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Pomotivators UNITY Pyromaniacs e-s_049Yesterday, I featured a post on what happens when an evangelical church becomes an emergent one.  Heidi Swander and a few others who were dissatisfied with the change were told they could leave that congregation and find a new church family.  Yet, they were not in the wrong.  They were trying to get their church back on track.

Look for more of this to happen in the next decade, which is almost upon us.  If you’re a Christian who believes in the truth of the Word of God, the emergent church has news for you.  They’re not going anywhere, although they’ve already made it clear that you might be.

A ‘leading light’ in the emergent movement is a chap named Brian McLaren.  He grew up as a dispensationalist, which means a belief that God would restore Israel to the Jewish people and that there would be a 1,000 year reign of peace.  This is a belief particular to many evangelicals, Pentacostalists, Plymouth Brethren and similar churches.  It relies on God granting a series of dispensations, about which you can read more at the link.  Okay, that belief is quite specific to certain churches.  But it seems that McLaren has an axe to grind, and grind it he does. 

Check out this entry of his about peace in the Middle East.  It sounds aggressively anti-Semitic and anti-Christian, not just anti-dispensationalist.  You don’t have to be a ‘dispie’ to favour Israel and the Jewish people.  After all, as my mother always said, there would be no Christianity without them.  Our history is bound up with theirs.  So, it comes as a shock to read passages such as this:

These systems of belief — so common among my fellow evangelical Christians — too often lead people to act as if Jewish people have God-given rights but Palestinians do not…

If you hold to a deterministic-dispensationalist or Zionist theology, I sincerely hope you will rethink your view. I grew up with these views as well, and have become thoroughly convinced that they are not only biblically unfaithful but also, in too many cases, morally and ethically harmful. I know that rethinking these things can make your life more difficult — friends, church members, and even family members may reject you, for example…

If you are unwilling to reconsider your commitment to deterministic-dispensationalist or Zionist theology, I hope you will at least try to avoid extremist tendencies by your colleagues who share these beliefs, so you can be faithful to the scriptures that tell us God is not a respecter of persons, that God shows no partiality (try James 2, for example), that God cares about “the least of these,” and that love never rejoices in evil.

Gee.  There are 57 Muslim states and one postage-stamp sized Israel, created specifically for Jews in 1947.   

Now let’s look at some connections — that post appeared on the Sojourners blogRemember the Sojourners??  

Just as we have seen with the Sojourners and some of the radical progressives either in or linked to the US political administration, McLaren and his cohorts are no less aggressive about their intentions.  In 2008, McLaren came out with a book entitled Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices.  It’s published by a longstanding, well-respected Bible and Christian book publisher, Nelson.  It is one of a series of eight books in total exploring the emergent movement, by emergent authors.  Many of these are contemplatives — not necessarily Catholic but certainly emergent.  McLaren extends his thanks to all of them for their help.

In the book, about which you can read more here at Lighthouse Trails Research, he says (highlights mine): 

[W]e need to move beyond our deadlock, our polarization, our binary, either/or thinking regarding faith and reason, religion and science, matter and spirit … We need a fusion of the sacred and the secular’ (pp. 4-5). As do other emerging philosophers (such as Tony Campolo and Rick Warren), McLaren pairs fundamentalism with the adjectives: ‘fearful, manic, violent, apocalyptic’ saying that its followers are ‘well armed, dangerous, and in the mood for an apocalypse’ (p. 5). This resonates with Rick Warren who said that Christian fundamentalists (he describes those as ones who adhere to the five fundamentals of the faith 1) are this new century’s enemy (and put them in the same category as Islamic terrorists.2

Wow!  This is just so radical. And just what are the five fundamentals of faith referred to here? 

  1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8-9).
  2. The Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27).
  3. The Blood Atonement (Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25, 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12-14).
  4. The Bodily Resurrection (Luke 24:36-46; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 15:14-15).
  5. The inerrancy of the scriptures themselves (Psalms 12:6-7; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20). 

So, anyone who believes in these is a Christian terrorist?  You could not make this up.  This is unbelievable.  This is basic Christianity — nuts and bolts

McLaren advocates a return to mysticism, mentioned in yesterday’s emergent church post:

McLaren understands the outcome of mysticism, which is interspirituality and man awakening to his own divinity. Thus, he explains that these ancient practices (spiritual formation) are for people of different faiths and that these ‘practices are actions within our power that help us narrow the gap’ (p. 14). They are ‘ways of becoming awake and staying awake to God’ (p. 18).

Man has no divinity.  He is totally depraved.

Then, he gets into the occult and Melchisidek:

Abraham used a mystical practice to connect with Melchizedek. Thus McLaren draws this conclusion: ‘[W]e discover practices for our own faith in an encounter with someone of another faith’ (p. 25). This is what occultists believe. Occultist Aldous Huxley said that mysticism is the ‘highest common factor’ that ‘links the world’s religious traditions’ and leads man to recognize the divinity within all things (see As Above, So Below, p. 2).

So, we’re to employ the occult in Christian belief?  Not me, mate.  And believing that people and things are divine is pure heresy.

Back to his latest book, where he says that:

even Christian communion is something to be shared with people of all faiths (in particularly with the Jewish faith and Islam); he states that this ‘sacred meal’ is a celebration of ‘inclusion’ and ‘reconciliation’ (p. 26). This makes a mockery of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who told believers to do this in remembrance of Him, acknowledging His atonement for sin – a mockery because the beliefs of other religions reject Christ as being God and the slain Lamb who could take away sin.

Words fail me. Where does it end?  Well, it doesn’t seem that McLaren’s thrown off the ‘dispie’ belief entirely, which is strange, given his hostility towards it upthread:

McLaren believes in a literal global kingdom of God on earth before Christ returns that will incorporate all the world’s religions and all creation, a ‘world yet to be born’ that ‘desperately’ needs ‘these spiritual practices’. He also relates: ‘[T]hese practices’ have ‘enlivened the three Abrahamic faiths’ (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) and should not be ‘allowed to go extinct’ (p. 29).

McLaren refers to his ‘spiritual formation’, in which the world religions have played a significant role.  In the secular world, blending of cultures and traditions makes for a fine exchange of ideas. Yet, how theological is it with regard to Christianity? 

In chapter four of Finding Our Way Again, McLaren … admits he has gleaned from various religious traditions (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc). Then he makes reference to a woman named Anne Lamott [said to have coined the expression ‘New Age movement’] when she says, ‘I am at heart a Jesus-y person’ (p. 31). Lamott is a perfect example of someone who ‘likes Jesus’ but rejects biblical Christianity.

So, is McLaren also just a Jesus-y person?  Lighthouse Trails Research explains:

The reason McLaren resonates with Lamott is because the New Age and the emerging church (or what we call the merging church) are going in the same direction – to help man awaken to his inner divinity through mysticism. When McLaren states in this chapter that he learned from Hinduism, what else could he have learned than this?

Again, I repeat, man has no inner divinity.  He is totally depraved. 

McLaren, in his own self-styled way, also says:

‘a person can be a follower of the way of Jesus without affiliating with the Christian religion’ (p. 33) … But McLaren certainly isn’t the only one in the merging church that talks like this. Erwin McManus … says it is his ‘goal to destroy Christianity as a world religion’ and also: ‘Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right.’

These are people who will be influencing our churches in the next few years.  This won’t be a flash in the pan — unless … we take action now.  

And, there’s more.  McLaren gives his prescription for the future (emphasis mine):

He explains that this merging church must infiltrate the ‘institutions that rejected it’ [meaning true Christianity] … ‘But over time, what they reject will find or create safe space outside their borders and become a resource so that many if not most of the grandchildren of today’s fundamentalists will learn and grow and move on from the misguided battles of their forebears [biblical believers]’ (p. 133). You see, McLaren and his emerging church fellows (Pagitt, Sweet, Warren, et.al.) want to change the minds of our children and grandchildren. That is why Rick Warren once said that the older traditional ones will have to leave or die because they won’t change, thus the emphasis in the emerging church on the youth.’

McLaren claims:

If the guardians of our fragmented religious institutions forbid their members to meet in the center, the members will not be able to comply. They will simply go undercover and arrange secret liaisons … Eventually, the shared resources, vitality, and new possibilities that unfold … will penetrate and reinvigorate … Trying to stop [this] … is a losing game … against the plotline of God’s universe.

My head is swimming.  You know, there’s a place for this type of thought — the Unitarian Universalist Church.  Why don’t they just go there?  But that would be too easy for the emergent leaders, who  seem to have an active agenda — one of subverting Christianity, full stop. 

Are we going to have to start Christian ‘tea parties’ to circumvent this travesty?  Make sure your pastors and youth leaders are aware of what this movement is all about. 

Be vigilant.  Spread the word about the infiltration of the emergent church into your congregation.  Help save your church family.

Defend your faith, starting today.

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Hand of God leedsacukWe’re nearing the end of a tumultuous decade, thank goodness.  On New Year’s Day 2010, we’ll be toasting the end to 10 years of mistakes — political, social and spiritual.  Or so we think.

Although we must have hope, we mustn’t be naïve.  So, please be aware that the next decade could be quite fraught for Christian traditionalists everywhere.  Yes, even in the United States — perhaps particularly there.

What will be the source of our persecution?  The emergent church, most probably.  This is no matter of speculation. The emergent movement intends to gain more influence over your beliefs and your non-emergent church. 

Rubbish, you say.  Well, before we look at the broader emergent church, here’s a story from a lady named Heidi Swander, whose evangelical church morphed into an emergent one.  She was part of a congregation-wide ‘townhall meeting’ at her church to select a new pastor.  She was already familiar with the emergent church outlook and had prepared questions for the latest candidate. She also knew that her church had an emergent church ‘watchdog’ to look out for this type of pastor.  So, she was confident the right person would get the job. 

Heidi recalls:

My two questions were on eschatology and the Emergent Church.  I don’t remember his exact answers.  I do remember them being vague and unsatisfying.

The congregation ended up voting this candidate in as their new senior pastor.  Change came quickly:

Within weeks of his start date …  The music — the one thing that is most readily noticed and a sensitive subject for any church — began to change.  Two on the pastoral staff left fairly suddenly.  The organist resigned.  The church services began to look different.  Social programs absent a clear plan for presenting the gospel began to emerge.

Still, as long as the sermons were good, things would be all right.  Or would they?

… the substance seemed elusive.  I found myself second-guessing everything he said.  Sometimes what he said and the way he said it sounded disrespectful of the Word of God.  He spoke positively about New Age advocate Oprah Winfrey.  He began to weave quotes and video clips from Emergent leaders into his messages. 

Surely, Heidi could let the elders know her thoughts?

He — and many of the elders — strongly urged the church to get on board with all that was happening, and eagerly promoted a questionable book we should read to help us in the transition.  And one elder blatantly recommended a book — two weeks in a row — by prominent Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen who is a father to the contemplative prayer movement.  My trust level was tanking.

Nouwen alert!

Next came an unusual adult education class:

… a friend of our new pastor, Terry Esau, would be speaking in my Sunday school class.  His subject?  ‘Breathing Lessons for Your Church’.  My heart sank.  I was in the middle of reading A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen — a warning primer on contemplative prayer, which is a foundational teaching of the Emergent Church

And so:

It was that day when I finally admitted to myself that I was losing my church … I thought I’d found a church home.  And then, disaster struck in the form of a new senior pastor who turned the church — and my world — on its head

Heidi and three other members of her congregation met with the pastor and a few elders, who said:

‘If there are those who are uncomfortable with the direction the church is headed, it may be wise for them to find another place to worship.’  It wasn’t directed at me, but I got the message.  They wouldn’t consider any pleas for caution, no matter how scripturally-based.

Heidi’s ‘inner fundamentalist‘ spoke to her and she was fortunate to find a new church family quickly.  Her new church is scripturally-based and even provides courses on discerning the errors of the emergent church. 

However, Catholics and mainline Protestants, now subject to Taizé liturgy, Lectio Divina, mood-altering son et lumière and relativist sermons might not find changing churches that easy.  In my area, the churches work together to make sure that people stay within their own congregations.  The church leaders actively discourage denomination-swapping on the part of the congregants.  Instead, they will counsel you to return to your church.  And they are likely to facilitate a meeting between you and your priest or minister to help effect that reconciliation, no matter how false.  So, if you don’t like your pastor or vicar, tough.  You’d be ill-advised even go to the next town for church.  You’d probably have to go to London where you could blend in with a more transient congregation. 

Something to think about. 

Tomorrow: What the emergent church has in mind for Christians everywhere and, no, not all will be welcome

BLD072Since my recent post on the conversation with the Postmodern Protestant about Messy Church, I started researching the emergent / emerging church. 

It will come as no surprise that Churchmouse Campanologist does not support this movement, born of a pomo culture and involving people who have suffered deep hurt from which they cannot recover.  A variety of people — clergy, publishers and New Agers — are attempting to ‘plant’ churches and initiatives in a way that reshapes the Gospel message, leaving it open to misinterpretation.

This never spoke to me.  Although one emergent church promoter, Pete Greig in the UK, would disparage this as listening to one’s ‘inner fundamentalist’, I say that little voice is no bad thing.  If you’re a lifelong Christian and don’t ‘get’ something in or associated with today’s church, there’s probably a good reason for that.  So, keep listening to that voice.  Here’s why:

Marginalising Scripture: The emergent church culture is aimed at meeting today’s culture on its own terms and selectively attaching Scripture to it rather than telling people how Christ secures our redemption on the Cross.  It promotes a universalist philosophy instead of a lively faith.  Lighthouse Trails Research has found that Doug Pagitt, a pioneer in the emergent church, advocates (emphasis mine):

… changing the profile of Christianity on an ecumenical view that permits beliefs and experiences not found in the Bible. Not only are they not found in the Bible, the plan can’t work with an intact Bible. In order for the emerging church to succeed, the Bible has to be looked at through entirely different glasses, and Christianity needs to be open to a new type of faith. Brian McLaren [another luminary in the emergent movement] calls this new faith a ‘generous orthodoxy’. While such an orthodoxy allows a smorgasbord of ideas to be proclaimed in the name of Christ, many of these ideas are actually forbidden and rejected by Scripture

Changing the message to fit the culture: Pagitt goes on to say that the church must change to meet the times we live in.  Pius X warned Roman Catholics of this movement which began in the late 20th century and declared Modernism a heresy in 1907.  Were he alive today, he probably would have urged the same for Postmodernism.  Theologically speaking, one emerged (!) from the other and is just as dangerous, particularly as it relies on the experiential, emotional side of faith and life.  Pagitt describes his sermons (see link above):

In many ways the sermon is less a lecture or motivational speech than it is an act of poetry–of putting words around people’s experiences to allow them to find deeper connection in their lives … So our sermons are not lessons that precisely define belief so much as they are stories that welcome our hopes and ideas and participation.

Placing man before all things God: The emergent church puts man at the centre.  God is merely a bolt-on, a backdrop in order to help to give our lives relevance.  Pagitt explains:

… we’ve tried to create a community that’s more like a potluck: people eat and they also bring something for others. Our belief is built when all of us engage our hopes, dreams, ideas and understandings with the story of God as it unfolds through history and through us.

Misusing the Early Church: Adding a contemplative or mystical dimension to church services through mood music, trance images projected on a screen and dim lighting make emergent churchgoers think they are entering some ancient rite of mystery, altogether different from the mysterium tremendum of the Tridentine Rite Mass, the solemnity and near-silence of which puts Christ and his divine Sacrifice at the heart of the liturgy. That’s not a holy head trip. Even early churchgoers did not get zoned out when at Mass in underground churches with a priest; they were too busy huddling together in fear.

Luring people in through Taizé liturgy: Many churches — even Catholic and mainstream Protestant — are using Taizé liturgies, particularly during Lent and Holy Week.  This is an ecumenical group of self-styled monks in community.  Are they putting their own brand of mysticism before the Sacrament of Holy Communion?  Many people like this sort of thing, but is it worth their while to ask themselves why they are attending this type of service?  Did Jesus or Saints Peter and Paul tell us we should worship this way?  Is there a scriptural basis for it?  Why would we have to get mystical in order to appreciate the commemoration of Christ’s Last Supper?  Something to think about … Popularity doesn’t make it right.  The nun I had for religion class when I was 16 introduced our class to Henri Nouwen.  I didn’t get it.  Half the class didn’t.  The other half said, ‘If you really understood how the mystical experience brings you closer to Christ, you’d be able to appreciate it.’  Mmm — my ‘inner fundamentalist’ must have been tapping me on the shoulder that week.

Relying on mysticism: It is a sign of our times that so many Christians who, let’s face it, have dabbled in drugs, meditation or some ‘outer-body’ type of experience, flock to services or private ‘spiritual exercises’ of a mystical nature.  The folks who were 20-somethings 40 years ago are now seniors.  (Imagine!)  So, for them, it’s a legal high and a way of getting in touch with the ‘good vibrations’ they had in the Age of Aquarius.  I put it to you, though, that very few people are able to speak in tongues or manage a Toronto Blessing (remember them)? Furthermore, the heightened consciousness that Julian of Norwich and St Theresa of Avila experienced is extremely rare, indeed.  Yet, many mainstream Christians search for the same high at home with Lectio Divina [‘divine reading’].  I have read many stories on Christian fora of women who think they are visionaries because something they free-associated about whilst praying Lectio Divina came true. Why do we have to go into a trance during prayer, though?  I would much rather pray and talk to God.  Did Jesus say, ‘Get mystical with Me’?  No, never.  Leave Lectio Divina to the monks and nuns.  Even then, there is no guarantee.  Catholic mystic the Revd Thomas Keating says:

[In the early Church] Contemplation was regarded as an exceptional gift, not as the normal flowering of Lectio Divina and Christian prayer.

And, he concedes:

I was aware that the method of Lectio Divina in most instances was not doing the job of bringing people, even cloistered monks and nuns, to the contemplative states of prayer that St. Teresa describes in her writings: infused recollection, the prayer of quiet, the prayer of union, and the prayer of full union. All are deepening experiences of the presence of God.

All of these are attractive snares to get Christians ‘more interested’ in Jesus.  Let’s face it, He just isn’t exciting enough on His own to merit our full attention. We live in a fast-paced, dynamic, technological age and Jesus just isn’t ‘cool’ anymore, so we try to make Him and His message ‘cooler’.  And, if you believe that … I’ll pray that God sends you your very own ‘inner fundamentalist’.

You can read more here.

Red doors Church of Our Saviour Secaucus NJThis question never occurred to me, because the doors on the Episcopal and Anglican churches I have attended are painted brown.  However, now that I think about it …

Here is a fascinating compendium of answers from Episcopalians on the website of the Church of Our Saviour in Secaucus, New Jersey.  Much like the Anglican faith itself — there is general agreement but no ‘right’ answer:

– ‘… my architect friend here in Memphis [said] was that it was nothing more than a tradition, especially with Episcopal churches. He added that if you go to a strange city, you can readily identify the Episcopal Church as the one with the red doors.’ – Mark Emory Graham

– ‘The red doors symbolize the blood of Christ, which is our entry into salvation. They also remind us of the blood of the martyrs, the seeds of the church.’ – St. David’s Episcopal ChurchRed doors Christ Church Episcopal Charlevoix MI Laurinburg, NC

– ‘I suspect that the red doors are much like academic gowns: since there is no authoritative source about what they symbolize, you can have fun finding your own meanings in them.’ – Louie Crew

– ‘Red is the color of the Passion. Red doors say that symbolically we enter the church the Passion, through death and resurrection in baptism (at an Orthodox baptism, the godparents present the candidate with red shoes as a symbol of walking the way of the cross) and by participating in the passion through the Eucharist.’ – Paul Woodrum

Red doors St Marks Lake City– ‘I too asked about the Red doors over the years. The only answer I ever got was that this is the color associated with the Holy Spirit.’ – Cipher Deavours 

– ‘My earliest Christian mentor … explained that the red door tradition originated during the Middle Ages in England when it was a sign of sanctuary. In those days, if one who was being pursued by the local populace, shire reeve (sheriff) or gentry could reach the church door he/she would be safe. Nobody would dare to do violence on hallowed ground and, in any case, the Church was not subject to civil law. The red door was fair warning to pursuers that they could proceed no further. One who claimed sanctuary in this way would then be able to present his/her case before the priest and ask that justice be served.’ – Ron McGee

– ‘Somewhere in the recesses of my understanding, all red doors initially indicated “sanctuary”. Out of ancient history, various places and cities were marked as safe havens,Red doors Church of the Ascension cartersville ga sanctuaries. People fleeing trouble and danger could find respite for a time, until they needed to get on with life. These places were marked with bright red color — the door, the opening through which one passed, etc. The Church might well have adopted this lore, as sanctuary amidst the world .. Seems plausible to me… ‘ – The Revd Joseph S Picard

Red doors St Pauls Episcopal Idaho– ‘Anybody read about Passover lately? You remember how the children of Israel were to mark “the lintel of the door” with blood, as a sign for the Angel of Death to pass over? Before modern chemistry and the variety of paint formulae, red paint was made with animal blood (really — I’m not making this up!). “Barn red,” that color so familiar, especially in New England barns, was made with a combination of buttermilk and animal blood — the blood for pigment/color, and the buttermilk as the binder/thickener. (You remember, of course, from art history, about renaisssance painters making their paints using egg yolk as a binder…). Anyhow, that’s how they made red paint: blood and buttermilk. It’s a pretty short step from there to red doors, if you are deeply steeped in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and know about marking the lintel of the door with blood to signify that you are among the saved…’ – The Revd Linda Strohmeier

Red doors Grace Episcopal Church gracesiloamorgThe most complete explanation came from the Revd Kenneth M Near, who says that whilst there is no single answer, the Passover and notion of sanctuary are prominent.  He explains (highlights mine):

And yes this history is long and goes back indeed to the Middle Ages (or perhaps even to the time of the Torah in the Hebrew Scriptures). However, with all of this rich imagery abounding, it still was the case in Great Britain and Canada in the 19th and early 20th century that only certain parishes painted their doors red. These were Anglo-Catholic parishes of the Oxford Movement (at least this was how it was reported to me by Urban Anglo-Catholic slum priests in Detroit and Toronto). In addition, a cross might appear on the parish steeple on these parishes. These were bold and controversial symbols at one time. Candles on the altar, liturgical vestments, Processional Crosses, Red Doors, Steeple Crosses, Weekly Eucharist, (not mention incense, bells, and lights that twinkle — ie votive candles) these were all considered radical. We take most of this in stride today.

Evangelical [Low Church] parishes at that time had there own external markings. Instead of a Cross atop a steeple and red doorsEvangelical parishes had a ‘Crowing Cock’ (a common symbol of the Passion of our Lord) atop the steeple and brown or gray coloured doors. These parishes thought of themselves as a place where one could find ‘The Word’ preached with authority without all the fuss … of those ‘other’ Anglican Christians.

The American Church experience has always been more eclectic. A few decades ago ‘High Church’ or ‘Anglo-Catholic’ parishes probably had red doors more commonly than ‘Liberal Protestant Parishes’ (these were far more common in the American experience than the Evangelical parishes of Britain and Canada). Today however this connection is lost. Presently, virtually every Episcopal Church parish has a cross on it and every parish uses candles. Today even Methodist and Baptist Churches in the United States have crosses on them and use candles. These signs and symbols are almost universally accepted.

 As Mr Near says, other Protestant denominations may also have red doors, such as Immanuel Lutheran (website link out of action) which says:

Red doors. These doors are symbolic of entering the Church and getting to our Heavenly Father through the blood of Christ

And that’s why many Episcopal and some other churches have red doors.  Hope you enjoyed the collection of red door photos!

Many publications — online and print — have discussed the effect of Bishop V. Gene Robinson on attendance and membership figures of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States.  Bishop Robinson’s appointment was in 2003.

Episcopal_church_flag_stamps_postage-p172400325813997610anr4u_400Stand Firm has a post on the mystery surrounding the 2008 figures, due in September.  The general consensus among readers is that the news must be bad, otherwise TEC would have published the numbers pronto.

Finally, a Fast Facts page has become available, which you can see here.  In the last five years, there has been:

– a 10% drop in active baptised members

– a 14% drop in total average Sunday worship attendance

– a median average Sunday worship attendance of 69 people, a slight decrease from 75 in 2004

TEC currently has just a little over 2m members, a decline from 2.2m in 2004.

If you would like to see individual diocese’s 10-year charts, click here.

The decline reminds me of the 2007 UK smoking ban.  All those lobbying for it said, ‘Just wait — you’ll get so many non-smokers through the doors.’  The ban resulted in pubs closing at an unprecedented rate.  And, TEC’s appointing Bishop Robinson had much the same message, ‘Just wait — you’ll get so many more LGBTs through the doors.’  Still waiting, meantime losing members every year.

Shhh — could that be the rattle of the death watch beetle approaching the red doors near you?  Possibly not, because, in the cases of the individual churches I checked, pledges are up despite the decline in active membership.  So, there’s hope yet, but not if TEC permanently loses its way.

No picture with this post because it’s just too distressing.  It’s about a couple who desperately wanted a child and finally got their chance.  The Daily Mail reports that it literally ended in tragic tears for the parents.  You can see their pictures and their baby’s at the link.

Johanne Rees waited 90 minutes to give birth at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.  With each minute, little Arun, still inside his mother’s womb, was starved of oxygen.  After 32 weeks, she was admitted to hospital with abdominal pains.  Doctors had already said she could be at risk of a miscarriage.  All the more important, then, to ensure that she was being monitored.  Although heart monitor readings showed the baby was ‘in distress’, staff told Ms Rees to go to the washroom as she had probably eaten something which disagreed with her.

The Mail takes up the story:

Eventually an emergency Caesarean was performed an hour and a half later on a second doctor’s recommendation.

Arun was taken to the special baby care unit after he was delivered but had suffered irreversible brain damage.

Miss Rees and Mr Govekar [her husband] switched off his life support machine after ten days.

The couple who own a restaurant in Penarth, South Wales, said their lives had been completely devastated by the death of their son.

Miss Rees, now 48, said: ‘After the upset of an earlier miscarriage, we were both thrilled when I became pregnant again. It was all we wanted and it was taken away from us.’

If the name Arun Rees looks familiar to UK readers, this is because the story is four years old but resurfaced on October 13, as the couple are reaching closure with the hospital.  They have finally received an apology from University Hospital in Cardiff and £160,000 in compensation.  Mr Govekar told The Mail:

‘The last four years have been a relentless battle to gain answers. Arun’s death has taken its toll on us both.

‘It has affected our health, our ability to work and at times it threatened to break up our relationship completely.

‘We can only hope that we can now move forward with our lives.’

Their solicitor (attorney) said that had the hospital taken appropriate action earlier, little Arun would probably have been alive today.  The hospital spokeswoman offers the usual condolences.

This isn’t an anti-NHS article, because this story could happen anywhere.  However, it does go to show how nonchalance and lack of care can impact people’s lives — in this case, that of a possible family, now a childless couple forever.

Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgOver the past few Sundays, Churchmouse Campanologist has featured ‘forbidden Bible verses’ which are seldom heard or preached on in Sunday services.  To read past entries, click here. Now, here is a truly forbidden Bible passage in that verses 18 and 19 of Revelation 22 are no longer in the Episcopal lectionary.  Today’s reading comes from the  New International Version.   

Revelation 22

The River of Life

 1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. 6The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

Jesus Is Coming

 7“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

 8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

 10Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”

 12“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

 14“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

 16“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

 17The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

 18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

 20He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
      Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

 21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

 

What is more essential to any form of life than water?  Our flora and fauna depend on it, as do we.  It is a universal axiom that no human being can survive for more than a few days without water.  Even today, clean water is prized throughout the world;  there are still countries which lack this precious, essential life-sustaining element.  In verse 1, the Angel reveals the New Jerusalem by indicating the ‘water of life’ first. Students of the Bible recall passages of the Old Testament which mention this great gift of God’s bounty: Isaiah 48:18, Zechariah 14:8, Ezekiel 47:1-9 and Psalm 46:4-5, which seems to have a direct correlation:

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

This water comes directly from God.  Therefore, it will be not only pure but abundant.  Imagine the tree of life in verse 2 as you will, perhaps as a row of trees bordering the river on either side.  The tree means that God will restore all things, which Man may then fully enjoy.  The fruit of this tree will be restorative and healthful, bearing a full crop for each month of the year.  Taking all this in, it is hard to imagine that this same street was in Rev. 11:8-9 a scene of death and martyrdom.  Yet, now, the Lord has made this a perfect place for His people, who will worship Him through their work and service.  This will not be the same type of work and drudgery we know on Earth, but a blessed, joyful willingness to serve Him.  God’s people will be able at last to have the close relationship with Him for which they have longed.  Because sin, idolatry and woe are no more, they can now see Him face to face.  They will truly know Him in a way we do not know at present.  God’s perfection will reign in His administration of the New Jerusalem, in His peoples’s subordination and His transformation of Himself to them.

In verse 6, the Angel makes it clear that what these verses say is true — they are the Word of God.  The Angel adds in verse 7 that the Lord has said that when He comes it will be without warning — more in line with ‘suddenly’ or ‘unexpectedly’, perhaps, than ‘soon’, which would imply immediacy.  Therefore, we must be prepared to receive Him.  We are asked to receive this prophecy by readying ourselves for His arrival.

When St John falls down at the feet of the Angel in verse 8, the Angel makes clear that he is merely a servant and commands John to ‘worship God’.  If St John makes this mistake, we, too, must be on guard against worshipping God’s messengers.   

The command in verse 10 against ‘sealing up’ — ignoring or obscuring — this prophecy tells us that these verses are still pertinent.  Yet, the Angel reminds St John that not all will heed them.  So, however hard it is to do, we sometimes have no choice but to let sinners go their own way.  Not all will be saved.  Those who are righteous in the Lord will continue to be holy and await His Kingdom.  We see this again in verses 14 and 15, where ‘dogs’ refers to those who are morally impure.  They will be left outside, but will not care that their condemnation awaits them.  Note the mention of ‘magic arts’, which is lumped in with murder, fornication and idolatry as ‘falsehood’!  Let us pay attention to our leisure pursuits.

The Lord says in verse 12 that He is coming soon — a reiteration of verse 7.  The need to be ready is urgent, even if we do not know the day or the hour of His return.  Christ’s words in verse 13 tell us that he is the beginning (Alpha — first letter in the Greek alphabet) and the end (Omega — the last letter).  There is no salvation without Jesus Christ.  Hence, the importance for us to confess that Jesus is Lord — He alone has ultimate sovereignty.  He reiterates this in verse 16 and says that the Angel is speaking His words.  The Lord intends this message ‘for the churches’ — indeed, the whole Book of Revelation is intended for the churches. It is not for a few saints or Bible scholars to interpret — these words are for all of us

With that, we have those beautiful words in the open invitation of verse 17: ‘And let him who hears say, “Come!”‘  ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come!’  is in Aramaic ‘Maranatha!’  What a splendid day that will be.  Are we ready?

Now, come the crucial passages which The Episcopal Church have removed from their Lectionary:

18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Bible scholars say this is further indication that all of us can and should read the Book of Revelation.  We are to understand and heed its prophecy and messages.   

The final verses emphasise that Jesus will return and it will be at an unexpected, sudden moment (‘quickly’).  In closing, the faithful are reminded that God’s grace is with them always.

 

You can read more here and here.

Irene VilarMeet mother-of-two Irene Vilar.  She’s had 15 abortions.  She was ‘addicted’!  Now she’s making money by writing a book about them.  You couldn’t make it up.

And, sadly, the same article reports that her grandmother was a ‘bolter’ — deserted her own daughter.  Grandma Lolita was a Puerto Rican nationalist who served 25 years in the slammer.  Why?  For ‘storming the US Capitol building in 1954 with a gun’. But Jimmy Carter pardoned her in 1979, so all’s well that ends well.  Grandma’s fight continued.  Why doesn’t the lady move to Cuba?  She might be a lot happier there.

Irene’s mum no doubt felt deserted and unwanted.  But, hey, if you have to choose between your own dependant flesh and blood and leftism, radical politics wins hands down every time.  And, unfortunately, this is what happened next:

The author was eight when her mother killed herself by jumping from a moving car and died two days later. Her husband had been driving while her tiny daughter had made a pathetic attempt to hold her mother back.

Two of Mrs Vilar’s brothers became heroin addicts.

How could you live with yourself knowing you gave up your daughter, albeit to relatives?  Would you  not care about what happened to her or your grandchildren’s psychological health?  Let that be a warning to us. 

Back to Irene.  She was a child prodigy who entered university at the age of 15.  She fell in love with a 50-year old Latin American Literature prof and the two married a year later.  Prof. Cuperman didn’t want kids, saying they killed sexual desire.  So, young Irene would ‘forget’ to take her birth control pills.  When she became pregnant, it was a ‘high’ for her  — living a bit on the edge in disobedience to an older father-type whom she knew wouldn’t be happy with children.  And, no, she didn’t mean to abort again and again. 

There must be a psychological issue here.  What else could explain it?

Who would have the brass neck to write this tragedy up and sell it?  So many women are torn apart emotionally after one abortion, and this woman brags about having had 15?  Then again, maybe she’s trying to work it out for herself.  If it happened to me, I would be too ashamed and sad to share this saga with the general public. No religious dimension appears in this story, but I hope she has made her peace with God.   

Irene is now married to someone else, has two young daughters and two teenage stepchildren. 

She’s currently working on a book about motherhood and is available for speaking engagements. 

No, you really couldn’t make it up.

Rowan Williams 2‘Final call for Rowan Williams. Paging Rowan Williams. Would Rowan Williams please report to the nearest courtesy phone.’ 

Please, for the sake of not just the Anglican Communion but Christian hierarchy — stand down now.  Even the Queen — Defender of the Faith — finds the state of the Anglican Church frightful.  This is the man who says he had no idea Anglo-Catholic clergy were in discussions with Rome, when the story appeared in the papers in July! 

On October 14, 2009, the Daily Mail reported his latest pronouncements at Southwark Cathedral in London on economic growth and saving the planet.  I’ll highlight the leftist rhetoric and theory for you in these excerpts:

The Archbishop of Canterbury called for an end to economic growth to save the planet

But he acknowledged that poverty should not be romanticised and said that economic growth could be one cause of ‘human liberation’

‘We have to ask whether our duty of care for life is compatible with assuming without question that the desirable future for every economy, even the most currently successful and expansionist, is unchecked growth.’

However, Dr Williams added: ‘It is right to work for a world in which there is security of work and food and medical care for all, and to try and create local economies that make local societies prosper through trade and innovation…’

How are economies going to improve without growth?  During his lifetime, British manufacturing has gone from boom to bust.  So has our scientific and mathematical innovation;  UK engineering was known and respected worldwide. In the 1980s and 1990s we made a transition to the much-trumpted ‘service-based economy’, which has gone bust, too. So, where are we going to work now?  If, as is the case, we lack scientific and mathematical education, how can we innovate?  How can we provide decent medical care in that state?

Williams continues:

‘But the question more and more people are asking is whether there are macro-economic models that would allow us to see more investment in public infrastructures and the development of sustainable technologies as priorities for a healthy economy, rather than a simple growth in consumer power.’

In recent months the Archbishop has been increasingly critical of the way the economy is run and the importance of finance and consumer power.

He has attacked belief in market forces as ‘idolatry’; praised the contempt of Marxists for ‘unbridled capitalism’, and, last month, condemned the City because no-one has said sorry for the excesses that ended in recession.

So, he gives more evidence for what we had supposed all along: he is a socialist. Yes, of course, there are guys in the City (London’s financial district) who pick up whopping bonuses, but so what?  They’re all we have left in a Thatcherite service-based economy.  If they go, we all go down with them.  And macro-economic models are notoriously socialist;  not only that, but if you can’t keep to your promised quota, you stop getting funding for your enterprise, then you’re back to where you started and in debt. Very compassionate. It’s not easy to be a young widow with children in a third-world country and make a go of macro-economic ventures.  Some succeed, but many fail.

Williams encourages us to enjoy nature:

He also called for people to ‘go out of doors in the wet from time to time’ and take chances to watch the changing of the seasons in order to ‘restore a sense of association with the material place and time and climate we inhabit and are part of.

Commuters already do that, but, thanks for the thought.  It’s not as if trains drop us off at the office door.

The call for an end to growth is likely to stir fresh controversy for Dr Williams, who last year called for Muslim sharia law to be recognised so that people could choose whether to have their cases heard in the state courts or Islamic courts.

As if we needed reminding!

But Dr Williams’ own critics say he is himself credulous in his unquestioning acceptance of the theory of man-made global warming, and that his ambition of a world without growth would mean deep poverty, especially in the Third World…

Dr Williams said: ‘Whatever we do to combat the nightmare possibilities of wholesale environmental catastrophe has to be grounded not primarily in the scramble for survival but in the hope of human happiness.’

The man obviously hasn’t thought this through.  But, then, we get:

The Archbishop preceded his speech with an interview in which he said people should grow food on their own allotments to end imports of ‘unsustainable’ air-freighted vegetables from countries like Kenya.

He said that it was a mistake for Kenyans to rely on an economy based on unsustainable exports and that Britons who grew food on allotments would reconnect with nature.

So Anglicans and other people in Kenya should just starve?  They’re delighted to be able to grow this food for export.  It has no market in Kenya.  They make a living.  Their spending on local goods and services help stimulate their own economy.  What is the problem? 

But Ruth Lea, economist at the Arbuthnot Banking Group and a Anglican churchgoer, said: ‘It says it all that he would stop imports from Kenya. It is all right for us to talk about stopping economic growth, but what about people across southern Asian and in Africa who live in excruciating poverty?

‘How are they to get a faintly acceptable standard of life without growth?’

Just so, Ms Lea — thank you. 

Notice there is never any mention of Jesus, the importance of faith, a return to the Gospel, transformative Anglican teachings and values — nothing.  Williams puts his faith in mankind and mankind’s creations only.  Very sad.  No wonder his churches are empty.  And little surprise that the Pope has just invited 70m Anglicans to Rome!  Well, someone’s got to show leadership.

[picapp src=”5/b/e/d/Leading_Clergy_Participate_d170.jpg?adImageId=6291924&imageId=6846670″ width=”500″ height=”335″ /]

 

The blogosphere has been busy with the news reported on October 20, 2009 that Pope Benedict XVI extends a welcome to Anglo-Catholics disenchanted with the current state of the Anglican Communion. 

Here is the announcement from the Vatican on instituting personal ordinariates for Anglican clergy.  It says, in part (emphasis mine):

The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony. In this way, the Apostolic Constitution seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church.

Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which has prepared this provision, said: “We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way. With this proposal the Church wants to respond to the legitimate aspirations of these Anglican groups for full and visible unity with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter.”

One of those groups in the UK is Forward in Faith (FiF), which is also present in other English-speaking countries.  FiF was founded in 1992 in response to, among other things, women’s ordination in the Anglican Church.  It has been their intention to seek unity with Rome from the start.  

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is said to be ‘implacably opposed’ to the Catholic Church’s invitation to Anglo-Catholics. In a letter to Anglican bishops, he says he found out about the move from Rome ‘at a very late stage’.  Strange, considering that Damian Thompson blogged on FiF meetings with the Vatican in July. Yet, Williams has been fully aware of the Anglo-Catholics’s dissatisfaction with the direction the Anglican Communion has taken within the past 15 to 20 years, so, before he became Archbishop of Canterbury. (There’s a post about him coming up tomorrow, by the way, written days before this announcement was issued.) 

Yet, the Daily Mail reports that two FiF bishops, Bishop of Ebbsfleet Andrew Burnham and Bishop of Richborough Keith Newton, issued a statment saying:

‘We were becoming increasingly concerned that the various agendas of the Anglican Communion were driving Anglicans and Roman Catholics further apart. It was our task, we thought, to take the opportunity of quietly discussing these matters in Rome.’

Therefore, it’s hard to imagine that Lambeth Palace had no idea what was going on.  Indifference?  Disbelief? Denial? I don’t know.

Dr Williams and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Rt Revd Vincent Nichols, held a joint press conference in London.  Archbishop Nichols, who presides over the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, made clear this was not an ‘aggressive’ gesture but one about the relationship between the two churches.  The offer of an Apostolic Constitution extends to all 70m Anglicans worldwide.     

Don’t expect to see defections immediately.  The aforementioned Bishop of Ebbsfleet has asked FiF parishes defer any decisions until February 2010:

This is not a time for sudden decisions or general public discussion. We call for a time of quiet prayer and discernment. The coming season of Advent and the celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation at Christmas, seem to us to provide a good opportunity for this quiet prayer and discernment to take place, as well as some pastoral discussions. Some Anglicans in the Catholic tradition understandably will want to stay within the Anglican Communion. Others will wish to make individual arrangements as their conscience directs. A further group of Anglicans, we think, will begin to form a caravan … As bishops we would want to reassure people that, whatever decisions people, priests and parishes make, they will find peace and blessing in following what they discern to be God’s will for them. We have chosen 22nd February, The Feast of the Chair of Peter, to be an appropriate day for priests and people to make an initial decision as to whether they wish to respond positively to and explore further the initiative of the Apostolic Constitution. Many, understandably, will need a much longer period of discernment and we would counsel against over-hasty reactions of whatever kind.

My questions are as follows:

  • How many Anglo-Catholic parishes will move to the Roman Catholic Church?
  • Will Anglo-Catholics remaining in the Anglican Communion still be able to receive communion at an Anglo-Catholic church which has become Roman Catholic?

I suspect the answer to the first is ‘a fair number’ and the second is ‘no’, sadly.

My concerns are as follows:

  • This could mean the end of Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Communion, meaning that it will have only ‘liberals’ and evangelicals.  Hardly suited for those of us who love Anglo-Catholicism yet believe in the 39 Articles of Faith.  The Anglican Church can play fast and loose with us and tell us to ‘like it or lump it’.
  • Will the Anglo-Catholics joining the Roman Catholic Church be CINOs (choosing what they wish to believe and ignoring the rest) or are they truly committed Roman Catholics?  If so, why did they not convert in the first place as individuals?  No disrespect intended, just a valid question.
  • This move does more to enrich the Roman Catholic Church: Existing Catholics may enjoy the richness of Anglican liturgy (second best thing to Latin Mass, I have always maintained) and boost the numbers for the Church as a whole.
  • This move will likely increase the calls for the Church of England to be disestablished, which, in turn, will lead for more appeals for the end of the monarchy.  We saw this in the 1990s and there is every reason to think the situation will replicate itself very soon.
  • Should the C of E be disestablished, does this help the EU gain more power under a long-term president and significantly start the removal of the remaining bits of sovereignty that England ever knows? 
  • This move could pave the way towards a more global church by openly picking up Protestants, reminiscent of the Roman Catholic alliances (for lack of a better word) with evangelicals.  Catholics will think of it as a welcome increase in numbers.  I think of it as a greater body that can be controlled if we obtain a global currency, global treaty in Copenhagen in December and requests, like this one, for global control of the economy.  Where does this really lead us? 
  • With the emergent church infiltrating mainline Protestantism  and evangelicalism, will the only choices in 10 years time be a co-opted leftist ‘Protestant’ emergent church with flaky beliefs and the Roman Catholic Church?  That would appear to be an unsatisfactory choice for millions of Christians.

I see more than a set of denominational events here and, therefore, would suggest looking at in a socio-political context.  Things aren’t always what they seem.  It’s not a plot, just a possibility.  Be careful what you wish for.

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