Cads “R” Us

Judging from Newt Gingrich’s debate performance last night, “the media” must have approached his wife about having an open marriage back in the Nineties. The media also must have divorced twice and had at least one affair. I say this because Newt did not take any responsibility for a story coming directly from the mouth of his ex-wife, but rather blamed “the media.” And a room full of gullible plebeians roared their approval for this bombastic tripe. Once again, the actions do not get blamed, but rather those who expose the actions.

This is the man who led one wing of the “family values” party back in the Nineties. A man who attempted to impeach another philandering con artist who sat in the Oval Office for lying about his own “inappropriate intimate contact.” He may be a forgiven man, although I would bet that he is now lying about what he asked his former wife. However, if he is truly penitent I think he would want to fade away, serve somewhere insignificant and out of sight. Instead, we see him back at center stage, inflicting himself on the nation again.

And Republicans who blithely support men like Newt and Herman Cain cast doubt on the integrity of the entire Right. If it had been Bill Clinton up on stage wagging his finger at an anchor last night, the Right wing universe in bold array would have been in an uproar today, calling down wrath on him. Newt would probably be at the front of the line! However, if it’s one of “our” guys, well then let’s cheer him on as he attacks the media. What a farce! I hope that over time our better instincts kick in and he suffers the fate of Mark Sanford, Herman Cain and Larry Craig.

Ultimately, this same story of amoral leadership has dominated politics throughout my lifetime, from Gary Hart(pence) to Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich to John Edwards. Most of these men are social grafters who are obsessed with making money and moving up to ultimate positions of power and saying whatever it takes to get there. I’m starting to think that anyone who is upwardly mobile cannot be trusted in politics. The patricians like Romney and Bush Senior have the manners to avoid tawdry affairs like this. Moreover, Romney’s Mormonism more and more shows itself to be a compass of clarity for his personal morality – something that is tragic when you think about it. If Gingrich is the nominee, I will vote third party or stay home.

Takeaways from Moving Forward Together

One sign of an effective conference is that it challenges you to re-examine closely held assumptions. Moving Forward Together caused me to re-examine myself on several fronts. First, on the configuration of Anglicanism in North America. Bishop Julian Dobbs challenged the gathering not to duplicate the monolithic structures of the past, encouraging us to maintain our connections with Africa. He said in part:

Our risk, even at this very early stage of our development, is that as we establish this new expression of biblical missionary Anglicanism it becomes so much an expression of the former structures that it is very difficult to observe the difference between the past and the present.  Hierarchical structures, infighting, power struggles, committees, attorneys, insecurities, leaders who say one thing and do another while some take care to secure their own positions at the expense of others.

[…]

I want to prayerfully and carefully caution our new Anglican movement, let us not be complacent and reinvent the less effective structures of the past.  We must be constantly vigilant against an all-too-human temptation to feel that ‘the past was good enough;’ to live in the continual ‘afterglow’ of the great acts of God in past decades.  The constant, forward movement of God the Holy Spirit is ever dynamic. Relationships are new and different and this is to be celebrated.

I am humbled as a native born New Zealander and now a new American to serve as a bishop in the Church of Nigeria, [Anglican Communion] while serving as a bishop of the Anglican Church in North America by right of my standing as a Bishop in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America; a Suffragan to our Missionary Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns. These are unusual relationships, but they are kinship that strengthen our shared mission as Anglican Christians in the world who believe that Jesus still says ‘go and recognize our necessary and shared dependence upon Almighty God and the global Anglican family.’

In the past I have felt that CANA and the AMiA should end and fold into ACNA. Having observed the catastrophe of the last few months however, I now see the value in Bishop Dobbs’ admonition. We have made a mess of things in a few short years. So while I believe we can and must become an integral part of ACNA, I now think we should maintain these African connections for another decade or so. Bishop Dobbs is right: we don’t need a linear and defined structure at this moment of chaos.

Second, I was directly challenged about evangelism. To quote Bishop Julian again:

A determined dedication to evangelism is not an occasional chat about Christ with your buddy in local golf club or the brief mention of church with the local walking group.  We must be committed to a revolutionary dissemination and proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ across North America and, in fact across the globe. The Lausanne Covenant, a declaration agreed upon by more than 2300 evangelicals said evangelism is…“the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ, as savior and Lord with a view to persuading people to come to him personally, and so to be reconciled to God.”…It is indivisibly linked with Christian discipleship and it is one of the primary reasons why the church exists at all, and yet, and yet, the fact is the vast segments of the Church (perhaps even some of you here today) appear to be less than enthusiastic about regularly and faithfully declaring the Gospel which has been entrusted to us!  [When do you last share the Gospel message with someone at the grocery store, or your non church relatives and friends?]

Someone else asked me why we want to be linked with Rwanda? In my mind it has been because we need a connection to the Communion and we need to learn about suffering from them. But, this individual asked me, what about the East African Revivial? What about a passion for evangelism and expanding the Kingdom? Combining the old time religion message of Bishop Dobbs with the questions from this brother, I was clearly convicted that my “passion” for evangelism has been weighed and found wanting. The call to die to self and proclaim Christ has been missing in my life for some time and I thank God that the Assembly revived the call to take up the cross and follow.

Thirdly, I was confronted with the need to again examine myself in regards to potential call to the ministry. Bishop Dobbs said, “Each one of us must ask: What gift have we received?  Each one of us has received a gift, serve, serve like good stewards using those gifts and we must consider church planting as one of our highest priorities.”

He challenged us to ask ourselves if we are called to ministry and to church planting. I like to avoid this question and think about other things, but this short life is passing me by and will soon by over. Why not give yourself to something that will so clearly expand the Kingdom and fulfill the Great Commission? I along with all of us should reconsider the question of what God is calling us to do.

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 3, Notes and Asides

We celebrated Eucharist this morning and Bishop Thad Barnum spoke to us. He was impassioned as usual and very emotional. He discussed how even if our anger with others is justifiable, we need to confess it in order for God’s love to flow through us and avoid a root of bitterness.

Thad said that we did not come to Raleigh to start a new movement but to submit to our elders. He said that we are under authority, that is a part of being Anglican. Yes, it is the Quadrilateral, the sacraments and the episcopacy, but it is also submission to authority. He told a moving story of the bishop that he was ordained under, a liberal who tried to discourage him by assigning him a difficult chaplaincy. He wanted to lead an insurgency against this bishop, but his rector told him rather to submit to his authority. He did submit, and God used it to lead him to a place of humility. God worked through this horrible bishop to bring about a good result in Thad’s life. Thad’s emphasis was that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.

He said that we (the bishops) did not come to Raleigh with a plan to give to the Rwandans, but rather to be subject to them and to listen. In this, he pointed out one of the key themes of this conference: collegiality. There was clearly grief on Terrell and Thad’s part, and there was also great honor for our Rwandan bishops who have been so mistreated and dishonored.

When Bishop Rwaje closed the Assembly and issued the statement, he asked the new transitional leaders to come onstage. He then asked Daniel Adkinson from Anglican 1000 to pray for us. This was just another example of the spirit of cooperation at the Assembly, and a fitting end to our time there. The future is yet to take shape, but key values driving the months ahead are transparency, getting feedback from all involved parties, honoring each other and rebooting a humble, Biblical and missionary Anglicanism in North America.

Asides

It was good to meet the famous Robin Jordan at the Assembly! I was also able to say hello to Kevin Kallsen, the Tom Brokaw of Anglicanism.

Wendell Kimbrough led worship and did a first rate job. Congratulations to him and all the guys.

Moving Forward Together – Day 2 continued

Next came a panel discussion with all of the Rwandans and the two American bishops. Steve Breedlove moderated, took the questions and gave the respondents time to think on several subjects before responding.
The Opening questions consisted of asking about whether the bishops reconcile, what the new structure will be, and who the new leader will be. Also, the bishops were asked ‘What sins can you acknowledge?’
Archbishop Rwaje said (paraphrased), “I’m willing to make steps towards him (Murphy).” But he said that this meeting (Moving Forward) should involve the people in the room, not those absent. “Anyone here who has been wounded by me, come and talk to me and I am willing to talk to him or her.” He said that reconciliation between he and Chuck, is another level of reconciliation. Then, reconciliation of both of them as leaders is on another level still. But he said that the process has started.

Next was a question on women’s ordination.
Archibishop Rwaje asked Bishop Alexis to address women’s ordination in their context. “As a part of us, what are we thinking.”
Bishop Alexis said: “I don’t know why he has given me this very hard question!” (laughter) Alexis said that whatever needs to be handled, the Rwandans will deal with it!
He then circled back to reconciliation, and said that there are no shortcuts to reconciliation. There are four steps: 1) mending my relationship with God, 2) be reconciled myself with myself. 3) I go to my neighbor 4) I reconcile with creation.
Alexis said that we are here to get right with God, and to get right with each other. “My hope is that when you leave, you have at least done step 1.”
“My dear friends, there are problems that require time, they require prayer. We cannot leave here with all the answers. There is going to be a period of healing. Then we start dealing with some of the issues on the table. we agonize, we pray, we consult with one another.” He said this in regard to women’s ordination.
Bishop Mbanda was asked to respond to a question about structure: Who is going to determine the structures? He replied: “His Grace will decide! No, just kidding!” Within the Anglican tradition there are acceptable structures within our tradition. Those that God has put in our tradition. We need the time to heal, we need to come together – later we can answer what context, where are we, what will serve us better to be able to do the work that God has called us to do? Then we will determine a direction.
On the question of reconciliation, Bishop Mbanda referred to Nairobi and said that there is a process, the first steps were put down.
The bishops were asked again “What is it that this group is sorry for? Someone else asked where are we deriving our identity from as Anglicans (i.e. Lambeth or other things). Someone else mentioned Rwaje’s letter to Murphy being immediately in the press and asked “Do you all know who leaked it? Is that something that ought to be apologized for?”
On the issue of owning sin, Bishop Thad said that anytime there is a break in relationship…if we point our fingers and blame we enter the wrong path. There is a dynamic sense when you read the Scriptures, Daniel and Nehemiah, “Lord we have sinned and our fathers have sinned.” He said:
We in the Council of Bishops were not able to reconcile and do the hard work of relationships..In the pursuit of all the things we’re about and doing, why didn’t I realize the hurt I was causing around me? The decision that we made in 2010 [to step back from Ministry Partner status from ACNA] I didnt know until yesterday that it hurt Archbishop Bob and the folks at ACNA.”
Thad praised the courage of Terrell. “I cannot tell you how hard it was in November to watch Theresa and Terrell leave the room and to go on with business. I have lost really good friends in this and I’m responsible to begin the work to make a difference.”
“I am sorry of the offense to my Archbishop for not listening to his council and the united council of the House of Bishops when they brought discipline to us. For the anger that I have for the hurt … that has caused so many people in the field to be divided.”
And then, in one of the most moving moments of the conference, Thad looked at Archbishop Duncan in the audience and said, “Bob Duncan we are sorry for the offense we caused.”
Archbishop Duncan yelled back, “sorry received; forgiveness given!” The crowd broke into applause and these bishops later hugged. Praise God for this tangible example of restoration, and really, it was so easy, so, so easy.
Terrell addressed his sin by saying “I’m sorry I haven’t loved my wife as I should. The one (sin) that I struggle with the most and I’m still trying to get light for is the resignation from the COB. On the one hand, it’s a place to which I believe I was led in the interst of relationships and not wanting to maintain a facade that all was well. But the moment I resigned I hurt many people. I know that I will spend a long time dealing with that. I struggle with the deep hurt I’ve caused many people especially those I was charged to giver oversight to.” He asks forgiveness from those he hurt. He said that “we’re so confused about where we are that we don’t know where to go next.”
Regarding who put the private letter on the internet: Bishop Louis said, “only God knows. I’m not an internet expert, I don’t know who did, but it’s unfortunate. I feel sorry, I feel hurt.”
Archbishop Rwaje: “There are many things on the internet. From December to January we got more information that we should not get. And this we read on the internet. Who does that? But, in the House of Bishops, when there was a leakage of the private letter written by the HOB to our colleague, to the Council of Bishops (and) two days later, we read it on the internet. Whoever did it, we condemn that.”
Archbishop Rwaje said that in Nairobi, the Rwandans expressed that are very sorry for that.”
Bishop Alexis said that “We are very sorry as a House of Bishops for signing some documents that we should not have. We trusted people who brought it to us.” He clearly referred to the canon law debacle.
Bishop Mbanda said that the issue is not the internet, but the heart issue that drives people to the internet. What is the root cause?
On the issue of Anglican Identity, Bishop Terrell said “we’re going to draw our identity from the internet!” (laughter) Terrell said, “The internet as a device is not a sin.” Malice, hatred, bitterness, and accusation can be sins. It is not the tool, but its’ use.”
On identity again, he said the Scriptures and tradition of the Church guide us – all of that. We’re not there yet in terms of figuring that question out. Our identity right now comes from Rwanda. ACNA has lately provided assistance on the West Coast. They offered and we’ll take them up on it.
Finally, Bishop Alexis stood and gave an impassioned, cheerful defense of himself against the attacks on him and worse, his wife as being mentally ill. He discussed his long record and indicated that it would be absurd to think it could have been accomplished by someone with mental illness.
During the Evening Prayer, we were treated to a message from the Rev. Dr. Lyle Dorsett. I confess to being ignorant of him before tonight, but what a blessing he was! He was impassioned, often fighting back tears and asking us if we “love his appearing”? Do we love Jesus so much that we long for his appearance or are we dry? I was moved at many points of his sermon, and it was a gift of God to us to provide us with such conviction today. All praise and glory to the Lamb who sits on the throne, both now and forever, Amen.

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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.

Moving Forward Together

AnglicanTV should have videos of yesterday’s sessions up soon, if they don’t already. The first meeting took place at 3:30 in the sanctuary of Church of the Apostles. here in Raleigh. Archbishop Rwaje spoke, telling the gathering: “You are part of us and we are part of you.” He said that those who have ‘deserted’ are welcome back at any time, but that any such move must be orderly – there can be no cheap reconciliation.
Archbishop Duncan then preached, saying that Jesus’ last words to Peter in John were ‘follow me’, just like at the first. The challenge to us is to follow him today, not worrying about where he will take us tomorrow. Archbishop Duncan then said that he wanted to share wisdom with the Moving Forward Together that was gained by the ACNA leadership over the years.
He mentioned that something began to change with AMiA about two years ago. The move from full jurisdictional partner to mission partner took place, and all communication was to take place between the Bishop Chairman (Bishop Murphy). This was a profound sadness. Why did it happen – we don’t know, but we are all sinners. Reconciliation requires all parties to “claim.”
Duncan continued, “In the Spring of 2004, I received a communication from Lambeth that said you in North America will never get it together.” ACNA was birthed out of a resolve to show this to be wrong. Bishop Murphy was a founding signer of ACNA. Duncan mentioned three “do you love me” relationships:
1. With Rwanda. What must we do to feed that relationship? We must continue to be in relationship. We must continue to be on mission. You cannot abandon those who birthed and harbored you (applause).
2. With ACNA. “We need you.” Duncan mentions Anglican 1000 – “you were the heartbeat of it.” Church planting is key, Duncan says “I’m preaching to the choir.” We need to think about how and where discipline is done. It’s a cruel thing to hand discipline to bishops 8,000 miles away, it doesn’t encourage accountability. The notion of a personal prelature is not Anglican, not synodical. We must be in this together.
3. The 130 million. The unreached. It won’t do for us to stay closed in these buildings. I will do everything I can to stand with you. I am here with you, I will be here with you, we will do this thing together and will do it with Rwanda.