Saturday, June 17, 2017

Andy Lines Consecration a Gift to ACNA

There is one aspect of the Andy Lines consecration that has not been given much attention – that it should greatly benefit the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

Allow me to back up a bit.  The consecration is scheduled for June 30th, the last day of ACNA’s Provincial Assembly.  It’s safe to assume this will occur during the concluding service of the Assembly.

So let’s say the Provincial Assembly has its difficulties.  I’m not predicting it will.  But the divisions over Women’s Ordination will not magically disappear for the Assembly.  Nor is it likely that those (few I hope) in ACNA prone to cross lines into divisive political activism will suddenly exercise restraint and humble wisdom for the Assembly.  And some parts of ACNA in seem to be The Church of What’s Happenin’ Now, and aspects of the Assembly program seem to reflect that.  Meanwhile others (like myself) prefer the Church of What Happened 500 or More Years Ago, Thank You Very Much. That, too, will likely also be the case at the Assembly as well.

But at the conclusion of the Assembly, with several Anglican Primates of GAFCON gathered around, ACNA will be a leader in the reevangelization of Britain and consecrate Andy Lines as a bishop for Scotland.  However trying the Assembly up to then may be, it will be a momentous finish that will make the overwhelming majority of the Assembly and of ACNA proud and glad to be in ACNA.  Heck, as concerned as I am about the direction of ACNA, I am among those thankful and proud that my church is stepping out for orthodoxy and the orthodox and leading in this way.

ACNA could use a unifying moment.  It will get it on June 30th.

Now that was surely not the reason Archbishop Foley Beach and ACNA are taking this step.  And they are to be commended for taking this step.  But bold obedience to God usually does have additional benefits, does it not?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Athanasius, err, GAFCON Responds to Justin Welby

There is some excellent analysis out there on the current disagreement surrounding the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC).  Lee Gattis’ piece particularly stands out.  Kevin and Gavin are excellent as well.

But perhaps the most brilliant and succinct response comes from the Archbishop of Nigeria Nicholas Okoh, Chairman of GAFCON.  As most readers know, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said and did virtually nothing to discourage the SEC from solemnizing same sex “marriage.”  Instead he let them know they would be welcome at Lambeth 2020 regardless.  Nor did he lift a finger to assist the orthodox remaining in the SEC in spite of their repeated pleas.  But then, when GAFCON did respond to their pleas, Justin got huffy about boundary crossing.

Well, Archbishop Okoh just blew Justin Welby out of the water ever so nicely:

As I write, we are preparing for Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is vital. Without it, we cannot speak truly of God in a way that is faithful to the bible. However, in the fourth century the Church was nearly overwhelmed by the Arians. They were the followers of Arius, who claimed that the Son was a created being, not really God.

If the Church had continued to follow Arius, the Christian faith would have been lost. To deny the full divinity of Jesus strikes at the heart of the Christian message that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.  St Athanasius is still remembered as the man who was willing to make a costly stand against this heresy.

I am reminded of Athanasius because we are facing a similar struggle for the integrity of the gospel in our time. On Thursday 8th June, the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) changed its teaching to allow men to be married to men and women to women.  It followed the path already taken by the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada.

This attempt to redefine marriage is not a secondary issue about which we can agree to disagree and continue to walk together. It means that Jesus was mistaken when he taught that marriage was between a man and a woman and that sex outside of such a marriage is a sin. It is a radical rejection of the authority of Scripture. The Church claims that it can consecrate behaviour that God’s Word clearly teaches to be sinful. According to the Bible, this behaviour, without repentance, separates those who practice it from his kingdom.

Athanasius consecrated orthodox bishops in dioceses led by Arians because he knew that the apostolic faith itself was at stake. This was the principle guiding the interventions which led to the formation of the Anglican Church in North America in 2009 and it was affirmed by over three hundred bishops in assembly at Gafcon 2013 in Nairobi. It was therefore very appropriate that on the same day that the Scottish Episcopal Church formally turned aside from the historic Christian faith, Gafcon announced that Canon Andy Lines, already an internationally recognised missionary statesman, will be consecrated later this month as a Gafcon missionary bishop for Europe.

Read the rest for yourself and do so at Why? A very nice touch was a prominent depiction of Athanasius that accompanied the letter on the GAFCON site.  Really that image alone rebuts Welby’s whinging about boundary crossing very well.  Okoh’s letter, excellent as it is, merely spells out the good example of Athanasius and its application today. I also like the gentle reminder that ACNA itself is the product of boundary crossing.

Speaking of which, I am very pleased that ACNA is taking a prominent role in the Lines consecration.  But more on that at a later time.  I need to get ready for the Reformed Episcopal Church’s General Council.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Holy Trinity and Our Salvation

As I look back on the year so far on this Trinity Sunday, I remember that something vital about the Holy Trinity has been brought to my attention repeatedly – that all three Persons of the Trinity are very much involved in our salvation.

A common misconception, even among Christians, is that the Father really hates us because of our sin, but that the Son and the Holy Spirit plead for us and change his mind to not zap us.  But actually the whole Trinity, all three Persons, though hating sin, love us amazingly and have been involved in our salvation long before we existed.  On one Trinity Sunday, John Keble exhorted, “Consider how in the work of our salvation each one of these glorious persons has severally manifested His own infinite holiness, He hatred of sin and His love…”

Indeed, the second reading of Morning Prayer this morning at my REC parish, I Peter 1:1-12 is packed with how we are saved “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood.” (ESV) I oft teach that salvation is something God does.  To spell it out more exactly, salvation is something the whole Holy Trinity does, all three Persons in One.

To those versed in orthodox Christian theology, that is nothing new.  And I’m not being particularly profound in restating it.  But what a vital truth!  I say vital because our eternal life depends on it.

The Holy Trinity is so glorious, the Three-in-One and One-in-Three is so worthy of all worship simply because of who He is.  But how much better for us that we can also thank and worship God – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – because from eternity past He has wonderfully acted to save us so that one day we can join the heavenly throng in His very presence joyfully crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

I hope you are having an excellent Trinity Sunday and will have a blessed Trinity Season. 

Friday, June 09, 2017

So Bernie Sanders Thinks Being an Orthodox Christian Is Not Okay

There has been a *cough* remarkable exchange between Senator Bernie Sanders, Socialist from Vermont, and Deputy White House Budget Director nominee Russell Vought.

Sanders: Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for the publication called Resurgent. You wrote, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?

Vought: Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and . . .

Sanders: I apologize. Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?

Vought: Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College:

Sanders: I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too? Vought: Senator, I’m a Christian . . .

Sanders: I understand you are a Christian! But this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?

Vought: Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals . . .

Sanders: You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?

Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.

Sanders: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.

So if one believes Jesus when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” that is just not acceptable to Bernie.

The push of the Left to marginalize traditional Christians continues.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Look who’s keynoting ACNA’s Matthew 25 Gathering.

In September, the Matthew 25 Initiative of the Anglican Church in North America will be putting on The Matthew 25 Gathering: Justice And Mercy Contending For Shalom.  The keynote speaker is Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah of North Park Seminary.

Having dug around the internet, I now think his selection to keynote an ACNA conference is a matter for concern for ACNA members, especially pertaining to the Matthew 25 Initiative.  At this point, I want to stick to presenting what I know.  I may comment more at a later date, but for now, I just want to get the facts out there out there about aspects of Dr. Rah’s background.   

As I’ve mentioned, Dr. Rah is the scheduled keynote speaker for The Gathering.  His website may be found here.  His bio at Sojourners may be found here.  He is on the board of Sojourners.  I think most of my readers are aware of the background of that organization.

In 2016, he signed two open letters attacking Donald Trump, “Called to Resist Bigotry — A Statement of Faithful Obedience”, and “A Declaration by American Evangelicals Concerning Donald Trump.” Among the “Evangelicals” who signed the latter were Brian McLaren, Rachel Held Evans, Jim Wallis, and Ron Sider.  (For the record, I opposed Trump and supported other candidates for most of 2016.)

In contrast, just after the election of Barack Obama in 2008, he wrote, “I am Barack Obama, and Barack Obama is America.” Just after his inauguration in 2009, he wrote, “On January 20th, 2009, hope replaced cynicism.”

He was a keynote speaker at the DisGRACE conference, which had a very Leftist direction it is safe to say.

When Rev. Franklin Graham urged people to obey the commands of police for their own safety, Rah signed a letter denouncing Graham’s statement.  Rachael Held Evans and Jim Wallis were also among the signers.

He has called Michael Brown, shot and killed at Ferguson, a victim of violence.  (It is well established that Brown attacked a police officer, and that the officer acted in self-defense.)

In 2015, in a post listing numerous grievances, he denounced saying “All Lives Matter” instead of “Black Lives Matter”:

So next time, white evangelical leaders, you feel the urge to mouth off that “ALL Lives Matter” — CLOSE your mouth and OPEN your eyes, ears, and minds to get yourself some knowledge.

The above is obviously not comprehensive.  It what a brief time searching the net has produced.  And I’ve not investigated his theological views – other than his opposition to preaching, “All lives matter.”

With the above background, I contacted Canon David Roseberry of the Matthew 25 Team.  He said this about The Gathering and about having Dr. Rah as the keynote speaker, “Anglicans always try to be both modest and generous in their mission and their thinking. By modest I mean that we never believe that we have all the answers and all the right perspectives possible.  By generous I mean that we always want to engage others in discussion. No one who claims the name of Jesus Christ as Savior should imagine they are outside of our fellowship. And anyone who works for the name of Jesus Christ can be our partner in mission.

And I will be modest and generous and let him have the last word for now.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Sermon for the Sunday After Ascension

For Morning Prayer this Sunday after Ascension, I, as Lay Reader, delivered the following sermon.  I don’t think I committed any major heresies; I will leave it to you whether I committed any minor ones.  Enjoy and be edified.


“God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways”

This Sunday, we are in the short season of Ascension.  It began Thursday and will end with Pentecost next Sunday.  And – I don’t know about you – but I find it a slightly awkward season.  During this season, we celebrate that Jesus is no longer physically with us.  That’s a rather odd thing to celebrate! No wonder that churches tend not to emphasize Ascension season that much.

Now, of course, the Ascension of our Lord is something to celebrate.  For Jesus, having departed after winning the victory over Satan, sin and death for us, is now at the right hand of the Father in glory.  And there he ever intercedes for us.  Further, Jesus’ departure prepared the way for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Now I could attempt to go into these glorious aspects of the Ascension.  But Father Ben is better at that than I am, so I will leave it to him to do that next year as he has in years past.

What I do want us briefly to focus on this morning is the reason behind why we may find Ascension season slightly awkward as I do.  And that reason is that God’s ways are not our ways.

Isaiah 55, beginning with verse 6 reads:

           Seek the LORD while he may be found;
                  call upon him while he is near;
7          let the wicked forsake his way,
                  and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
            let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
                  and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8          For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
                  neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9          For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
                  so are my ways higher than your ways
                  and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Note the context in which God, through Isaiah, says His ways are not our ways.  The context is the proclamation of God’s salvation and forgiveness. 

Isaiah exhorts us to turn “to our God for he will abundantly pardon.”  Why will he abundantly pardon? Because God is so impressed with our agendas?  No, just the opposite.  The reason God pardons and the manner in which he pardons follows in the very next verse: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”  God pardons because His love and grace and power far exceeds that of man and is far different from man’s.  And it follows that God’s agendas and methods are far different as well.  That is certainly the case in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ – and, yes, in His ascension as well.

Jesus’ agenda was certainly very different than man’s.  When Jesus fed the 5000, the people just fed were about to try to make him king by force.  But Jesus would have none of that. His kingdom was to be far different than what the excited people had in mind.  He withdrew to a mountain by himself.

On the other hand, pious Jews were not expecting their Messiah to be God Himself.  They were looking for a Messiah King, not Christ the Lord. So when Jesus said He was God, when he said, “I and the Father are One” and “Before Abraham was, I AM” they sought to kill him.

And, certainly, zealous Jews were hoping in a victorious Messiah that would free them from the yoke of the Roman Empire.  And these were surely among the throng that cheered Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

So when, later that week, many of that same throng saw Jesus whipped, bloodied, and by all appearances completely defeated by the Romans, the crowd turned on Him.  That was not the Messiah they were looking for.  A humiliated Jesus did not fit their agenda at all.  “Crucify Him!”

Now we may look with disdain at those in the crowd who called for the crucifixion of Jesus.  But have we ever been upset with God, even angry with God when His agenda turns out to be different than ours?  I have.

God’s ways are not our ways.  And that can be perplexing at times.

Jesus’ followers wrestled with the ways of the Lord, even right up until His Ascension.  Just before the Ascension, as recorded in the Acts 1, some of them asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Understandably, they wanted Jesus not to ascend but to stick around and establish His kingdom right then and there in Israel.  Even after the Resurrection and being taught by the risen Christ, they still didn’t get it that His kingdom was to be far far bigger and better than a sovereign Israel free from Rome.  And that kingdom was to be ignited by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Jesus therefore answered, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the end of the earth.”  And then he ascended.

The disciples once again found out God’s ways are not our ways.  And, in a way, that was disappointing.  They wished Israel would be a free and sovereign kingdom again.  They surely wished Jesus would stay and become king.  But they soon discovered the kingdom God had in mind was so much better.

And isn’t that way with us.  We hope God will provide us with . . . fill in the blank.  And God at times says, No.  And we may be disappointed.  But then God goes on to say, “I have something even better for you.”  In the Bible again and again and again, God tells us He has something better for us far beyond what we can even imagine.

The Ascension is very much a part of that.  For one thing, Jesus is right now interceding for us before the Father.  We ask friends to intercede for us, to pray for us, and that’s good.  How much better it is that Jesus intercedes for us!

Further, Jesus told the Twelve of His good purposes for us behind the Ascension when he said:

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2,3)

In the Ascension, Jesus bodily departed for a time so that the reunion when he returns will be that much better, including better for us.  Jesus’ prayer in John 17 when he prayed - “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me.” – that prayer will be perfectly fulfilled.

I could say more of the glory God and His gracious ways have in store for us, but I did promise a brief sermon, didn’t I.

God’s ways are not our ways.  Did any man - except perhaps the prophets, and even they saw only in part – did any man conceive of the Messiah suffering, dying a criminal’s death, but then defeating sin and death, rising from the dead, ascending to the Father and then one day coming again to reign and to be with His people forever?

Did any man even conceive of that?  No.  God’s ways are not our ways.  And thank God for that!

Let us pray.

O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thy Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.  Amen.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Unpleasant History the ACNA Holy Orders Task Force Left Out

I have followed Archbishop Foley Beach’s admonition to read all of the Holy Orders Task Force report before commenting.  In full disclosure, I skimmed a bit, but I did work through the whole thing.  So now I have my Commenting License.

To me what most stands out about the report is that it contains one long history lesson.  But what stands out almost as much and is more important is what history is neglected in the report. 

Jesus taught you shall know a tree by its fruit.  A fair corollary is that a tree will grow and produce fruit in line with its roots.   By those standards, women’s ordination, at least in the West and U. S., is problematic.

The roots of women’s ordination in the United States for the most part implanted in mainline denominations now wracked by apostasy.  Perhaps the problem was more to do with the soil than with the roots, but continuing… The roots of women’s ordination in the Anglican Church in North America are, for the most part, in The Episcopal Church of the 1970’s – not the best background.  (Yes, not every ACNA diocese that ordains women has its roots in The Episcopal Church.  Hence I said “for the most part.”)  In large part, WO was baggage carried into ACNA from The Episcopal Church.

As for its fruit, women’s ordination in the West has gone hand in hand with apostasy and preaching “another gospel,” the social gospel.  Now I grant that the argument could be made that connecting WO with apostasy is a post hoc argument.  In the Global South and in ACNA, there are orthodox jurisdictions that ordain women.   But I do have to say that I have noticed, to my alarm, social gospel tendencies from ACNA dioceses that ordain women.

But accurate or mistaken, there is the perception among many Anglicans, including this one, that the fruit of women’s ordination has been tried and wanting.  The theologies of the first women bishops in the Church of England are examples of that.  The marginalization of those who oppose or do not fully recognize women’s orders in the Church of England (See the Philip North affair.) and in The Episcopal Church is another.

Yet the Task Force report barely addressed this concern about the roots and fruit of women’s ordination. I do not know why, do not have any privy information, and do not think speculating why would be edifying.  I do know and concede that addressing the recent roots and fruit of women’s ordination in the West is not at all easy to do in a tactful manner that does not inflame divisions.  Heck, I am trying hard here to be polite, but it would not surprise me if this post upsets some people.

Nonetheless, this concern should have been fully addressed in the report.  The report went through a lot of history.  But unpleasant aspects of the history of women’s ordination in the West were not sufficiently addressed.  If ACNA will continue ordaining women to the priesthood, then we should be told why that is not rooted in The Episcopal Church of the 1970’s, or that such roots are not a besetting problem.  And we should be told why ACNA will not go down the primrose path of apostasy and the social gospel as have other Western jurisdictions that ordain women.  Going down the path of women’s ordination while assuming it will have entirely different results would be a dangerous assumption indeed.