As a percentage of the population of England, the Church of England was at its high point, when there were accurate records, in the 1851 census when we were about 20 per cent of the population, roughly a couple of percentage points less than what were then called the non-Conformist churches. We are today around about a little less than two per cent of the population. — Archbishop Justin Welby
Roman Catholics and Protestants share some Christian creedal beliefs, but they differ on at least two deal-breaking matters. Protestants see the God-inspired Bible as their primary authority (sola Scriptura) while Catholics put the Bible equally alongside of church tradition as theirs. Protestants are clear that their own righteousness will never be enough and without the righteousness of God imputed to unworthy sinners (grace), they are without hope. Catholics, on the other hand, claim that they can become innately righteous enough by receiving the grace of the sacraments to deserve salvation. — Rev. Chuck Collins
A paraphrase of Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes in Mark 12:38-40:
“Beware of the theological professors, who like to parade in their doctoral regalia, to be glowingly introduced before they speak, and to enjoy the front and centre of the room in front of deferential audiences. They chew up the reputation and self-respect of even junior colleagues and beginning students, and for the sake of appearance deliver long lectures full of eloquence and ethics. They will receive the worst grades of all.” — John G. Stackhouse Jnr.,
Studies from the Barna Group have shown that over 50 percent of “self-identified Christians in the U.S. are characterized by having the attitudes and actions researchers identified as Pharisaical.” The implications of the data suggest that most believers have not internalized the essence of the new covenant and are instead heavily influenced by old covenant ideas.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
December 17, 2021
BY ANY MEASURABLE STANDARD, 2021 was a year that the Queen might have described as annus horribilis redux. For her it was 1992 with family issues, including three failed family marriages and the partial destruction by fire of Windsor Castle.
For 2021, it was Covid and the rise of new variants to challenge us all how to live a day at a time. Scientists are doing their best to keep up with new developments. It’s ironic that most scientists are Christians, including NIH chief Francis Collins, an evangelical, who is urging Americans to take the jab, but is meeting resistance from millions of evangelicals who favor conspiracy theories. If he leaves the job hairless you can understand why. He’s pulled it all out. Covid deaths now number 825,000. Will we see one million in 2022 with the variants?
We continue to see the slow steady emptying of mainline Churches with their failed liberal and progressive Christianity; the continued rise of Nones (people with no religion) overtaking both the Roman Catholic Church and evangelicals in general. While the US has not gone completely secular, we are entering a post truth era in which purveyors of ideas of the extreme left and right are seeking to make America over in their own image. It’s scary stuff and it is not pleasant to watch. The rise in anti-Semitism has many of my Jewish friends alarmed. Blacks feel beaten down by Police who don’t respect them; whites feel betrayed, some by a former president and others by a sitting president.
If you go to a restaurant you have to speak in whispers lest someone hears you and reports you to the thought police. Few people feel safe anymore, and there are no signs things will let up in 2022.
A record 21 million people went through background checks to buy a gun last year, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Why? Are they expecting a second Civil War? If so, is what we saw on Jan. 6 just the prologue to something much bigger! Furthermore, what does this say about Christians in America? Are we replacing loving our neighbor with shooting our neighbor? Time will tell.
TEN TRENDS TO WATCH FOR ANGLICANS IN 2022. While prediction is a dangerous business, there are definite trends that one can observe based on solid analysis of things past.
The rise of the Nones (people with no religion) poses problems for missiologists and churches. They are growing faster than the Roman Catholic Church and evangelicals. Nones have grown from just about 5 percent in the early 1970s to at least 30 percent in 2020, and their numbers are rising. There is no indication they are falling off.
Mainline Protestants will continue to show significant decline. Homosexuality has split most of the mainline denominations. Add COVID, aging, demographics, death and little youth replacement and the decline will only continue. By their own membership tallies, mainline denominations are showing drops of 15 percent, 25 percent, and even 40 percent over the span of the last decade. This will continue into 2022.
The faith is wilting in the West while growing exponentially in the Global South. The rise of Anglicanism in the Global South is meteoric and will only continue in 2022. There is no sign of it slacking off.
Persecution is making churches grow as the faith works underground, only surfacing when the persecution of individuals makes world headlines. We are seeing major growth in Africa, especially Nigeria, the largest Anglican province, despite persecution from Fulani Tribesmen and Boko Haram.
Christianity will continue to grow exponentially outside the US, while it continues to shrink inside the US. The politicization of the gospel has revealed that nearly 40% of all pastors in America have thought seriously about leaving the ministry because of Covid and churches polarized around politics not Jesus. The conflation of right-wing political views with the faith has alienated whole generations from churches, with little sign that they will see the faith or the church as relevant to their lives in the coming year.
The loss of transcendence in western countries, the rise of atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, loosely defined spiritualities and Gnosticism in an increasingly secularized, “post truth” world will only continue.
You can read more of my analysis here: https://virtueonline.org/ten-trends-watch-anglicans-2022
PERSECUTION. Over 340 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination. 4,761 Christians were killed for their faith this past year. 4,488 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked.
4,277 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.
These numbers are heart-breaking. And yet, they do not tell the whole story. H/T Open Doors.
All these countries are experiencing significant persecution. Open Doors believes it is reasonable to call Christianity the world’s most severely persecuted religion. Between 2007 and 2017, the PEW organization found that “Christians experienced harassment by governments or social groups in 144 countries.”
The theological and moral brouhaha of the week concerned the ordination of an avowed homosexual at Advent Cathedral in Birmingham, Alabama, known for its historic evangelical stance.
It got particularly nasty when VOL blew the whistle on interim Dean Craig Smalley, who said he knew nothing about the homosexual in question and his “husband” who was with him at the ordination. The cathedral said it didn’t care what the bishop or diocese says or does as they had cut a deal years before saying the liberal bishops would stay away from the cathedral. (Smalley’s predecessor Dean Pearson resigned, knowing this was going to happen.)
But after thirty years at war with the diocese, the cathedral succumbed to a woman bishop’s will and she got her way. Smalley said he didn’t know there was a homosexual being ordained, which we found hard to believe. He put out a note following my story saying I got it all wrong.
“The Diocese failed to inform the Advent of this issue even though the bishop had agreed that the Advent would not be asked to participate in, sponsor, or otherwise be seen to endorse an event that was incompatible with a traditional view of Scripture, or do anything that would assert, suggest, or imply that the Advent approved, condoned, or authorized such theological expressions.”
However, Bishop Glenda Curry issued her own statement regarding the ordination. Here is what she said:
“The information about the four people ordained was widely published in the diocese prior to the service. They were selected, trained, and approved for ordination pursuant to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. They were vetted by the Standing Committee of the diocese and the Commission on Ministry. More than 10,000 people will read this story.” You can read the full story here: https://virtueonline.org/birmingham-al-cathedral-church-advent-ordains-practicing-homosexual
If you want to know why Western Anglicanism is sinking into the sunset, then you will not be surprised that the Church in Wales elected a former evangelical as its next archbishop to lead the province. The Bishop of Bangor, the Rt. Rev. Andy John, now says the church needs “to move with the times” on homosexuality. He succeeds John Davies, who retired in May after four years as Archbishop.
One irate blogger had this to say, “The bench of bishops are slaves. Slaves to the Zeitgeist, seeking loopholes to justify their perverse desires. They should return to orthodoxy and stop exploiting people who are supposedly in their care.”
Archbishop John will probably be the last archbishop of Wales, as the congregations age, and no new generations are coming forward to fill pulpits or pews. The Church’s epitaph will be written with the archbishop’s own words, “we moved with the times.”
You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/wales-elects-former-evangelical-next-archbishop-lead-province
For an evangelical response click here: https://eng.efcw.org.uk/2021/12/03/statement-following-meeting-with-the-bench-of-bishops/
The Scottish Episcopal Church is uniting with the Church of Scotland to it the pause button in what is its inevitable death. The two churches recently signed a “Declaration” to work together. The two denominations offered a series of acknowledgments and commitments intended to deepen their relationship, and look at new ways of working together to serve the people of Scotland.
The Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church said: “In many places in rural Scotland there is now only one church building. It might be Episcopalian or it might be Presbyterian, yet there will be people of both churches in the community.”
Membership of the Scottish Episcopal Church in 2019 was 27,585, of whom 19,784 were communicant members. Weekly attendance was 11,782.
This is a bit like two men in hospital dying of COVID, sharing the same life support system.
A senior Church of England official told VOL that both churches are vanishing faster than the snow before the sun. There are no signs of any revival anywhere in Scotland, VOL was told, which must be the most damming indictment of all. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/scottish-episcopal-church-unites-church-scotland-pause-inevitable-death
The Middle East is a constant cauldron of religious upheaval. Jews, Muslims and Christians live on a knife edge of violence. One never knows who or what is going to happen next.
This week the Anglican Archbishop, The Most Rev. Hosam E. Naoum, and other heads of churches and patriarchs issued a statement on the current threat Holy Land Christians face.
The full statement can be read here: https://virtueonline.org/anglican-archbishop-other-heads-churches-and-patriarchs-issue-statement-current-threat-holy-land
Here is a sample paragraph:
Throughout the Holy Land, Christians have become the target of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups. Since 2012, there have been countless incidents of physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, attacks on Christian churches, with holy sites regularly vandalized and desecrated, and ongoing intimidation of local Christians who simply seek to worship freely and go about their daily lives. These tactics are being used by such radical groups in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land.
Overall, the picture is not good for Christians in the Middle East. Christianity in the ME is characterized by the diversity of its beliefs and traditions, compared to Christianity in other parts of the Old World. Christians now make up approximately 5% of the total Middle Eastern population, down from 20% in the early 20th century.
The ongoing fight over who owns the properties in the Diocese of South Carolina continues. The South Carolina Supreme Court heard TEC’s appeal from Judge Dickson’s Interpretation of the 2017 Collective Opinions in the Church Property Dispute.
The Episcopal Church’s (TEC) arguments at that time that the Dennis Canon alone, or the Canon in conjunction with various pledges of allegiance and the like were sufficient to create a trust under South Carolina law were rejected. Judge Dickson’s ruling clarified the Collective Opinions, explaining that, “the Dennis Canon by itself does not create a legally cognizable trust, nor does it transfer title to property.” This affirmed that those congregations that followed state non-profit guidelines for their disassociation from TEC retained all their real and personal property.
One suspects that the dispute will be ongoing after Bishop Mark Lawrence has retired. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/south-carolina-supreme-court-hears-tec-appeal-judge-dicksons-interpretation-2017-collective-opinions
JAPAN elected Maria Grace Tazu Sasamori, priest of the Diocese of Tokyo, as the first female bishop in Japan and South East Asia. She was elected as the bishop of Hokkaido at the 80th electoral Synod of the Diocese of Hokkaido.
Mandy Marshall, director for gender justice at the Anglican Communion Office, said: “I’m excited and pleased to hear the news of the first female bishop. This is a real breakthrough for Japan and will be an encouragement to ordained women everywhere but especially in Japan. Bishop-elect Tazu will need our prayers as she steps into a very male space and has the pressure and holds the hopes of Anglican women in Japan.”
She will succeed Bishop Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu, former primate of the Nippon Sei Ko Kei (The Anglican Communion in Japan). [Anglican Communion News Service]
In what could be a turning point in evangelicalism in the Church of England, a pro-homosexual (LGBTQ) vicar has been appointed to lead Holy Trinity Brompton, a bastion of evangelicalism with links to ALPHA and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Holy Trinity Brompton (known as HTB), the largest church in the Church of England, is to have a new Vicar lead its 4,000-strong congregation. The Rev. Nicky Gumbel, 66, has announced his intention to resign his post from July 2022.
The former curate who pioneered its first ‘plant’ outside of London — the Rev. Canon Archie Coates, 51, currently Vicar of St Peter’s Brighton, has been chosen as HTB’s Vicar Designate. In 2016, while at St. Peter’s in Brighton, Coates lent his support to the UK’s largest gay pride parade, saying many in his congregation would take part.
Is this the beginning of the end for Holy Trinity Brompton and Alpha? I hope not but fear it might be. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/london-pro-lgbt-vicar-appointed-lead-holy-trinity-brompton
There is a changing of the guard at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. Dean President Henry L “Laurie” Thompson III is stepping down after a highly successful tenure which saw the seminary continue to grow and thrive, latterly with the Trophimus Center and TSM’s partnering with the Church Army USA. While all of TEC’s seminaries are in decline, not so TSM, which has students from TEC, the ACNA and the NALC. A new dean president has not been named.
In an historic development for CONTINUING ANGLICANISM, The Diocese of the Holy Cross (DHC) has become a part of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC). The step came at the ACC-DHC Joint Synods held at the University of Georgia Center in Athens, Georgia. The Anglican Province of America (APA), and the Anglican Church in America (ACA) known as the G4, will now be the G3.
The sins of the fathers. The son of ‘sadomasochistic’ QC John Smyth was removed from his church after ‘gaslighting’ victims of abuse. PJ Smyth said he was ‘sincerely sorry’ for misleading statements, claiming that his own experience of abuse caused him ‘to bury and distort memories’
John Smyth groomed his victims at public schools and on Christian summer camps run by the Iwerne Trust. He also carried out beatings in his garden shed in Winchester in the 1970s and 1980s, before continuing similar abuse in Zimbabwe.
In June, The Telegraph revealed that his son, PJ Smyth, a church leader in the US, was suspended from ministry amid allegations he misrepresented what he knew about his father’s abuse.
Archbishop Justin Welby defended freedom of speech — ‘living out the Reformation truth’ in the House of Lords, in the context of so many contemporary challenges (and robust assaults) against it. Welby signaled which side of the freedom/censorship debate he is on and his appreciation of social media in giving a voice to those who were previously unheard, and space for the “uncomfortable truths” of the prophetic.
The archbishop moved the motion: “The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury to move that this House takes note of contemporary challenges to freedom of speech, and the role of public, private and civil society sectors in upholding freedom of speech.” You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/welby-defends-freedom-speech-living-out-reformation-truth
The UK is one of the most intolerant European countries towards Christians according to a new report from the Observatory of Intolerance Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC).
The report identifies the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden as the top five countries driving what it describes as a “rising phenomenon” against Christians.
It reveals the UK is the number one country in Europe for having the most cases of legal prosecutions for alleged ‘hate speech’. You can read more here: https://virtueonline.org/uk-named-human-rights-report-intolerant-against-christians
Christians in the UK are prepared to go to prison if a conversion therapy ban is introduced. https://virtueonline.org/uk-were-prepared-go-prison-say-christians-opposed-conversion-therapy-ban
Why I’m flying the flag this Christmas. https://virtueonline.org/why-im-flying-flag-christmas
MARYLAND: Accokeek Parish Story of Injustice Revisited with a New Settlement.
The American Anglican Fellowship was a Firsthand Witness to an unbelievable knock on the door at Christ Church in 2000. You can read more here:
If ignorance is bliss, the Western world should be ecstatic. Even as colleges churn out degrees and collect fees, and technology makes information instantly accessible, the basic level of literacy, as measured by such things as reading books and acquainting oneself with the past, is in a precipitous decline. Rather than building a vital world with our technological culture, we are repeating the memes of feudal times, driven by illiteracy, bias and a rejection of the West’s past.
Over half of American adults have a reading level below the equivalent of sixth-grade level (11- to 12-year-olds), and book reading outside of school or work among the young in particular has declined markedly. A survey conducted in 2014 found slightly over half of American children saying they liked to read books ‘for fun’, down from 60 per cent in 2010. This is not just an American trend. A landmark study by University College London tracked 11,000 children born in 2000 up to age 14 and found that only one in 10 ever did any reading in their spare time as teenagers. The Covid-related lockdowns, notes one recent UN study, raised the number of children experiencing reading difficulties from 460 million to 584 million. H/T Spiked News
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2021 Annus Horribilis * 2022 Trends * Persecution of Christians * Advent Cathedral Hosts Homosexual Ordination * Church in Wales ‘moves with the times’ * Scottish Episcopalians and Presbyterians Unite to Fight Decline * Christians Imperiled in Holy Land * Diocese of SC Back to Court * Japan Elects First Woman Bishop
Faith’s ladder. Faith goes beyond reason, but rests on it. Knowledge is the ladder by which faith climbs higher, the springboard from which it leaps further. — John R.W. Stott
“The Church’s worst persecutors has been her own unfaithful bishops, priests and religious. Opposition from the outside is terrible; but it gives us many martyrs. But the Church’s worse enemy is her own traitors.” — Pope Pius XI (1922-1939)
The cultural crisis of the West will be resolved by a renewal of faith in the human person–a faith that draws strength from, even as it proclaims the biblical vision of humanity’s dignity, origins and destiny, which is so much greater than what postmodern Western culture offers. — George Weigel
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