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Archive for the ‘Anglican’ Category

[There has been a] remarkable increase of adult converts presenting themselves for Confirmation. this is a national phenomenon offering an uncomfortable challenge. Mature men and women, some in responsible positions of considerable civic and social standing, do not take such a step lightheartedly. The Church is not fashionable, and for the artisan and factory hand, the decision to seek Confirmation is even more difficult, often demanding renunciation and courage. this army of new blood entering the Church will not be satisfied with conventions and platitudes with which older Church people have become far too content. they will demand the real thing.

A corollary to this deepening movement is the growing number of older men offering themselves for Ordination. this group is of so variable a nature as to be impossible to classify, yet one or two pertinent points suggest themselves. There is a considerable number of ex-Nonconformist ministers, who for various reasons have grown worried and dissatisfied with their denomination…these men have become dissatisfied with the piecemeal character of Free Church devotion, however excellent some of the pieces may be. It is chastening to realize that, in seeing the Prayer Book primarily as an ascetical system, this band of converts have discovered a fundamental Anglican truth which some of our senior priests seem to have forgotten. The latter think of regularity of Church attendance, the former of the continuity of Christian living based on the Prayer Book pattern. –Martin Thornton, English Spirituality

Written 25 years ago, and yet it seems to be quite applicable to what I hear from my classmates in summer D.Min and S.T.M classes at Nashotah House.  They are seeing a number of people who have grown up in evangelical, low-church, free-church, or otherwise pietist traditions coming to them asking for help in living an authentic Christian life.  Somewhere, along the way, the evangelicals in the US seem to have lost the plot.  It is no longer enough to listen to the 30 minute sermon and sing for another 30, they are saying people long to be connected to something that is far more ancient than what they have experienced in their lives at church.

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My wife receives the print version of the Global Prayer Digest, a daily devotional dedicated to praying for missions that is published by the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, California.

Yesterday morning she was cleaning out old stuff from her Bible and tossed out the February 2007 edition which was dedicated to praying for the people groups in Russia and Eastern Europe.  Being a natural reader and packrat, I picked it out of the trash to give it a quick read.

At the beginning of each edition, the editors put together a summary of regional history or some other background information that creates awareness of current issues affecting both the region and the mission of the Church in that region.  Imagine my surprise when I read these two sentences:

After 1600, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Nikon introduced a new liturgy that angered traditionalists into splitting from the Russian church. In a twisted attempt to restore unity, the reformers persecuted the old believers.

Funny how that was going on at the same time as all the religious upheaval, persecutions, civil wars and whatnot in Western Europe, especially England.  The Church of England and the dissenters on either side, Catholic or Puritan were locking horns at the same point in time.

Now what made those two sentences stand out even more were the continued travails of the orthodox within the Episcopal Church today.  They hold to the faith passed down from the apostles and yet find themselves under what increasingly feels like persecution from the revisionist minded leadership of the Episcopal Church.  Just as in those days traditional minded believers were forced out in the Russian Orthodox Church and the Puritans and Roman Catholics were pushed to the edge by the Church of England, so also today we see the same thing happening.

The Episcopal Church seems to bring this on herself from time to time.  Witness the split of the Reformed Episcopal Church in the U.S. 130 years ago over the influence of the Oxford Movement in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America.  Consider the rise of the Continuing Churches in the world of Anglicanism 30 years ago concerning the adoption of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as well as the ordination of women.  Then see today’s new Anglican bodies popping up in the U.S and the ecclesiastical trials and even lawsuits filed against them for daring to leave with or without their property.  All of them twisted attempts to force liturgical, ecclesiastical and theological unity apart from the authority of Christ and Scriptures.

We’ve been down this road before.  It’s not pretty and it certainly will not glorify God or bring honor to the name of Jesus Christ, except to the extent that those who are being persecuted faithfully stand up and proclaim the gospel under fire.

As George Santayana, the philosopher, famously said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  Or even better, King Solomon, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, there is nothing new under the sun.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV)

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A scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the extravagantly broad and liberal theology which is so much in vogue at the present time. The tendency of modern thought is to reject dogmas, creeds, and every kind of bounds in religion. It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatsoever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy, however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions may be. Everything, forsooth, is true and nothing is false! Everybody is right and nobody is wrong! Everybody is likely to be saved and nobody is to be lost! The atonement and substitution of Christ, the personality of the devil, the miraculous element in Scripture, the reality and eternity of future punishment, all these mighty foundation-stones are coolly tossed overboard, like lumber, in order to lighten the ship of Christianity and enable it to keep pace with modern science. Stand up for these verities, and you are called narrow, illiberal, old-fashioned and a theological fossil! Quote a text, and you are told that all truth is not confined to the pages of of an ancient Jewish book, and that free inquiry has found out many things since the book was completed! Now, I know nothing so likely to counteract this modern plague as constant clear statements about the nature, reality, vileness, power and guilt of sin. We must charge home into the consciences of these men of broad views, and demand a plain answer to some plain questions. We must ask them to lay their hands on their hearts, and tell us whether their favourite opinions comfort them in the day of sickness, in the hour of death, by the bedside of dying of dying parents, by the grave of a beloved wife or child. We must ask them whether a vague earnestness, without definite doctrine, gives them peace at seasons like these. We must challenge them to tell us whether they do not sometimes feel a gnawing ‘something’ within, which all the free inquiry and philosophy and science in the world cannot satisfy. And then we must tell them that this gnawing ‘something’ is the sense of sin, guilt and corruption, which they are leaving out in their calculations. And, above all, we must tell them that nothing will ever make them feel rest, but submission to the old doctrines of man’s ruin and Christ’s redemption and simple child-like faith in Jesus. –J.C. Ryle
Taken from Holiness, chapter 1

Rejecting dogmas, creeds and every kind of bounds in religion sounds so familiar until I realized that once again the good bishop is speaking across time to a people he didn’t know, about truths he definitely understood.  And he understood the abandonment of those dogmas, creeds and all bounds in religion would have implications for the comfort that the Gospel brings to this world.

If the teaching of the scriptural view of sin is passe and abandoned, there is no Good News to offer this world.  What need would there be for it?  Good is only measured against that which is less good or bad.  What comfort does Christ’s atoning death for our sins offer to religious people who find that humans are basically good and perfectable, though sometimes making mistakes on the way to perfection?  What comfort is the crucifixion of Christ and His glorious resurrection if we are not all marked, stained, and soul-darkened wretches living bound in a marginally lit dungeon and in desperate need of freedom, light and cleansing?

I do not mean to pick on The Episcopal Church, but the example is, unfortunately, obvious.  I pray that better teaching and leadership will come to her through the knowledge of the depths, heights, width and breadth of God’s loving kindness and grace.  Listening to some of the teaching coming from The Episcopal Church in our day one would quickly come to the conclusion that Christ’s death was meaningless and of no consequence or comfort to our world today.  Our sin is meaningless under such teaching.

That is eternally tragic.

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