Billy Graham (1918–2018) died this morning at the age of 99. He once told us how we should think when we hear that news about him. https://t.co/WlbFt6Acsf
— Justin Taylor (@between2worlds) February 21, 2018
Category : Other Churches
We are delighted to announce that the Church Society Council, the Reform Council, and the Trustees of the Fellowship of Word and Spirit have all agreed to pursue a merger. It is in the light of our shared Biblical, Reformed, Anglican faith and common goals that we have decided that the challenges of the present time require us to unite our efforts so that we are better placed to harness the energies of evangelicals in contending for the gospel.
Bringing such bodies together requires a lot of hard work and much trust but it is right for biblical Christians to pursue this. In the Bible the impact of sin always seems to be fragmentation and dispersal, but the fruit of the gospel and living under the rule of Christ is unity and gathering together. Furthermore we believe that in the circumstances of the present Church of England the coming together of these bodies will enable us to be more effective in the pioneering, establishing and securing of healthy local Anglican churches.
A detailed plan for the merger of the three bodies has been worked out. Both Reform and FWS will be encouraging their members to join this renewed Church Society in advance of our AGM on May 12th, so that they will be eligible to speak and vote at that meeting. A new Church Society council will be elected then, and it is anticipated that this will include representatives of all three groups. A new President will also be appointed. There will, of course, be much still to work out in terms of the new organisation and how best to ensure we retain the valuable work that each has been doing. We ask for your prayers and your patience during this transition time.
Read it all.
I first read Michael Novak’s groundbreaking work “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism” when it was published in 1982, before I entered seminary at the Catholic University of America. The book’s dialogue between economics and theology made a deep impression on me, as it did thousands of others. I wrote the author and asked if we might meet once I arrived in Washington. Thus began a friendship that lasted until Novak’s death last year.
The first anniversary of his passing, Feb. 17, comes at a difficult time. Americans face an uncertain economy and deadlocked government. A vocal critic of capitalism leads the Catholic Church. Young people are showing a strange attraction to socialism, as are many Christians who might have been expected to sustain Novak’s philosophy of virtuous capitalism. The U.S. lacks leaders who combine prudence and moral vision.
I was intrigued to find a theologian who was familiar with writers like Friedrich Hayek. I sought his mentorship as I began my theological studies at a time when much of the academy was enamored with Marxist “liberation theology.” I even suggested that Novak squarely address that movement, which he did in another book, “Will It Liberate? Questions About Liberation Theology” (1986).
Even though we were from different generations, I soon found many parallels in our intellectual and religious trajectories. We had both identified as men of the left in early life. Over time we moved from advocating some form of democratic socialism to supporting the free economy. We spent decades defending free-market democracy as the system that best reflected the truth about man.
— Catholic University (@CatholicUniv) February 12, 2018
The Church of England Evangelical Council’s (CEEC) statement on Gospel, Church and Marriage: Preserving Apostolic Faith
2.We recognise that some fellow Christians no longer accept the Church’s teaching on marriage, singleness and sex but, because it is an integral part of our calling to be holy, we cannot treat this teaching as an ‘optional extra’ (or adiaphora).
•We believe this teaching is both apostolic and essential to the gospel’s transforming purpose and thus must be compassionately and clearly proclaimed and explained in and by the Church.
•This area is therefore of a higher order than other divisive matters, often viewed as ‘secondary’ (for example , the ordination of women), because it calls for faithful obedience to the unambiguous and authoritative teaching of Scripture concerning godly living and human flourishing.
•Thus,the upholding ofthis teaching, rooted in our creedal confession of God as Creator, and the enabling of Christians to live it with joy and confidence, is an essential
aspect of biblical faithfulness—especially when, as in our day, these matters are being so hotly contested.
3.We believe that the Church of England, being defined by adherence to essential apostolic truth, should not accept teaching or affirm behaviour—whether implicitly or explicitly-which contradicts or undermines the boundaries laid down by apostolic teaching and practice.
Read it all (6 page pdf).
(Tablet) Lord [Rowan] Williams: the environmental crisis is a toxic expression of humanity’s failures
Lord Williams of Oystermouth was speaking on Monday night at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, where he gave an address on Pope Francis’ green encyclical, Laudato Si’.
He praised the encyclical for highlighting that the Christian understanding of “who is my neighbour?’’ should embrace the whole of creation and that humanity’s treatment of the environment is self-destructive.
“For the Christian, the doctrine of creation is a declaration that all that is comes from God”, said Lord Williams. “But as Pope Francis says, it is not enough to avoid environmental disaster, to love our neighbour and ourselves…we have to ask how do we live in such a way to receive from God”.
Lord Williams, now the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, reserved his staunchest criticism for contemporary approaches to education.
“Children need to know what beauty is and we need to think how this can be nurtured and developed in education. We have increasingly lost sight of education as a humanising task,” he said.
Two matters are of particular concern in relation to reuniting the two churches.
One is whether Methodist presbyters would have to be re-ordained to provide a unified and public catholic witness. The synod report proposes the Anglican Church recognise Methodist ministers’ holy orders.
The other issue is about how churches should be led.
Anglican churches operate under an episcopal model with bishops seen as following on from the apostles, as the Church’s leaders. As bishops consecrate more bishops and ordain new clergy, the “apostolic succession” continues.
Methodists do not accept the idea of “apostolic succession” in the Anglican sense.
If the churches were to reunite, an Anglican bishop would take part in ordaining new Methodist ministers, enabling them to enter the “apostolic succession”.
The Methodist Conference says it is willing to receive the episcopate as long as partner churches acknowledge that the Methodist Church “has been and is part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church”, Ruth Gee, former president of the Methodist conference says.
The General Synod has given its welcome to a report containing proposals which could bring the Church of England and the Methodist Church in Great Britain into communion with each other.
Members backed a motion welcoming a joint report published last year, which sets out proposals on how clergy from each church could become eligible to serve in the other.
The report, Mission and Ministry in Covenant, which was co-written by the two churches’ faith and order bodies, also sets out how the Methodist Church could come to have bishops in the historic episcopate.
The motion acknowledges that there is further work to do to clarify a number of areas, including how the proposals would be worked out in practice.
(WSJ) Mark Simon: Who Made Xi Jinping Pope? A Vatican-China deal is imminent. Millions of Chinese Catholics should be afraid.
Ever since the red flag rose over China in 1949, Roman Catholics there have suffered because of their fidelity to the pope in Rome. Now the Holy Father himself has become a source of tribulation. In its eagerness to reach a deal with China, the Vatican is elevating the persecutors over the persecuted.
Xi Jinping, an atheist and hard-line communist, became leader of China in 2012. The Chinese government has since stepped up its violations of human rights, including religious freedom. This is no accident. In 2016 President Xi declared that all party members should be “firm Marxist atheists and never find any of their beliefs in any religion.” The following year, in a speech that emphasized the dominance of the Communist Party over all Chinese life, he said the government would work to “Sinicize” religion—a euphemism for total control over the faith.
Against this backdrop, for some reason Pope Francis and his Vatican diplomatic corps think now is a good time to deal with Beijing. Given Mr. Xi’s view that religion is often a cover for anti-regime activities, it is hard to see him accommodating anything other than total surrender. Fortunately for Mr. Xi, Pope Francis is on the other side of the table….
James W. Sire, longtime editorial director at InterVarsity Press (IVP), prolific author, and groundbreaking apologist, passed away on Tuesday evening, February 6, 2018, at the age of eighty-four.
Sire was a renaissance man of publishing. Not only did he author over twenty books, but his thirty-year career at IVP also included contracting and developing works by Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness, Calvin Miller, Rebecca Manley Pippert, J. I. Packer, John White, J. P. Moreland, and others.
“Jim Sire was a keystone in the intellectual renewal of evangelicalism in the 1960s and 70s, championing the work of Francis Schaeffer and contributing his own landmark books on world views,” said Andy Le Peau, former associate publisher, editorial, for IVP. “He was also first to publish other influential figures such as Os Guinness and philosopher C. Stephen Evans. But his finely tuned radar for quality was not limited to the academy. He had a major influence on the church when he saw the potential in the poetry of Calvin Miller’s The Singer, the power for church renewal in the work of Howard Snyder, as well as the evangelistic insight of Rebecca Manley Pippert. Personally, he taught me more about editing and publishing than probably anyone. I will miss his wit, his insight, his integrity, and his love for Jesus.”
— InterVarsity Press (@ivpress) February 7, 2018
(Christian Today) Diarmaid MacCulloch: ‘Why Anglicans who object to reconciliation with Methodists should read more history’
The point of worry seems to be a break in a succession of hands in ordination from the apostles who were the first followers of Christ. That strikes me as a professional historian of the Church (and also in Anglican orders) to be a very unrealistic view of Christian history.
First, ‘the historic episcopate’ throughout the Christian world is a pragmatic, gradual creation of the second century CE, which links with the first apostles, but does not do so exclusively. There was no single bishop of Rome, for instance, until the 2nd century, and earlier lines of single succession there are benevolent fictions.
Second, the Church of England is a Church of the Reformation which just happened to keep bishops. It is actually a ‘Reformed’ Protestant Church, that is not Lutheran, but part of a family of European Churches, some of which kept bishops in their government, some not. So national Reformed Churches in England, Ireland, Hungary, Romania and Poland have bishops. Up to 1662, clergy from other Reformed Churches served regardless in the CofE when they came here: often they were placed in English cathedrals or universities, not to quarantine them in some way but simply because they didn’t speak much English, and there they could exercise a ministry in the learned language of Latin.
There’s no doubt [Jen] Hatmaker’s de-conversion story will be persuasive to our postmodern world. And I am sure some will adopt her newfound theology as a result.
But on closer examination, it is rife with problems. While claiming to be non-judgmental, she declares the fruit of those who espouse traditional marriage as “rotten.” Despite her insistence that the Bible should be read without certainty, she offers dogmatic claims about what it teaches. While claiming her views are due to a deep study of Scripture, she offers simplistic (and even irresponsible) explanations for the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality—while disregarding 2,000 years of Christian history.
No, we should not settle for pat answers. But sometimes the Bible does give clear answers. And when it does, we should be willing to listen and receive them.
I have wondered how the “success” of the spiritual life would be measured? I could imagine that the number of persons Baptized might be compared to the number of the Baptized who fall short of salvation – but there is no way to discover such a thing. In lieu of that, we often set up our own way of measuring – some expectation of “success” that we use to judge the spiritual life. “I tried Christianity…” the now self-described agnostic relates, “and found that it did not live up to its claims.”
To my mind, the entire question is a little like complaining about your hammer because it doesn’t work well as a screw-driver. The problem is that the spiritual life doesn’t “work,” and was never supposed to. It is not something that “works,” it is something that “lives.” And this is an extremely important distinction.
In 1859, Samuel Smiles, a Scottish author and government reformer, published the book, Self-Help, the first self-proclaimed work on self-improvement. His opening line is famous, “God helps those who help themselves.” Indeed, many modern people are under the impression that this statement comes from Scripture (it does not). It is not at all accidental that Smiles’ thought should echo that of the Scottish Enlightenment itself. We can build a better world, and do so more effectively by building better humans. Christianity was to be harnessed in this great progressive drive.
We look to our faith to solve problems. Whether we suffer from psychological wounds, or simple poverty and failure, we look to God for help. The spiritual life, and the “techniques” we imagine to be associated with it, are the means by which we “help ourselves” (God will do the rest).
This narrative is simply not part of the Christian faith.
Susan Onyedika was born 22 years ago into a Catholic family in Lagos, Nigeria’s bustling commercial city. When she was a child, she took part in the Block Rosary Crusade (where an image of the Virgin Mary visits family homes), as well as catechism classes in her parish. But as she matured into a teenager she started having doubts about the faith she had practised from childhood. In her secondary school, she met Pentecostal Christians and began to compare their beliefs with those of Catholics.
“I needed more spiritually,” she tells me. “I needed to understand the Scriptures. They [the Catholic Church] don’t break down the Bible for you. They don’t pray the way most Pentecostals pray.
“I also had issues with praying through Mary because I feel that you can reach God directly, you can talk to him directly. You don’t have to go through someone to intercede for you.”
Susan joined her secondary school fellowship without telling her parents or siblings. “They didn’t know I joined the Pentecostals,” she remembers. “They were not aware. Just my close friends were.”
(Church Times) Proposals on Methodism compromise the C of E’s faith and identity, says Andrew Davison
I grew up in an Anglican-Methodist family, and went to a Methodist Sunday school. I rejoice at the prospect of a closer relationship with the Methodist Church. The report before the General Synod, Ministry and Mission in Covenant, pursues that noble aim, which makes its failings all the more agonising. With a few adaptations, it could be a triumph; as it stands, it compromises the faith and identity of the Church of England.
Our Church upholds ancient Catholic order: bishops in the historic episcopate are the ministers of ordination; the eucharist is celebrated by them, and by the priests they ordain. This is central to what makes the Church of England Catholic as well as reformed: not vestments, nor genuflection, but order.
The intolerable departure from that order, proposed in this report, would be to invite ministers who have not been ordained by bishops to serve in the place of Anglican priests. This would last beyond the lifetimes of those reading this article. Implemented as the report stands, Methodist presbyters who have not received episcopal ordination will preside at the eucharist in parish churches, chaplaincies, and fresh expressions for decades to come. That would not be as ecumenical guests, but as the celebrants of C of E services.
For the C of E to accept that would be to say at least one of the following: (1) that nothing significant distinguishes ordination by a bishop from ordination without; (2) that nothing about the eucharist (or anointing or absolution) is significant for the journey of salvation; (3) that orders are irrelevant in these cases, since means of grace depend only on the inner disposition of each individual. Each of those arguments sells short the faith and practice of the C of E.
Anglo-Catholics are among those who are most committed to the full visible unity of Christ’s Church. We are therefore grateful to those who have worked to produce the present proposals for a development in Anglican-Methodist relations, which the Forward in Faith Executive Committee considered at its meeting on 31 January. It is a matter of regret that we must oppose them in their current form.
As the report Mission and Ministry in Covenant (GS 2086) makes clear, significant questions and concerns have been raised, not least in the House of Bishops. Will these proposals bring us closer to unity, or might they, by creating two related but distinct episcopates within England, merely serve to entrench separation? Given the Methodist Church’s model of corporate oversight, can the office of ‘President-bishop’, to be held for one year only, be recognized as a ‘local adaptation’ of the historic episcopate upheld in the Catholic Church in East and West through the ages? We note that further work is to be done on these questions, but are concerned at the suggestion that work on such substantial issues could be completed by July.
Of even greater concern are the consequences of these proposals for catholic order in the Church of England. To permit those who have not been ordained by a bishop to minister as Church of England priests, even for a ‘temporary’ period (which might last for sixty or seventy years) is for us not a ‘bearable anomaly’ but a fundamental breach of catholic order. We deeply regret that the report rules out further consideration of this issue. As loyal Anglicans, we uphold the doctrine and discipline regarding Holy Orders that is enshrined in the historic formularies of the Church of England, and in the 1662 Ordinal in particular. We shall oppose any proposals that would effectively set that doctrine and discipline aside. We note that it is to the inheritance of faith embodied in these formularies that all who minister in the Church of England must affirm their loyalty by making the Declaration of Assent.
We remain fully committed to the search for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church, but we do not believe that it can be advanced by sacrificing catholic order and Anglican integrity