The highlight of my experience during Moving Forward Together was Bishop Julian Dobbs and his no-nonsense, Biblical, classically Anglican presentation based on Nehemiah. I highly encourage you to watch it all:
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.
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.
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.
Lost in the AMiA kerfuffle has been the CANA story. If you think back to the first AnglicanTV episode with tidings from Pawley’s Island, you’ll remember that there was also a story about CANA creating a new diocese in America geared towards Nigerians. This was met by mutual statements of support from ACNA and Bishop Dobbs (a man that I respect a great deal).
In my view, the problem is not so much the creation of a new diocese, but rather the continued existence of CANA. CANA issued a pastoral statement yesterday, saying in part:
The bishops rejoiced in the recent creation of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic where many clergy and congregations continue in their relationship with CANA. While acknowledging that the concept of ‘dual citizenship’ continues to raise some questions we heard a number of testimonies from those who have embraced this gracious provision and celebrate this opportunity for a direct connection to the Anglican Communion through the Church of Nigeria. We believe that this can only strengthen the ongoing work of ACNA in its determination to demonstrate the transforming love of Jesus Christ throughout North America.
Yes, this concept does raise some questions, such as, what is the end game? I can understand why groups with theological qualms might hesitate to jump into ACNA with both feet. The REC seems to be sticking only one foot in the water, for example. But as far as I can tell, there is no discernable theological difference between ACNA and CANA. Further, there is not a difference in praxis. Both ordain women, both do not seem to be particularly affectionate for the Prayer Book in their worship and so forth. So why the separation? And what event or series of events will signal to CANA bishops that their structure can come to an end? The pressure should be on Bishop Minns and the other CANA bishops to answer these questions clearly.
I must say as an observer of the Anglican scene in North America that the lack of transparency from all parties does not engender trust. Statements from bishops seem to assume knowledge that does not exist. ACNA has not revealed its “Theological Lens” document, CANA has not revealed why it keeps a separate identity, and the issue of women’s ordination is as clear as mud. For there to be unity, these discussions should be had in the open, not revealed to the masses when the bishops feel that it’s safe. Perhaps an unfortunate legacy of the Episcopal Church is this tendency to do things quietly behind closed doors and only reveal a matter when it has been decided. CANA should lead the change here by openly stating why they continue to exist, and what would allow them to cease existing.
Well, that didn’t take long. I have been reading the tea leaves about the trajectory of AMiA for a few years now, most recently with the last issue of Wave. Now, Anglican Unscripted reports that AMiA is cracking up over women’s ordination and Bishop Murphy’s apparent desire to rule as he sees fit. The video is below:
Essentially, the report says that there is some discord between the Church of Rwanda and AMiA, and that they are coming to terms of separation. Bishop Murphy wants to support women’s ordination (surprise, surprise) and appoint his own bishops without Rwanda being able to nix his appointments. The AMiA will pull out from Rwandan oversight and is seeking another Primate from another Global South church or Archbishop Kolini or some other option.
The video asks if AMiA all of the sudden doesn’t have an Archbishop sponsoring them what happens to them? They speculate that Chuck Murphy will keep some of them together and maybe they will come under ACNA. They also report discord among the bishops of AMiA. Some orthodox bishops want to leave AMiA and head to ACNA to maintain no women’s ordination.
So, Bishop Murphy can’t seem to stand oversight. If he wants women’s ordination so much, why doesn’t he simply merge into ACNA as it is? Well, that would mean breaking up the fiefdom right? And shame on Archbishop Kolini for supporting such nonsense. I confess I thought that women’s ordination wouldn’t mess up ACNA for another ten years or so, but it appears to be happening already. There is now a crying need for a diocese or two within ACNA that is totally opposed to women’s ordination. Anything less will produce further splits and the end of ACNA.
Past Posts on the Same Subject:
Here, here, here and here.
So how did it all begin? Without going into great detail, we can look at the seventies and the illegal ordinations that happened at that time. The heretic James Pike had previously ordained a woman to the diaconate, but the ball really got rolling in 1974.
In the book “Anglican Communion in Crisis”, Miranda Hassett writes:
…women deputies were not accepted by General Convention until 1967. By this time the controversial liberal bishop James Pike had already ordained a woman as a deacon, an ordained role oriented toward service and without all the sacramental duties of the priesthood. With the encouragement of the women’s movement in the larger society, other breakthroughs followed quickly. The General Convention of 1970 accepted female deacons, and the 1976 Convention admitted women to the priesthood, following the unauthorized 1974 ordinations of eleven women as priests. The first Episcopal woman bishop, Barbara Harris, was consecrated in 1989.
In “A Brief History of the Episcopal Church”, David Lynn Holmes writes:
Nevertheless, in the summer of 1974, in Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate, eleven women deacons were ordained to the priesthood by three Episcopal bishops. Two of the bishops were retired; the third had resigned as bishop of Pennsylvania earlier in the year. Neither the bishops, nor the deacons, nor the parish had authorization for the ordinations. In an emergency session, the House of Bishops declared the ordinations invalid and rebuked the ordainers.” (page 168)
Time magazine has articles on these ordinations here
. And now, a mere three decades later, “conservatives” all over the place accept this practice, foisted upon the church by radicals and heretics, as perfectly fine and normal.
There are a lot of bad church plants and established churches out there in the Anglican world. Theology is thin, sometimes Arminian, sometimes idolatrous. Discipline is lacking, discipleship does not exist. Some churches don’t want to be terribly liturgical despite a 2,000 year liturgical tradition. A focus on digging into the Bible isn’t there, mission mindedness towards the local community is lacking, and the list goes on. At the top level, the AMiA looks corporate and atheological. There are simply a lot of problems.
And yet, there is hope. Here on the East Coast there at least six parishes pastored by men with strong Augustinian convictions, a commitment to the Bible, a desire to see healthy Christian living and a focus on mission. A new article outlines the history and status of the three RenewDC parishes, one of which I attend:
Through AMiA, Claire became a Rwandan missionary to Washington, D.C., and started the Church of the Resurrection on Capitol Hill.
Now Resurrection is about to celebrate its seventh year in the same rented historic church building near the Library of Congress. Two new churches have already been planted out of Resurrection, and a fourth and fifth in the D.C. region are in the works. The three current churches meet inside the Capital Beltway on Sunday evenings, renting historic church buildings in keeping with a mission-minded, streamlined budget where church planting is a priority.
Together, these congregations compose a church-planting movement known as RenewDC.
Consistent with the theology of Anglicanism’s founding documents, Claire is Reformed and paedobaptist. But joining RenewDC churches requires subscribing only to Christian essentials, which are “hopefully the same among all the gospel-centered churches in the city,” Claire says. The churches focus on gospel essentials (worship, discipleship, and community) leading to mission. As a result, the RenewDC churches resemble missionary outposts and could perhaps be compared to military chapels outside the United States.
The diversity of backgrounds among congregants is striking, if not surprising given the urban environment. In the midst of such diversity, one perhaps counter-intuitive strategy for bridging the gap between people is simple, liturgical worship. “It provides a common framework,” Claire says, “a common language for people.” These Anglican worship services follow the same basic outline as most Christian churches since the earliest days of the church: worship, prayers, Scripture reading, sermon, affirmation of belief (creeds), and the Eucharist. They practice these ancient rites using contemporary music and language.
It can be done right, it should be done right, it will be done right! To read more about it, click here.
South Riding Church in Virginia has a female priest. But it’s really different from Episcopal churches!
Over at the AMiA, err, make that, “the AM” there is a newish development. Rather than being a “jurisdiction” with ACNA, AMiA will now be a “ministry partner.” As I understand it, this is a move away from fuller union with ACNA and towards staying independent. The reasons for this move are not at all clear in the press release issued by AMiA. It is coated in bland obfuscations and loving declarations that would make Rowan Williams proud.
But here ‘s how I see it: the various Anglican bishops in America continue to be short-sighted and selfish. In this case in particular, it is Bishop Murphy. Looking around you could pin this same tag on Bishop Minns for CANA, and probably many others in their own little worlds. Why on earth they can’t simply close up shop and merge is beyond me. Think of the duplicate costs involved with staff, buildings and websites, to name just a few items. Think of the testimony to a watching world – even “conservative” Anglicans can’t create a catholic church within America, they have to stay divided, and over reasons that have NOTHING to do with theology. They all just have to maintain their own fiefdoms. I find it disgusting. If we are not careful, these divisions will harden and there will be no chance of real unity going forward.
I am also sick and tired of the AMiA’s plunge into pop evangelical faddishness. Take a look at this picture:
Does anything about this say “Anglican” to you? It might as well be a gathering of Calvary Chapel pastors in Costa Mesa – scratch that, they would all be wearing Hawaiian shirts. But you get the point. No collars, no stoles, just a bunch of guys who look just like the corporate world we live in. There is nothing sinful in this, but it illustrates the larger point. The AMiA winter conference doesn’t meet in a sacred place, it meets in some auditorium with pastel and purple backdrops. It uses the same soft-rock bland worship that you can find at a million other churches in the USA. Speakers don’t wear collars. Bishop Murphy gushes about stupid books from the corporate world that push some sort of trendy nonsense.
The message seems to be, “Anglicans are just like every other evangelicals except that we have a prayer book we may or may not use once in awhile.” If there is no difference, what is the point of being Anglican? Being culturally relevant is fine, blending in to the point of disappearing is another. Do I really want to see more middle aged men that act like CEOs? Young guys who are missional and hip and have the correct facial hair? I guess it wouldn’t bother me so much if there was a solid theological core to all of this, but there isn’t. It isn’t terribly 39 Articles-centric. It is a mish-mash. There are pockets of solidity, but will they become the norm, or are we looking at Baptists with a prayer book?