CANA East teaching on the Reformation—imagine!

CANA East has a synod coming up. Bishop Julian Dobbs writes:

2017 is the 500th anniversary of The Reformation, therefore I have called our Synod, “Reformation 500 – Synod 2017.”

We are thrilled this year to have Archbishop Foley Beach (Archbishop of ACNA) and The Rev. Dr. Less Gatiss (Director of Church Society, UK) as our guest speakers.  I believe that Archbishop Beach and Dr. Gatiss are two very significant leaders within the Anglican Church in this generation.

I have asked our speakers to address the five solas of The Reformation:

* Sola Fide, by faith alone.
* Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
* Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
* Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
* Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

It is very encouraging to see activity within ACNA that actively promotes the type of Anglicanism that Cranmer, Latimer and so many others would be familiar with, rather than a watered-down version of the same.

CANA on issues in the Anglican Communion

CANA

In the run up to the Primates “gathering” that Archbishop Welby called, there have been several interesting statements coming from the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) and its American branch, CANA. The Church of Nigeria Standing Committee says:

While the Anglican Communion continues to be impaired by revisionist theologies of some Anglican Provinces, the Standing Committee calls the leadership of the Anglican Communion to repentance and renewed faith in Christ as expressed in the bible, the articles of religion and the Jerusalem Declaration, and further reaffirms our commitment on these as the basis of our relationship with other parts of the communion.

CANA Bishop Julian Dobbs writes:

Many in the Anglican Church are calling for unity. The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev. Justin Welby said in a radio broadcast that “… no sacrifice is too great to be obedient to the call of Christ that we may be one.”

Being ‘one’ is much more serious than looking the same or sharing the same title or history. The prayer of Jesus is first and foremost a prayer for historical and doctrinal continuity with the apostles. Truth and doctrine matter if unity is to be more than some lowest common denominator. In John chapter 17 there is a plea on the Lord’s lips for historical and doctrinal continuity between the apostles and the post-apostolic church, between the church of the first century and the church of all subsequent centuries right down to our own day. A biblical unified Church has nothing to do with vestments, preferments, or denominations – but has everything to do with a unity that is built on the foundation of the apostles with Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

CANA priest Henry Jansma writes:

“…North American Anglicanism rushes toward “mainline” legitimacy rather than pausing to consider its consequences for future generations.”

CANA priest Matt Kennedy writes:

Either way, Archbishop Welby has won. Had the Gafcon primates agreed to stay home, they could have upheld their earlier demands and remained obedient to the biblical mandate for dealing with heretics. There may have been some rifts with moderate conservative primates who attend the meeting, but these would be easily healed just as they were when so many bishops refused to attend Lambeth 2008.

This is a horrible deal playing on naive hopes and it will only serve to provide more “conversation”, “reconciliation” and a press coup for Canterbury. The real danger is that there may be offered some enticing inducement to a kind of limited communion with Canterbury for the ACNA without any discipline for TEC. At which point, if accepted, the ACNA would dissolve.

Is there outside pressure on PEARUSA, AMiA, and CANA to end formal African ties?

The story we are being told about PEARUSA being released by the Rwandan Anglican Church is that this action originated from Rwanda, where the bishops decided it was suddenly time to do this. Some said this decision was made solely by the Rwandan House of Bishops because the PEAR bishops believe that ACNA is a legitimate Anglican Province, so the need for a PEAR missionary district in the United States is no longer necessary and constitutes bad ecclesiology. But why now? Why not three years ago or ten years in the future? 

I am told that this is not the whole story, but rather that both PEARUSA and the AMiA were essentially given an ultimatum (or were pressured) by ACNA to either get fully in or out, and to make the decision now. If true, this makes much more sense of the awkward timing that took place around these events. We can surmise that when Archbishop Beach and Bishop John Guernsey travelled to Rwanda in March to meet all the PEARUSA bishops along with the Rwandan bishops and went on retreat in Musanze, the timing of these events was agreed on.

Archbishop Beach with Bishop Breedlove shortly after the announcement that PEARUSA would come to an end.
Archbishop Beach with Bishop Breedlove shortly after the announcement that PEARUSA would come to an end.

But this is not all, I am also hearing that a great deal of pressure is being applied to CANA to cut ties with Nigeria. Apparently ACNA officials and other bishops are applying this pressure to CANA. The speculation is that non-GAFCON conservative Global South primates are behind this effort to remove the ties to African provinces. What is the reason for this push? One person familiar with these events suggested that an end to formal African oversight would give Global South primates more freedom to compromise with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the upcoming Lambeth meeting, because an end to border crossing would make ACNA more acceptable to Canterbury.

Archbishop Okoh speaking to CANA.
Archbishop Okoh speaking to CANA.

CANA Affirms Classical Anglicanism

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At the recent Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) East Synod, CANA East affirmed the classical Anglican formularies as the following press release tells us:

Today The Missionary Diocese of Cana East voted to to amend the its Constitution and Fundamental Declarations with the following, “The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (published in 1571) in all and every Article therein contained, the Book of Common Prayer (the versions of 1662), and The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, annexed to The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 commonly known as the Ordinal, the texts being read according to their plain and historical sense and being accepted as faithful expressions of the teaching of Scripture, provides the standard for Anglican theology and practice and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Missionary Diocese of CANA East.” It must be pass again next year to be added to its constitution.

Under Bishop Julian Dobbs, CANA has been consistently moving towards a more classical Anglican stance theologically. This positions CANA as a potential bulwark of classical Anglicanism in years ahead as various sectors of ACNA veer off in other directions. I think it is an encouraging development.

Anglocostalism in Nigeria

The Rev. Jesse Zink (Episcopalian) has written a paper about Anglicans in Nigeria, (here). His paper shows a fusion of Anglican and Pentecostal beliefs. For example:

Rather than persist in their opposition, some Anglican leaders began to embrace the new religious practices. Kailing noticed this in the early 1990s. A revival in the Niger Delta Diocese was held and ‘posters promoting the program, promising miracles of healing and deliverance, were indistinguishable from the innumerable pentecostal evangelical posters which dot the city throughout the year’. At the event, when the bishop began to speak ‘virtually everything he said could have come from a pentecostal evangelical primer’.The chancellor of the diocese, a respected judge, spoke and began by saying, ‘I was born an Anglican, but now I am an Anglican pentecostal!’ This single event is indicative of a broader trend of profound changes worth examining in detail. The factors associated with Pentecostalism – worship, a gospel of prosperity, an awareness of the supernatural world, a tendency to dismiss other Christians, and a unique weight given to the Bible – have all, to one degree or another, worked their way into the character of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

The archdeacon quoted at the beginning of this paper 1)‘If the Pentecostals are singing and dancing around, let us do that too. Let the pastor jump around. Let us change the liturgy.’ is a good example of the change in worship styles, in his willingness to set aside a liturgical heritage to embrace new charismatic practices. Indeed, worship services in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have become charismatic and free-flowing. At one service of evening prayer I attended, the open intercessions included two participants speaking in tongues. When that concluded, the congregation recited the Apostles’ Creed together. At a separate service, a bishop of a major eastern diocese told the congregation that ‘our services are lively. The spirit is in our liturgy and that gives us power.’ Few Anglican bishops of the 1970s or 1980s would have thought a ‘lively’ service a good thing. The liveliness is, in part, attributable to new music. Mainline congregations have begun to use music generated by the neo-Pentecostals. The use of drums and dancing has also gradually spread into churches. Although the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has recently adopted a new prayer book, its text does not seem to be widely adhered to. In one service I attended, the invitation to confession – one sentence in the prayer book – took nearly ten minutes, as the worship leader reminded the congregation of God’s forgiveness and the importance of repentance, citing examples from Scripture and his own life. I asked an archdeacon in an eastern diocese if he used the set prayers in his church. ‘Not very much’, he responded. ‘Mostly we use extemporaneous prayers. But,’ he quickly added, ‘it is still within the ambit of Anglicanism’. (It is unclear whom or what he thought set the parameters of this ‘ambit’.) While the prayer book is still a part of the church, these examples show the way in which it can be submerged in contemporary worship practices.

Zink says that the Prosperity Gospel is deeply embedded in Nigerian Anglicanism. 

The prosperity gospel of neo-Pentecostals has – as the bishop quoted at the beginning of the paper noted – begun to exercise an increasing influence over Anglican preachers. In one eastern diocese, the same bishop who noted the ‘lively’ services preached an hour-long sermon, the first half of which was on the opening verses of the book of Joshua, in which God reaffirms the gift of the Promised Land. The bishop referenced the death of Moses, with which the passage begins:

Your past represents the Biblical Moses. This morning I see little Joshuas sitting in this congregation, thinking about the challenges they will face in the future. Is anyone here a Joshua? God knows there are challenges ahead of you. That is why he is making you a Joshua. Today, heaven is laying a hand on you to do wonders in your life and family. Someone will arise this morning. There is a family that has been living in crisis that will come out of that crisis this morning.

Citing problems like a lack of money and sickness, he continued, ‘Somebody is going to cross over this morning. You will go over that Jordan. Your future will be greater than your past. As from today, anywhere you put the sole of your feet, he will give it to youy. Jesus is calling you with more power than he called Joshua.’ The sermon was greeted with enthusiastic ‘amens’ and ‘hallelujahs’ from the congregation. (A later section of the sermon, on the importance of unity within church congregations, failed to generate any such response.) Nor was this the only such sermon. In a northern diocese, a priest preached on a portion of Lk. 6.38, ‘give and it will be given you’, with no mention of any of the context of the passage. His message was simple: ‘He has promised you as an individual that you will overflow.’ At another service, when it came time for the offering, the pastor announced ‘Offering time!’ and the people responded as one, ‘Blessing time!’

Given the continued ACNA ties to Nigeria via GAFCON and CANA, American Anglicans would do well to educate themselves on what their Church partners believe. The Church in Nigeria is a suffering Church, under assault from Islam, but how much do we know about it beyond that?

References   [ + ]

1. ‘If the Pentecostals are singing and dancing around, let us do that too. Let the pastor jump around. Let us change the liturgy.’

Bishop Dobbs Sends an Open Letter to President Obama on Syria

It is encouraging to see at least one Bishop with the courage to stand up publicly and have a spine:

Open Letter to the President
of the United States

August 28, 2013

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,
As your administration determines a response to the serious and deteriorating situation in Syria, I urge you to consider the consequences for the Christian minorities across the country of any military action initiated by the United States and her allies.
Christians make up about 10% of Syria’s population, yet they are particularly vulnerable and have become targets of religious cleansing by forces who are determined to establish sharia law. Islamist militant groups, including Al Qaeda, have become increasingly prominent and now control some parts of the country, endangering the Christian residents in those areas.
Already rebel forces have destroyed numerous churches, and many thousands of Christians and other minorities are displaced within Syria or have fled their homeland altogether and are now living in very difficult circumstances in refugee camps in neighboring countries.
In one of the latest incidents, at least 15 Christians were killed in a murderous attack near Ein al-Ajouz in Wadi al Nasara (“Valley of the Christians”) in the early hours of Saturday August 17, 2013. Armed militants first killed soldiers at a checkpoint before going on a shooting rampage, targeting innocent Christian civilians.
Military action that results in the demise of President Assad’s forces would almost certainly allow a strengthened Al Qaeda presence in Syria that would result in significant and increased persecution of Syrian Christians. This is the situation in southern Libya, where the void created by the demise of the Libyan military has emboldened Al Qaeda’s operation in the region.
One of the grave consequences of military action initiated by the United States in Iraq was the destruction of the Iraqi Christian community. Over 3.5 million Iraqis were forced from their homes after the conflict. Christians, who made up only 3-4% of the population of Iraq, account for nearly a quarter of the refugee population.
What guarantees of security and religious freedom can you and your administration give to the already suffering Christian community in Syria if a military intervention is initiated by the United States? And how can you be certain that the recent history of Libya and Iraq will not repeat itself once again and cause indefensible and unpardonable suffering to Syria’s vulnerable Christians and other minorities?
The United States and her allies may use the Responsibility to Protect rationale to justify military action in Syria. But they should not use this selectively, and ignore the unintended consequences of their actions on the Christian minority which, unlike other minorities in Syria, is largely defenseless. Furthermore the Christians will also be at greater risk than other minorities in the aftermath of a US strike on their country; this is because Christian minorities are perceived as allies of the West due to their Christian faith and are therefore the traditional scapegoats on which Muslim extremists vent their wrath against the West.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev’d Julian M. Dobbs, Bishop
The Missionary Diocese of CANA East

Bishop Dobbs: Why Am I an Anglican?

Bishop and Jedi Knight Julian Dobbs has written a good short summary of why he is Anglican here. An excerpt:

The Anglican Church provides a place of worship—common prayer for all people. One of the greatest strengths of the Anglican Church is the rich tradition of liturgical worship, which provides an opportunity for all people to connect with the Living God through prayer, sacrament, the public reading of the Bible, teaching, the creeds of the church, song and dance. The Anglican Church recognizes the primacy and centrality of the Bible and is enriched by reason and tradition. Reason and tradition must always be subservient to the Bible, however they help us understand and comprehend the word of God and the function of the church.

Moving Forward Together – Day 2

The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved. The Lord is great in Zion; and he is high above all the people. Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy. Psalm 99.1-2

I am generally allergic to overly sentimental and pious language as it is typically deployed in the Church. However, today was a real mountaintop day for me in many ways, and it engaged my emotions as well as my mind.
Before I describe the events of the day, let me summarize what I see as the mood down here in Raleigh, at least from my limited perspective. First, it is humble. There is not a spirit of boasting or exulting in the situation. Rather, there is a sense of the seriousness of the hour we find ourselves in and a sense of our own brokenness. Second, there is a sense of unity despite our many and very real differences. That unity is exemplified in the worship of our Triune God every day, where we are all equally united in praise of God. This in no way minimizes the difficulties of relating to folks who hold very different positions on key issues, but it does show that we can agree on the essential function of worshiping God and finding a way forward. Third, there is a a sense of gratitude to our Rwandan brothers, Archbishop Duncan and CANA for standing so visibly by our sides during this moment of trial. There is no doubt that we are one body, whatever our earthly jurisdictions are. On to today:
We began with Morning Prayer and a sermon from Bishop Louis Muvunyi of Kigali. Bishop Muvunyi preached on wearing the whole armor of God. His sermon was expository and emphasized the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in. He said that Paul could have blamed Nero, Herod or the Jews for his troubles, but instead he pointed out the spiritual enemy. He encouraged us to keep preaching and keep planting churches. He said that we need prayer warriors who will pray for church leaders.
After a short break, CANA Bishop Julian Dobbs spoke on the theme “Come, Let us Arise and Build” from Nehemiah. This sermon ministered to me and many others in a most powerful way. The unction and annointing of the Spirit was upon Bishop Dobbs and I was ready to run out and plant three or four churches at the end of his sermon. Further, we have decided that he should be the next Archbishop of GAFCON, Canterbury, and possibly the Pope for good measure! Just kidding of course, but his Anglicanism is one that we can fully support.
Bishop Dobbs pointed out several paralells from the story of Nehemiah to the current situation in North American Anglicanism. Nehemiah dealt with false accusations, parties and misappropriated funds. Dobbs honored the Rwandans, saying “my brothers, thank you.” He also frequently broke into other languages, seemingly knowing three or four with some ability. He presented six insights for the task of rebuilding:
1. A confident commitment to Biblical truth. Jude 3 tells us to contend for the faith, this implies a struggle. When doctrine goes bad, so do hearts and minds. We submit to the Bible, period. This is the faith for which our martyrs died. Not everyone will like the gospel message, show me in the Scriptures where they are supposed to, said Dobbs. ACNA should re-read and re-appropriate the Gospel. Dobbs mentioned the Jerusalem Declaration and the Prayer Book and said they contain the same gospel. GAFCON has given these things as a gift to America.
2. A determined commitment to evangelicalism. This means regularly, personally sharing the Gospel. Not the occasional mention to the guy at your gulf club, but something regular. Lord have mercy on me, this was a cause for great self-examination and grief. Dobbs said, “Let’s get busy.” His call was a call to action.
3. A radical investment in church planting.
4. A conduit for new leaders. We need bi-vocational ministers. We must offer ourselves for Gospel service, not someone else. What about you, he asked. Have you considered entering the ministry, planting churches and serving. Why not? Again, this was the type of direct preaching that comes down from on high, and I was very moved to at least reflect on what God would have me do.
5. This is an Anglican moment. Bishop Dobbs firmly believes that we are in a situation akin to Nehemiah’s and that is may not come again for a long time. Moses discovered that not everyone who departed with him from Egypt was fit to obey the commandments of God and enter the Promised Land. What unites us as Anglicans is a vision of a global Christianity. We need the Africans to remain in relationship with us.
6. A dedicated and determined discipleship. A life of dedicated sacrifice. Leave the palaces behind. Israel quickly looked back to Egypt when they had been delivered, how many of us miss the buildings and the pension plans, Dobbs asked.
This post has gone on long enough. I highly encourage you to listen to Bishop Dobbs’ presentation when it becomes available and to prayerfully consider his exhortations. Thank you Lord for sending him to us today and may we heed your call through him.

Thoughts on the CANA Property Situation

From the beginning, I have believed that it was a mistake for the CANA churches to defend their property. Having said that, I think it is outrageous, sickening and yet entirely predictable that this ruling has come down. As Van Til taught, we do not live in a world of neutrality. I don’t know anything about the judges in this case, but I do know that ‘the system’ is not neutral. There is a natural presumption against Christ and his Church.
I have believed from the first that CANA should have turned the keys over and walked away, starting new parishes down the street and saving their money to maybe buy these buildings back someday. Instead, they have spent a fortune defending these buildings. I have been to Truro several times and it is a gorgeous old place. To see it transformed into a mosque or something in the future is detestable.
We live in a time where God seems to be killing old structures and resurrecting them in new configurations. The Protestantism of the past is essentially dead. James Jordan puts it this way:

As I maintained in Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future, the Protestant age is coming to an end. That means that the Reformed faith and Presbyterianism are also coming to an end. The paradigm is exhausted, and the world in which it was worked out no longer exists. We must take all the great gains of the Calvinistic heritage and apply them with an open Bible to the new world in which we are now living. We must be aware that there is far more in the Bible than the Reformation dealt with, and that many of our problems today are addressed by those hitherto unnoticed or undeveloped aspects of the Bible. Those who want to bang the drum for a 450-year old tradition are dooming themselves to irrelevance. Our only concern is to avoid being beat up by them as they thrash about in their death-throes.

We are seeing this before our eyes in the Anglican Communion. Indeed, God in his providence is bringing to pass events this week that are reshaping the lay of the land. I believe that this month marks the end of the first act of the reconfiguration of Anglicanism. AMiA is it was will cease to exist, the Rwandan Mission will go in a new direction and these historic CANA parishes will be forced to do something new.
It isn’t easy to move on from the past. Those buildings represent the work of God in history and they were places for the proclamation of the Gospel for centuries. Our evil age has caught up with them and now congregations may be forced to move on. Bishop Guernsey put it like this: “Our trust is in the Lord who is ever faithful. He is in control and He will enable you to carry forward your mission for the glory of Jesus Christ and the extension of His Kingdom.”
This month is the opening of Act Two in the reconfiguration. The way forward is being sketched out and it looks like what the earlier advance of the Church looked like: a Bible saturated, liturgically faithful, missionary effort to baptize the nations into the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.