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Archive for November, 2010

Tuesday’s Round-Up

The GAFCON primates have released “The Oxford Statement,” responding to the Rowan Williams’ call to sign the Anglican Covenant, and to announce their intention to boycott the upcoming Anglican Communion Primates’ meeting in Ireland.

Three orthodox bishops (Martyn Minns, David Bena, and John Guernsey ) have called for a church summit on church growth.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has launched a new Risk Management program to provide resources related to Safe Church sexual abuse prevention, health insurance information, and safety standards.

Meanwhile, Christianity Today analyzes the possible causes for the mass exodus of young people from Western churches.

Finally, be sure to read Adam D. Rick’s blog post on the gospel and mission, the beginning of a nine-part devotional series to help aid our reflections during the season of Advent.

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For the past three months, I have led the leaders of the Alpha ministry at Christ the Redeemer in Danvers in a brief period of devotion and prayer before their weekly Alpha gatherings.  Considering the nature of that ministry, I chose to focus all of the devotionals on the question of mission.  Specifically, each devotion focuses on how the idea of mission to the nations finds expression in the Gospel narratives.  I now intend to post the content of that series here in nine parts.  The series opens at the very beginning, with the Apostle John’s cosmic description of Jesus’ mission which starts off his Gospel.

John 1:10-14

He was in the world, and though  the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Israel knew perhaps better than most that her God was actively engaged in mission on her behalf.  Her entire history, her very existence as a distinct nation, was entirely dependent on the mighty acts of her God in history.  So important was this conviction that her entire national life was built around remembering this history.  Passover marked God’s delivery of Israel from Egypt.  Booths marked God’s guiding Israel through the desert.  Yom Kippur marked the cleansing of Israel’s sin by her merciful God.  Pentecost marked the revelation of God’s law to Israel at Sinai.   In all things, Israel knew that her God was on the move through her.  But for what?  At this season in her national life, Israel was lost and desolate, in bondage to foreign oppressors and unable to see her God clearly among the myriad pretenders of the pagan pantheon.  Where was her God now?  Why did he delay in vindicating her before the nations?  Where was the mission of God to be found now?

John tells us that he is very present indeed.  He tells us that God had come to Israel’s comfort time and again.  The irony of Israel’s current suffering is exacerbated here when John tells us that God’s own—Israel—did not recognize or receive him when he showed up.  But God continued to come, furthering his mission of “grace and truth” in the world despite not being welcome.  And the magnitude of that coming would be of such proportions that its glory could not be contained in Israel, even as it was meant for her.

God became flesh.  He came down from his heavenly abode to succor his people in a far more profound way than they could have ever imagined possible.  Far from delivering them as a nation from the hands of the Romans, God came to live Israel’s life with her as one of her very own.  He took on Israel’s flesh, and made his dwelling in their very earthly life.  He experienced their sufferings as one of them.  He experienced their exile.   In so doing, he led her out of her true captivity to sin and death.  From where does this mission come?  Could Israel so delivered contain keep such a glory to herself?

How could it?  God had come not just in Israel’s flesh, but in the flesh of all humanity.  He has wedded himself to a full human nature, and so saved human nature fully.  Indeed, Israel’s very glory is this, that God’s mission would be to use her flesh to save the entire human race.  God in Israel’s flesh reconciled all to himself, and extended Israel’s lineage to all people who would receive him.  And now, through Jesus, we are all here present trace our lineage through him to God.

What does this mean for us?  It means, as it meant for Israel of old, that God is now carrying out his mission through us as his people today.  We are now the agents of his reconciling love in the world.  As we now partake in the lineage of Jesus, so we are the ambassadors of his mission to the modern world.  And that precisely is what we are doing in ministries like Alpha.  We are inviting the world to share in this great mission of God, which started generations ago in a far off land and finds its fulfillment in beholding the grace and truth of God made flesh for us.

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Monday’s Round-up

Queen Elizabeth II exhorted English bishops at the General Synod to “communicate the gospel with joy and conviction in our society.”

Traditional Anglicans, including the bishops from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), have rejected the Anglican Covenant proposed by archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The covenant intends to unify the disparate Anglican groups across the globe.

Advent season has officially begun, beginning a new liturgical cycle. Crescent news service has offered a brief article explaining the reason for the season.

A new study indicates that the fastest growing churches in North America are those that blend traditional service elements with contemporary approaches.

The Christian Institute reports from a new survey that most people under the age of 35 have never heard of the King James version of the Bible.

Fr. Michael Morse, pastor of All Saints’ Anglican Church in Amesbury, Massachusetts, preaches on repentance and the hope of the coming kingdom in the inaugural service for the season of Advent.

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Friday’s Round-up

An orthodox Anglican think-tank is under fire from progressive Episcopalians in Washington D.C. for allegedly supporting the search and seizure of Episcopal property.

Anglican and Catholic archbishops are preparing for an ecumenical conference in Sudan.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams continues to urge the church to ratify the Anglican Covenant.

Williams also warns that the Anglican Communion is threatened by “piece by piece dissolution.”

Finally, an oldie but goodie from the archives of the Center for Theology: Megan DeFranza reflects on sacred value of the Eucharist through the eyes of her young daughter in “More Jesus bread, please mama?

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The old pilgrim Nathaniel Morton recounts the journey from Leiden, Holland to Plymouth rock–describing the “Christian Love” that characterized the first settlers of North America.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board celebrates the fact that our fair land “yet remains the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators.

Meanwhile, The New York Times memorializes early 20th century Connecticut governor Wilbur Cross for encouraging his fellow Americans in a Thanksgiving address to share the “blessings” given by the almighty Creator.

Harvard professor David D. Hall argues that the original Puritans have gotten a bad rap. Instead of demonizing them as rigid authoritarians, he says we should remember them as the founders of participatory government–and for the elaborate food rituals we celebrate today.

And speaking of food, James Prosek claims the most important food for the original pilgrims was not turkey but….eels!

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Today’s biggest church news concerned the Catholic church’s apparent shift in its long-standing policy regarding birth control, specifically the use of condoms. In a conversation with a journalist discussing his new book “Light of the World,” pope Benedict said that condoms were not “a real or moral solution” for sex workers or those afflicted by the AIDS virus, but that in some cases they could be used as “a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.”  A day later, the Vatican confirmed Benedict’s statement, saying the use of condoms by people infected with H.I.V. could be “the first step of responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk to the life of the person with whom there are relations.”

The secular press has taken the news and run with it: The New York Times calls the pope’s comments a “remarkable” shift, while the Mirror says the pope has now given his “OK” to condom use in AIDS-afflicted Africa.

Traditional Catholic theologians were less impressed by the announcement: intellectual George Weigel argues that the pope’s statements do not justify condom use–they are merely pointing out the lesser of two evils. Ross Douthat blogs about previous comments the pope made on the subject, showing the pope appreciates nuance in his seemingly hard-line stance against birth control.

First Things has offered selections from the interview in which the pope discusses many other subjects besides condom use. It’s always best to go to the source when debating the meaning of someone’s statements!

From the Center for Theology, Megan DeFranza has addressed some of these issues through an examination of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. There she begins to explore how Anglicanism can have its own “Theology of the Body”.

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Tuesday’s Round-up

Here’s today’s selection of articles related to theology, faith, and the church:

A study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy has found that religious organizations have been donating more during the recession than other charitible groups.

Two Iraqi Christian brothers were shot and killed by Islamic terrorists yesterday, another attack in a long series of attacks on Christians in Iraq.

Boston University professor complains about the commercialization of Christmas–especially long before Thanksgiving even starts.

A summary of the FCA Conference in Africa, which provides a statement on its commitment to orthodox Anglicanism, in Africa is presented on the website of the Anglican Diocese of New England.

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