Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gene Veith: Justification by Faith Alone is Still the Issue

Back in the 1990s, I was asked to be on the council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, an organization dedicated to applying the solas of the Reformation to contemporary Christianity. Organizations change, and I’m not a part of it anymore. But I was recently asked to contribute a post for the group’s website Place for Truth. The topic? Whether the Reformation is still relevant today. I said, “yes.” More specifically, I argued that the major issue in Christianity today is the same as it was in 1517, a notion that is currently under almost unprecedented attack, even by Protestants: Justification by faith alone.

See my essay after the jump. Keep reading

Also see
Matthew Barrett: 'Sola Scriptura' Radicalized and Abandoned
Reformation Day Free Download: R.C. Sproul’s Luther and the Reformation
The free download offer expires midnight (EDT) October 31, 2013.

Justin Holcomb: What Christians Should Know About Halloween

Halloween has become the second highest-grossing commercial holiday after Christmas. But this festive day also carries a lot of baggage. Scholars Ralph and Adelin Linton write:
Among all the festivals which we celebrate today, few have histories stranger than that of Halloween. It is the eve of All Hallows—or Hallowmas or All Saints' Day—and as such it is one of the most solemn festivals of the church. At the same time, it commemorates beings and rites with which the church has always been at war. It is the night when ghosts walk and fairies and goblins are abroad. . . . We cannot understand this curious mixture unless we go back into history and unravel the threads from which the present holiday pattern has been woven.
The brief account seeks to vindicate Halloween from its "Satanic" and barbaric origins. While the dark side of Halloween may have been overemphasized, Christians must still acknowledge that the holiday originated (at least) in pagan and mythical practices. The extent to which such practices can be categories as "Satanic" is a debate of semantics. Is Roman mythology "Satanic"? Perhaps, or perhaps not.

Regardless, the origin of Halloween is certainly in the realm of non-Christian spiritualism. As such, Christians should be careful in their approach to Halloween. Keep reading

Also read
9 Things You Should Know about Halloween and Reformation Day

Photo: TLC Images

Tony Payne: The ninjas

Let me tell you about the Ninjas.

It started at a Trellis and Vine Workshop Marty Sweeney and I were running in an old weather-board Baptist church in Atlanta, Georgia. We’d been invited there by a young black pastor (whose presence in Atlanta was a remarkable story in itself), and our job was to do what we have done over the past four years since The Trellis and the Vine became an unlikely bestseller—and that was to help a bunch of pastors and lay leaders talk through the ideas in the book, and figure out what it meant in practice for their ministry and their church.

With 25 of us seated at trestle tables, this was one of the smaller workshops we’d conducted. 50 was more like our normal number, and Marty and I were hoping that this smaller group would have enough energy and momentum to carry it through. We needn’t have worried. Around 8 of the 25 were a bunch of Latino laymen from Miami who had been sent by their pastor to listen and learn and bring back ideas for their church. From the beginning, they were full of buzz. The questions and comments and laughter flowed freely.

And then, towards the end of the first day, we were talking about the importance of church ministry being both top-down and bottom-up; that it was no use trying to implement a ‘disciple-making culture’ in your church by simply decreeing it from above—you also had to sow it and nurture it from below. We talked about how you could preach on disciple-making, and hand out books on disciple-making, and even run seminars on disciple-making—but that your church culture would not change until you actually took 8 of 10 people and worked with them intensively, and started a groundswell of people who were taking the initiative to minister the word of God to others.

That’s how a church really changes, we said. Not only from the top-down public teaching and ministry, but from a long-term, bottom-up ministry of people work and training.

At which point, Miguel, the young, precociously smart son of the pastor of the Latino church, said, “You mean it’s like a Ninja take-over of the church!”

And this became the running joke of the workshop. ‘Vine work’ was public and pulpit-based, but it was not only that; it was also Ninja work (or ‘Neenja’ work as the Latinos pronounced it). It was private and unseen but highly effective; it was personal and skilled, conducted by trained practitioners who in turn trained others. Keep reading

The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything - Chapters 1 & 2 [PDF]


Tim Zulker: Start with the heart

When it comes to evangelism, pay attention to the heart first. That’s where the real barriers lie.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-7)
Personal evangelism begins on the inside. The essence of what we are doing by sharing our faith, person-to-person, is allowing people see and hear about Christ … through us. Yes we are heralding an historic gospel message. And that message is independent of us. But the work of personal evangelism is not simply a matter of taking the gospel package down from the shelf to hand to someone. Rather, the gospel comes to reside in us—Christ himself moving in and beginning the process of spiritual redecoration (Eph 3:17). This should encourage us. Our hope for fruitful outreach is not in being whiz-bang evangelists, but in Christ and the message of the cross, shining out from our ordinary clay pot lives. We don’t put hope for the salvation of others in anything but Christ—not in our evangelistic tools, and not in ourselves. But if our hope is in Christ and his gospel, we still may not neglect the issue of our hearts. If Christ is the treasure that shines out from our inner being, then we should pay attention to our heart. This is where the greatest barriers to fruitful evangelism lie. Keep reading

Also see
Erich Bridges: Seeking the unseen Kingdom

Jeremy Walker: Effective personal evangelism: prayer

The marks of effective personal evangelism we have surveyed so far are love, tenacity, boldness, consistency and understanding.

The sixth mark of the effective personal evangelist is prayer. The place of prayer in this list is not a marker of its relative insignificance. Could it be that one of the reasons why, with our children, friends, colleagues and communities, we are less effective than we wish to be is because we have not proved to be men and women of earnest, pleading prayer, borne of a love for God that seeks his glory above all else and a love for people that longs to see them saved from sin? Keep reading 

An encouraging start to has been open for a week now, and it's been a very good first week for us. No significant technical issues. Lots of positive feedback. And an encouraging number of subscriptions coming in, including from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Singapore, South Africa, and Uganda.

We thought you might be interested to meet the person who was quickest off the mark and took out the first ever church subscription.... Keep reading

Massive Battle Leaves 128 Dead As Islamic Militants Attack Nigerian Forces

A large-scale battle between Nigerian forces and Islamic militants lasting over 5 hours in the state of Yobe has left 128 people dead, local sources have reported, raising questions about how much control the government has over the troubled region.

Details are still scarce about the violence that occurred late last week, but figures quoted by Nigerian military and hospitals state that 95 of the dead are militants, 23 are soldiers and eight others are police officers.

Other reports claim that the military suffered 35 casualties, with a hospital source sharing with AFP on Monday that the bodies were brought to a local morgue. Keep reading

Also see
Eritrean Christian dies in prison
Kenya: Call for AK-47s in every church
9 Things You Should Know About Persecution of Christians in 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Anglicans Ablaze Midweek Special Edition: October 30, 2013

In this midweek special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

R. C. Sproul: The Perils Facing the Evangelical Church

When we consider the predicament that the evangelical church of the twenty-first century faces in America, the first thing we need to understand is the very designation “evangelical church” is itself a redundancy. If a church is not evangelical, it is not an authentic church. The redundancy is similar to the language that we hear by which people are described as “born-again Christians.” If a person is born again of the Spirit of God, that person is, to be sure, a Christian. If a person is not regenerated by the Holy Spirit, he may profess to be a Christian, but he is not an authentic Christian. There are many groups that claim to be churches that long ago repudiated the evangel, that is, the gospel. Without the gospel, a gathering of people, though they claim otherwise, cannot be an authentic church.

In the sixteenth century, the term evangelical came into prominence as a description of the Protestant church. In many cases, the terms evangelical and Protestant were used interchangeably. Today, that synonymous use of the adjectives no longer functions with any accuracy. Historic Protestants have forgotten what they were protesting in the sixteenth century. The central protest of the Reformation church was the protest against the eclipse of the gospel that had taken place in the medieval church. Keep reading
Anglicans who identify themselves as evangelicals but tolerate or accept Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practice  are subscribing to a form of liberalism. 

Robert Rothwell: What Is Reformation Day All About?

Tomorrow, much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31. Tomorrow is Reformation day, which commemorates what was perhaps the greatest move of God’s Spirit since the days of the Apostles. But what is the significance of Reformation Day, and how should we consider the events it commemorates?

At the time, few would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, would soon be heard around the world and lead ultimately to the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the church door on October 31, 1517, provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

An heir of Bishop Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther is one of the most significant figures God has raised up since that time. This law student turned Augustinian monk became the center of a great controversy after his theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe. Initially protesting the pope’s attempt to sell salvation, Luther’s study of Scripture soon led him to oppose the church of Rome on issues including the primacy of the Bible over church tradition and the means by which we are found righteous in the sight of God. Keep reading

Scott Manetsch: Why the Reformation Is Not Over

Scott Manetsch (associate professor of church history and chair of the church history department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and the associate general editor of IVP’s Reformation Commentary Series) explains why it is “impossible to reconcile the classic Protestant solas with the teaching of the Catholic Catechism.” Keep reading

Also see
Resources for Reformation Day
The videos embedded in the Resources for Reformation Day article are no longer available.

Phillip Jensen: The Spiritual Reformation [Audio]

Just in time for Reformation Day (31st October), you can hear last Sunday’s sermon from St. Andrew’s Cathedral by Phillip Jensen – on ‘The Spiritual Reformation’.

Good to hear and to pass the link on to others.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website.

Flight or Fright? How to Redeem Halloween [Podcast]

Every year Halloween seems to grow in popularity. Bigger decorations, better candy, badder costumes. And every year Christians wonder how to handle this strange event that brings neighbors together over ghoulish scenes of death and unhealthy piles of chocolate. Should we steer death-defying teenagers toward Hell Houses to consider the eternal state of their souls? Should we lock ourselves in our living rooms with the lights turned off? Or should we embrace the fun and enjoy the company of neighbors who only emerge this one holiday each year? In short, do we flee from Halloween or seek to redeem the day? Keep reading

Also see
The Darker Side of a Dark Holiday: Where Did Halloween Come From? (Pt. 1)
The Darker Side of a Dark Holiday: Should Christians Believe in Paranormal Activities? (Pt. 2)
Should Christians Celebrate Halloween? Pastors Discuss Scripture and How to Use the Day for Good

Thom Rainer: Five Questions to Ask to See If Your Church Is Dying

Please forgive me for the morbid and depressing title and content. I don’t think posts such as these encourage many of you.

I guess the impetus for writing such an article is the work I am doing to finish my next book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church. I have dealt a lot with the death of churches in my research and writing for that book. Keep reading

Ed Stetzer: Church Planting in the City and in a Multi-Ethnic Context: The Next CPLF Gathering

Join us at our Church Planting Leadership Fellowship in November. 

For the past few years we have hosted a gathering of church planting leaders from across North America to consider process and practices of church planting. We call this group the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship.

This is a peer group, specifically focused on those who are leading church planting efforts in their denomination and/or network. This coming month we'll be hosting our next gathering, and this time we are focusing on Alpha cities and multi-ethnic church planting. We have gathered together a faculty that is among the finest minds in North American church planting and, if you are a denomination or network leader, I want to invite you to consider joining us as we learn together.

Our faculty this year features names like Tim Keller, Wilfredo de Jesus (Pastor Choco), Andy Crouch, Justin Buzzard, Ray Chang, Aaron Coe and Alvin Sanders. You can find bios on each of these speakers, as well as more information, at our CPLF website by clicking here.

With the increasing urbanization occurring, not only in North America, but also across the globe, and with the increasing ethnic and cultural diversity in North America, there may be no more important topics to deal with than that of Alpha cities and multi-ethnic church planting. Keep reading

Chuck Lawless: Why We Must Love Unlovable Church Members

I was a young pastor, and I was sure everybody in the church was kind, gracious, and Christian. Everybody would treat everybody else with the love of God. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to learn that even in the church are people who don’t quite get there. Some people are really hard to love.

At the same time, I couldn’t avoid Jesus’ telling us to love God and neighbor (Matt. 22:34-40). Nor could I run from New Testaments commands that we love one another (1 Thess. 4:9, 1 Pet. 1:22, 1 John 3:23). I would be lying to say I never struggle now, but I’ve learned something about loving others. Here are ten reasons why we must love even unlovable church members. Keep reading

Also see
Three Church Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle

Rick Warren: 4 Factors to Balance in Your Preaching Calendar

Hopefully, by October, you’re already thinking through your preaching calendar for next year. Part of shepherding a congregation toward long term health is offering a balanced diet from the pulpit. Your preaching over a twelve-month period should be pre-planned with certain factors built in.

Before a new year begins, I try to identify eight to twelve series’ that I’m going to do for the year. What I’m looking for most is balance. There is no way I’m going to be able to use all of the themes that I come up with, but I want to be balanced. And I want to look at several factors as I seek that balance. Keep reading

Ministry Grid: Why Worship?

Several gifted and experienced worship leaders share what worship is and why it is so important for the church and for individuals. We also share our links of the week to encourage and challenge you.

Look & Live (Worship of Die)- Matt Papa

Matt Papa explains the importance of worship for the believer and that it is even a life or death matter for the soul. Keep reading

What Is Worship? - Matt Papa [Video]

Matt Papa beautifully and thoughtfully answers the question “What is worship?” Watch now

How to Lead a Church to Worship with Maturity - Matt Boswell [Video]

Matt Boswell moderates a discussion between Stephen Miller, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa – all worship leaders – about how to lead people toward spiritual maturity in worship. Watch now

Links of the Week

Seven of the most informative, insightful, and interesting links from around the web from last week. Keep reading

Learn More About Ministry Grid

8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader

I’ve written recently about the 8 Commitments for Small Group Leaders as well as how to design your group meeting for life-change; two helpful angles from which to think about building a thriving small group ministry. But what about the habits that help create the kind of man or woman who operates as an agent of life-change?

Here are the 8 habits of a life-changing small group leader. Life-changing small group leaders.... Keep reading

How to Use Social Media In a New Church Plant

There is a formula for launching a church in America. Collect lots of money. Spend lots of money getting the word out. Turn the big crowd of strangers into a church. It’s easy… if you have lots of money. But c’mon, church planters are hackers by nature right? It’s possible to get the word out in a better way, especially today.

When we began planting Grace Hills, we didn’t want to drop a ton of money on massive but impersonal means of announcing our arrival – and we didn’t have a ton of money anyway. So we used Facebook.

We’re still using Facebook. And it’s working.
  • We started with two couples (including the Cox’s). We spent $0 on traditional advertising but had 35 at our first gathering in July of 2011.
  • We grew to approximately 80 within six months by word-of-mouth and while spending $0 on traditional advertising.
  • We launched with 176 on our first Sunday, mostly gathered through Facebook, word-of-mouth, and search engines.
  • Today, we’re the most “liked” church in northwest Arkansas and an estimated 75-80% of our first time guests found us on the web. Keep reading

Also see
Jesus and the Digital Pharisees

Stephen Noll: Sea Change in the Anglican Communion

There has been a sea change in the Anglican Communion over the past two decades. The vestments may be the same, the assorted “reverend” titles untouched, the website still showing smiling Global South Anglican faces. The reality is far different. The foundation of Anglican identity has been shaken, and with the Psalmist, many rightly wonder: “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

The presenting cause of this sea change, as is widely known, is the acceptance and promotion of homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage. For 350 years, Anglican weddings in England and abroad have begun with these words:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church

When this doctrine of Holy Matrimony was challenged in the 1990s by gay-rights advocates in two Anglican Provinces – The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) – the Lambeth Conference of bishops answered decisively that

This Conference, in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage. (Resolution I.10)

The Lambeth Resolution led to a decade of strife within the Communion as the North Americans flatly rejected its norm and now are on the brink of providing official same-sex marriage rites. In the UK, same-sex marriage has now been signed into law by the Queen, and the Prime Minister vows to export it to the Commonwealth partners. While the Church of England has not approved same-sex marriage, the Archbishop of Canterbury argues that same-sex civil unions are a neglected moral obligation: “It is clearly essential that stable and faithful same sex relationships should, where those involved want it, be recognised and supported with as much dignity and the same legal effect as marriage” (Speech in House of Lords, 3 June 2013).

But isn’t sex outside marriage “incompatible with Scripture” (1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10; cf. Resolutions III.1 and III.5)? Indeed the larger question underlying the sexuality debate entails the authority of the Bible. To which question Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori replies, channeling her inner Humpty Dumpty: “When I use the Word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” Or so it seems, as Bishop Schori interprets St. Paul’s exorcism of a slave girl, oppressed by demonic and human masters (Acts 16:16-18):

Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it. It gets him thrown in prison. That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!

Permit me, as a biblical scholar and defrocked (by TEC) priest, to protest: that an apostolic leader can twist the text of Scripture and rebuke St. Paul as she does is emblematic of the false Gospel rampant in her church, and that she remains unrebuked by and in good standing with her elders in the Communion is emblematic of the utter dysfunction of that body. In what sense can one call it a “Communion” when such denial of the faith passes for normal? Keep reading

George Conger: Nairobi Conference Shifts GFCA Focus to United Kingdom

The battleground for the soul of Anglicanism has passed from North America to Britain, following the adoption of the Nairobi Commitment by the 2nd Global Anglican Future Conference.

The public face of the 4-page document affirmed by delegates to the 21-26 October 2013 meeting of traditionalist Anglicans in Nairobi laid out the strategic goals of the global Anglican reform movement. However, a tactical plan to create a safe harbor for British traditionalists -- a third province for the Church of England -- was spelled out in the document as Britain awaits the Pilling Report -- a document due for release in December that will set forth the Church of England's position on human sexuality.

The Rt. Rev. Neil Lebhar, Bishop of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the Anglican Church in America, welcomed the statement as a "unity" document that would gather other Anglicans into the GAFCON fold.

The Rev. Rod Thomas, vicar of St Matthew's Elburton, Plymouth and chairman of Reform said "it sets a clear Gospel priority for Gafcon. It is designed to cary forward the work of encouragement and faithfulness ... I'm delighted."

The Nairobi Commitment was a product of the conference, the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey, Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic of the Anglican Church in North America, told delegates when a draft was laid before the meeting on 25 October. The text was prepared by a writing team led by Bishop Guernsey that drew members from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, the Southern Cone, USA/Canada and England and took its lead from reports prepared by the secretaries of the nine "mini-conferences" of GAFCON 2. Keep reading
Note that ACNA Bishop John Guernsey headed the team that drafted the Nairobi Communique and Commitment. This may in part explain the document's unqualified endorsement of the Anglican Church in North America. In North America Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism appear to have gained the upper hand in the battle for the soul of Anglicanism. In Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, GAFCON's official commentary on the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism are identified as the two major challenges to the authority of the Anglican formularies and the Bible in the contemporary Anglican Church. 

United Kingdom: Church facing divide over blessings for same-sex couples

The Church of England is facing a split over proposals to offer a formal blessing for gay couples.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, warned on Tuesday that a move to celebrate same-sex relationships in church would be a “red line” for traditionalist parishes.

Clergy and lay members of the Church opposed to any relaxation of the rules could reject the authority of any bishops who supported the move, he warned.

His intervention came amid mounting expectation that an official commission examining the Church’s teaching on sexuality will recommend the introduction of a formal service for gay couples.

Dr Nazir-Ali said: “If there is an attempt to provide for blessing of same-sex unions that will be a red line for many people. Keep reading

Christians to pray for persecuted church

Christians around the world will be praying for the persecuted church this weekend.

The annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church falls on 3 November 2013, when prayers will be said for the roughly 200 million Christians currently suffering for their faith.

In the run up to the day of prayer, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) will be holding a special prayer event at All Souls Langham Place in London. Keep reading

Also see
Persecuted North Koreans pray for American Christians
Two pastors killed in Kenya

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Anglican Church in North America - five years after GAFCON 2008

By Robin G. Jordan

The Anglican Church in North America has, in a space of five years, emerged as a politically and socially conservative version of The Episcopal Church. While the ACNA has distanced its from the more radical forms of liberal theology seen in TEC, the ACNA has not entirely abandoned liberal theology. This is particularly evident in the ACNA “theological lens,” the ACNA ordinal, and the ACNA eucharistic rites.

In the Anglican Church in North America Anglo-Catholicism is enjoying something of a resurgence. Before radical liberalism displaced it, Anglo-Catholicism was one of two dominant theological streams in The Episcopal Church. The other dominant theological stream was moderate liberalism. Both theological streams are discernible in the ACNA. Both Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism, Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, GAFCON’s official commentary on the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, identifies as the two major challenges to the authority of the Anglican formularies and the Bible in the Anglican Communion in our time.

In their choice of language the ACNA Fundamental Declarations equivocate in their acceptance of the authority of the Anglican formularies. The ACNA ordinal and the ACNA eucharistic rites are modeled on that of the 1928 and 1979 TEC Prayer Books. Both Prayer Books evidence Anglo-Catholic and liberal influence. In some ways the ACNA ordinal and the ACNA eucharistic rites are more radical than the 1928 and 1979 TEC Prayer Books in the changes they introduce in the ordination and communion services.

Even though its bishops and other clergy played a major role in radical liberalism’s ascendency in The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in North America gives its clergy, particularly its bishops, a large role in the governance of the church at all levels. The participation of the laity in the discussion and determination of major policy issues is limited. The College of Bishops has over the past 4 years usurped the authority of the Provincial Council to a large extent and supplanted the Council as the ACNA’s principal decision-making body. The Council is the official governing body of the province.

By its own reports the Anglican Church in North America is committed to the spread of the gospel and the planting of new churches. It is unclear, however, which gospel the ACNA is committed to spreading. More than one gospel is preached and taught in the ACNA. It is also unclear as to what extent ACNA congregations and clergy are committed to the province’s church planting vision. Observers both in and outside the ACNA point out to the small number of networks of congregations and clergy in the ACNA, which are active in evangelizing the unchurched and enfolding them in new churches.

The Anglican Church in North America is sponsoring a number of regional church planting conferences. Ostensibly this strategy is intended to facilitate attendance at church planting conferences, placing such conferences closer to local congregations and their clergy. What is notable about these conferences is their emphasis upon the practice of hiving-off the nucleus of a new church from an existing church as the standard and therefore preferred approach to planting a new church.

The practice of hiving-off a new church’s nucleus from an existing church has its drawbacks. It limits church planting to the fringes of areas where there are existing churches. The gospel is spread by a slow process of colonization. This practice also produces new churches that are clones of the church from which the nucleus was hived-off. Such new churches suffer from the problems and weakness of the church which provided their nucleus. If the church providing the nucleus of the new church is perpetuating false teaching so will the new church.

Attendees at ACNA regional church planting conferences must pay not only for the conference itself but also for the workshops they attend at the conference. A more cost-effective method and one which would reach a larger segment of the Anglican Church in North America would be to offer webinars and webcasts on evangelism and church planting.

The ACNA’s present approach does not suggest that the province is really serious about mobilizing its congregations and clergy in the service of the gospel. It is reminiscent of what was TEC’s approach in the past.

In its church planting efforts the Anglican Church in North America is also largely targeting population segments that have historically formed the traditional constituencies of The Episcopal Church.

One is prompted to wonder why the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans continues to support the Anglican Church in North America as the ACNA appears to be on a different page from the GFCA. Could it be that the GFCA is too embarrassed to admit that the ACNA is not what it hoped would emerge as a new province in North America? Could it be that the GFCA relies too heavily upon the reports of the ACNA hierarchy as to what is going on in that ecclesial body? What do you think?

Also see
The Nairobi Conference and Its Impact on the Anglican Church in North America
The Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment: How really serious is the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans?

Alister McGrath: Focus on Anglican Identity: Anglicanism and Protestantism

This article was originally published in The Church of Ireland Gazette in 2007. It is as relevant today as it was then.  

In a remarkable article in the London-based Church Times (13th April), Canon Gregory Cameron, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, publicly distanced Anglicanism from Protestantism. Canon Cameron spoke of an Anglican "dialogue with the Protestant traditions," making it clear that he regarded Anglicanism as lying beyond the pale of Protestantism. Many in Ireland will regard his views with puzzlement, and perhaps not a little concern. So will many historians.

We need to appreciate that the sixteenth-century Reformation was a complex phenomenon. There was no single Protestant ‘template’. Rather, a variety of reforming movements emerged during the sixteenth century, whose specific forms were shaped by local politics and personalities, as much as by the broader commitment to a recognizably Protestant agenda. The forms of Protestantism which emerged in the great imperial cities (such as Strasbourg), territories (such as Saxony) and nations (such as England or Sweden) had their own distinct characteristics. Some, for example, retained the episcopacy and a fixed liturgy; others discarded one or both. Yet each represented a local implementation of the Protestant agenda.

Historians generally consider that one of the most remarkable and influential forms of Protestantism emerged in England, and has come to be known as ‘Anglicanism’. Reformers in the reign of Henry VIII did not refer to themselves as ‘Protestants’, partly because this was seen to have foreign associations at the time. (Henry VIII, it will be recalled, disliked foreigners having influence over English affairs.) Yet from the reign of Edward VI onwards, English Church leaders began to use this term to refer to themselves, and see themselves as being connected with the great reforming movements and individuals on the continent of Europe. Keep reading

Ed Stetzer: 3 More Questions Local District Leaders Should Ask About Church Planting

How can district-level denominational leaders be engaged in church planting?

Previously, I gave you three questions the denominational or network leaders who works most closely to the churches should be asking. Technically, those are often called mid-level judicatories (districts, associations, regions, conferences, etc.), though it depends on the polity of the denomination. Regardless of the term, these are key positions.

Mid-level judicatories are, and perhaps this is too honest, seen as the least engaged in mission in most denominations. They are often more focused on pastoral care—as in caring for the pastors—than pressing forward in the mission. That's not always true, and I can give some great counterexamples, but they are often not as involved in mission aspects, including church planting.

Yet, I think that they should indeed be involved in church planting. Actually, church planting happens best when it involves local partnerships. Furthermore, I've seen many districts do that very thing, becoming powerhouses of church planting and mission. To do that, they need to ask the right questions to make church planting a priority on the local level.

As such, I have three more questions that should be considered by these leaders when there is talk of planting a church within their association, district, or whatever it may be called in their denomination. Keep reading

Kevin Ezell: By all possible means

When the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9 about being all things to all people so that, "by all possible means," he might win a few for the sake of the Gospel, he wasn't talking about changing or watering down the message of Jesus but about presenting it in a way that everyone could understand and relate to.

That is the approach we must use as we plant evangelistic churches across North America -- especially in those areas where Southern Baptists have such a small presence. No single church can reach every type of person, so we need all kinds of Christ-centered churches that will proclaim the truth in their communities in a way people can hear and embrace.

With the North American Mission Board's Send North America strategy, we are working toward helping Southern Baptists start 15,000 new churches over 10 years. We are especially focusing those efforts on our large cities where SBC church-to-population ratios have fallen to very low levels in the last 50 years.

But another important part of our strategy is to be sure we are starting churches where people feel at home. That might be a little different for others than it is for you and me. Again, there is no changing or compromising of the Gospel message, but a recognition that God created all of us uniquely.

This is so critical to our mission as Southern Baptists and it is why NAMB is in the process of bringing on board three new national Church Planting Catalysts (CPCs) who will focus on starting churches for specific groups of people. Keep reading
What is your denomination or network doing along the lines of these three Catalysts? Anything? If not, why?

Young adults who abandon faith may have 'lukewarm' upbringing

The idea that young adults are abandoning their faith in droves may be widely accepted but isn't fully accurate. So says a Focus on the Family study that casts light on trends among young adults that may contradict doomsday predictions for the Christian faith.

The study, titled "Millennial Faith Participation and Retention," tracked the religious trends of Millennials (usually those born between 1980 and 2000) and found that only a fraction are leaving their childhood faith -- usually because they may not have had much of one to begin with.

The study utilizes data from the Pew research sources and the National Science Foundation's annual General Social Survey.

About a fifth (18 percent) of young adults raised in homes with any measure of religious influence are now unaffiliated with a specific faith, according to the Focus on the Family analysis. Sixty (60) percent of Millennials, meanwhile, categorize themselves as "keeping faith."

Of those who are unaffiliated, only 11 percent said they had a strong faith as a child and lived in a home where a vibrant faith was practiced and taught. In other words, the vast majority of young adults leaving Christianity never had a strong faith to start with. Keep reading

Blessing Same Sex Relationships in the Church of England?

Piling - What Will Happen

I have now confirmed from a number of sources what the Pilling Report is going to recommend. The final draft is ready and it will propose that the Church of England introduce some form of liturgy that will bless same-sex relationships. There is absolutely no doubt that this is what the outcome of the committee’s deliberations will be – This is not spin, it is not trying to influence the outcome, it is the real deal. Whilst the committee will not recommend adapting our services of Holy Matrimony to include same-sex marriages, I am led to understand that it will propose a formal rite that will provide an alternative for those in a formal same-sex union (Civil Partnership or Marriage) on the basis that we cannot presume such a relationship is sexual. Once that happens we will have formally declared same-sex unions to be holy. In the Church of England our liturgy is our doctrine and the moment we have a rite that in any way affirms same-sex relationships then we will have fundamentally changed what we believe.

This means that the Church of England is at a cross-roads. For the first time ever we will call that which is evil holy. We will bless sin. There are no two ways about it – we are at a defining moment for the Christian witness in this country. It is not like other key decisions in the past. On divorce there have always been reasons to validate a separation of two people where adultery or abuse has occurred. On women’s ministry we have always recognised God’s call on women and the Bible has clear examples from Deborah to Phoebe and Priscilla (and not forgetting Mary) of those called to serve, to prophecy, to proclaim the truth. The argument has not been about whether God calls women but in what capacity.

But on sexual behaviour the case is clear. The Bible unambiguously and unreservedly reserves sexual expression for within the marriage of a man and a woman, rooting its importance not just in the personal relationship between the two involved and its procreative outcome, but also the way in which it is a real physical icon of the spiritual union between Christ and his Church. There is no ambiguity on this, no reservation, no disagreement amongst all the main Christian denominations, Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox. It has been the universal witness of the Church down the years and it remains so today. So we are faced with the situation of the Church of England House of Bishops choosing to authorise liturgy to bless that which is sinful. It is a defining moment, a point of reckoning. It is the junction at which we contemplate the possibility that the Church that sent missionaries around the world, that evangelised peoples and nations and tongues, that had its leading lights martyred in every century for preaching grace and holiness, that same Church now blaspheming the Holy Spirit, calling that which is evil, holy. It is almost inconceivable,and yet here we are. Keep reading

Also see
Perth: Archbishop rejects same-sex recognition

Beleaguered Syrian Christians fear future

Sami Amir is used to the deep echoing rumble of the Syrian army artillery pounding rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus. It's the thump of mortars launched from an Islamist-controlled neighborhood that scares him to death.

The mortars have repeatedly hit in his mainly Christian district of Damascus, al-Qassaa, reportedly killing at least 32 people and injuring dozens of others the past two weeks.

"You don't know when and you don't know where they hit," says Amir, a 55-year-old Christian merchant. "Life here is often too difficult."

Rebel shelling into the capital has increasingly hit several majority-Christian districts, particularly al-Qassaa, with its wide avenues, middle class apartment blocks, leafy parks, popular restaurants and shopping streets busy with pedestrians.

The shelling and recent rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears among Syria's religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad's rule. Christians believe they are being targeted — in part because of the anti-Christian sentiment among extremists and in part as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad.

Though some Christians oppose Assad's brutal crackdown on the opposition and the community has tried to stay on the sidelines in the civil war, the rebellion's increasingly outspoken Islamist rhetoric and the prominent role of Islamic extremist fighters have pushed them toward support of the government. Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria's 23 million people. Keep reading

Also see
One third of Syrian Christians have gone, says cleric
UN confirms 10 polio cases in northeast Syria
Chemical weapons inspectors in Syria miss deadline

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Nairobi Conference and Its Impact on the Anglican Church in North America

By Robin G. Jordan

Once the euphoria that typically accompanies a gathering like the Nairobi Conference dissipates and the hoopla fades, what can we expect to see happen in North America as a result of this historic meeting? Presumably Archbishop Bob Duncan and the bishops in the ACNA delegation to the Nairobi Conference signed the Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment. They committed themselves—at least on paper—to the priorities and commitments outlined in the document.

Will they call for the revision of the ACNA constitution to bring it into line with the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration and for the subsequent revision of the ACNA canons to purge them of any doctrine at odds with the doctrine of the Anglican formularies and the teaching of the Bible? Will they call for the further revision of the ACNA ordinal and the ACNA eucharistic rites to ensure that they actually embody the Anglican formularies' doctrine and the Bible's teaching?

As I have pointed out in a number of previous articles, the affirmation of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration in the preamble of the ACNA constitution is purely incidental and is not in any way binding upon the Anglican Church in North America. In its Fundamental Declarations the Anglican Church in North America equivocates in its acceptance of the authority of the Anglican formularies. Stated or implicit in the ACNA canons, the ACNA “theological lens,” the ACNA ordinal, and the ACNA eucharistic rites is doctrine that conflicts with the doctrine of the Anglican formularies and the teaching of the Bible.

Will they call for the establishment of a special task force to prepare a theological statement in which is clearly articulated the gospel as articulated in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the New Testament? Will they also call for the adoption of a provision in the ACNA canons requiring all preachers and teachers in the ACNA, clergy and lay, with no exceptions, to conform to this official statement of the gospel in their preaching and teaching and to preach and teach nothing in conflict with it?

In all likelihoods they are not going to do anything. It will be business as usual in the Anglican Church in North America. Like TEC Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, when he returned from meeting with the Global South Primates, they will view their signing of the Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment as a mere formality that does not bind them to a particular course of action. They can be expected to put their own spin on the document.

For folks in the Anglican Church in North America opposed to the ordination of women, the Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment is a disappointment. The document states:
We affirm the ministries of women and their vital contribution to the life of the church: their call to the task of evangelism, discipling, and building strong marriages, families, churches and communities. GAFCON 2013 upholds the Bible's teaching that men and women are equally made in the image of God, called to be his people in the body of Christ, exercising different gifts. We recognize that we have differing views over the roles of men and women in church leadership.
I suspect that Archbishop Duncan expected this response from the Nairobi Conference to the opponents of women’s ordination in the Anglican Church in North America. For this reason he was willing to go along with the creation of a special task force to study the issue of women’s ordination and to make a presentation to GAFCON. He himself supports women’s ordination.

With the exception of the shift in focus of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans away from North America - from the United States and Canada - to the United Kingdom, the Nairobi Conference will have negligible impact on the Anglican Church in North America.

Photo: Wolfgang Mayerweiser

Also see
The Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment: How really serious is the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans?

Thom Rainer: Why Don’t More Churches Have a Strategy to Start New Groups?

Admittedly, I have not done a scientific study on how many churches in America intentionally start new groups. But my anecdotal observations are that only about one in 20 churches, or about 5 percent, have a semblance of new groups strategy in place. Those numbers are sad, because such a strategy can be used of God to revolutionize churches.

I don’t plan on this article being one and done on the subject. It’s too important. You will hear more in the near future. Keep reading

Resources + Ideas + Encouragement = Just what you need

You may have already heard that Matthias Media last week launched a major new initiative in providing online resources, ideas and encouragement for disciple-making. In this email, we want to focus in on what this new initiative means for home group leaders like you.
Or if you prefer, jump online and watch the video of our Publishing Director, Tony Payne, explaining what is all about. Keep reading

Book Review: Strange Fire

The issues raised in Strange Fire are intensely controversial, so I should lay my cards on the table. I have traveled a road in which I was a cessationist in my early years as believer. I then became a non-cessationist and taught accordingly for a number of years. Finally, in the mid 1990s I slowly returned to a cessationist position. I am sympathetic, then, to the case MacArthur makes for cessationism. The dangers and extremes he identifies in the charismatic movement are timely and should be heeded seriously.

Despite my fundamental exegetical and theological agreement with MacArthur, however, Strange Fire suffers from a focus on the extreme adherents of the charismatic movement. (I did wonder, incidentally, whether Joel Osteen should be labeled a charismatic, for one can be a prosperity preacher without being charismatic.) MacArthur says early in the book he doesn’t distinguish between the three waves of the charismatic movement, but this failure to make distinctions is problematic. He claims the extremes and abuses characterize the movement. But who really knows what the numbers are? Certainly, there are extremes in the movement, and obviously many who have gone astray. But many charismatics reject the likes of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland.

Despite qualifications here and there, one could get the impression MacArthur thinks almost all charismatics dishonor the Holy Spirit and are opposed to God. Certainly that is true of false teachers like Benny Hinn, but there are also many charismatics who repudiate the teaching and practices of people like Hinn, and hence the rhetoric of the book should be modified. MacArthur seems to acknowledge as much in his open letter to continuationists who have sound theology, though he believes they are a very small minority. Nevertheless, the clarion call of warning should be modified with clearer and more forthright admissions that many charismatics adhere to the gospel and are faithful to God’s Word. Keep reading

Book Review: Bob Fu Is Alive and Thriving

The exiled Chinese Christian’s autobiography gives hope for all who suffer persecution for their faith.

Bob Fu is probably the world's best-known Chinese Christian. He lives in exile in Midland, Texas, where he runs the nonprofit organization ChinaAid, which supports human rights in his homeland. ChinaAid has been successful in extracting persecuted Christian leaders and political dissidents from China to safety in the West. In his autobiography, God's Double Agent: The True Story of a Chinese Christian's Fight for Freedom, Mr. Fu recounts the inspiring story of his personal spiritual journey, his persecution in China, and his escape to the U.S.

One of the epigraphs to God's Double Agent comes from the late Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong's last wife and one of the radical Chinese Communist leaders known as the Gang of Four, whose brutal policies created enormous suffering during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. In Jiang's words, "Christianity in China has been confined to the history section of the museum. It is dead and buried."

Jiang, who committed suicide in 1991, did not live to see how wrong her pronouncement turned out to be. A remarkable fact of life in China in recent years is the explosive growth of Christianity. The number of Christians in China is estimated at between 100 million and 130 million. Which brings us to another astonishing fact: There are more Christians in China today than there are members of the Communist Party, whose rolls number about 82 million. Keep reading

Northern Iraq no longer safe for Christians

An increase in violence against Christians in northern Iraq has increased the flow of Christians leaving the country.

The north, generally considered a relatively safe area of the country, had become home for many Christians fleeing from the tumultuous central and southern regions.

However, several bombings in the north in recent months have caused panic among the Christian community. Keep reading

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: October 26, 2013

In this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

The Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment: How really serious is the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans?

By Robin G. Jordan

The Nairobi Communiqué contains an unqualified endorsement of the Anglican Church in North America:
The GFCA has been instrumental in the emergence of the new Province of the Anglican Church in North America, giving formal recognition to its orders and welcoming it as a full partner province, with its Archbishop having a seat on the Primates’ Council.
At the same time the communiqué contains this statement:
The fellowship we enjoy as Christians is distinguished from all other associations by the fact that it is at its heart a common ‘fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3). For this reason it has a particular character. It involves repentance and ‘walking in the light, as he is in the light’ (1 John 1:7–9). The character and boundaries of our fellowship are not determined by institutions but by the Word of God. The church is a place where the truth matters, where it is guarded and promoted and where alternatives are exposed for what they are — an exchange of the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25). Our willingness to submit to the written Word of God and our unwillingness to be in Christian fellowship with those who will not, is clearly expressed in The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. This means that the divisions in the Anglican Communion will not be healed without a change of heart from those promoting the false gospel, and to that end we pray.
The “false gospel” to which this statement refers is identified earlier in the communiqué:
In 2008, the first GAFCON was convened in order to counter a false gospel which was spreading throughout the Communion. This false gospel questioned the uniqueness of Christ and his substitutionary death, despite the Bible’s clear revelation that he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). It undermined the authority of God’s Word written. It sought to mask sinful behaviour with the language of human rights. It promoted homosexual practice as consistent with holiness, despite the fact that the Bible clearly identifies it as sinful.
The communiqué lists three priorities. The third priority is:
Guarding the gospel. We shall continue publicly to expose any false gospel that is not consistent with apostolic teaching and clearly to articulate the gospel in the church and in the world.
Those who signed the communiqué committed themselves and the ecclesial bodies that they lead to publicly exposing “any false gospel” inconsistent with apostolic teaching and clearly articulating the gospel in the church and the world.

The Nairobi Communiqué also lists nine commitments—the Nairobi Commitment. The first, fourth, and fifth commitments are particularly important, as is the commitment to the authority of the Word:
We are committed to Jesus Christ as the head of the Church, the authority of his Word and the power of his gospel. The Son perfectly reveals God to us, he is the sole ground of our salvation, and he is our hope for the future. We seek to honour him, walk in faith and obedience to his teaching, and glorify him through our proclamation of his name.

Therefore, in the power of the Holy Spirit —

1. We commit ourselves anew to The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration.

4. We commit ourselves to defend essential truths of the biblical faith even when this defence threatens existing structures of human authority (Acts 5:29). For this reason, the bishops at GAFCON 2013 resolved ‘to affirm and endorse the position of the Primates’ Council in providing oversight in cases where provinces and dioceses compromise biblical faith, including the affirmation of a duly discerned call to ministry. This may involve ordination and consecration if the situation requires.

5. We commit ourselves to the support and defence of those who in standing for apostolic truth are marginalized or excluded from formal communion with other Anglicans in their dioceses….
If indeed the foregoing are priorities and commitments of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, how then can the GFCA in its communiqué be unqualified in its endorsement of the Anglican Church in North America, an ecclesial body in which—

(1) the authority of church tradition in some quarters is given as much weight as that of the Scriptures, if not greater weight than the Bible’s authority; and

(2) a false gospel is preached and taught—a gospel of salvation by good works and sacraments?

The constitution of the Anglican Church in North America also relegates its affirmation of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration to its preamble where it is simply a part of the narrative explaining the formation of the ACNA. The ACNA’s Fundamental Declarations adopts language that equivocates in fully accepting the authority of the historic Anglican formularies. The theology of the new ACNA eucharistic rites and the revised ACNA ordinal is at odds with the doctrine of the formularies and the teaching of the Bible.

North American Anglicans in the Anglican Church in North America can be expected to make a great deal of the communiqué’s endorsement of the ACNA. On the other hand, they can also be expected to pay little or no heed to the priorities and commitments articulated in the Nairobi Communiqué, particularly those to which I have drawn attention in this article.

As long as the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is unqualified in its endorsement of the Anglican Church in North America, conservative evangelicals, despite the tone of the Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment, would be wise to view the GFCA as not being really serious about guarding the gospel . The GFCA has yet to put its own house in order.

Burk Parsons: The Glorious Doctrine of Irresistible Grace

Those who proclaim the gospel preach in a graveyard. Lazarus cannot obey Christ’s command until he is given new life, and this is something only God can do (John 11:1-44). When Lazarus is given new life, he immediately responds and exits the tomb. In the same way, the spiritually dead sinner cannot respond to the gospel until he is given new life through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Once he is regenerated, however, he immediately responds, placing his faith in Jesus. He is then justified by God. Keep reading
An excerpt from John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology by Burk Parsons. Download the digital edition free through October 31, 2013.

Ed Stetzer: The Third Wave: The Continualist Movement Continues

John Wimbar
What is the Third Wave Charismatic Movement?

I've been blogging through some history of my brothers and sisters in Christ in the continualist movement, particularly focusing on Pentecostal, charismatic, and Third Wave expressions, over the last week.

It's been encouraging to see many speak about continualist believers in winsome ways in the last few days. It appears that the end result of recent conversations is that evangelicals appear to want to understand the continualist movement, not caricature it, and that's encouraging. I hope my series can be a small help in that.

As I near the end of my series on continualism, I want to highlight classical Pentecostalism's doctrine of subsequence and briefly identify the three waves of the continualist movement. Then, I'll deal with a few key elements of the Third Wave Movement. Keep reading

Also read
Ed Stetzer: Continualist Christians: An Overview
Ed Stetzer: Understanding the Charismatic Movement

Strange Fire Conference Fallout: Let's Not Devour One Another

How do we expose error without dividing the Body? How do we hold to our convictions while honoring those who differ with us? In the aftermath of the Strange Fire conference, these are questions we cannot ignore.

Paul issued this strong warning to the Galatians: "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another" (Gal 5:14-15).

Here are five important principles to follow if we want to avoid unnecessary casualties. Keep reading

Also see
Excerpts From John MacArthur's 'Strange Fire' Book Suggest Flames of Controversy Over Charismatic Mov't to Still Burn