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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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In the Orthodox tradition to which Lewis is so obviously indebted, Jesus Christ is the face of God, and thus the ultimate sacrament and icon of God. He is the image and likeness of the invisible God who remains at least partially invisible even in him. This in turn accounts for the utter centrality of icons for the life of Orthodoxy. An icon is not an image that one looks at in order to order to glimpse the meaning of things as depicted by an artist. It is, instead, an image that looks at us. It is meant to reveal, to our mundane sight, a vision of the invisible and eternal world that everywhere envelops and transcends us. An icon is image that we are not meant to master, but that instead is meant to master us.
This desire to divinize the human world means that realistic proportions and perspectives are abandoned. The size of a person in an icon is usually determined by their importance and significance. A figure standing in the background can thus be larger than one in the foreground. Heads and haloes often overlap, for depth is of no real importance. The Incarnation has overthrown all ordinary dimensions and perspectives. Indeed, everything in the icon takes place in the forefront. In an Eastern icon, the vanishing point it is situated in front of the icon in an inverse perspective. The focus point thus moves out away from the icon toward the beholder, as the iconic figure comes forth to meet the viewer. "The result is an opening," declares Michel Quenot, "a radiating forth, while the vanishing point in an ordinary painting results in a convergence that closes up"
Read it all.
For much of the last century in the United States, Protestant Christianity’s relationship with beer was cold or even hostile at times. Protestant organizations such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League led the campaign to make alcohol illegal.
Even after Prohibition ended, many evangelicals defined themselves by their abstention from alcohol, called “the beloved enemy” by televangelist Jack Van Impe.
Drinking was, and in many cases still is, outlawed on Christian college campuses and among leadership of many churches and denominations.
But in recent years, change has been fermenting. Taverns and beer halls, once dismissed as the domain of the “worldly” in need of reform, are today the meeting places for churches
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking History Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
Gospel tracts, sidewalk evangelism, street preachers with bullhorns—all of these things seem like evangelistic efforts of yesteryear. But if this seems true, where does that leave the state of evangelism today? Is faith-sharing a fading practice, or does it simply look different today? In all their innovative efforts to engage culture, have Christians left this ancient practice so integral to their faith behind?
Barna Group has charted evangelistic practices and attitudes for more than two decades, and the latest study sheds light on the gaps between evangelism in theory and practice, the social groups who are sharing their faith the most, and the surprising ways economics color one's outreach efforts.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
The remarkable thing about this confession is, it's true. It's not a moment of great self-esteem, or at which the lost son remembers how inherently worthy he is. By rights, he has no rights. And yet, what does he discover? Well, it is true that he receives no joy from his elder brother. But that is because the Father is irritatingly insistent on showering his tender mercy upon the returning son.
Many Christian churches open their services by inviting the congregation to confess its sins. It might seem as if this a dour reminder of our inadequacies and failings, and a rather grim thing to be doing on a Sunday, when you could be enjoying a late breakfast. But the Christian can confess with confidence - not simply because he or she will find in God a righteous judge, but because "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." To confess your sin is to express confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the one in whom God displayed both his justice and his mercy. And it is a gloriously counter-cultural testimony to the "admit nothing" world.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism * Theology Anthropology Christology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Only one quarter of Anglicans who responded to a Church Times survey are in the habit of inviting people to church.
Just 27 per cent of laypeople responding to a questionnaire agreed with the proposition: "I often invite other people to come to my church"; 56 per cent disagreed. Six per cent agreed with the proposition: "I would never invite anyone to come to my church."
Despite this, lay people continue to be optimistic about church growth: 40 per cent believed that their church would grow in the next 12 months; 42 per cent were uncertain, and only 18 per cent said that it would not.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
The story of William Taylor also points to a phenomenon that I term the “global reflex.” Missionaries not only shaped foreign contexts, but they themselves were shaped by their experiences abroad. In a Western context preoccupied with “civilizing” indigenous peoples, they saw examples of indigenous effectiveness and sought to emulate them. Missionaries not only adopted new methods, but also became convinced that ordinary, “uncivilized” Christians could build Methodism at home too.
This was an important point for Taylor as he bumped up against a modernizing United States and a gentrifying Methodism. He had little patience for a nation bent on bureaucratization, industrial growth, and technology. Even religious leaders in America, in Taylor’s estimation, had fallen prey to over-systematization. He resented bishops who tried to prescribe geographical boundaries for his evangelistic work and who tried to limit the use of laity in evangelism. He resented when they tried to control his activities through formal review processes. For much of his career, he tried to escape these systems, to work unencumbered by the bureaucracies of the Methodist Missionary Society and the Methodist Episcopal Church, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Increasing numbers of Methodists were drawn to this critique and to Taylor’s missionary exploits.
These American Methodists, who opposed modernist systematization and sought to depend more fully on the supernatural, formed the backbone of a burgeoning holiness movement. Its adherents opposed the proliferation of rational planning and “church machinery and ritualism,” as a 1881 writer for the Advocate of Christian Holiness put it. In 1882 Taylor himself declared, “I believe in creating missions in foreign lands by the power of God, but do not believe in a fictitious creation of foreign missions in New York by the policy of men.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Missions * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology
What is the difference between the General of the Salvation Army and the Pope? Less than I presumed a week ago. Both, of course, care about the poor, which has ever been a mark of the Church.
“Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life,” declared St John Chrysostom 1,600 years ago. “The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”
Until last week, I’d thought the Salvation Army was Calvinist. That is no crime. But the Army, I find, believes that the “saved” can backslide. “We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.” That is No 8 in the 11 succinct doctrines of the Salvation Army. As William Booth put it in 1879: “We are a salvation people – this is our speciality – getting saved and keeping saved, and then getting somebody else saved, and then getting saved ourselves more and more.” One hostile commentator on the internet characterises such a belief as “demonic works-salvation”.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
The text is currently being piloted in 450 parishes. It was developed by the Liturgical Commission after the Synod approved a motion from Liverpool diocese asking for an alternative text in "accessible language".
A note attached to the text, which was published on Sunday, says that "Clergy frequently find themselves conducting baptisms for families who have little contact with the Church. . . For the majority of those attending on such occasions, the existing provision can seem complex and inaccessible."
The note states that the Commission had sought to "express the primacy of God's welcoming grace, while retaining the solemnity of the promises to turn away from evil and towards Christ".
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Theology Anthropology Sacramental Theology Baptism Soteriology
'God seized me by the scruff of the neck, slammed me against the nearest wall and shook me until my teeth rattled. I thought: 'Okay, what does God actually require of me?' '
--From an article in the Independent in 1993 (worth rereading in its entirety); also quoted by yours truly in yesterday's sermon.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
At the end of December 1772, an Anglican priest in the poor parish of Olney worked by candlelight on his New Year’s Day sermon. He would preach on the text of 1 Chronicles 17, verses 16 and 17.
That passage was Davimod’s response to God after Nathan informed him that his descendants would be enthroned forever as kings of Israel. David, the once-poor shepherd boy, the man who had repented of adultery and murder, responded to the news by saying, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me thus far?”
That pastor was John Newton, and those words struck a deep chord in his heart.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History * Theology Soteriology
Listen to it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * South Carolina * Theology Christology Soteriology
The message of Christmas for you from Christ this morning is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The coming of the eternal Son of God into the world as the God-Man, Jesus Christ, is a fact of history. But thousands of Americans fill out Gallup Poll religious surveys that they believe this fact but then live just like everybody else. They have the same anxieties that good things will be lost and the same frustrations that crummy things can't be changed. Evidently there is not much power in giving right answers on religious surveys about historical facts.
That's because the coming of the Son of God into the world is so much more than a historical fact. It was a message of hope sent by God to teenagers and single parents and crabby husbands and sullen wives and overweight women and impotent men and retarded neighbors, and homosexuals and preachers and lovers and you. And since the Son of God lived, died, rose, reigns and is coming again, God's message through him is more than a historical fact. It is a Christmas gift to you this morning, December 25, 1983, from the voice of the living God. Thus says the Lord: the meaning of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The fears that the few good things that make you happy are slipping through your fingers, and the frustrations that the bad things you hate about yourself or your situation can't be changed -- these fears and these frustrations are what Christmas came to destroy. It is God's message of hope this morning that what is good need never be lost and what is bad can be changed.
There are many in our church family who because of age or sickness will inevitably ask themselves the question today: "Is this my last Christmas?" Life is good and precious and we don't want to lose it. We can talk all we want about the good things of life, but if we don't have life we don't have anything. "What does it profit if you gain the whole world and lose your life?" O, how precious is our life. If you don't feel it now, wait 'till you get very sick. Then you will know why Hezekiah wept bitterly with his terminal illness and pled for added years (2 Kings. 20:1-7). The message of Christmas to you who see your death on the horizon is that you need never lose your life. It is good to live. Your life is precious and can be saved.
Read it carefully and read it all.
...[Jesus of Nazareth] was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”—he was God.
Now, this is not just a pious commonplace: it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he [God] had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.
--Creed or Chaos? (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company,1949), page 4 (with special thanks to blog reader and friend WW)
For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God comes to our realm, howbeit he was not far from us Acts 17:27 before. For no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with His own Father. But He comes in condescension to show loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption; seeing, too, that the threat against transgression gave a firm hold to the corruption which was upon us, and that it was monstrous that before the law was fulfilled it should fall through: seeing, once more, the unseemliness of what was come to pass: that the things whereof He Himself was Artificer were passing away: seeing, further, the exceeding wickedness of men, and how by little and little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves: and seeing, lastly, how all men were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery—lest the creature should perish, and His Father's handiwork in men be spent for nought—He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours. For He did not simply will to become embodied, or will merely to appear. For if He willed merely to appear, He was able to effect His divine appearance by some other and higher means as well. But He takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, knowing not a man, a body clean and in very truth pure from intercourse of men. For being Himself mighty, and Artificer of everything, He prepares the body in the Virgin as a temple unto Himself, and makes it His very own as an instrument, in it manifested, and in it dwelling. And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father—doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord's body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire.
--Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word
The distinctive mission of the Church of England, while based upon the principle of inculturation, cannot endorse uncritical acceptance of the totality of English culture. And yet it operates a territorial ‘church in community’ type of ecclesiology which works with the state to define its worship, and through dioceses, parishes and chaplaincies to effect its pastoral care and compassionate service. Establishment commits the Church of England to full involvement in civil society and to making a contribution to the public discussion of issues that have moral or spiritual implications.
By concerning itself with the pastoral dimensions of wholeness and healing, the mission of the Church of England accords with people’s quest for meaning and an assurance of identity which cannot be found without community, without fellowship. Its fundamental weaknesses, in common with many churches in Europe, is its tendency to demand that people do not merely acknowledge the Lordship of Christ but also abandon their former way of life in favour of that of a peculiar middle-class sub-culture. Notwithstanding some of the excellent work going on in some of the most impoverished parishes in the country, the public perception of the Church of England remains one of middle-class privilege and an élitism which has little relevance to a modern, pluralist, multi-ethnic society.
And it is also one which has very little relevance to most gays and lesbians, and therein lies the missiological challenge.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Global South Churches & Primates Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Christian Life / Church Life Missions * Theology Christology Soteriology
The prayers are jarring because they are so personal and raw, clearly not written to "edify the saints" in a published manuscript. They are, well, just prayers.
Part of the rawness and authenticity of the prayers come with the way O'Connor refuses to sentimentalize her personal relationship with Jesus (thought it's clear she has one). She is here constantly aware of her own fallenness and of the seeming silence of the God to whom she pours out these little notes.
O'Connor notes that her attention is "fugitive" in prayer. She confesses that hell seems more "feasible" in her mind than heaven because, "I can fancy the tortures of the damned but I cannot imagine the disembodied souls hanging in a crystal for all eternity praising God."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch History Poetry & Literature Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
Aside from a pastor's personal weaknesses, what cultural forces make it harder for pastors to stay true in their calls?
We have a cultural tendency to elevate leaders. Maybe it's because they have an extraordinary education or a title or a position. Maybe it is because they have had a great deal of success in the growth of their church, or as an author or speaker. Whatever the reason, we're creating minigods in our minds and hearts. That creates expectations in leaders, and expectations are the foundations for disappointment.
What does that look like in a local church?
Maybe the pastor receives disproportionately large gifts compared to what's given to associates or other staff. Or the senior pastor is seen as the person that we all go to. It's people saying, "The pastor sat at my table," or, "The pastor was over at my house." As if the pastor is a movie star or sports figure.
I don't know how many times in Peacemakers' work, after coming in to help a church, I've heard elders say, "I wanted to say something, but I thought, Who am I?" We elevate pastors to a place where we feel they know so much more than we do, so we don't hold them accountable to some fundamental issues.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Psychology * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Maybe it's the waning light and earlier evenings as we head into winter. Or the book I just read on the effects of environmental toxins on fetal development and breast milk quality. Or the upcoming anniversary of the Newtown shootings. Whatever the reasons, as we enter Advent, I am increasingly aware of the darkness of this world into which I am bringing my child, due any day now.
It's a deeply disturbing realization. Welcome, little one, to a place where kids are shot in schools and on street corners, wars rage, and corporate interests often trump the common good. The things I see and hear about every day rattle my heart with worry.
Growing up with an overprotective mother, I told myself would never be that fearful and worried about my own children. Now, I realize it is only natural....
Read it all.
The law convicts us of sin. It shows us that we are, all of us, judged; that we are, all of us, found wanting.
But the law also convicts us by a second device. Law paints the lines on the savage playing field of our sin: what the law condemns, it first describes. Rules encapsulate sport: without ever having played a round or been on the ice, you know from their rulebooks the respective natures of golf and hockey.
Thus, our readings for today, readings from which the contemporary reader is apt to flee.
Read it all.
What about what some call the greatest mission field, which is our own secularizing or secularized culture? What do we need to do to reach this increasingly pagan society? I think we need to say to one another that it’s not so secular as it looks. I believe that these so-called secular people are engaged in a quest for at least three things. The first is transcendence. It’s interesting in a so-called secular culture how many people are looking for something beyond. I find that a great challenge to the quality of our Christian worship. Does it offer people what they are instinctively looking for, which is transcendence, the reality of God?
The second is significance. Almost everybody is looking for his or her own personal identity. Who am I, where do I come from, where am I going to, what is it all about? That is a challenge to the quality of our Christian teaching. We need to teach people who they are. They don’t know who they are. We do. They are human beings made in the image of God, although that image has been defaced.
And third is their quest for community. Everywhere, people are looking for community, for relationships of love. This is a challenge to our fellowship. I’m very fond of 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.” The invisibility of God is a great problem to people. The question is how has God solved the problem of his own invisibility? First, Christ has made the invisible God visible. That’s John’s Gospel 1:18: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
People say that’s wonderful, but it was 2,000 years ago. So in 1 John 4:12, he begins with exactly the same formula, nobody has ever seen God. But here John goes on, “If we love one another, God abides in us.” The same invisible God who once made himself visible in Jesus now makes himself visible in the Christian community, if we love one another. And all the verbal proclamation of the gospel is of little value unless it is made by a community of love.
These three things about our humanity are on our side in our evangelism, because people are looking for the very things we have to offer them.
You may find the whole article from which it comes there. I quoted this at the early morning service sermon this past Sunday--KSH.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
You say in The Church for the World that Christian public witness has gone awry in the United States. How so?
The main problem is that Christian presence in public life tends to be triumphalistic. The purpose of Christian witness is to point to Jesus and the reign of God he embodies, but a triumphal presence actually contradicts Jesus’ way of being in the world as depicted in the Gospels.
The triumphal character of Christian witness has contributed a good deal to how polarized our society and churches have become. Christians so thoroughly disagree about war, sexuality, ecological care, immigration and other issues that we wind up on opposing sides of the political spectrum. This is cause for great concern, because partisan politics ends up defining what is Christian; it shapes the way we think and speak about public issues.
It is possible, though, for Christians to take a stand on specific social and political matters without binding the church to partisan politics. We have biblical and theological resources to help us reframe issues and offer something new—a third way.
Read it all.
Facing crowded pews and heavy hearts, Dallas clergy took to the pulpits on Nov. 24, 1963 to try to make sense of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just two days before.
“The ministers saw the assassination as an unwelcome opportunity for some serious, city-wide soul-searching,” said Tom Stone, an English professor at Southern Methodist University, who has studied the sermons delivered that day.
“Though Dallas could not be reasonably blamed for the killing, it needed to face up to its tolerance of extremism and its narrow, self-centered values,” Stone said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues Violence * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology Theodicy
You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words “compelle intrare,” compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.--C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Harcourt Brace, 1956), p.228
In closing, permit me to highlight three areas of Simeon’s ministry which have greatly challenged me in my reflections and which, if we were to follow them, would have the potential to rejuvenate our ministry.
1 Giving priority to an effective devotional lifestyle, with a commitment to spending ‘quality’ time in Bible study and prayer.
2 A commitment to living a holy life, recognizing the need of the renewing and cleansing power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
3 That, along with Simeon, our understanding of the purpose of our preaching would be: ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’ (John 12:21).
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
The problem is that preachers and teachers of such messages are not telling us the whole truth. They are not giving us a full understanding of the Good News.
Proverbs is only half of wisdom. The other half is found in the Book of Job. And Ecclesiastes. And Jesus at Golgotha. The other part of wisdom—the deeper wisdom—centers on the folly of the Cross.
Not the Cross as a mere rest stop on the way to Resurrection. Not suffering as a means to an end. Not hardship that builds character and makes us better. That's more Proverbs wisdom and is true as far as it goes. That's the theology of glory—if we do this and that, and endure this and that with the right attitude, all will be well.
The theology of the Cross says that God is most deeply met in the suffering itself, not just on the other side of it. Forgiveness of sins is not found after the Cross, but in, with, and under the Cross. This is the "wisdom of the cross" (1 Cor. 1–2) that is folly to the world.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
[I was listening to the speaker on 60 minutes and he said the following}...
:“I have – one teacher I remember was an elderly Jesuit at Xavier (high school in New York City) from Boston. He had a Boston accent. Father Tom Matthews, and he taught me a lesson that I’ve recounted in some of my speeches. He taught me what I refer to as the Shakespeare principle.And so it was for me and Flannery O’Connor. As I read her work, Flannery O’Connor was not on trial. I was. Sheepishly, I have to admit that I had similarly grossly misjudged the great G.K. Chesterton in the past (see my previous post “Finding My Way to Orthodoxy” http://acatholicthinker.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/finding-my-way-to-orthodoxy/). The work of Flannery O’Connor could be harsh, violent and discomfiting. And yet it is also thick with truth, grace and redemption. To the superficial reader, a yarn filled with unattractive figures on ill-fated endeavors may be all that is perceived. But to those willing to consider her work more deeply, powerful themes of deeply religious truths become apparent. Perhaps the greatest and most pervasive of these truths in Flannery’s stories is the pain, suffering and “meanness” that often accompanies the beautiful grace of God.
The class was reading one of the Shakespeare plays, ‘Hamlet’ or whatever, and one of my classmates or whatever, sort of smart aleck kid, John Antonelli, as I recall. It’s ridiculous I would remember his name. But [John] made some really smart aleck sophomoric criticism of the play, and Father Matthews looked down at him and he said, with his Boston accent, ‘Mister, when you read Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s not on trial. You are.’”
Read it all (emphasis mine).
What might Anglicans make of these conclusions? Cape Town is in the main consistent with a serious, plain-sense reading of The Catechism of the 1979 prayer book. Our evangelical neighbors show us not the face of “the Other” but rather that of our own forgotten selves. If to some readers Cape Town seems distant, it will be because of our own estrangement or amnesia. Traditional believers within Anglicanism, be they Catholic or evangelical, are not some outdated rump but rather the enfleshed memory of normative, ecumenical, global Christianity.
Here the question of what Cape Town is saying “No” to returns. What makes Cape Town appealing is its address of Christian practice as well as belief. It consciously compares itself to Pauline epistles, which move from proclamation (kerygma) to moral exhortation (paraenesis). Talking the talk must move on quickly to walking the walk. And on this score Cape Town does not let evangelicals off the hook. They have not always proclaimed the whole gospel, nor have they reined in their own leaders, nor consistently addressed the pressing social issues of their day. While the doctrinal part of Cape Town aims at the perennial, the ethical section seeks after pertinence to today’s context.
Here too is a message crucial for Anglicans to hear. Cape Town’s call to action asks: How are we addressing dramatic urbanization and constant migration on the global scene? How are we catechizing our young? How can be minister with honesty and charity to the postmodern era’s commodified and disordered sexuality? Has our theological education retained a heart for evangelism?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology Theology: Evangelism & Mission Theology: Scripture
Please read this carefully and follow the directions so as not to be confused. You can find the links to the lectures here, BUT, and this is a very important but, the top lecture is not yet available and so what you see when you go immediately to the page is a big black screen with white writing saying "Lost Signal." DO NOT LET THIS DISCOURAGE YOU. Look at the black bar directly underneath the words "Thomas Cranmer and Contemporary Anglican Worship with Ashley Null." On the lefthand side of this bar you will see the word "Livestream," and on the right you will see "login" and then further right you will see the word "join." Immediately to the right of the word "join" you will see an arrow up sign with a toggle bar underneath. If you move this togglebar down the page you will begin to see links to six of Dr. Null's lectures which are available as of this time. Below this description I will also post a link to the first of his lectures--KSH.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Sacramental Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Read it all.
[This is the]...first in a series of annual events with Ashley Null, who is both the Theological Advisor for the Diocese of the Carolinas as well as the Senior Research Fellow for the Ridley Institute, the school of theology at St. Andrew’s.
The event begins Tuesday, October 15 at 8:30 a.m. with worship and concludes on October 16 at 5:00 p.m. Over the course of two days, Dr. Null will deliver eight lectures on Cranmer and Contemporary Anglican Worship. There will be ample time for discussion, questions, and networking over lunches and dinners (daily schedule).
The two-day seminar is also available via livestream....
Check it out courtesy of Saint Andrew's Mount Pleasant, S.C., and consider the livestream option..
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship --Book of Common Prayer * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Listen to it all if you so desire.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * By Kendall * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
The Church as people who are Gossippers of the Gospel
[Evangelism] is telling the good news about Jesus, and doing it with honesty, urgency, and joy, using the Bible, living a life that backs it up, and praying, and doing it all for the glory of God.
Evangelism is not simply a matter if bringing individuals to personal faith, though of course that remains central to the whole enterprise. It is a matter of confronting the world with the good, but deeply disturbing, news of a different way of living…the way of love.
To evangelize is so to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Savior, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.
How do the definitions of evangelism above speak to you right now where you live and move and have your being? Think and pray over them.
Think of the word witness and the word eyewitness. What are the qualities of an effective witness to you? In a lawcourt? In an accident?
In the service of Baptism, the baptismal covenant includes the following Q and A:
Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? People: I will, with God’s help.
Against the standard above how would you evaluate yourself as a witness? In word? In deed?
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). What is the role of prayer it witnessing? What is the role of prayer in your witnessing?
If you could name one person in your life for whom you had a particular burden for them to come to know Jesus as Savior and follow him as Lord who would that be? How have you been praying for that person? Is there a way your prayers could be changed going forward? If so,how?
Suppose you had to study Jesus as a witness to God’s kingdom in the gospels? What specific things does he have to teach us about how to witness?
What is the role of listening in witnessing? Of question asking? What are the ways this week God is calling you to listen and ask kingdom oriented questions?
Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ. How does this saying speak to you about witnessing? Are there ways for you to pay about your friends God is calling you to? Is there anyone in your life you may be missing who needs a friend?
--From this morning's Bulletin insert in our series on the Church, cited by yours truly in the sermon
The Most Rev Justin Welby advised churchgoers that it could be an “enormously powerful” experience to unburden themselves to a confessor, even if it was not always a “bunch of laughs”.
His comments came as he addressed the heads of other churches – including the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England Wales, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols – about divisions between Christians.
Although Archbishop Welby comes from the evangelical wing of Anglicanism, his personal spiritual director is a Swiss Roman Catholic priest, Fr Nicolas Buttet, and he is a strong advocate of Catholic worship styles.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Sacramental Theology Soteriology
At some point in their lives, one of every three Americans will leave Christianity, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Religion and Society. Called "leavers," "deconverts," or "ex-Christians," they are targets of fresh concern among church denominations watching their numbers shrink. Pollsters and bloggers tick off reasons why so many are leaving, such as intellectual hurdles to belief, immoral or intolerant church leaders, and profound suffering. But the leavers phenomenon is nothing new. It goes back at least to the parable of the Prodigal Son, told by Jesus and recorded in Luke 15:11–32.
What about the people whom the prodigals leave behind? The ones who love the leavers? The ones left to hold down the forts of remaining families and faith communities? Few theological and practical resources exist for the two out of every three Christians who remain with the Father while they watch their "younger brother" leave.
The biblical parable centers on the relationship between a father and his two sons. But the essence of the story remains the same, whether the prodigal is a child, sibling, spouse, parent, or friend. This is why P. C. Ennis Jr. argues in the Journal for Preachers that "it is crucial that periodically we preach on the Prodigal Son. . . . Like the Easter story and the Christmas story, it bears repeating, for the story of the Prodigal Son is the gospel in capsule."
Read it all.
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It happens at St. Paul's, Summerville, S.C., from 10:30 a.m. until 4:00.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: South Carolina * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
"Communication is evangelism...."
Ugh. Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
If preaching is central to Christian worship, what kind of preaching are we talking about? The sheer weightlessness of much contemporary preaching is a severe indictment of our superficial Christianity. When the pulpit ministry lacks substance, the church is severed from the word of God, and its health and faithfulness are immediately diminished.
Many evangelicals are seduced by the proponents of topical and narrative preaching. The declarative force of Scripture is blunted by a demand for story, and the textual shape of the Bible is supplanted by topical considerations. In many pulpits, the Bible, if referenced at all, becomes merely a source for pithy aphorisms or convenient narratives.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Seminary / Theological Education Soteriology Theology: Scripture
"It was hard to know where to start after my last album. The song Blessings started as a diary entry and God blew us away by using it in the lives of so many around the world. And as I began to write for my new project "God of Every Story", I went back to that deep place of vulnerability before the Lord, and honesty -- with myself. The path God has led our family down is not one I would have chosen for myself. It has been much harder than I had envisioned, yet it has required deeper faith than I ever thought myself capable of. And that's what God of every story is really about: It’s trusting that the same God who orchestrates the rising and the setting of the sun each day pays the same attention to every detail of my life. It’s believing that at the end of the day, we will look back on this amazing God story that is my life and view it as a beautiful sunset, where the blues and reds, the laughter and tears, all meld together to show the faithfulness of God in a way that makes us stand in applause."
"God of Every Story" is a collection of songs about where God's love and grace intersect with our real life situations. It’s about God working all things together for good and love always winning. It’s a celebration of God's faithfulness, even when we don't always understand His plan this side of heaven. Yet we praise Him because He is the keeper of the stars, the One who holds all things together and always, always, deserves our worship.
Read it all (note there is an excerpt from one of her new songs if you wish to listen) and you can find a Godtube interview to watch there.
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One out of five non-Christians in North America doesn't know any Christians.
That's not in the fake-Gandhi-quote "I would become a Christian, if I ever met one" sense.
It's new research in Gordon-Conwell's Center for the Study of Global Christianity's Christianity in its Global Context, 1970-2020. Missiologist Todd M. Johnson and his team found that 20 percent of non-Christians in North America really do not "personally know" any Christians.
Read it all.
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What is the image we have of God? Perhaps he appears to us as a severe judge, as someone who curtails our freedom and the way we live our lives. But the Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living One, the one who bestows life and points the way to fullness of life. I think of the beginning of the Book of Genesis: God fashions man out of the dust of the earth; he breathes in his nostrils the breath of life, and man becomes a living being (cf. 2:7). God is the source of life; thanks to his breath, man has life. God’s breath sustains the entire journey of our life on earth. I also think of the calling of Moses, where the Lord says that he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of the living. When he sends Moses to Pharaoh to set his people free, he reveals his name: "I am who I am", the God who enters into our history, sets us free from slavery and death, and brings life to his people because he is the Living One. I also think of the gift of the Ten Commandments: a path God points out to us towards a life which is truly free and fulfilling. The commandments are not a litany of prohibitions – you must not do this, you must not do that, you must not do the other; on the contrary, they are a great "Yes!": a yes to God, to Love, to life. Dear friends, our lives are fulfilled in God alone, because only he is the Living One!....
Today’s Gospel brings us another step forward. Jesus allows a woman who was a sinner to approach him during a meal in the house of a Pharisee, scandalizing those present. Not only does he let the woman approach but he even forgives her sins, saying: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little" (Lk 7:47). Jesus is the incarnation of the Living God, the one who brings life amid so many deeds of death, amid sin, selfishness and self-absorption.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Life Ethics * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
We need to go deeper to the only lasting way to change our hearts—take them to the radical, costly grace of God in Christ on the cross. You show your heart the infinite depths to which he went so that you would be free from sin and its condemnation. This fills you with a sense not just of the danger or sin, but also of its grievousness. Think about how ungrateful it is, think of how your sin is not just against God’s law but also against his heart. Melt your heart with the knowledge of what he’s done for you. Tremble before the knowledge of what he is worth—he is worthy of all glory.
A second powerful thought from Newton is this: we sin not simply out of a rebellious desire to be our own masters, but also because we are looking to things besides God to satisfy and fulfill us. While Newton was good at pointing out the danger of having too low or light a view of one’s sin, he was also good at pointing out the opposite problem—too light a grasp of what Jesus has done for us.
Read it all.
The very thing that makes us feel trapped—God's omniscience—is the very thing that reveals the depth of God's grace. If we can muster the courage to allow God's omniscience to judge us, we will see that before and after the righteous judgment, there has been the omniscience of grace. Let me give an example of an early experience of this.
Read it all.
The term liberal most comprehensively relates to Enlightenment rationality, which posits an autonomous self which can arrive at a one-dimensional certitude. With regard to scripture study it refers to historical criticism, which seeks to locate each text in context and to contain it therein.--Christian Century, June 12, 2013 edition
When applied to preaching, the liberal approach may take one of two extreme forms. The progressive option features a kind of naturalism that refuses the notion of revelation and the supernaturalism of miracles, along with the tradition that attested them. One can see how historical criticism helped to explain away what was unintelligible to this rationality: “It is the Sea of Reeds, not the Red Sea.” The second liberal approach, in response to such progressivism, is a conservative attempt to reduce unmanageable mystery to a set of propositions that can provide a reassuring certitude.
Both modes of liberal preaching are alive and well as the body of Christ is divided up, like Christ’s robe, into blue and red. The problem with such approaches is that they leave one with nothing to say: nothing for progressives to express except ethical admonitions, nothing for conservatives to convey except concepts, neither telling any gospel news that could be transformative. Progressives have been epistemologically embarrassed by the gospel, and conservatives are tempted to a reductionism that knows too much.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Evangelism is a huge focus of Southern Baptist life and some non-Calvinists worry that the belief in predestination is incompatible with spreading the gospel.
"People involved will always say, 'If you believe in Calvinism, you don't believe in evangelism. If you believe everything is predetermined, why even bother to preach the gospel?" Kidd said. "But as it turns out, Calvinists have never acted that way in the Southern Baptist Convention."
On Friday, a special advisory committee to SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page issued a statement meant to bring the two sides together and chart a way forward.
Read it all.
When I first started in youth ministry, I did everything I could think of to attract and engage high school youth. I held monthly social events and service projects. My Sunday school classes and weekly youth group meetings included crazy games, youth-only worship with contemporary Christian music, and discussions of relevant topics.
I chose topics based on what I thought youth cared about, so we talked a lot about friendships, sex and alcohol. While I tied these topics to scripture, I rarely focused on Jesus. I assumed that the youth, who had grown up in the church, already knew the Jesus story well and were likely to be bored by it. Rather than help students cultivate a lifelong relationship with Christ, I focused on getting them to live a Christian lifestyle. I had zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior.
Only a handful of the youth I worked with in that year are attending church today. My extensive efforts at reaching them seem to have made little difference.
Research suggests that my approach to ministry was not unusual—nor was the outcome. According to research by the Fuller Youth Institute, 40 to 50 percent of kids who are part of a youth group in high school fail to stick with their faith in college. To find out why, researchers at FYI conducted a six-year, comprehensive and longitudinal study from 2004 to 2010 called the College Transition Project. The study’s findings are found in Sticky Faith: Practical Ideas to Nurture Long-Term Faith in Teenagers, a 2011 book by Kara E. Powell, Brad M. Griffin and Cheryl A. Crawford.
Read it all.
The biggest issue is, what does it mean to be obedient to Christ? Before any specific issue is really the posture of the heart toward Christ, and how we encourage a spirit of obedience among 18-year-olds who perhaps up until this point, their experience of faith has been youth group.
All of the language of serious, committed faith is obedience language—take up the cross and follow. It's the cost of discipleship. It's not pretty stuff that you can make nice. It's pretty rugged stuff, but that's the gospel. Theologically, how do we convey that truth in a graceful way and not water it down? Then that has implications for all the other issues.
Of course every Christian college president is worried about this, but homosexuality is a very real issue for campuses. We have gay and lesbian students here. I have met with them. I have talked with them. They are Christians and they are trying to figure out, "What does this mean? How do I live?"
The Scripture that I need to be obedient to leads me to the conclusion that marriage is a relationship between man and woman, and sexuality is to be used in that context.
Read it all.
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Listen to the whole public lecture. You may see more about the speaker here.
....the bridegroom rejoices to revisit the heart’s chamber when He finds it adorned with fruits and decked with flowers—that is, meditating on the mystery of His Passion or on the glory of His Resurrection.
The tokens of the Passion we recognize as the fruitage of the ages of the past, appearing in the fullness of time during the reign of sin and death (Gal. 4.4). But it is the glory of the Resurrection, in the new springtime of regenerating grace, that the fresh flowers of the later age come forth, whose fruit shall be given without measure at the general resurrection, when time shall be no more. And so it is written, ‘The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth’ (Cant. 2.11 f); signifying that summer has come back with Him who dissolves icy death into the spring of a new life and says, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev. 21.5). His Body sown in the grave has blossomed in the Resurrection (I Cor. 15.42); and in like manner our valleys and fields which were barren or frozen, as if dead, glow with reviving life and warmth.
The Father of Christ who makes all things new, is well pleased with the freshness of those flowers and fruits, and the beauty of the field which breathes forth such heavenly fragrance; and He says in benediction, ‘See, the smell of My Son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed’ (Gen. 27.27). Blessed to overflowing, indeed, since of His fullness have all we received (John 1.16). But the Bride may come when she pleases and gather flowers and fruits therewith to adorn the inmost recesses of her conscience; that the Bridegroom when He cometh may find the chamber of her heart redolent with perfume.
So it behoves us, if we would have Christ for a frequent guest, to fill our hearts with faithful meditations on the mercy He showed in dying for us, and on His mighty power in rising again from the dead. To this David testified when he sang, ‘God spake once, and twice I have also heard the same; that power belongeth unto God; and that Thou, Lord, art merciful (Ps. 62.11f). And surely there is proof enough and to spare in that Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification, and ascended into heaven that He might protect us from on high, and sent the Holy Spirit for our comfort. Hereafter He will come again for the consummation of our bliss. In His Death He displayed His mercy, in His Resurrection His power; both combine to manifest His glory.
--Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), On Loving God, Chapter III
Tony DeLLomo is on a mission from God.
In a hard-to-miss motor home covered with biblical passages, “Jesus is God” signs and an offer of a free Bible, DeLLomo has been spreading the Gospel by parking in high-traffic spots throughout central Florida.
“It’s all to glorify God,” DeLLomo said while wearing a sleeveless, white hooded sweatshirt with “Jesus is King” in red letters.
Read it all.
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Small wonder, given the harrowing times recently, that news about a long-running property fight over a picturesque church in northern Virginia escaped most people’s notice. But the story of the struggle over the historic Falls Church is nonetheless worth a closer look. It’s one more telling example of a little-acknowledged truth: though religious traditionalism may be losing today’s political and legal battles, it remains poised to win the wider war over what Christianity will look like tomorrow.
Read it all.
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Is the Church in the UK as confident in the gospel as it should be?
It appears that while mission is clearly at the heart of what many churches are doing, talking about our faith as Christians is proving increasingly difficult.
Our desire is to see churches throughout the UK have a renewed confidence in the gospel and engaged in creative evangelism which is producing lasting results. This timely campaign is not about providing busy churches with more programmes; rather it is about looking at how we can make small changes that will nurture a gospel-confident culture within our churches.
Read it all.
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This gospel is one of the most notable that a man can find in the New Testament, and worthy to be commended with all kinds of commendation. But as it is not possible that a man should sufficiently express this sermon of Christ by words ; first let us call unto God, that he will expound these words more plainly in our hearts, than we can by our words and interpretation, and that he will enkindle them, and make them so plain, that our conscience may receive comfort and peace thereby. Amen.
The pith of this excellent sermon is, that God so greatly loved the world, that he delivered his only begotten Son for it, that we men should not die, but have everlasting life. And first let us see who is the giver. He is the Giver, in respect of whom all princes and kings, with all their gifts, are nothing in comparison. And our hearts might worthily be lifted up and exalted with a godly pride, since we have such a giver, so that all who should come unto us by any other liberality, might be counted of no price in comparison of this. For what can be set before us that is more magnificent and excellent than God almighty. Here God, who is infinite and unspeakable, gives after such a manner as passes also all things. For that which he gives, he gives not as wages of desert, or for a recompense, but, as the words sound, of mere love. Wherefore this gift wholly proceeds of God's exceeding and divine benevolence and goodness, as he saith, God loved the world. There is no greater virtue than love, as it may hereby be well understood, that when we love anything, we will not hesitate to put our life in danger for it. Verily, great virtues are patience, chastity, sobriety, &c., but yet they are nothing to be compared with this virtue, which comprises and includes within itself all other virtues. A good man does no man wrong, he gives every man his own ; but by love, men give their own selves to others, and are ready with all their heart to do all that they can for them. So Christ saith here also, that God gives to us, not by right or merit, but by this great virtue, that is by love.
This ought to encourage our hearts, and to abolish all sorrow, when this exceeding love of God comes in mind, that we might trust thereto and believe steadfastly, that God is that bountiful and great Giver, and that this gift of his, proceeds of that great virtue of love. This sort of giving, which has its spring of love, makes this gift more excellent and precious. And the words of Christ are plain, that God loveth us. Wherefore for this love's sake ought we greatly to esteem all things that he gives us.
--Writings of the Rev. Thomas Becon (London, J. Nisbet), pp. 494-495
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Anthropology Atonement Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
This is a very sobering time for ecclesiastically minded Americans. At a steadily growing rate, more and more Americans — especially the young — claim no religious affiliation. The figure has climbed from 15% to 20% of all Americans in the past five years. Pew researchers call the trend “nones on the rise.”
In reaction, Protestants and Roman Catholics are proving that the author of the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes had it right when he wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. In a classic attempt to turn adversity to advantage, Christian leaders who once assumed a cultural dominance (in the beginning of the baby-boom era, Christian identification among Americans was at least 91%; today it’s down to 77%) are now arguing for a double-down strategy. Rather than softening the Gospel message to make it more marketable to an America skeptical of institutions — a frequent reform point of view — what draws the real energy among the faithful is a renewed commitment to what Christians call the Great Commission, the words the resurrected Jesus spoke to his apostles at the end of Matthew: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
At the center of this strategy of unapologetic apologetics stands George Weigel, the papal biographer and prominent Catholic writer who has just published Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, a handbook for Catholics seeking to keep the church out of the catacombs. “It’s a recovery of the basic dynamic of New Testament Christianity, but that passionate impulse to live the Great Commission and convert the world cooled during centuries when the ambient public culture helped do the church’s job,” says Weigel.
Read it all from a recent issue.
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For many Christians, Brennan Manning and grace are synonymous. Therein lies the scandal, and the triumph.
Let’s start with the scandal. Richard Francis Xavier “Brennan” Manning was an alcoholic and an addict. He hurt those close to him by compulsive lying, mainly due to hide his drinking, or if not, as he put it, to “stay in practice.” He was a former Franciscan priest, who broke his vows to marry. He later divorced.
But then there’s the triumph. Manning was a powerful writer and speaker, beloved and respected for his passionate witness to the expansiveness of God’s mercy and forgiveness, the availability of intimacy and communion with “Abba, Father,” and the inexhaustible grace of Jesus Christ. And he would know.
Read it all.
Less than a month after sponsoring an event for Virginia Episcopal clergy featuring a speaker who denies both the afterlife and unique divinity of Christ, Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has presided over a service featuring a similarly controversial figure.
In a Good Friday service at historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, retired Bishop John Shelby Spong decried the Nicene Creed as “a radical distortion of the Gospel of John,” asserted that several of the apostles were “mythological” and declared that Jesus Christ did not die to redeem humanity from its sins.
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The story of the salvation of the dying thief is a standing instance of the power of Christ to save, and of his abundant willingness to receive all that come to him, in whatever plight they may be. I cannot regard this act of grace as a solitary instance, any more than the salvation of Zacchaeus, the restoration of Peter, or the call of Saul, the persecutor. Every conversion is, in a sense, singular: no two are exactly alike, and yet any one conversion is a type of others. The case of the dying thief is much more similar to our conversion than it is dissimilar; in point of fact, his case may be regarded as typical, rather than as an extraordinary incident. So I shall use it at this time. May the Holy Spirit speak through it to the encouragement of those who are ready to despair!
Remember, beloved friends, that our Lord Jesus, at the time he saved this malefactor, was at his lowest. His glory had been ebbing out in Gethsemane, and before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate; but it had now reached the utmost low-water mark.
Stripped of his garments, and nailed to the cross, our Lord was mocked by a ribald crowd, and was dying in agony: then was he “numbered with the transgressors,” and made as the offscouring of all things. Yet, while in that condition, he achieved this marvellous deed of grace. Behold the wonder wrought by the Saviour when emptied of all his glory, and hanged up a spectacle of shame upon the brink of death! How certain is it it that he can do great wonders of mercy now, seeing that he has returned unto his glory, and sitteth upon the throne of light! “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace?
It is not only the weakness of our Lord which makes the salvation of the penitent thief memorable; it is the fact that the dying malefactor saw it before his very eyes. Can you put yourself into his place, and suppose yourself to be looking upon one who hangs in agony upon a cross? Could you readily believe him to be the Lord of glory, who would soon come to his kingdom? That was no mean faith which, at such a moment, could believe in Jesus as Lord and King. If the apostle Paul were here, and wanted to add a New Testament chapter to the eleventh of Hebrews, he might certainly commence his instances of remarkable faith with this thief, who believed in a crucified, derided, and dying Christ, and cried to him as to one whose kingdom would surely come. The thief’s faith was the more remarkable because he was himself in great pain, and bound to die. It is not easy to exercise confidence when you are tortured with deadly anguish. Our own rest of mind has at times been greatly hindered by pain of body. When we are the subjects of acute suffering it is not easy to exhibit that faith which we fancy we possess at other times. This man, suffering as he did, and seeing the Saviour in so sad a state, nevertheless believed unto life eternal. Herein was such faith as is seldom seen.
Recollect, also, that he was surrounded by scoffers. It is easy to swim with the current, and hard to go against the stream. This man heard the priests, in their pride, ridicule the Lord, and the great multitude of the common people, with one consent, joined in the scorning; his comrade caught the spirit of the hour, and mocked also, and perhaps he did the same for a while; but through the grace of God he was changed, and believed in the Lord Jesus in the teeth of all the scorn. His faith was not affected by his surroundings; but he, dying thief as he was, made sure his confidence. Like a jutting rock, standing out in the midst of a torrent, he declared the innocence of the Christ whom others blasphemed. His faith is worthy of our imitation in its fruits. He had no member that was free except his tongue, and he used that member wisely to rebuke his brother malefactor, and defend his Lord. His faith brought forth a brave testimony and a bold confession. I am not going to praise the thief, or his faith, but to extol the glory of that grace divine which gave the thief such faith, and then freely saved him by its means. I am anxious to show how glorious is the Saviour—that Saviour to the uttermost, who, at such a time, could save such a man, and give him so great a faith, and so perfectly and speedily prepare him for eternal bliss. Behold the power of that divine Spirit who could produce such faith on soil so unlikely, and in a climate so unpropitious.
–From a sermon of C.H. Spurgeon preached on April 7, 1889
In recent years Luther's teaching on the atonement has been a subject of strong dispute. Some (mostly the Swedish interpreters) have stressed the ideas of "conflict" and "victory" in Luther's discussions of atonement, arguing for a discontinuity between the Reformer's own thinking and the "substitutionary" theory of later Protestant orthodoxy. Others have insisted that at this point Luther's teaching differs in no essentials from that of his successors. One is well advised to tread carefully on entering the field of controversy; nevertheless, I make bold to submit that the interpretation of atonement in both Luther and Calvin can be understood as turning on the central and pivotal conception of a "happy exchange," in which the believer's sins are laid upon Christ and Christ's own innocence is communicated to the believer. From this center, we may say, the Reformers' thinking moves outwards to the various other soteriological concepts, including the two about which modern opinion is chiefly divided, namely, "victory" and "substitution." First and foremost, the Christian is one who has been united with Christ so intimately that an exchange of qualities has somehow taken place.
Of course, this understanding of Luther's thought would not settle present-day controversies, for it is not incompatible with either of the two main rival theories, nor even with a combination of both. Neither is it incompatible with Calvin's threefold scheme of "Prophet, Priest, and King" (a scheme of which, in any case, he makes very little use), since Christ does not exercise these offices in any "private capacity," but rather communicates their benefits to believers. Perhaps we may say that the notion of "exchange" belongs to the presuppositions of atonement, as the Reformers understood it, whilst the detailed outworking of the doctrine demands the use of further categories.
That the notion is indeed fundamental to the Reformers' thinking could be demonstrated by many passages from the works of both.
Luther speaks explicitly of this "happy exchange" (fröhlich Wechsel) in the German version of the Treatise on Christian Liberty. The soul and Christ are united like bride and bridegroom. They become one flesh, and everything they possess is shared in common. "What Christ has is the property of the believing soul, what the soul has becomes the property of Christ." A similar passage occurs in the Larger Commentary on Galatians (though worded differently in Rörer's MS.): "So, making a happy exchange with us (feliciter commutans nobiscum) he [Christ] took upon him our sinful person, and gave us his own innocent and victorious person." These passages can readily be matched in Calvin's Institutes: "Who could do this [i.e., win salvation for men], unless the Son of God should become also the Son of Man, and so receive what is ours as to transfer to us what is his?" And again: "He was not unwilling to take upon him what was properly ours, that he might in turn (vicissim) extend to us what was properly his." The same pattern of thought recurs in both the Reformers when they speak of the Lord's Supper; as, for instance, in Luther's Treatise on the Blessed Sacrament, and the fourth book of Calvin's Institutes. What exactly it is that is "exchanged" is made perfectly clear in each of these passages: namely, Christ's righteousness is exchanged for the believer's sin.
--Brian A. Gerrish
In the end, repentance, not love, has come to symbolise Cranmer himself, his life's work being interpreted by his last days. In the eyes of his critics, Cranmer's recantations prove that at best he was weak and vacillating. In the hearts of his admirers, however, Cranmer's last-minute renunciation of his recantations proved his true commitment to the Protestant faith. But what of Cranmer himself, how did he interpret his last days and the meaning they gave to his life? According to a contemporary account, having previously been distraught, Cranmer came to the stake with a cheerful countenance and willing mind.
Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right Hand, and thrust it into the Flame, and held it there a good space, before the Fire came to any other Part of his Body; where his Hand was seen of every Man sensibly burning, crying with a loud Voice, This Hand hath offended. As soon as the Fire got up, he was very soon Dead, never stirring or crying all the while.His Catholic executioners surely thought Cranmer was making satisfaction to his Protestant God. Yet his doctrine of repentance would have taught him otherwise, for the God he served saved the unworthy.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Theology Anthropology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
"On one occasion I was travelling with the late lamented Bishop Weeks, then a simple minister. I went with him on a visit to a friend in the country. While I was in the railway carriage with him, a gentleman attacked him, knowing that he was a friend of missions. The gentleman said, 'What are the missionaries doing abroad? We don't know anything about their movements. We pay them well, but we don't hear anything about them. I suppose they are sitting down quietly and making themselves comfortable.' Mr. Weeks did not say anything in reply, I having made a sign to him not to do so. After the gentleman had exhausted what he had to say, I said to him, 'Well, sir, I beg to present myself to you as a result of the labours of the missionaries which you have just been depreciating;' and I pointed to Mr. Weeks as the means of my having become a Christian, and having been brought to this country as a Christian minister. The gentleman was so startled that he had nothing more to say in the way of objection, and the subsequent conversation between him and Mr. Weeks turned upon missionary topics. On the banks of the Niger, where we have not been privileged to be ushered in by European missionaries, native teachers have maintained their footing among their own people. Their countrymen look upon them as very much superior to themselves in knowledge and in every other respect, and listen to them with very great attention when they preach to them the Gospel of our salvation."
On St. Peter's Day, 1864, perhaps the most important event of his life took place, when in Canterbury Cathedral Samuel Crowther was consecrated as the first Bishop of the Niger. The scene was a memorable one, and is not likely to be forgotten by those who stood in the vast crowd which filled every aisle of the grand cathedral that day. The license of Her Majesty had been duly promulgated in these terms:--
"We do by this our license under our royal signet and sign manual authorise and empower you the said Reverend Samuel Adjai Crowther to be Bishop of the United Church of England and Ireland in the said countries in Western Africa beyond the limits of our dominions."
When the service began it was an impressive sight to see the Archbishop of Canterbury, attended by live other Bishops, enter the choir; and following them the three Bishops to receive the solemn rite of consecration, viz: the new Bishop of Peterborough, the new Bishop of Tasmania, and the new Bishop of the Niger. Remembering, as doubtless many did, the touching history of his childhood and early struggles as a slave, not a, few in that vast building were moved to tears as [118/119] the African clergyman humbly knelt in God's glorious house to receive the seals of the high office of Shepherd in His earthly fold. Most of all must one heart have been affected, that of Airs. Weeks, the missionary's wife, at whose knee he received his first lessons in the way of the Lord.
No one could fail to see how God had called forth this native from the degradation of a boyhood of slavery, to become a chosen vessel in His service. He had proved himself as a true-hearted standard-bearer of the Cross in much toil and patient endurance, and it was meet that to him should be committed the spiritual interests of the district in which he had spent hitherto nearly the whole of his life since he became a Christian.
On his immediate return to the Niger, the work began afresh with renewed energy. Special attention was given to the Delta, for King Pepple, having been on a visit to England, made an application to the Bishop of London to send missionaries to his dominions. A more degraded district was not to be found in Africa. Although its trade was very flourishing, being one of the chief markets for palm oil, the people were sunk in the lowest vices and superstitions. At the time of which we speak, when Bishop Crowther was forming the Christian Church there, the shocking practice of cannibalism was not yet wholly given up, and the people were entirely under the power of the priests of the Juju or fetish worship. As in Dahomey, no regard for human life seems to have existed; men were sacrificed at every high festival, and at the burial of any of their chief men a number of poor creatures would be slaughtered. The ghastly spectacle of their temple, paved and elaborately decorated with human bones, showed the ferocity of their religion.
In the midst of this awful darkness came Bishop Crowther and his fellow-helpers, bearing the light of the Gospel, and in due time many believed and were saved. It was as in the early Church of the first centuries, the adherents of the new religion were mostly slaves, and to escape their persecutors had to meet for worship and counsel in retired places.
--Jesse Page, Samuel Crowther: The Slave Boy Who Became Bishop of the Niger (London, 1892), Chapter Ten (emphasis mine)
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops Church of Nigeria * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Missions Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
It's interesting that our culture is rarely scandalized by this preaching of the Cross. That's probably because it is a rare theme of Christian preaching these days. Instead we have been smitten with practical preaching that helps people become successful in life and business, and with ethical preaching that tells people how to live better. This is done for the noblest of reasons—to show the gospel relevant to people's daily needs, but one can see where this has gotten us. When the Cross is preached, it is often preached in a way that falls on deaf ears. It's seen as a theme for theologians to wax eloquent about with strange words like propitiation and justification, or something comforting to guilt-ridden religious types—but meaningless to regular human beings.
Need-driven preaching—even of the highest order, that is, our search for significance—communicates that Jesus is just another way to solve our problems. It is no wonder that the culture looks at us, pats us on the head, and says, "But we've found other, equally valid ways to solve our problems, thank you." We tend to think that postmoderns have brought relativism down upon us, but it seems, we Christians have been the culprits the more we make our message about meeting people's needs.
The most needful and difficult task of the church today is to again preach the message of the Cross, and to do so in a way that alarms, surprises, scandalizes, challenges, invigorates, and inspires a 21st century world. What that would look like exactly is hard to say; our theologians and pastors need to help us here. In the most general terms, it has to be about Christ first and last. It has to be about the Christ who came into the world not to improve generally good people, but to resurrect the dead, not to bolster our self-esteem but to forgive us, not to make people successful but to make them loving, not to win the culture but to establish a kingdom without end.
Read it all.
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Just after World War II, Henry, then a young rising star in the Christian firmament, issued a jarring manifesto calling for a theologically-informed and socially-engaged evangelicalism. [Carl] Henry warned that American Christianity, on the Right and on the Left, was headed for irrelevance, toward being the equivalent of a wilderness cult. His agenda wasn’t simply an updating of style and presentation (although he had written a book on church publicity). The issues at root were about misguided views on the kingdom of God.
He was right. And he still is.
Henry was concerned about two fronts: detached fundamentalism and social gospel liberalism. The liberals, Henry insisted, had replaced the gospel with a political program. Instead of seeing the primary mission of the church in terms of God’s reconciling work in Christ to forgive sins, the liberals were busy grinding out policy papers on nuclear policy. Liberals saw the kingdom as a program for public righteousness, often enacted legislatively.
At the other extreme, though, Henry warned, conservatives over-reacted to the social gospel. They spoke of the kingdom of God, but acted as though it were wholly future.
Read it all.
Someone told me recently, “I just don’t get all caught up in theological dogma.” As the days of our lives slip by, it is possible that a person might not get all caught up in the true theology behind this “most wonderful time of the year.” And with eggnog in hand still want his or her Christmas to be a time for proclaiming peace and good will (not peace because of the birth of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away our sin giving us peace with God; not that, just “peace and good will”, a kind of mantra for postmodern America.)
So it is possible, at least for a while, to ignore the real meaning of Christmas. That is, as long as the internal and external events of my life proceed according to my plans; as long as I can keep at bay all forms of guilt from years of things done and left undone; as long as I can gloss over the world’s darkness to which the prophet Isaiah has alluded; as long as I can fend off the awareness that one day I too will die. For that long I can get by in this world without concerning myself with the truest meaning of Christmas.
But as soon as anything breaks through my delusional reality; as soon as guilt robs me of my peace, as soon as death threatens me, then absolutely nothing will matter more than the theological truth behind the Nativity.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Soteriology
Is the primary problem TEC faces today a “structural problem?” While we clearly have structural issues, I do not think we have yet come up with the right diagnosis. I would point to two issues that are symptomatic of our situation.
First, we have been involved in serious conflict for the past decade that has held the attention of our leadership, led to an acceleration of our decline and costs us millions of dollars in litigation. Like it or not, this conflict is related directly to our theological and missional identity, namely who are we and what we are called to do. I would caution that just because one side in the conflict seems to have won, this does not mean that we have determined an identity and way forward, especially a way that is significant to our wider cultural context. If the Episcopal Church is to have a future other than shrinking numbers, budgets, and congregations, we must be able to reach people in our society and draw them into this part of the body of Christ.
Second, there continues to be a major disconnect between our corporate structures and the local congregation. We continue to hear from denominational leaders that recent decisions have made us more viable to new generations and new ethnic groups which is making us a more inclusive and multi-cultural church. However, the numbers of declining congregations and the reality in the field is that local congregations are not, nor are most becoming, the kind of church that General Convention and the Executive Council say we are. Of course, we have some congregations that reflect this, but they are far from the norm of our local congregational life. I have spent much time over the last ten years visiting Episcopal Churches and making presentations on congregational development. I observe that many of our congregations are struggling with basic survival issues.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Data TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Missions * Theology Ecclesiology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Listen to it all if you so desire.
Filed under: * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
....one could learn a great deal from the question, “What do you hope to get for Christmas?” For if you know our hopes, you fairly well know us. If you want to know who a person really is, and plans to be, inquire into what that person is hoping for.
What are you hoping for?
I expect that is what most of us think religion is about, the fulfillment of our hopes. We hope to find peace in our anxious lives. So we come to church on Sunday morning hoping that the music of the hymns, the words of scripture and preaching may fill us with a sense of peace.
We hope for thoughtful, reflective lives. So we come to church on Sunday morning hoping for an interesting sermon, something that will help us to use our minds, something that will test our intellects, make us think about things in a way we haven’t thought before.....
The trouble is that the Gospels seem to engage in a continual debate with people’s hopes and expectations. Jesus came, light into our darkness. But the problem with Jesus was he was not the sort of light that we expected. That is where the trouble started. Jesus was the hope of the world. But he was not the hope for which the world was hoping!
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Eschatology Soteriology
In an essay in The Times’ Sunday Book Review this week the writer Paul Elie asks the intriguing question: Has fiction lost its faith? As we are gathered here today, let us consider one of the most oddly faithful of all fiction writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky. More specifically, I’d like focus pretty intensely on what some consider to be the key moment in his greatest novel — arguably one of the greatest of all time — “The Brothers Karamazov.” (Elie himself notes the 1880 masterpiece as an example of the truly faith-engaged fiction of yore.) I speak in particular of the “Grand Inquisitor” scene, a sort of fiction within a fiction that draws on something powerful from the New Testament — Jesus’s refusal of Satan’s three temptations — and in doing so digs at the meaning of faith, freedom, happiness and the diabolic satisfaction of our desires.
Read it all. Be warned--this is not short and it is not light bed-time reading; it is, however, well worth the time--KSH.
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...if we put aside the necessity of the Virgin Birth, can we not see the congruity of it? In other words, does the Virgin Birth not fit into a kind of biblical logic once you accept the Bible’s overall Trinitarian framework?
Since God was in the business of re-starting creation in the sending of his Son, might we not expect him to create “out of nothing” the second time, just as he did the first? Karl Barth, the greatest theologian of the 20th Century, thought so. Just as the Spirit brooded over creation the first time, so again in the birth of Jesus the Spirit “brooded” over the virgin Mary. Also, just as creation was totally initiated by God the first time, so creation (the second time, in Jesus) gets to be totally initiated by God. The Virgin Birth tells us that Jesus was not born “of the will of man”, but wholly of the Father’s initiative. God chose to by-pass the normal male role in the work of redemption, in part, so the logic goes, to signal his own headship. “Man as a creating, controlling, self-assertive, self-glorifying being was set aside in favor of a woman who listened, received, and served.” (From, A Step Further, by the author)
We honor the Virgin Birth, of course, because Scripture teaches it. But we can also see the logic behind it. God’s sovereign action is a challenge to the human psychological need to contribute to our own salvation, to be co-creators with God. Mary is a witness against the drive, push, and self-assertion that men especially (though not exclusively) associate with a healthy self-image and by which men often mask their own impotence.
Read it all.
What has caused the rust? The easy answer: the church lost the gospel. Waves of pragmatism, liberalism, and "Anglo-Catholicism" (a blend of Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism) have swept through the church, leaving wreckage in their wake.
But the actual cause is slightly more subtle. Anglicans still talk about the gospel, a lot. And mission. And even about being evangelical---the new archbishop self-identifies as an evangelical, though he certainly wouldn't recognize the definition of the term Don Carson and Tim Keller give in TGC's Gospel-Centered Ministry booklet.
The denomination never lost the words. But it lost the biblical content. In order to keep unity among people who differ over essentials, Anglicanism has increasingly emptied key concepts of their content. So you can sit in a room with 10 Anglican ministers and talk for half an hour about "the gospel" without ever defining the term and always knowing there are probably ten (or eleven!) different views.
Read it all.
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XXVII (emphasis mine), also quoted by yours truly in yesterday's sermon
You seem to be doing very little good at present. The use of his "love" to distract his mind from the Enemy is, of course, obvious, but you reveal what poor use you are making of it when you say that the whole question of distraction and the wandering mind has now become one of the chief subjects of his prayers. That means you have largely failed. When this, or any other distraction, crosses his mind you ought to encourage him to thrust it away by sheer will power and to try to continue the normal prayer as if nothing had
happened; once he accepts the distraction as his present problem and lays that before the Enemy and makes it the main theme of his prayers and his endeavours, then, so far from doing good, you have done harm. Anything, even a sin, which has the total effect of moving him close up to the Enemy, makes against us in the long run....
Your affectionate uncle
(In the 16th chapter of this book Nathaniel Wyeth (who goes by Nat), engineer and inventor, responds to the interviewer and tells a story about on his brother, artist Andrew Wyeth--KSH)
Andy once did a picture. This is sort of an extension of what we've been talking about, but it's indicative of the kind of training I'm talking about....Andy did a picture of Lafayette's headquarters which is down here on Route One near Chadds Ford [a town in Pennsylvania]. It's a beautiful, old building, built before the Revolutionary War, and in his picture was a huge sycamore tree coming up from behind the building with all its beautiful branches. You could see part of the trunk coming up over the roofline.--Kenneth A. Brown, Inventors at Work: Interviews with 16 Notable American Inventors (Redmond, Wash.: Tempus Books, 1988), pp. 374-375, quoted by yours truly in yesterday's sermon
When I first saw the painting, he wasn't quite finished with it. He showed me a lot of drawings of the trunk and the gnarled roots going into the ground, and and I said, "gee whiz, where's that in the picture?" "It's not in the picture, " he said. And I looked at him.
“Nat," he said, “for me to get the feeling that I want in that tree, the part of the tree that's showing, I've got tounderstand and know very thoroughly how that tree is anchored to the ground in back of the house." It never showed in the picture. But he could draw the part of the tree above the house with a lot more authenticity because he knew exactly the way that thing was anchored in the ground. Isn’t that remarkable?
To me, this was all very indicative of what my father [the illustrator N.C. Wyeth] trained into us in whatever we were doing: to understand what we were doing.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Advent * Culture-Watch Art History Science & Technology * Theology Anthropology Christology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
This Free Church has a work to do. All around us are men for whom Christ died, and yet many only use that name to swear by. In sorrow and sickness, in pollution and sin, there are men who live as though they thought they could die like oxen in the stall. Our Master's work is our work. "The poor ye have always with you, and when ye will ye may do them good." Will the day ever come when our eyes shall be opened to believe with all our hearts in the brotherhood of Jesus? when we shall see the name of the Lamb written on the poor man's forehead? Beloved, it is not alms alone that he needs; he needs a brother's hand and a brother's heart—cheerful words to make him braver in his sorrow—wise planning to lift him out of trouble—a God speed—a welcome; these, with alms, are blessed: without this, alms to-day needs alms to-morrow, and the poor sink deeper in poverty and woe. This city has thousands of young men: a stranger notices this as he walks the street. The clear eye and commanding step, the young man hopeful of the future, are with us. They have no homes. To many the Sunday comes without a thought of God. If they were sought after, this would be their home; for, beloved, there are few young men who do not remember a mother, and when at unlooked-for times they catch the tones of that mother's voice, they feel that they ought to go where that voice would lead them, and become Christian men. This city is full of craftsmen, those workers in wood and iron, men of strong frames and busy brains—they are the very life of the nation. On every railway, in every shop, on our inland seas—they meet us everywhere. They have warm hearts, and are generous to a fault; they are men of the very best intellects; they belong to the thinkers of the age—quick to grasp a truth and ready to fulfill. Why are they not the Sons of the Church? The fault is not in the invitation. Read the sentence on these walls: "The Spirit and the Bride," which is the Church of Christ, "say come; and let him that heareth, say come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him come and drink of the water of life freely." The fault is ours. There is only one place to learn how to do this work. It is at the foot of the Cross.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Soteriology
In Sexual Sanity for Men, David White of Harvest USA writes a book for men about their struggles with sexual immorality. White’s book is needed in the midst of a culture with expanding opportunities for sexual sin and a church whose skills to address those temptations have, at times, appeared weak. As White seeks to expand the church’s wisdom to address men’s sexual struggles, there is much to commend.
The most important thing that can be said of White’s effort is that he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ for change. The most significant element of the church’s approach in the battle against sexual immorality does not consist in any process or procedure, but rather in a person whose name is Jesus.
White not only understands the importance of Christ’s power, he also underlines the necessity of connecting that power to the tangible categories of life in the midst of powerful enemies in the culture, the dark desires of humanity, and the prince of the power of the air. Furthermore, White explains that, in his great gospel, God not only forgives us but also gives us actual power to change (91).
Read it all.
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With all of the recent news about the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church in the newspaper, there has been a growing misunderstanding about the nature of the crisis. As our bishop has put it so eloquently on several occasions, our profound disagreement with the Episcopal Church is over theology, morality, and polity (how the church is organized and governed). Yet what continues to be printed in the newspaper is that this whole separation is over homosexuality and the narrow view of the Diocese in contrast to the welcoming and inclusive view of the national church. This is a gross mischaracterization of the truth and represents a lie that Satan would like to sow in the minds of faithful members of our church to cause them to abandon their biblical faith and their current affiliation....
Read it all.
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But I am besides my purpose when I fall to bewail the cold affection which we bear towards that whereby we should be saved, my purpose being only to set down what the ground of salvation is. The doctrine of the Gospel proposeth salvation as the end, and doth it not teach the way of attaining thereunto? Yes, the damsel possessed with a spirit of divination spake the truth: "These men are the servants of the most high God who show unto us the way of salvation" [Acts 16:17] -- "a new and living way which Christ hath prepared for us through the veil, that is, his flesh," [Heb 10:20] salvation purchased by the death of Christ.
--Learned Discourse on Justification (my emphasis)
It was my pleasure and privilege to preach for nine Sundays in Canada, in Toronto, in 1932. I well remember being welcomed on the first Sunday morning by the minister of the church who, though on vacation, was still not out of town. He introduced me, and in responding to the welcome I thought it would be wise for me to indicate to the congregation my method as a preacher. I told the congregation that my method was to assume generally on Sunday morning that I was speaking to believers, to the saints, and that I would try to edify them; but that at night I would be preaching on the assumption that I was speaking to non-Christians as undoubtedly there would be many such there. In a sense I just said that in passing. We went through that morning service, and at the close the minister asked if I would stand at the door with him to shake hands with people as they went out. I did so. We had shaken hands with a number of people when he suddenly whispered to me saying, 'You see that old lady who is coming along slowly. She-is the most important member of this church. She is a very wealthy woman and the greatest supporter of the work.' He was, in other words, telling me to exercise what little charm I might possess to the maximum. I need not explain any further! Well, the old lady came along and we spoke to her, and I shall never forget what happened. It taught me a great lesson which I have never forgotten.--Martyn Lloyd Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pp.147-149 (emphasis mine); used by yours truly in a recent sermon
The old lady said, 'Did I understand you to say that in the evening you would preach on the assumption that the people ljstening are not Christians and in the morning on the assumption that they are Christians?' 'Yes,' I said. 'Well,' she said, 'having heard you this morning I have decided to come tonight.' She had never been known to attend the evening service; never. She only attended in the morning. She said, 'I am coming tonight.' I cannot describe the embarrassment of the situation. I sensed that the minister standing by my side felt that I was ruining his ministry and bitterly regretted inviting me to occupy his pulpit! But the fact was that the old lady did come that Sunday night, and every Sunday night while I was there. I met her in her house in private conversation and found that she was most unhappy about her spiritual condition, that she did not know where she stood. She was a fine and most generous character, living an exemplary life. Everybody assumed-not only the minister but everybody else-that she was an exceptionally fine Christian; but she was not a Christian. This idea that because people are members of the church and attend regularly that they must be Christian is one of the most fatal assumptions, and I suggest that it mainly accounts for the state of the Church today.
“The Christian is not a seeker; the Christian is one who has found. “Come, see a man…” (John 4:29); “We have found the Messiah…” (John 1:41); “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth…” (John 1:45). Christians are men and women who have found; they have found something to give; they are not merely seeking…By definition Christians have something; they have something to say… So the great question we must all ask ourselves is this: do we have something to give to people who are in need? I like to think of it like this. Imagine that tonight when you are in your home, somebody knocks at your door or rings the bell. You go to the door, and there you find a messenger. What is the message? Well, it is a request, an appeal, from a man whom you have known for years; perhaps you have known him since you were children together. Unfortunately, poor fellow, he has gone wrong in life, he has lived a godless life, and yet you somehow liked him. Whenever you met him, you were glad to see him, you always spoke to him, and you often tried to urge him to come with you to listen to the gospel. But he would not come; he laughed it off, as such people often do.
Now here is the message – this afternoon that poor fellow had a sudden heart attack, and he is desperately ill; in fact, he is dying. The doctor can do no more for him. He has told the family, and this man realizes the truth – he can see it in their faces. And suddenly he has come to himself. He sees that his life is finished, and he is going to the unknown and to darkness. He has nothing – nothing to lean on in his past life, nothing to lean on in the present. Nobody can help him. He is absolutely alone, as we all shall be sooner or later, as our soul passes from time to eternity and into the presence of God. He does not know what to do or where to turn; he is in agony of soul. But suddenly he has thought of you because he thinks of you as a Christian and as a member of a church, because you have invited him to go with you to church. So he has sent for you – that is the message. Of course, you have no choice; you must go. And when you arrive in the room, there is your friend lying on his back in bed.
This is the test as to whether or not we are Christians. Do you have something you can give him that will make all the difference in the world to him? What is the point of telling this man that you are also a seeker and a searcher after the truth – he will be dead before midnight? What is the point of saying to him, “I hope that my sins are going to be forgiven sometime, I’m doing my best, I’m living a good life”? Does that help him? That puts him into hell while he is still alive. Or how does it help him if you turn to him and say, “Well, at last you see it. How many times have I told you that the life you were living was wrong? If only you had live as I live!” What is the value of that? That is sheer cruelty. That, again, is putting him in hell while he is still alive. It is of no value at all.
No, no; that is not the Christian way. Christians are not seeking truth or seeking forgiveness. They are not trying to make themselves Christians by living good lives; they are not merely church members. What are they? Well, in the end it just comes to this: they are men and women who, like the woman of Samaria, have met Christ, the Son of God. They are able to tell this poor fellow that it is not too late, that it is not hopeless, that no one is justified by their works or by their lives, that we are all sinners, and there is no ultimate difference between us at all, but that this is the message: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever [even he] believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Christians can tell this man not about their own experience but about Jesus Christ. There is no time to give experiences; there is no time to go through your drill and mechanically quote this or that. All they can say is, “Jesus Christ – look to him!” They just tell the dying man about him, who he is, what he has done. And that is the only way this man can be helped, the only way he can find peace and rest for his soul.”
--Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), Living Water: Studies in John 4, quoted by yours truly in yesterday's sermon
We are in a place and time of growing evangelistic opportunity and obligation....Our secure, wealthy and beautiful region is alive with people, especially new people. Many of these people know nothing about Jesus and they need to hear about the way to eternal life. We are here for them. It is as simple as that....
You could say [after looking at the statistic profile of Australia's spiritual landscape], don’t fret: Our business is to look after the religious needs of the descendants of the English. We are a declining chaplaincy church. Christianity is a religion of consolation rather than salvation.
You had better say: The gospel itself utterly forbids us to think like that. The gospel addresses all men and women without exception in the same tone of voice, with the same demands and the same promises, the same Lord and the same Saviour. It is a matter of salvation, not consolation: of salvation, not of growing our numbers. Any gospel church is aptly described as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, universal words which embrace all nations and peoples and languages. If our denomination, will not accept the challenge posed by the new and increasingly different world which has come to us, we are not being faithful to the gospel which has formed our churches and saved our souls.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
What do Charles and John Wesley have to teach Catholics in the United States about the New Evangelization? With the release of Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization (USCCB, 2012) and the Catholic Church’s upcoming synod on the “New Evangelization,” these two ministers seem as relevant as ever to how we think about evangelization in the modern world.
Charles and John Wesley were ordained in eighteenth century England, a time when the sacrament of Holy Communion was often regarded with indifference or neglect. Church historian John Bowmer remarks that the sacraments and Christian life were widely disparaged in this “new age of reason,” and most people in the Church of England aimed for the minimums of religious practice—receiving the Eucharist three times a year and treating it as an historic custom, rather than encounter with the living God. Unsurprisingly, most in the Church of England were not looking outward to form disciples or share the Gospel. In fact, many clergy and laity in the Church of England believed that England’s growing urban masses were beyond influence and simply had “no taste” for Christian liturgy and sacraments. Christianity was on its way to becoming a fruitless cultural niche.
This creeping indifference characterizes many U.S. Catholics today....
Read it all.
5. The history of Christian mission has been characterized by conceptions of geographical expansion from a Christian centre to the “un-reached territories”, to the ends of the earth. But today we are facing a radically changing ecclesial landscape described as “world Christianity” where the majority of Christians are either living, or have their origins in the global South and East. Migration has become a worldwide, multi-directional phenomenon which is re-shaping the Christian landscape. The emergence of strong Pentecostal and charismatic movements from different localities is one of the most noteworthy characteristics of world Christianity today. What are the insights for mission and evangelism – theologies, agendas and practices – of this “shift of the centre of gravity of Christianity”?
6. Mission has been understood as a movement taking place from the centre to the periphery, and from the privileged to the marginalized of society. Now people at the margins are claiming their key role as agents of mission and affirming mission as transformation. This reversal of roles in terms of envisioning mission has strong biblical foundations because God chose the poor, the foolish and the powerless (1 Corinthians 1:18-31) to further God’s mission of justice and peace so that life may flourish. If there is a shift of the mission concept from “mission to the margins” to “mission from the margins”, what then is the distinctive contribution of the people from the margins? And why are their experiences and visions crucial for re-imagining mission and evangelism today?
7. We are living in a world in which faith in mammon threatens the credibility of the gospel. Market ideology is spreading the propaganda that the global market will save the world through unlimited growth. This myth is a threat not only to economic life but also to the spiritual life of people, and not only to humanity but also to the whole creation. How can we proclaim the good news and values of God’s kingdom in the global market, or win over the spirit of the market? What kind of missional action can the church take in the midst of economic and ecological injustice and crisis on a global scale?
Read it all.
As I sat looking at my computer screen at the title I’d written for this article, I was somewhat bemused by the fact that a defense of conversion and revival was even necessary. But so it is. There are quarters of the church now questioning whether or not conversion, the new birth, giving oneself to Christ, etc., are topics that should even be raised. Conversion, and its corporate expression, revival, are thought to be manifestations of Western individualistic thinking. Better simply to call people to join the life of the Body of Christ by inviting them to be baptized and share in the community of believers.
While certainly acknowledging the taint of individualism which has infected the modern church, it seems to me undeniable that the scriptures have always used the language of “both…and” rather than “either...or” as regards individual conversion, revival and community life.
Just as a reminder to myself, I went through some key passages regarding this topic. I want to share them with you as a “pastoral preventative,” lest anyone lead you astray on this subject. Good writers and preachers, who I respect when they speak on other subjects such as the resurrection, have, I believe, taken a wrong turning in pitting corporate Body Life against revival and conversion.
Read it all.
"We are facing more obstacles than we ever have before, but this is no surprise. This believer represents the very first person who wants to be baptized in this place. Satan's not just going to give that up easily," [John]Costa said.
For [Aaron] Juergens, that's no reason to quit, but encouragement to persevere, even in sickness and freezing temperatures atop a mountain.
"I'm up there, wearing six jackets and three gloves and five socks and I really just kind of want to sit in a bed," he said. "But then you think about those people (who haven't heard yet). If we turn around, who is going to come next? I mean, how many people have turned around? The world is getting smaller. The day is coming when everybody is going to have no excuse whatsoever for not hearing. There's no excuse for turning back.
"We keep going."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Missions * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary South America * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists * Theology Soteriology
In your recently published autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up, you're explicit about how God saved and changed your life. Journalists have interviewed you a lot over the past several months. What percentage of the interviewers have asked about your Christian faith? Probably 15 to 20 percent.
The subject didn't come up in your NPR interview. I brought it up. They edited it out. I always look for opportunities to talk about my faith in a way that is congruent with the story or the question that they ask, because it is important to me that people know. Most of the time it will be edited out.
Your description of the knuckleball—"The pitch has a mind of its own. You either embrace it for what it is—a pitch that is reliant on an amalgam of forces both seen and unseen—or you allow it to drive you half out of your mind"—seems like a metaphor for the mysteries of God's providence in the Christian life. To a certain extent it is, at least for me. An element of surrender has enabled me to get to the next place with the knuckleball. An element of surrender in my own life has helped me get to the next place in my faith and relationship to Christ. I didn't necessarily draw the parallel intentionally, but as a Christian there were so many times in my life where I wanted to control things and I would hold on to them so tightly that God couldn't get anywhere near them—or so I thought.
Read it all.
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The influx of foreign-born people into North America gives Southern Baptist churches a unique opportunity to reach the nations, a veteran International Mission Board worker said at the 2012 Send North America Conference.
Most churches, though, are failing to take advantage of the opportunity, he said at the conference sponsored by the North American Mission Board.
"We need to look at some other models and methods when we start churches among people groups," IMB representative Bryan Galloway said during a conference breakout session on "Reaching the Nations in North America." "We're just not doing that."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Missions Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists * Theology Ecclesiology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
[David] Boudia's emptiness after the 2008 Olympics continued through his freshman year and into his sophomore year at Purdue. He jumped into the college party scene. He made a lot of friends and a lot of self-described "silly choices."
One day, the depression got so severe he couldn't even get out of bed.
"I woke up from a nap and felt like I'd hit a wall," Boudia said. "I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know what my purpose was. I didn't know why I was feeling the way I was feeling."
A diving teammate at Purdue directed Boudia to his coach, of all people. Boudia called Adam Soldati and went over to his house, where he sat and listened to Soldati and his wife Kimiko talk about the Lord.
Read it all.
This is from yesterday from yours truly if you have an interest. It was preached at Saint Andrew's, Mount Pleasant, S.C. and is based on Articles 12-14 of the 39 articles and readings from Ephesians 2:1-10 and Matthew 25:31-46. The link included downloadable options as well as sermon notes and questions.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * South Carolina * Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Bookmark it and then follow the links and read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) General Convention TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Sacramental Theology Eucharist Soteriology
The challenge is not that we have a ministry of the baptized and Communion as our central act of worship – the challenge is that we have clergy ill-trained in Sacramental theology administering them. We have laity that we have failed to form in Sacramental living. We now have a wide body of our priests that do not believe anything much actually happens in the Sacraments.
Do you believe the Holy Spirit descends upon a person and transforms their very being in Baptism so that they are united with Christ? Do you believe that Christ is truly present in the Body and Blood we receive at the Altar? Are the Sacraments God’s action or ours? I have heard far too many talking of Baptism as an entry rite rather than as transformation just as I have heard too many speak of Communion as a “meal” alone rather than the very Presence of Christ among us.
If you have a clergy addicted to modernism and reformation charged with carrying out the catholic Sacramental life of the Church then you will, indeed, have tension. But the tension should not between upending the Sacraments or administering them faithfully as they have been across the centuries. The tension should be between doing or not doing them. You can choose other ways of ministry that do not involve undoing the historic Sacraments of the Church if you are not comfortable with the faith and order we have been welcomed into as both baptized and ordained leaders.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Theology Anthropology Sacramental Theology Baptism Soteriology
It is not be an overstatement to say that evangelicals are experiencing a "sea change"—a paradigm shift—in their understanding of conversion and redemption, a shift that includes the way in which they think about the salvation of God, the nature and mission of the church, and the character of religious experience. Although there is no one word to capture where evangelicals are going in this regard, there is a word that captures what they are leaving behind: revivalism.
Read it all.
This ultimate solidarity is the final point and the goal of that first 'descent,' so clearly described in the Scriptures, into a 'lower world' which, with Augustine, can already be characterised, by way of contrast with heaven, as infernum. Thomas Aquinas will echo Augustine here. For him, the necessity whereby Christ had to go down to Hades lies not in some insufficiency of the suffering endured on the Cross but in the fact that Christ has assumed all the defectus of sinners...Now the penalty which the sin of man brought on was not only the death of the body. It was also a penalty affected the soul, for sinning was also the soul's work, and the soul paid the price in being deprived of the vision of God. As yet unexpiated, it followed that all human beings who lived before the coming of Christ, even the holy ancestors, descended into the infernum. And so, in order to assume the entire penalty imposed upon sinners, Christ willed not only to die, but to go down, in his soul, ad infernum. As early as the Fathers of the second century, this act of sharing constituted the term and aim of the Incarnation. The 'terrors of death' into which Jesus himself falls are only dispelled when the Father raises him again...He insists on his own grounding principle, namely, that only what has been endured is healed and saved.
That the Redeemer is solidarity with the dead, or, better, with this death which makes of the dead, for the first time, dead human beings in all reality- this is the final consequence of the redemptive mission he has received from the Father. His being with the dead is an existence at the utmost pitch of obedience, and because the One thus obedient is the dead Christ, it constitutes the 'obedience of a corpse' (the phrase is Francis of Assisi's) of a theologically unique kind. By it Christ takes the existential measure of everything that is sheerly contrary to God, of the entire object of the divine eschatological judgment, which here is grasped in that event in which it is 'cast down' (hormemati blethesetai, Apocalypse 18, 21; John 12; Matthew 22, 13). But at the same time, this happening gives the measure of the Father's mission in all its amplitude: the 'exploration' of Hell is an event of the (economic) Trinity...This vision of chaos by the God-man has become for us the condition of our vision of Divinity. His exploration of the ultimate depths has transformed what was a prison into a way.
--Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter [emphasis mine]
Now that the Anglican Covenant is dead in the water, those who seek to revise what it means to be the Church have no need to worry about the process set out in the fourth section of that document (assuming that they would have needed to worry if the Covenant was adopted anyway). Regardless, the drive for CWOB is a manifestation of commitment to an "autonomous ecclesiology" rather than "communion ecclesiology."
Read it all and yes, follow all the links.
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Watch it all.
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Check it out if you wish to listen to this recent sermon.
Filed under: * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Lent Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Christology Pastoral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
Check it out if you wish to listen to it.
Filed under: * By Kendall Sermons & Teachings * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Lent Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
“Follow me, and I will made you fishers of men.” Fish for people.
We see and experience this moment of course as a familiar and recurring theme and pattern of the whole Biblical story. God calls Abraham to leave the land of his Father and to come to a new land, where he will establish a new nation loyal to God alone. God calls Moses at the burning bush to leave his father-in-law’s homestead in the Sinai and to return to Egypt and to lead his people from slavery to freedom again, renewing their covenant with him and to be restored in their loyalties and to return again to the Promised Land. God calls Samuel as he goes to sleep in the shrine at Shiloh. David from the sheepfolds of his father Jesse. The great prophets. Elijah and Elisha. Jeremiah. Again and again through the Old Testament. And of course as we think through the New Testament we would remember as well the dramatic vocational experience of Paul as he is thrown from his horse on the Road to Damascus. God calls.
The compilers of our lectionary give us the contrast this morning as we remember what happened with the Prophet Jonah. We remember how he is called at first by God and commanded to carry the message of repentance into foreign territory, the capital city of the ancient enemy. Fearful of what might happen to him if he were to attempt that mission, Jonah hightails it out of town in exactly the opposite direction, finally getting on a ship and sailing away. And of course we remember that story. The storm, the great fish. And then we see the second part of the story this morning. Amazingly, improbably, Jonah’s mission is successful. He gets there. He calls the enemy to repentance. And they hear the message and immediately turn away from their corrupt and evil ways to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness. But then this odd twist: Jonah isn’t satisfied. He apparently has his own agenda. It’s almost like he’s embarrassed.
Read it all.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Nigeria * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Missions Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Theology Pastoral Theology Soteriology
Regarding the Church, therefore, we must not allow evangelism to be reduced to a ‘part’ of mission. It is sad to see as distinguished a theologian as Moltmann quoted saying that mission is “not merely evangelization” — as if there were anything ‘mere’ about the proclamation that Christ is Lord and the calling on people to obey his kingship. In the Church of England today as whole, however, that is often how evangelism is seen, and it is not long before it is reduced from being a part of mission to being an optional extra in mission.
But equally, we must not allow evangelism to be reduced to a personal call to change our views as to whether or not we believe in God and what we believe about ourselves and about Jesus dying for our sins. We cannot have Christ as Saviour if we will not have Christ as Lord. And his lordship must extend into every area of the lives of those whom he saves. There is a challenge here for the more conservative evangelical. But the conservative evangelical is also entitled to ask what has happened, institutionally, to the call to personal conversion.
Once again, nothing less than an institutional transformation is required, which needs a deliberate and conscious strategy. And therein lies our problem. Evangelicals will generally go on evangelizing, whatever happens in the wider institution. But this will not lead to a programme suitable to the conversion of England. That needs a bolder and more ambitious approach, yet at present there is no sign of that coming from the official, hierarchical, leadership. Given where we are today, then, how can we address the need for the transformation of the Church?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Missions Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Theology Ecclesiology Soteriology
The homily at Friday’s service could not have been more appropriate. Mark Greene, now executive director of the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC) that John Stott founded, summed up Stott’s unwavering commitment to Biblical teaching on the calling, convictions and lifestyle of all those who would claim Christ as their saviour.
“He yearned not only for the conversion of medics, lawyers and factory workers, he yearned for the transformation of medicine, law and manufacturing,” said Greene. Stott’s emphasis was on whole-life disciple-making, on the supreme transformative power of the gospel in the individual and through the Christian individual into the workplace. He longed for lay Christians to be biblically envisioned and equipped for that mission in their daily lives.
“What would Stott’s emphasis on whole-life disciple-making say to us today in areas such as the moral and directional crisis in our economy ? “ Greene asked the assembled congregation, an audible silence falling across the great church, as he referred to both to the bankers of the city and the Occupy protesters in their tents still spread across the churchyard outside.
Read it all.
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God with us means more than God over or side by side with us, before or behind us. It means more than His divine being in even the most intimate active connection with our human being otherwise peculiar to Him. At this point, at the heart of the Christian message and in relation to the event of which it speaks, it means that God has made himself the one who fulfills his redemptive will. It means that He Himself in His own person —at His own cost but also on His own initiative—has become the inconceivable Yet and Nevertheless of this event, and so its clear and well-founded and legitimate, its true and holy and righteous Therefore. It means that God has become man in order as such, but in divine sovereignty, to take up our case. What takes place in the work of inconceivable mercy is, therefore, the free overruling of God, but it is not an arbitrary overlooking and ignoring, not an artificial bridging, covering over or hiding, but a real closing of the breach, gulf and abyss between God and us for which we are responsible. At the very point where we refuse and fail, offending and provoking God, making ourselves impossible before Him and in that way missing our destiny, treading under foot our dignity, forfeiting our right, losing our salvation and hopelessly compromising our creaturely being—at that very point God Himself intervenes as man.
--Church Dogmatics (IV.1) [E.T. By Geoffrey Bromiley and Thomas Torrance of the German Original] (London: T and T Clark, 1956), page 12
In one of the original episodes of Law and Order, some 15 years ago, I’ll never forget the scene of the three cops doing an all-night stake out from their parked car. It’s 3:00 AM or so and over black coffee they’re talking about the regrets of their lives. The guy in the front under the wheel said he regretted being a jerk to his wife most of their married lives before she died. The cop riding shotgun said he regretted chronically stealing money as a teenager from this hard-working father’s wallet. The third cop is in the back with his eyes closed, half-asleep. And they said to him, “Hey sergeant, what do you regret?” And he finally mumbled out, “I regret everything.”
There’s just a little part of me that can identify. I have my share of sin and regret that stem from a self-centered heart. And the message of the angel, that “to you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord”, is the most wonderful news I ever heard. Would you agree?
I don’t care how low you’ve sunk, there is no reason to give up or think only somber, gloomy thoughts. I’m with you in that I cannot undo my past. But I am privilege to point to a Savior that can wash us clean. Jesus never once in the narrative of the New Testament turned away a helpless sinner who fled to him....
Read it all.
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