
Please join us in prayer for the safety of Bishop Clement and for the police to find him and bring him back to his home very soon.
Please pray for strength and safety for his wife.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria

(Anglican Taonga) New Zealand Bishops speak out on West Papua

As Bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, we express our deep disappointment at the continued suppression by the Indonesian Government of the basic human rights of West Papuan people.

We stand with our sisters and brothers in West Papua in their struggle to determine their own political destiny, and we pray that the Indonesian government will halt all state-sanctioned abuse and violation of human rights there.

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia also calls upon each government represented within its jurisdiction[1] to clearly express support for the people of West Papua in the redress of their historical injustices.

We urge our governments to continue to draw attention to the sustained ethnic violence and ongoing denial by the Indonesian government of the first people’s right of self-determination, and the abuse of their natural resources by foreign corporations.

We also commend the political leaders of Pacific Island countries such as Vanuatu, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu, who continue to draw international attention to the plight of the peoples of West Papua.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

(ACNS) A Christmas Message from Ugandan Archbishop Stanley Ntagali

The name “Jesus” is the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Joshua”, which literally means “the Lord saves.” The meaning of Jesu’s name tells us who He is. He’s the only one who can save us.

As we come to the end of the year and reflect on the past year, many of us can see how we have tried to save ourselves from the challenges we face in our lives. We have tried to be our own saviours. Have you realised yet that it doesn’t work?

We can’t be our own saviour. And that’s why God sent his Son, Jesus, to save the world. To save you and me.

Fundamentally, Uganda’s problems are spiritual. We have allowed evil to flourish in Uganda at all levels, including our families. This is why we have made the past two years in the Church of Uganda the Year of the Family. The transformation of our country begins when individuals and families recognise they can’t be their own saviour, when they invite Jesus to rescue them, and when they pursue righteousness and holiness in their families.

This Christmas, I urge you to stop trying to be your own saviour and to surrender your life to Jesus as the only One who can save you.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Church of Uganda

Bishop Libby Lane named as next Bishop of Derby

Bishop Libby is currently the Suffragan Bishop of Stockport, in the Diocese of Chester – a post she has occupied since 2015.

Libby describes Derbyshire as ‘the place that holds my heart’. She grew up in Glossop in the north-west of the county and was selected for ordination while working in the parish of St Thomas Brampton, Chesterfield.

Bishop Libby said: “I am excited and privileged to have been called to serve as Bishop of Derby.

“I grew up here and my vocation was fostered here. Derbyshire nurtured me and brought me to faith and I want to love Derbyshire back.

“I want to lead a church in Derbyshire where people find hope because they know they are loved by God in Christ, and I pray that hope sets us free to live our lives in ways that bring change for good.”

On hearing the news, the Dean of Derby, the Very Reverend Dr Stephen Hance, said: “I am thrilled that Libby is coming to be our bishop. Her roots are here in Derbyshire, and we are all very much looking forward to welcoming her home and working with her in the months and years ahead….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

(CTV) 126-year-old Springhill, Nova Scotia, church to be torn down

It stands like a beacon at the entrance to downtown Springhill, N.S.; a landmark more than a century old. But the All Saint Anglican Church will soon be gone.

The church was built in 1892 and lately, it’s been showing its 126 years of service. Damage to the roof and the steeple, and issues with heating the church all factor in the congregation’s difficult decision to tear the church down.

“The size of the building, the need for repairs on the roof, which, our conclusion was a new roof and we figured, we believed there would be other maintenance issues,” says Reverend Dr. Brian Spence, the church rector. “It was an extremely difficult decision and one that was the result of many years of struggling with the situation.”

Winter services have been held in the adjacent church hall for the last few years, and the congregation has dwindled to about 30 dedicated members. The cost of heating the church is just about more than they can afford.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Parish Ministry

(Guardian) Bishops pray for politicians’ integrity amid Brexit turmoil

Church of England bishops have said they are praying for “courage, integrity and clarity for our politicians” after a week of turmoil over Brexit.

In a joint statement issued on Saturday, the bishops also urged the country to “consider the nature of our public conversation” and called for more grace and generosity.

The statement echoes concerns raised by the archbishop of Canterbury in the House of Lords on Friday when he stressed the need for reconciliation after a “week of deep division” over Brexit.

Justin Welby said it was central to the country’s future that the divisions were healed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

A CEEC response to the C of E House of Bishops’ “Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition”

The Church of England holds to the principle that our prayers express what we believe (lex orandi, lexcredendi). As this new guidance will be included in Common Worship, its support for services liturgically
recognising a person’s gender transition, and the theological views contained in the guidance for such services,are of both liturgical and doctrinal significance.

Although the bishops have declined the request to issue a new formal liturgy they have encouraged a newliturgical act. They seem to have proposed a hybrid liturgy for such services. They do so by commending a
properly approved rite which should express our baptismal unity to be used to do something else and something new liturgically. This innovative use is both highly divisive and theologically and pastorally
questionable. It also risks raising serious concerns both within the wider Anglican Communion and ecumenically.

Although the bishops have not issued a new formal teaching, they have issued pastoral guidance which makes theological judgments. They have done so through what appears to be a flawed process; a process which
lacked theological scrutiny and bypassed the existing structures for such theological discernment. These judgments develop and narrow previous teaching. They do so in ways that many Anglicans view as reversing that teaching to establish a position which is incompatible with biblical revelation and the Church’s traditional understanding of what it means to be human.

We recognise that some in the church will share our understanding of the nature and significance of this step and welcome it. Others may think our interpretation of the guidance flawed. We believe, however, that our
interpretation is widely and legitimately held. We, and we believe many others, are concerned as to the consequences of this development.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Uncategorized

This week in the Historic Diocese of South Carolina’s Cycle of Prayer

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Spirituality/Prayer

(C of E) Report from the December House of Bishops

On the third day the Bishops participated in exploratory work related to the Living in Love and Faith project.

The House of Bishops prayed for the nation and all our politicians at this challenging time.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Uncategorized

(CC) Two vibrant Anglican congregations in Winnipeg

The two parishes turned out to be more similar than I had expected. Both combine the thoughtful liturgy and preaching that mark Anglicanism at its best. The two rectors, David Widdicombe, 67, at St. Margaret’s, and Jamie Howison, 57, at saint ben’s, both hunger to work with young people at the city’s several universities, and both sense that the ancient and mysterious aspects of Christianity will be more appealing to people than any seeker-sensitive effort of evangelism that strips down the richness of the faith.

The two are longtime friends and admirers of one another. Neither seems to be aiming for anything other than helping to develop the best church they can. Given his achievements at saint ben’s, Howison could have written a book on church growth, or joined the speaking circuit, but he shuddered at that idea. The book that he has written is about jazz musician John Coltrane, God’s Mind in That Music. He calls the book “delightfully irrelevant to my ministry,” and adds: “but Coltrane feeds me.”

Widdicombe is only a bit less shy in sharing his ministry insights. He has a D. Phil. in theology from Oxford, where he focused on the theology of P. T. Forsyth and worked under Rowan Williams. He tells of getting thrown out of two classrooms—once by a liberal professor, another time by a conservative one—each time over questions of biblical interpretation.

Widdicombe’s sermons exude erudition. The day I’m there he preached from the lectionary text on Israel’s demand for a king and God’s sad warning: “he will take, he will take, he will take.” Never mentioning Trump by name, he portrayed all politics as a revolt against the reign of Christ. In some sense, worldly politics have to fail—or else we would fail to long for the kingdom Christ will bring. With its Augustinian realism about the continued reign of Babylon, the sermon owed something to another of his teachers at Oxford, Oliver O’Donovan.

Widdicombe made no reference in the sermon to himself, those listening, or the world. His only interest seemed to be in Christ and the text. Afterward, I talked to Marilyn Simons, a Shakespeare scholar who teaches at the local universities and who came to faith at St. Margaret’s. She said Widdicombe does with texts what the church and the academy have forgotten how to do: he lovingly interprets them.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Parish Ministry

The Long Road to Freedom: The Diocese of South Carolina and Parishes File 38 Motions for Summary Judgement

The Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) continues on the long road to freedom from The Episcopal Church (TEC), filing motions for summary judgement in the now nearly six-year-old federal suit brought by its former denomination. Motions by the Diocese and its fifty-four parish defendants ask the Court to acknowledge, as a matter of law, they have neither infringed on TEC trademarks, diminished the value of those marks or harmed the denomination by continued use of names which have been in use before the denomination existed.

The current federal litigation was initiated by TEC in 2013, after the Diocese made the decision to disassociate from the national denomination it helped charter in 1789, five years after its own founding. The decision to leave was made in the fall of 2012 after denominational leadership attempted to wrongly remove its duly elected bishop. Over 80% of the congregations and their members affirmed that decision at a special Diocesan Convention in November 2012. TEC has never accepted that decision by 23,000 parishioners of the Diocese, continuing to litigate all such efforts by congregations and dioceses across the country wishing to free themselves from its control.

The original federal court complaint was initially against Bishop Lawrence alone, asserting that he continued to hold himself out falsely as a bishop of TEC, thus creating “confusion”. In April of this year the case was expanded to include the Diocese and all its congregations, even those formed after the disassociation who had no prior affiliation with the denomination. All are now charged with being party to the willful creation of confusion for attendees by virtue of using their historic names and continuing to conduct worship as they always have. These actions are alleged to mislead attendees to believe these are still TEC congregations.

Read it all and make sure to follow all the links.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Wisdom and folly: the bishops’ guidance on transgender welcome

Why the collapse of Christian language of initiation into cultural memes? The problems with the guidance begin with its opening line:

The Church of England welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ

Since when was the gospel of ‘repent and believe, for the kingdom of God is at hand’ (Mark 1.15) reduced to ‘unconditional affirmation’? If the point is that trans people shouldn’t be treated as a different class of humanity, then that would be hard to disagree with—so why not simply say that? All the debates around sexuality become mired in impossible ambiguity because of different construals of what it means to ‘affirm’ people. Jesus welcomed the marginalised, and called them to repent along with everyone else (Luke 5.32) and so should we.

Why the misuse of biblical texts? In reading Scripture, context is everything, and the listing of passages where God’s redemptive action leads to a change of name, in the context of a service which appears to be celebrating the transition of name and identity, has strong echoes of Tina Beardsley’s proposed trans liturgy, misreads these texts badly, and overlays on the scriptural narrative a particular ideology of sex identity.

Why the complete absence of reference to biological reality? One of the heated debates around trans ideology and advocacy relates to biological reality—what is actually going on in the transition process? The medical journal The Lancet just this week made an impassioned appeal for proper engagement with biological reality:

Sex has a biological basis, whereas gender is fundamentally a social expression. Thus, sex is not assigned—chromosomal sex is determined at conception and immutable. A newborn’s phenotypic sex, established in utero, merely becomes apparent after birth, with intersex being a rare exception.

Distress about gender identity must be taken seriously and support should be put in place for these children and young people, but the impacts of powerful, innovative interventions should be rigorously assessed….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AM) Andrew Symes–Transgender liturgies and the secular, postmodern re-shaping of church and society

I was alerted to a major new development in the Church of England: the publication of liturgies to mark ‘gender transition’. (Press release, and my comment here.) Well that wasn’t such a surprise, as this was accepted by General Synod last year, and then agreed again in February 2018. What is alarming is that the new services, which have been developed by clergy who are transgender activists, have been commended for use by a leading evangelical Bishop. No doubt he will argue that while he believes that God created us male and female, this is a way of offering welcome to those who don’t feel they fit into the traditional gender categories. But in speaking about ‘trans people’ and supporting the liturgies in this way, this Bishop has inevitably accepted the validity of the new ideology of gender, which is incompatible with Christian anthropology, colluding with a fiction which cannot ultimately be pastorally helpful, and based on propaganda and fake science rather than evidence.

Should faithful Christians just accept the decisions of their leaders in these matters, and keep quiet, perhaps focusing on evangelistic courses and foodbanks? Or can we counter this trend? If so, perhaps our challenge is to tell a “better story”. We know that heterosexual marriage and sexually abstinent singleness, living within the physical sex God gave us, are the most effective ways of living a flourishing life as individuals and communities, and for our future. Numerous studies prove that stable marriage and family life, and sexual self-control are beneficial for individuals and society; likewise it is clear that family breakdown is linked to crime and mental health issues, and immorality to sexually transmitted disease. The Judaeo-Christian ethic is commanded and explained in Scripture and has been taught by Christians and Jews for millennia. It makes sense. It is the truth. Surely, if the church demonstrates an attitude of love, and tells a positive and exciting counter-story, society will be convinced of the truth of the gospel and how we are supposed to live our lives?

In this paradigm, ‘truth’ is contained in God’s word, backed up by scientific research based on observation of an ordered world. Truth must be communicated clearly, imaginatively, winsomely with love, but it exists as an entity in itself, like a Platonic ideal, or indeed God himself. God exists and his word is true whether or not we communicate it effectively with love. One plus one equals two, regardless of how effectively and relationally it is taught, or how I feel about it and about myself.

But in the secular postmodern paradigm, things have changed. God, and truth, do not exist outside of the reality which is the interweaved matrix made up of millions of human beings’ individual consciousness and experience. The personal story, and the emotions it evokes, is not just a method of communicating truth. It is truth. If feelings of same sex attraction or gender dysphoria lead someone to embrace a gay or trans identity, this is a discovery of truth, and the church’s job is to affirm it through liturgies. To suggest that someone with these feelings might be able to explore a different direction is seen as hurtful, even abusive, and should be suppressed by law. 

Because of this tendency in us to be drawn to personal constructions of reality and reject Reality, the biblical writers insist that it’s not enough to simply repeat God’s true message, and to find better ways of communicating it, including demonstrating God’s nature through acts of love and mercy. It’s also necessary to enable the faithful community to reject the false messages they are being fed constantly in the world around them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) As one historically black Episcopal church closes, others face strong headwinds

On a chilly December morning, 100 years and one week after its sanctuary opened, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, an African-American congregation with a proud history, was formally closed.

Bishop Samuel Rodman presided over the Eucharistic service in an elementary school a block away from the church, where weekly services ended more than three years ago. Several longtime members returned to read Scriptures and sing hymns. Afterward, the group of 100, including history buffs and well-wishers from North Carolina and Virginia, shared a meal of fried chicken and baked beans.

All Saints is hardly alone among mainline Protestant and Catholic congregations. Faced with dwindling members, crumbling infrastructure and costly maintenance, some 6,000 to 10,000 churches shutter each year, according to one estimate. More closures may be in the offing as surveys point to a decline in church attendance across the country.

But All Saints is an example of an even sharper decline.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Parishes

(Church of England) Guidance for gender transition services published

New guidance for parishes planning services to help transgender people mark their transition has been published by the Church of England.

The pastoral guidance, which will be incorporated into Common Worship*, encourages clergy to be “creative and sensitive” in using liturgy to enable people to mark a major transition in their lives.

It formally commends the incorporation of the existing rite for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith into services which mark gender transition.

It details how elements including water and oil can be incorporated into the service and, crucially, makes clear that trans people should be addressed publicly by their chosen name.

As part of the service they could also be presented with gifts, such as a Bible inscribed in their chosen name, or a certificate.

It is important, the guidance adds, that the occasion should have a distinct “celebratory character”.

Read it all and make sure to follow the link and read the full text of the guidance itself.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

Gafcon Chairman Archbp Nicholas Okoh’s Advent 2018 Letter

So we salute the courage of all those Anglicans around the world who sacrifice to proclaim Christ faithfully. Some live in contexts where Christians face attempts to very severely restrict their witness and our Gafcon 2019 Conference in Dubai next February is designed to encourage such brothers and sisters. Others continue to face persecution from within the Church itself, most notoriously in North America, and I commend especially to your prayers the Bishop of Albany, the Rt Revd Bill Love, who was present with us in Jerusalem for Gafcon 2018.

With effect from Advent, TEC (the Episcopal Church of the United States) has mandated that all its dioceses must permit same sex marriage rites, but Bishop Love has issued a pastoral letter in which he makes it clear that this will not be permitted in the Diocese of Albany because the Episcopal Church “is attempting to order me as a Bishop in God’s holy Church, to compromise ‘the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3) and to turn my back on the vows I have made to God and His People.”

It remains to be seen how Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will proceed, but TEC is relentlessly pursuing the faithful Dioceses of South Carolina and Fort Worth through the courts, as it has done with many others in the past.

Finally, let us ask Almighty God to continue his blessing upon us in this time of leadership transition.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, GAFCON

Bishop Mark Lawrence’s sermon yesterday at Holy Cross, Sullivan’s Island

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s full speech in last week’s Lords debate on the Brexit deal

What is obvious is that we are choosing a new path. For although a Remainer, like the noble Lord, Lord Hope, I fully accept the decision of the referendum, which must now be implemented, and the shape of which is now in the hands of parliament and particularly of the other place.

With that responsibility there is a moral agency and moral choice, and it is that that should guide our votes.

It must reflect a genuinely hopeful vision for our nation and its place, because there is a hope and global influence, a vision of that, to be grasped in this country with proper leadership.

Second, whichever way we go there is a requirement for national reconciliation, for restating what the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, calls core values of civilised discourse, and for ensuring they are lived out.

The negative impact of the previous referendum is why I see another one as a possible but not immediately preferable choice, and then only if parliament has failed in its responsibilities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Politics in General