Sunday, September 30, 2007
The Diocese of South Dakota seems to have plateaued at around 2,100 in average Sunday worship attendance (ASA), down from 2,600 ASA in the year 2000. Financial giving was up after two years of decline, but still not exceeding the amount given in 2003. Membership (always a tricky and unreliable number) is slightly up after years of decline. Some of the declines might have been due to better reporting (clearing inactive people off of church lists), so it is hard to track a trend there.
Flagship liberal congregation Calvary, Sioux Falls continued to decline in all categories. This is a church where Bible-bashing Bishop Spong is taught as "Christian Education" and a homosexual activist group holds its own services and leads classes to enlighten the rest of the congregation.
Emmanuel, Rapid City, the largest West River parish, showed a noticeable dip in ASA, although it claims an increase in members (go figure). Their financial giving is up, but not back up to the level of year 2003 (and their ASA has fallen each year since then). Please note that the earlier version of this post included incorrect information. Emmanuel is NOT home to an Integrity Chapter, although a local advocate of the Integrity agenda has identified as an Emmanuel member from time to time.
Moderate parish Trinity, Pierre showed a marked gain in ASA and in financial support, although still below the giving level of year 2002.
Traditional parish Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls had a solid ASA increase and reached a parish best for financial support.
The ASA increases at Trinity and Good Shepherd might explain the apparent "levelling" of diocesan ASA for 2006. Statistics in small dioceses can be difficult to interpret as even a small change in a small parish can create a major blip for the diocese.
But the overall weakness and irrelevance of the Episcopal Church here is suggested by the fact that Lincoln County (includes the south side of Sioux Falls) population grew by 45.9% in the years 2000-06, reaching just over 35,000 residents according to the US Census Bureau. There is no TEC church in the county, and no effort to plant one. The combined ASA of the three TEC churches in Sioux Falls (Calvary Cathedral, Good Shepherd and Holy Apostles') hovers around 300. Minnehaha County, in which they sit, has a population of over 163,000, up 10.1% from year 2000.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Of particular note is their willingness to share their clergy and not worry about "territory" - a breath of fresh air compared to the petty stuff going on in The Episcopal Church.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Needless to say, there's not much good news for Biblical Episcopalians. More "process" - even homosexual activist groups like "Integrity" and mainstream media like The New York Times are complaining about the word tricks and lack of honesty. Not sure what our Bishops are up to but it ain't Christian leadership.
Recently, a friend sent along Isaiah 26:1-4
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.
Open the gates
that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith.
You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.
May we find security in the salvation won for us by the blood of Christ. That's our only defense in a corrupt time. In Christ may we know perfect peace and feel secure upon the Rock eternal. He will bring his own through the gate that leads to life.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Henry Orombi Meets with Kentucky Anglicans
Alice C. Linsley
Archbishop Henry Orombi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda, spoke to Anglican clergy and lay leaders at Apostles Anglican Church in Lexington, Kentucky on Tuesday, September 25. The event was well attended with representatives from all the newly formed Anglican churches in Kentucky. Also present were representatives from a missionary agency working in Uganda and a representative from the American Anglican Council.
His Grace preached from the 21st chapter of John’s gospel. Here we read that Peter has essentially aborted the mission of Jesus Christ. Discouraged and disillusioned, he tells the others “I’m going fishing.” He has decided to return to the only work he knows, the business of fish. After a long and unproductive night of fishing, Peter and his comrades hear someone call to them from the shore: “Have you caught anything, friends?”
Archbishop Orombi pointed out that Jesus calls those who had abandoned him, “friends”, revealing His gentleness toward those He has called into fellowship with Him.
The Lord then tells the fishermen to cast their net on the starboard of the boat and upon doing so they took in a huge catch of fish. John then says to Peter, “It is the Lord,” and Peter knows this is true because this miracle duplicates the miracle that attended Peter’s calling on that day when the Lord said, “Follow me. I will make you fishers of men.”
Peter immediately jumps into the water and comes to shore. There he finds fish already cooking on a charcoal fire. Jesus tells him to bring some of the fish they have just caught and the men sit down to eat breakfast with the Risen Lord. Archbishop Orombi pointed out that Jesus had anticipated his friends’ needs and was ready to satisfy their hunger.
This then becomes the backdrop for Jesus’ three questions to Peter. Jesus addresses Peter as “Simon” which means “reed”, recognizing that he is weak. He is not Peter, rock, but Simon, weak reed. Leaders are often weak, but Christ makes us steadily stronger.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” His Grace helped us to imagine Jesus gesturing toward the boats, nets, and fish; in other words, the only business Peter knows. Simon answers, “Yes, Lord you know I love you.” Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” Feed the little ones who need milk and special nourishment in order to mature.
Again Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon answers, “Yes, Lord you know I love you.” Jesus tells him, “Care for my sheep.” Mend their broken bones, heal their wounds, and keep them safe.
A third time Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” and Simon says, “Lord, you know everything: you know I love you.” To which Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.” Proclaim the Gospel in season and out. By word and deed nourish the flock of Christ. This is the work to which leaders are called and it is a work given not to clergy only, but to all Christians. Doing this work is how we express our love for Jesus Christ, and His calling upon us should be so evident that people wonder about our lives, what makes us different?
After the preaching, His Grace took questions. Here are some points that he addressed:
Rowan Williams does not have authority to change the deadline for TEC’s response to the Communiqué because the Primates set that date in Dar es Salaam.
Rowan Williams regards many in TEC as being so long without Christian teaching that “they don’t know their right hand from their left.” (Here Orombi is quoting Williams.)
Archbishop Orombi and Archbishop Akinola are in the USA at a time that coincides with the HOB meeting to strengthen Anglicans in preparation for TEC’s anticipated rejection of the Primates’ requests to cease ordination/consecration of active homosexuals and same-sex blessings in the Episcopal churches.
Archbishop Orombi consecrated John Guernsey so that there would be an Anglican bishop in close proximity to deal with emergencies. As he expressed it: “It took me 16 hours to arrive in Virginia. If you need a fire truck to come all the way from Uganda, what would be left of the building?”
His Grace expressed gratitude for the Common Cause Partners and asked for prayer that there might be unity among them. “They must come together as brothers, taking each other’s hands,” he said. “They must stand together, all holding hands.”
When asked about the importance of Canterbury, the Archbishop responded, “Anglican identity is not tied to Canterbury.” While Anglicans recognize Canterbury as one of the oldest sees, “there are other significant sees.” In this matter His Grace follows Church tradition in recognizing the authority of older sees such as Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome and Antioch.
Meanwhile, at Stand Firm, Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles gets caught fibbing to a press conference. While saying, "I don't know what you're talking about" in response to New York Times question about "same sex blessings" in his Diocese, Bruno conveniently ignored a ceremony last weekend at one of his parishes.
In addition, Stand Firm documents at least four more high-profile same sex ceremonies in Los Angeles as well as a leading L.A. lesbian activist's claim that such events "occur in the Diocese of Los Angeles all the time."
We can argue about all kinds of issues, but one of the reasons that the Episcopal Church is in so much trouble is that its leaders have shown themselves untrustworthy. One of this week's morning lessons (1979 Book of Common Prayer) includes an instruction for Christ's people to live together with "sincerity and truth". Let us pray for honesty from our leaders. The flock needs to know where it is being led, and if the voice calling it is the Good Shepherd or a thief.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Today, she's posted two wonderful quotes showing where the heads and hearts of our bishops really are:
"From the Bishop of N. Carolina [Michael Curry]: 'Also, shouldn't we quote scripture somewhere in this text?' And [Bishop Catherine] Roskam [of New York]: 'I would hope that we will make mention of these extraordinary stoles that we have been given and that maybe we should have a separate document for this purpose.'"
That's right: Bishop Curry is admitting that our bishops come up with stuff first, and search for Biblical wisdom later. They don't seek guidance from the Bible, they guide the Bible to their own conclusions - despite the promises they made before God and all of us when they were ordained.
And Bishop Roskam shows that getting pretty vestments and perks is really what it's all about in The Episcopal Church today. The church is dying and they play dress up (and write resolutions about how neat that is.)
Be sure to scroll down to my previous post and see what Bishop "I'm too cool for the Midwest" Epting had to say about all of us stupid people...
On Sunday, he visited a small Louisiana parish and met with the members. Here are a couple of his comments:
"So, I did what bishops do every Sunday in the 50 minutes we are given in adult forums like this…trying to summarize decades of biblical scholarship, cultural differences, Anglican polity — things which parish clergy should have been doing for years in little places like this!"
Translation: He thinks that local churches should be teaching seminary abstractions and theories instead of the plain word of the Bible, and that locals need to know more about how Episcopal Church bureaucracy works.
"Where I live, in New York, we bishops will be pilloried if we make any concessions in a conservative direction."
Translation: You rubes in fly-over country are messing up my social life with your whining. Shut up and join civilization.
Like many dioceses, Iowa was shrinking on Bp. Epting's watch. His comments explain some of that. With leaders who care only for an inner circle of pals, and who look down on so many of their people, no wonder The Episcopal Church is dying.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
As noted in the post below, The Diocese of South Dakota and many other dioceses are simply ignoring the issues facing the church. South Dakota's "Information Exchange" is only posting obituaries and a few prayer requests for the sick - no news about the issues that are fueling the church's disintegration.
Well meaning people in the pews will be giving time, talent and treasure to a leadership bureaucracy that rejects Christian teaching and advocates for causes that are not supported by the vast majority of Christians worldwide and throughout history. The Episcopal Church is becoming a cult.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Read it all, especially the words of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria:
"The current state of the communion as I see it is that we are in a state of broken communion. Some of our colleagues call it impaired communion. Whether impaired or broken, the communion today is not what it was five years ago and the crisis that we have faced these last five years arises from Ecusa's [Episcopal Church USA's] intransigence and obstinate refusal to go in line with the majority of the communion on the question of same-sex unions and the consecration of clergy in same-sex relationships."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, met with the U.S. House of Bishops in an effort to encourage unity.
The bright spot in the meetings was an address by Archbishop Mouneer Anis of the Anglican Churches in the Middle East. His plain spoken, sincere appeal was not heeded by Episcopalian bureaucrats, but is worth reading as one of the best summaries of the current problem.
The faithful Christian Bishops of the "Global South", along with Biblically faithful American Bishops in an alliance called Common Cause, will have upcoming meetings critical to the future of a Biblically faithful Anglican witness in North America and around the world.
Oh, and for those who wonder, there is NOTHING about any of this on the Diocese of South Dakota website.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
An excellent prayer for these days is here.
A thought about the masthead picture on this site is here.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Of course many Episcopalians are trained to keep our heads in the sand, as evidenced by the silence of many dioceses about what's really going on.
And the activists who've made it their business to wreck the church are planning and fund raising to do more. A gay/lesbian advocacy group just gave them $30,000 to push the church further over the edge. And, even though member dues are down, the resources of the Episcopal homosexual lobby are way up...somebody besides their members is funneling big bucks their way.
Meanwhile, at the other Good Shepherd (Sioux Falls), there are
- folks who are fired up about the Biblical message (and therefore fed up with the Episcopal Church's leadership);
- folks who say, "Problem? We never heard about any problem," despite sermons, letters, newsletters, websites, forums and guest speakers all about the problem;
- folks who say, "We've heard too much about the problem. Stop talking about it."
Same congregation. Same folks in the same pews getting the same information.
It is not a new problem or just an Episcopalian problem (although we are probably the poster children for it right now). Churches must choose and choose again to see themselves as missionary outposts for Jesus Christ, rather than cozy lounges for their members.
The disintegration of the Episcopal Church and maybe the whole Anglican Communion will be remembered two ways:
- a very small group of activists got control of the wheel and drove the church off a cliff;
- the vast majority of church members chose to doze in the backseat while it happened.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
This seems an apt symbol for current Anglican struggles. Out of what seems dead and inert, Jesus Christ will bring a church more recognizable in His own image. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Colossians 1:15).
Please pray as the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican representatives meet with the Episcopal Church House of Bishops later this week, and for The Common Cause Bishops who will meet after that. May the Lord bring forth a faithful Anglican Christian witness in North America.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Bishop of South Dakota signs onto bizarre document with disgraced leader... African Anglicans call for loyalty to Christ
The "report" is filled with legalese bordering on mumbo jumbo. The authors (including Bp. Robertson) identify themselves as "legally trained." They claim that the Episcopal Church is so unique that Christians have no authority to reform it -legal and bureaucratic issues are more important than Biblical values for leading the church.
Bishop Robertson's apparent guru (one of the authors of the document) is Joe Morris Doss, the disgraced ex-bishop of New Jersey. In the late 90s, Doss was given a "golden parachute" of more than $1,000,000 to resign after alienating and losing the trust of his diocese. Complaints included his mishandling of charges against an abusive staff member, failure to address bias against Black clergy, and a massive drop-off in the diocesan budget as parishes refused to support him.
Bishop Robertson and the others released the report in "hard copy" (paper) only, but various bloggers scanned and circulated it around the internet. Why this large report was released in a hard-to-circulate format, at a very late date and with the name of at least one unwilling "sponsor" raises questions about the authors' motives and credibility.
Meanwhile, the Anglican Province of Nigeria (the largest province with 17,000,000 members and astounding evangelistic growth for Christ, compared to less than 800,000 American Episcopalians in church on an average Sunday) has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, urging him to take more decisive action to put Anglicanism in the service of the "Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ."
The comparison of the clear, open and Biblically based letters from "Global South" Christians with the spiritually empty jargon from Episcopal Church leaders is stunning.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
He will serve as part of the Anglican Province of Nigeria's missionary effort, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).
We ask God's abundant blessing upon this good friend and servant to Biblical Anglicans here and around the world.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
- The parties don't share the same values.
- The parties don't agree on the goal.
- One or both parties must compromise their convictions.
- One party selfishly demands that the other surrender.
- One party benefits and the other loses.
Good partnerships do not foster codependence or independence, but interdependence. Every party feels secure, is stretched, and enjoys synergy. The partnership multiplies the productivity of both parties.
The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2002
Monday, September 10, 2007
Holy God, you are merciful and patient, but we do not know and worship you if we deny your righteous judgment.
Please help Bishops and other Episcopal Church leaders who see the church as property instead of people.
Deliver them from the rash actions that divide and disperse your people.
Save them from the vanity of "keeping buildings" while people are wandering away.
Help them recognize that reckless decisions tear your people apart and grieve the Holy Spirit.
Open their ears and hearts as they say the Creed: remind them that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Warn them that you will destroy those who destroy the gathered people, your true temple.
Restore them to sober judgment, and make them good shepherds who will receive the unfading crown of life.
We pray in the Name of Jesus, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Friday, September 7, 2007
- There's NOTHING (except a note on the Bishop's calendar) about the upcoming meeting of the House of Bishops and the emergency visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican officials. Nothing about the possible disintegration of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
- There IS a proposed 2008 diocesan budget, already forecast to be > $50,000 in the red.
- Despite the deficit, one of the highest budget priorities is... support for the national church (which is presently spending undisclosed sums to sue traditional Christians).
- There is lengthy coverage of the cumbersome process for electing a bishop coadjutor who will serve alongside the current bishop and then take over when he retires. Lots of inspiring references to canon law and "process" for those who revel in such.
- Delegates also received (by mail) a kind of "business plan" for the diocese. All the usual wish list stuff. We want to grow. We want to raise money. We want more young people. We want better communication. But there's no evidence that anybody in the diocesan inner circle has a track record of experience or success in these areas.
Oh, and all this from a diocese that exists largely on paper. It claims 92 churches - but the documented Average Sunday Attendance is barely over 2,000 (and it has been falling by about 100 per year since 2003).
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
That's when the Nebraska Cornhuskers host the University of Southern California Trojans in Lincoln. Most Good Shepherd parishioners are solid Nebraska fans, but the rector, Fr. Timothy Fountain, is a graduate of USC.
"They want communion? Maybe they should just gnaw corncobs," huffed Fr. Fountain in a recent interview. The parishioners, due to mild midwestern manners, did not make any Trojan jokes in response.
A second crisis looms as USC and Louisiana State are #s 1 & 2 in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings. This has created tension between Fountain and Anglican blogger Brad Drell, an LSU Tiger fan.
Northern Plains Anglicans is unable to confirm a rumor that Drell is offering to host a reconciliation seminar prior to any bowl showdown between the teams.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Luke's report of our Great Commission (see also Matthew 28:16-20 ) was one of my morning readings today. It reminded me of my Letter of Institution as priest here. Most priests have these or similar words addressed to them by a bishop:
By your words, and in your life, proclaim the Gospel. Love and serve Christ's people. Nourish them, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.
- Proclaim the Gospel. Lately, it has been fashionable to proclaim "justice" or maybe even "Jesus," but not "Gospel." The Diocese of South Dakota took the word Gospel out of its vision statement and replaced it with Jesus. Why is this a problem? Because revisionists reduce Jesus to a mythological character, and bend him this way and that to symbolize their political positions or emotional binges. But the Bible and our charge as ordained ministers is to proclaim his Good News - the real Jesus and the message he made real in his earthly ministry. His Good News is spelled out specifically and one cannot read the Bible honestly without encountering it: his cross was "necessary" and it's result is "remission of sin." By our words and in our lives, that message must be preached. Priests who witness to something less than or other than Christ's death for the forgiveness of sin have betrayed their Lord and their ordinations.
- Love and serve Christ's people. Too many of us have become navel gazers. Too many speak a psychological language of personal entitlement and self-satisfaction. Too many expect congregations to susidize us while we spend time and effort on hobbies, esoteric studies, and political activism; in many cases our endeavors are irrelevant or even hostile to Christianity and the spiritual well being of Christians. The people belong to Christ, and he is trusting us to "nourish" them in worship (Glorify God in this life) and Gospel hope (the life to come). We betray Christ and our ordinations when we ignore this responsibility.
- Strengthen them to glorify God. God's people need strength, because the world, the flesh and the devil will attack those who follow Christ. The world, the flesh and the devil "glorify" themselves, setting up idols, instead of giving glory to God. Christ has set us apart to strengthen his people and turn them away from predatory, self-serving idols. Christ has blessed us to turn his people toward the glory of God who loves us and is for us. We weaken the people when we give informational lectures instead of Biblical sermons. We starve them when we serve cold worship. We deny God's glory when we call Jesus a bloodless "vehicle of the divine" and the Bible an inert "instrument of engagement," terms used by national Episcopal leaders. We betray Christ and our ordinations when we deny the power of the Holy Spirit and the glory of God.
- The life to come. Along with his suffering, it was "necessary" that Jesus Christ rise from the dead. He is not just a symbol of human pain, but the world's living hope. How we rob Christ and his people when our only witness is to pop-psychological platitudes and political position papers - and when we twist Biblical language to justify our passing fads. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer has served barely one generation, and already there are national church discussions to replace it. We talk much but offer little of enduring worth. We betray Christ and our ordinations when we invest ourselves in things that are passing away.
How can priests fall so far from the Gospel and their high calling to serve it?
- Many people seek ordination with wrong motives. Some are abusive types who desire access to victims (the same thing goes on in medicine, financial services, counseling, teaching or any number of other fields). Others are people who don't know God and hope they'll find him by "being religious." Some are egotists who think that their political views or even their own personalities deserve to be saluted as "holy." Harsh to say, but "garbage in, garbage out."
- The Episcopal Church's "country club" background has caught up with us. The ordination process (and in this, lay people have much decisive power and therefore blame) is set up to welcome people who are socially decorous. An athiest with a PhD can be ordained in TEC; a laborer who knows the Gospel probably can't. People who are comfortable, in life and in their pews, will "hire" clergy to keep them comfortable (and this can be as true of "conservatives" as of progressives). Without the glory of God, we cast about for some other point of reference - American social consensus (and there isn't one to hold onto anymore), political correctness, Millenium Development Goals - something, anything that the club members can talk about with wine and cheese.
- The devil knows that corruption of leaders is the best way to damage the church. The Biblical warnings are abundant. The headlines scream it. Clergy are under constant spiritual attack, and a denomination like TEC works to disarm us and keep us flabby.
The demise of TEC is not the end of the world. God's plan will go forward and be fulfilled. As many will hear in church tomorrow, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). But there is great sadness and pain that many will suffer because of corrupt priests. And there will be many - priests, bishops, deacons and lay people - who will never pass through the "narrow door" and will be locked out of the Heavenly Banquet. And that ought to break the hearts of all of us who stand in pulpits and at altars, ordained to preach and celebrate the Gospel - because Christ died to save sinners .